Professor Emeritus Troels Engberg-Pedersen presents his new book, 'John and Philosophy: A New Reading of the Fourth Gospel' (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)
In this book, Engberg-Pedersen provides a Stoic reading of the Fourth Gospel with particular attention to its cosmology, epistemology and ethics. He works through the gospel in narrative sequence providing a ‘narrative philosophical reading’. He presents a cosmological theory that upholds the unity of the Johannine concepts of logos and pneuma in the Fourth Gospel. The basic theme is that Jesus was not fully understood during his lifetime, while he alone was in possession of the spirit, but only became fully understood upon his death and resurrection, once believers had themselves received the spirit. He also situates the Fourth Gospels in relation to Paul and Mark. Throughout the book, Engberg-Pedersen rejects finding elements of Platonism and ‘realized eschatology’ in John.
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- Elizabeth Corsar (University of Edinburgh)
- Cornelis Bennema (Union School of Theology)
The Incarnation and the 'Via Media': B.F. Westcott and the Gospel of John in Analogue
This paper is part of a wider PhD project examining the nature of Anglican Biblical hermeneutics and the relationship between the Church and the Academy. Brooke Foss Westcott (1825–1901) Regius Professor of Divinity and latterly Bishop of Durham, was a hugely important figure in 19th century biblical scholarship. His hermeneutical method, however, has not been closely examined. In this paper I will read Westcott’s hermeneutical method in analogue with the Gospel of John. The mid to late nineteenth century saw the authority of the bible come under sustained challenge from both inside and outside the Church. This paper demonstrates that during this period Westcott, contrary to what his critics thought, constructed a hermeneutic which balanced the demands of modern criticism whilst maintaining the idea of textual authority. The first part of the paper examines Westcott’s hermeneutic, highlighting the importance of textual mutability and human frailty in his approach. This paper will draw out two key themes in Westcott’s writing: Incarnation and the via media. The second part of the paper reads the Gospel of John in analogue with Westcott. This paper will also focus upon the nature of Jesus and the method of scriptural interpretation used in the Gospel of John itself. The paper highlights the themes of via media and incarnation in the Gospel of John. The Gospel portrays Jesus as re-interpreting the scriptures and becoming the interpretive tool by which the scriptures are understood. Westcott’s hermeneutic looks distinctly Johannine. It offers an insight into both the Johannine Evangelist’s method of interpreting the scriptures and his understanding of the nature of Jesus in relation to the scriptures.
Scripture as 'Text': Exploring a New Perspective on John’s Use of Scripture in the “Remembrance” Citations of 2:17 and 12:15
A wide range of still-open enquiries in the Johannine use of Scripture continues to invite the refreshing input of new perspectives and methodologies. Thus, this paper aims to demonstrate how research in this area, especially the lingering tension between the relative influence of Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts, can be expanded via integration with media studies in the gospels, which remains relatively untapped with regard to John’s use of Scripture. To explore this beneficial interplay, I will therefore show that Scripture in John can rightly be viewed as a text and that this media-sensitive research paradigm can yield meaningful interpretive insights. By evidencing correspondence between the function of texts in both Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts and Scripture’s function in John, its textual role can be likewise affirmed. This proposal advances the status quaestionis of John’s use of Scripture by establishing common ground between emphases on either Jewish or Greco-Roman influence and shedding new light on specific citations, here illustrated in John 2:17 and 12:15. To this end, I will first employ William A. Johnson’s research on reading texts in antiquity to demonstrate how the cultural assumptions and socially negotiated interpretation governing textuality, evinced both by Scripture in the Jewish theological framework and by the depiction of reading in Greco-Roman literature, equally apply to Scripture in John. This claim will be illustrated via the cultural assumptions (a post-resurrection, believing hermeneutic) and socially negotiated interpretation (the disciples’ exclusive authority) governing Scripture’s function in the “remembrance” citations of John 2:17 and 12:15. Second, this example will affirm the methodological applicability of viewing Scripture as text with its new perspective on the disciples’ uniquely Johannine role as “gatekeepers” of interpretation, qualified by their theological assumptions regarding scriptural text to delimit a social negotiation of scriptural interpretation approved by the gospel author for its recipients.
Unity of Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and 1–3 John
It has long been realised that John’s Gospel and John’s First Epistle are by the same writer; further, that 2 and 3 John have identical authorship. But is there any link between the Gospel/first epistle pair, and the 2/3 John pair, such that we could assume unity of authorship across all four works? The paper identifies a particular characteristic shared by 1 John and 3 John, in relation to the concept of ‘testimony’. Here, the two works have a shared authorial trait which is idiosyncratic, complex, structured, and thoroughly unlikely to have been produced by two different people. This requires common authorship of 1 and 3 John; and consequently we arrive at the identical authorship of all four works.
Subversive Death: Cato minor, 'De clementia', and Jesus before Pilate
Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in 1929 that ‘a good comparison refreshes understanding’. This paper attempts to refresh our understanding of the familiar scene of Jesus before Pilate in John’s Gospel by comparing it to Plutarch’s portrayal of Cato minor before Caesar. The essay engages in a close reading of Plutarch’s Cato minor and John’s Gospel with respect to the offer of ‘life’ by the sovereign and the choosing of death by the hero. Plutarch narrates Cato’s passing as ideal in that he refused the pardon of Caesar’s gift of ‘life’ by choosing instead what Plutarch labeled ‘a truly noble death’. It was his dying that undercut what his acceptance of Caesar’s gift would have affirmed: viz., the legitimacy of his sovereign rule and judgments. In Part One of this paper, there will be an extended engagement with varying portrayals of ‘a noble death’ and ‘a Roman death’, particularly within classical studies on stoicism. Part Two of the paper tracks a similar scenario played out in Pilate’s court according to John’s Gospel (18:18–19:16). After Jesus had been handed over for sentencing to Pilate, his stubborn silence irritates the Roman Prefect who reminds the rebel of his power either to punish or pardon: ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ (19:10). Jesus’ answer, akin to that of Cato and the earlier Socrates, denies Pilate’s very premise: ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above’ (19:11a). This choosing of death and rejection of ‘life’ as offered by the sovereign transforms the seemingly vulnerable state of dying into a subversive death. Part Three of this paper will weave these themes together by reflecting on the comparison of these two texts in an attempt to refresh our understanding of Pilate’s court. It will also critically position the essay with respect to Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s important new proposal.