2012 Johannine Literature

Session 1

Mimesis in John 13: Cloning or Creative Articulation?

The focus of the paper is Jesus’ mimetic imperative to his disciples in John 13:15: ‘For I gave you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.’ Although scholars have done ample work on the footwashing pericope, the focus has often been on 13:1-11 and (hence) the topic of mimesis has not been adequately considered. Scholars are divided whether to take the mimetic imperative in 13:15 as a literal duplication of the footwashing or as a general reference to humble (loving) service. The central question, then, is this: Did Jesus mean by his mimetic imperative that the disciples should replicate literally the very act of footwashing or that they express creatively but truthfully the idea underlying the footwashing? The argument is that for John mimesis involves primarily the creative, truthful, bodily articulation of the idea and attitude that lies behind the original act rather than its exact replication. The Johannine concept of mimesis consists of both form and content, and while there can be flexibility regarding the form, it is the latter that needs cloning. To demonstrate my case, I will examine John 13:4-17, showing a mimetic model that consists of four stages: (i) showing what needs imitation; (ii) understanding what is shown; (iii) imitating what is shown; (iv) experiencing a state of blessing. Based on this model and supporting arguments from John’s Gospel, I will argue that the Johannine concept of mimesis is primarily faithful expression rather than exact replication, although the latter remains in view too. The distinction between mimetic form and mimetic content circumvents the question of whether the intention of the mimetic imperative in 13:15 is literal replication or creative expression. The title of the paper thus poses a false dichotomy – mimesis involves cloning (in content) and creative articulation (in form).


Session 2

Revelatory Experience in the Gospel of John

John’s Gospel contains none of the revelatory experiences from Jesus’ earthly ministry found in the Synoptic Gospels. Of the infancy revelatory experiences, Jesus’ baptism, the transfiguration, and the crucifixion phenomena (tearing of the veil, three hours of darkness, etc.), only the baptism is alluded to in John, and the others are omitted entirely. In fact, the only bona-fide revelatory account in John prior to the resurrection is in 12:27–36, where the voice affirms the glorification of God’s name in Jesus’ journey to the cross.

John 20–21, on the other hand, comprises the longest resurrection narrative of all the canonical Gospels and is full of revelatory events. John also records as much interaction between the risen Jesus and his followers as any of the Synoptics, but John’s narrative bears little resemblance to these accounts. This “revelatory disparity” suggests that John’s Gospel has a perspective all on its own, which may reflect another view of revelation as compared to the Synoptics.

This paper will survey John’s pre- and post-resurrection revelatory experiences to identify patterns in the Gospel’s use of these events. This survey will especially note the details offered by John that distinguish his understanding of revelatory experience from that of the other Gospels. The content (i.e. features) of these revelatory accounts will be addressed, the response of the audience will be analyzed, and the place of each revelatory account in the overall scope of John’s Gospel will be taken into consideration. The goal of this paper is to assess the Fourth Gospel’s view of revelation with respect to belief or unbelief in Jesus.


Conversion in the Fourth Gospel: a narrative approach

Few exceptions notwithstanding, the recent bibliography on conversion in the New Testament tends to leave aside the Fourth Gospel. In trying to assess such a concept in John, the starting point is that in Jesus’ dialogues there is a sharp contrast between what even the most benevolent interlocutor says or does and what is really expected from him. The underlying question will therefore be whether how the benevolent characters in the Fourth Gospel form models for John’s understanding of conversion. Upon analysis, a pattern emerges in the presentation of these encounters, and I will argue that, instead of spelling out narratives of accomplished conversions, John develops a rhetorical device using this pattern consistently to point at how conversion should be.


Joshua Coutts (University of Edinburgh)

Glory from Qumran? Light (and Darkness) from the Scrolls on John’s Concept of Glory

Although the relationship between the Qumran Scrolls and Gjohn continues to be debated, one aspect that has received little attention is the concept of glory, which features in both. In one of the few treatments, Johan Ferreira has argued that the Evangelist “inherited his concept of δόξα from the Dead Sea Scrolls, and modified it to emphasize salvation corresponding to his Christology.” Contra Ferreira, I will argue in this paper that most elements of the Qumran concept of glory are to be found in Isaiah, at both the level of the motif and often also at the level of terminology, and thus most of the commonalities between the concepts of glory in the DSS and Gjohn may be explained in terms of their mutual generation from Isaiah. This is significant for two reasons. First, the appropriation of Isaiah’s concept of glory in Qumran suggests that Isaiah should feature more significantly in discussions of the Evangelist’s decision to use glory language. Second, two elements of the Johannine concept of glory—its soteriological aspect and realized orientation—are thrown into relief by their distinction from the Qumran concept, and thus raise interesting questions about the impetus behind John’s deployment of glory language.


Session 3

Papers on 'Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel'

This session focuses on the forthcoming book, Character Studies in the Fourth Gospel, edited by S. A. Hunt, D. F. Tolmie and R. Zimmermann. (WUNT. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck).  There will be papers presented by John Lyons, University of Bristol, “Joseph of Arimathea” and Catrin Williams, University of Wales, “John the Baptist” followed by a general discussion on characterisation in the Fourth Gospel.