Johannine Literature 2019 Programme

Johannine Literature Chairs: Andy Byers and Cor Bennema

Session One

Paul Trebilco, University of Otago, New Zealand, ‘The Theocentricity of 1 John: Reading 1 John as an Interpretation of the Gospel of John’

It is often argued that 1 John is written after the Gospel of John. Hence, in some passages such as the Prologue to 1 John in 1:1-5, it seems likely that the author of 1 John is deliberately interacting with the text of the Gospel of John. One noteworthy feature of 1 John is its theocentricity. What is said about Jesus in the Gospel is often said about God in 1 John. This relates, for example, to abiding and to knowing. It will be argued in this paper that the author of 1 John is interacting with Johannine tradition in this regard, and so can be seen to be involved in an interpretative exercise in relation to the Gospel. This will lead to conclusions about the ways in which 1 John provides a model for how we can interpret Scripture.

Alan Garrow, University of Sheffield, ‘The Missing Epistle of John’

The Third Epistle of John addresses a disagreement over the way in which travelling Christian workers should be received. The Elder argues that they should be welcomed, supported and sent on their way in a manner that befits God’s service. A certain Diotrephes, by contrast, teaches that they should not be welcomed. The Elder remarks, in passing, that he has written something to the church about this matter (3 John 9). The letter in question has, however, long since been lost.

The Didache is a multi-layered document created by different authors/editors at different times. One of the practical questions it addresses is the way in which visitors should be treated. Curiously, however, the text offers closely related but contrasting instructions on four points: the length of stay (two days maximum // three days maximum); whether money may be asked for (never // under certain circumstances); whether the visitor may be allowed to settle (absolutely not // under certain circumstances); and what provision should be made for their onward journey (only sufficient bread to reach the next lodging // as much assistance as the community is able to provide). A similarly stereoscopic arrangement occurs in the Didache’s instructions concerning Eucharistic praying: Didache 9 and Didache 10 are remarkably similar, but Didache 10 allows freedom to prophets in prayer.

 This paper explores the possibility that the Didache’s more austere instructions provided the basis for Diotrephes’ harsh attitude towards visitors—and that the more generous instructions (inserted into the Didache at a later date) belong to the written response to which 3 John 9 refers. This presentation includes a review of distinctive parallels between John’s Gospel, the book of Revelation and those elements of the Didache here seen as belonging to the Missing Epistle of John.

Session Two

Adele Reinhartz, University of Ottawa, Canada on her book Cast out of the Covenant: Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John (Lexington/Fortress, 2018) (30 mins) followed by two 10-minute responses: Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh, ‘John’s Gospel and a Gentile Mission’, and David Lamb, University of Manchester, ‘John’s Gospel and Anti-Jewishness’—and then 40 minutes of discussion.

Session Three

Luke Irwin, Durham University, ‘Seeing Jesus in the Fourth Gospel’

This paper asks why the Fourth Gospel explicitly describes certain people as seeing Jesus and what this means for John’s conception of sight. While the Gospel naturally implies that many people saw Jesus throughout his life, it remains the case that in only ten instances is anyone explicitly said to actually see him. Moreover, belief in Jesus as divinely authorized and sent into the world is at stake in each occurrence (John 1:14; 1:29, 36; 6:19, 37; 9:37; 11:32; 19:6; 20:14–15; 20:29). Those few whom John describes as seeing Jesus either see him with eyes that faith has shaped or is shaping; or they see him and fail to recognize his true identity, one intimately anchored in God. On the basis of this observation, I argue that these ten explicit occurrences of seeing Jesus should be read as accompanying Jesus’ radical claims that the sight of God—hitherto denied all people (John 1:18; cf. 5:37; 6:46)—is available in himself (John 12:44–45; 14:6–11; 15:24). It is precisely the visibility of the human Jesus that obscures the Father’s visibility in John: ‘is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’ (John 6:42). Likewise, it is precisely that which transcends Jesus visibility as a man that makes God visible in him: the σημεῖα and his miraculous ‘evasions’. Both are necessary for the true sight of Jesus. After all, for John, Jesus is both visible and the λόγος; yet both can lead to mistaken seeing—mistaken ultimately in its failure to recognize the Father in him. Thus, for John, the ‘seeing Jesus’ passages intertwine belief in Jesus with the occurrence of theophany in Jesus. They thereby elevate the function of sight in the Gospel to a crucial Christological role.

David Richir, Haute École de Théologie, St-Légier, Switzerland, ‘Jacob in Cana? Echoes of Jacob/Israel in John 2:1-11 and the Johannine Characterization of Jesus’

As a tree whose roots can be seen in the deformation of the ground all around it, every textual allusion is only the visible part of a network that can be seen all around it, sometimes very clearly, sometimes only as a tiny deformation of the text. In this manner, besides (and around) the two obvious allusions to Jacob/Israel in John 1:51 (the dream of Bethel) and John 4:5-12 (Jacob’s well), the father of the Jews may appear between the lines of several narratives in the fourth Gospel, thus informing John’s characterisation of Jesus. The wedding scene at Cana serves as a test case of the hypothesis of a wider presence of Jacob in the fourth Gospel. Besides the influence of the direct context of John 1:51, some echoes of Jacob can be traced in John 2:1-11: the mother-son motif, the wedding sequence, the transformation of the bride/wine, and the custom of giving the one before the other. The connections go beyond themes and motifs: they can also be found in words and textual constructions. The literary device of situating Jacob/Israel at the background of this narrative (and of others in the fourth Gospel) enable the author to characterise Jesus after Jacob. In fact, more than ‘after’ Jacob, Jesus is portrayed as ‘before’, ‘greater’ and ‘above’ Jacob/Israel, as a king coming to his own. Consequently, fresh light could be shed on the major Johannine theme of the Ioudaioi (‘those of Judah’, fourth son of Jacob, heir of Jacob’s blessing).

Daniel Eng, University of Cambridge, ‘Relationship, Reciprocity, and Regency: Friends as Subordinates in John 15’

This study contends that the evangelist portrays Jesus as the patron par excellence in the John 15:13-16. We will focus on the term φίλος, suggesting that it conveys a client-regent obedient to a king. Thus, the role of Jesus’ friend is one of subordination, not equality.

John 15:13-16 shares connections with patron-client relationships. High-ranking patrons often gave clients, who were subordinates, the honorary designation of ‘friends.’ After Jesus’ self-designation as κύριος (13:14), John 14–15 is characterized by calls to obedience. In addition, a patron-client relationship often resulted from a master manumitting a slave. This is consistent with Jesus’ saying ‘I do not call you servants any longer…but I have called you friends (15:15).’ Furthermore, the phenomenon of patrons as brokers further bolsters the argument that the evangelist uses patronage language. With Jesus being the only way to the Father (14:6), he promises to broker the Spirit from the Father and (14:16) and declares that the Father will give Jesus’ friends whatever they ask for in his name (15:16).

Furthermore, numismatic studies demonstrate the prevalence of φίλ- terms like ΦΙΛΟΚΑΙΣΑΡ on Roman provincial coinage, publicizing the relationship of regents to the emperor. This is consistent with Pilate’s designation as φίλος τοῦ Καίσαρος in John 19:12. In accordance, after the portrayal of Jesus as the awaited king in John 12, the disciples are commissioned to obey and bear fruit in his absence (14:15-16; 15:16), acting in his place.

Patronage best explains the saying ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (15:13).’ Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for subordinates makes his patronage greater than Caesar’s. Thus, the evangelist urges loyalty to Jesus, the patron par excellence.