2013 Johannine Literature

Session 1

Wendy North (Durham University)

‘Lord, if you had been here . . .’ (John 11.21): The Absence of Jesus and Strategies of Consolation in the Fourth Gospel

This paper attempts to place in context two features in the Lazarus story: first, John’s emphasis on the grief of the Bethany sisters and, second, Jesus’ earlier unexplained delay on learning of Lazarus’ illness. Beginning with the way Jesus’ absence would have resonated in the lives of John’s readers and the urgency that persecution would have lent to hopes of the Parousia, we ask how John would have set about ensuring the survival of his flock into the future. It is proposed that the keynote here is consolation, found both in John’s presentation of the Spirit-Paraclete and in his ‘anticipatory’ eschatology. This begs the question of how many more Johannine ‘distinctives’ – perhaps even his choice of the gospel genre – may have been similarly motivated. In this context we return to the Lazarus story, its unique position as the centrepiece of John’s work, and finally to the detail with which we began. The paper concludes briefly with two examples from the Gospel’s reception history.


Pete Phillips (Durham University)

The Woman Caught in Adultery?

This paper begins with an exploration of the pericope’s complex reception history: despite being dragged into the public sphere to be stoned to silence, shielded or not by her protective textual bracketing, the pericope has always been an important part of Christian understanding of Jesus’ approach to sinners; a popular corrective to contemporary fundamentalisms with its emphasis on non-condemnatory acceptance; “a hybridised, border-crossing story”; a text to be read in its own light; “a story without time or place, a story to be read on its own terms without sustained reference to its larger literary context.”  

My reading of the pericope avoids such isolationism. I prefer to read the pericope in its present context despite all the gaps. Exploring the various possible readings and misreadings, gaps and chasms in the text. In the end this is a jewel of a passage: or rather that kind of jewellery where the piercing enhances the whole – where the gaps are part and parcel of the wonder of the expertise which has crafted such a piece of beauty. This is gold filigree. Pericope Adulterae comes adorned with layers of ambiguity, both internal and external; with a shimmer of play about silence and absence; with names and no names; with issues about gender, gender-abuse, male power plays and the bullying faux-seniority of malestream culture.  But, it is no doubt time that we focussed less on the setting and more on the jewel itself.


Session 2

Secret Agents of Jesus: Crypto-Discipleship in John’s Gospel in the Light of Its Christology

Scholars routinely take the view that the fourth evangelist regarded the secret behaviour of crypto-disciples as cowardly and contemptible. Some further propose that John condemns the failure of crypto-disciples to bear witness to Jesus as a strategy to shame crypto-believers in the synagogues of his community into “outing” themselves.

The broad outline of this assessment of the phenomenon may well be correct. However, the concept of secrecy in John’s Gospel, as in the ancient Mediterranean social context, is rather more complex. Certainly, the Johannine Jesus is sometimes depicted as operating in secrecy and behaving in a clandestine manner. This discrepancy calls for a much more nuanced distinction of occasions when the evangelist appears to approve of secrecy and others when he censored it.

This paper examines facets of John’s Christology to help establish criteria for distinguishing when secret behaviour is censored and when it appears to be accepted by the evangelist. Wider application of these criteria in John’s gospel suggests that secret behaviour by a few characters is accepted by the Evangelist as valid since it furthered Jesus’ mission. The exercise may well inform the debate generated by recent work on Jesus worshippers within non-Christian worshipping communities. 


Andrew Byers (Durham University)

The Ecclesiology of the Shema: Theological and Social Oneness in the Fourth Gospel

Jesus' prayer for oneness in John 17 has been regularly understood as a call to social harmony amidst the threat of schism within the Johannine community. In ecumenical dialogue, the text has naturally served as a basis for building ecclesial unity. The oneness language of John 17, however, is thematically bound in the Gospel narrative to Jesus' declaration in John 10:30 that "I and the Father are one." Though many scholars have attributed the oneness motif in 10:30 to Gnostic or proto-Gnostic mysticism (i.e., Bultmann, Appold), some scholars have identified the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 as the most reasonable source (Barrett, Bauckham). If Johannine oneness is indeed premised on the Jewish monotheistic confession of the divine identity ("the LORD is one"), then the call to oneness in John 17 must be reappraised. The Fourth Evangelist's primary concern in Jesus' prayer may lie not so much in securing an internal cohesion of unity within the historical community but in promoting his readers' participatory identification with the One God and One Lord of Johannine theological and Christological convictions. 


Session 3

When Papyri and Codices Speak: Manuscript Evidence on John 2:23-25 and Its Exegetical Implications

This paper revisits the role of John 2:23-25 in its literary and manuscript context.  Most Johannine commentators take 2:23-25 as an introduction to the Nicodemus pericope in John 3.  These commentators include C. H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, Rudolf Schnackenburg, E. C. Hoskyns, Raymond Brown, G. R. Beasley-Murray, Andreas Köstenberger, Andrew Lincoln, and Ramsay Michael.  Others, like Barnabas Lindars, D. Moody Smith, Craig Keener, and John McHugh, consider it as merely a transition.  Notable exceptions are Ernst Haenchen, Francis Moloney, and Gerald Borchert.

Contrary to this near consensus of taking 2:23-25 to be an introduction or transition, I will argue that 2:23-25 should more be linked to the preceding context, not the following.  This minority view is supported by evidence from the sense-unit delimitations observed in the earliest papyri and codices dated within ca. 300 years from the New Testament era.  These manuscripts are:  Codex Alexandrinus A, Codex Washingtonianus W, Codex Vaticanus B, Codex Sinaiticus א, Papyrus Bodmer XV î75, and Papyrus Bodmer II î66.  With my observations from the interpretative acts of the scribes/ copyists, I further discuss their exegetical implications and explore the significance of the role of 2:23-25 from a narratival perspective.  I argue that 2:23-25 should be seen as an anticlimactic concluding remark connected to 1:35-2:22. 


The Text of John’s Gospel in the Second Century Revisited

This paper will build on the brief study of Kurt Aland in his 1986 article, “Der Text des Johannesevangeliums im 2. Jahrhundert.” I will revisit and add to his investigation into the extant text of John’s Gospel in the papyri up to ca. 200 C.E. (P52, P66 and P90) by performing an analysis of variants and by utilizing the data to respond to a few key issues. Here we have a unique situation in which three papyri for a single book are extant for the period leading up to the turn of the third century and, even more, are partially overlapping for the same section of text (18:31 – 19:7). This paper will respond to two issues. First, some have argued that wildness or fluidity characterized the transmission of New Testament texts in the second century. From an identification and analysis of the improbable readings (based on internal evidence: intrinsic and transcriptional probabilities) for each papyrus, I will ask, what is the extent of fluidity or error exhibited. This involves looking at both the number and character of erroneous readings. Second, some have maintained that the early period (pre- ca. 300 but especially the second-century) was markedly less stable in its transmission practices than the later period (post ca. 300). Thus I will seek to answer the question, does a comparison of scribally induced error in these early papyri with that in the overlapping portions of the later uncials support this?