Johannine Literature 2020 Programme

Chairs: Andy Byers and Cornelis Bennema

Session One

Jan van der Watt, University of Pretoria, South Africa & Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, ‘A Grammar of the Ethics of John’

The ethics of John is one of the hot topics in Johannine research today. It was not always the case, but recent insights in the analysis of a text from ethical perspective opened new avenues to identify and describe ethical data. Due to the structured and complex nature of ethics in John, I have chosen to call it the grammar of ethics. In this paper an overview of the grammar of ethics of John will be given in order to highlight the different ethical aspects as they are functionally interrelated. It will be argued that the Johannine literature offers a comprehensive ethical grammar, although the documents (i.e. Gospel and Letters) were written within contexts of conflict that moulded the presentation of the (ethical) material.

Stacey Van Dyk, University of Oxford, ‘Antiquity as Authority in the Fourth Gospel: Jesus as Matching and Surpassing his Ancestor Jacob’

Twice in the first chapter of the Fourth Gospel John the Baptist claims that Jesus ‘ranks above me’ because ‘he came before me’ (1:30; cf. 1:26-27). In his brief testimony about Jesus of Nazareth, John makes four additional claims: to divine ancestry, to direct communication with the God of Israel, and to incomparable meritorious deeds. These particular authority-conferring claims reflect ideas about the nature and expression of authority found throughout the ancient world. Yet John the Baptist includes a fourth qualification that he views as surpassing all others: Jesus came ‘before’ him and therefore ‘ranks above’ him. The Baptist’s claim to the exceptional antiquity of Jesus comes again to the forefront in considerations of Jesus’ authority vis-à-vis his forefather, Jacob (1:43-51; 4:1-42). In chapter 4 of his Gospel, the Evangelist portrays Jesus as being asked to justify his claims to authority: ‘Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and flocks and herds?’ (4:12) The response given by Jesus to the Samaritan woman indicates that his authority rests, first of all, on having met the three qualifications for authority accepted throughout the ancient world. But in addition, the Evangelist makes the further claim that Jesus surpassed the authority of his forefathers due to his greater antiquity (his pre-existence). In this way, the Fourth Evangelist’s portrayal of Jesus as matching and surpassing the authority of Jacob permits him to make the claim that true knowledge of God could only come from the one who had truly ‘seen God’ (1:18). This unsurpassed revelation of the God of Israel by his ‘one and only Son’ is then portrayed as inaugurating a new eschatological era, effectively ending the prior age of the Law (1:16-17), in which Jesus-followers might now see themselves as inheriting all the promises of the Scriptures.

Session Two

Jenny Read-Heimerdinger, Newman University, Birmingham, ‘Linguistic Clues to the Structure of John’s Gospel’

For the past 40 years or so, linguists have been working on the grammar of Koine Greek that operates outside the domain of traditional sentence grammar. The purpose has been to identify principles of the language that function above the level of the sentence (discourse analysis). In this work, there is a focus on the cohesion of a text and in recent applications of the approach, attention has been paid to analysing how authors structured their writings. By explaining and applying the tools that discourse analysis provides, this paper explores the structure of John’s Gospel. The organisation of the book is examined, from the overall macro-structure down through the hierarchical levels to the smallest units. The resultant framework is considered for its possible implications for the exegesis of John’s Gospel, and further avenues of study arising from the analysis are suggested.

Paulus de Jong, University of St Andrews, ‘The Spirit and the Law’

Despite the numerous monographs on either the Law or the spirit in the Fourth Gospel, Johannine scholarship does not often treat these two topics together. Against this lack of proper attention, I contend that the role of the spirit is indispensable for understanding the Johannine logic of Jesus’ relation to the Law. In my paper I will provide a survey of various passages relating to the spirit in John. I will particularly focus on which traditions from the Jewish scriptures John reuses in these passages, and how these traditions are relevant for understanding the relation between Jesus and the Law.

Berti Józsa, University of Edinburgh, ‘A Linguistic-theological Justification for an Activity/Work Metaphorical Network in the Gospel of John’

The Gospel of John displays a theological challenge when it comes to the question of obtaining eternal life (soteriological work, or work for salvation). Although scholars agree that actions of faith are metaphorically expressed through concepts such as λαμβάνω, ἔρχομαι, ἀκούω, βλέπω, μένω, a full analysis of these action-oriented concepts within the theological framework of ‘work’ in the gospel has not yet been provided. Other concepts that hint at such action-oriented belief are εὐθύνω, πεινάω, διψάω, ἐσθίω, πίνω, τρώγω, ἀκολουθέω, περιπατέω , τηρέω/τηρῶ, φυλάσσω, μένω, and καρπὸν φέρειν, not to mention the verbs ἐργάζομαι and ποιέω within the context of John 6:27-28, for example. With the help of a more developed conceptual metaphor theory I would like to argue that these scattered instances of metaphorical linguistic expressions are part of a larger activity metaphorical network and form the kernel of what we could call the ‘Johannine work theology’. Acknowledging the ‘literary craft’ and highly figurative and allusive structure of the gospel, I claim that such a selective and sporadic linguistic analysis and framework is feasible in the Fourth Gospel.

Session Three John’s Use of the Synoptics [joint with Synoptic Gospels]

Four 15-Minute Papers (circulated to seminar members 2 weeks in advance) from Helen Bond (University of Edinburgh), Catrin Williams (University of Wales Trinity St David), Wendy North (Durham University), and Elizabeth Corsar (University of Edinburgh), followed by a 30-minute Panel Discussion and Q&A.