John – Jesus – History

A program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature

Sessions held at the 2008 Annual Meeting
(Boston, MA; Nov. 21-25, 2008)

S22-66: John, Jesus, and History
Saturday, 11/22/2008, 1:00 to 3:30 PM, Room: Constitution B - SH

Theme: Glimpses of Jesus Through the Johannine Passion Narrative (A)
Presiding: Paul Anderson, George Fox University (5 min)

S23-78: John, Jesus, and History
Sunday, 11/23/2008, 1:00 to 3:30 PM, Room: Grand Ballroom - SH

Theme: Book Review Session - abstract
Presiding: Felix Just, Loyola Institute for Spirituality

Panelists' Reviews:

Authors' Responses:

S23-127: John, Jesus, and History
Sunday, 11/23/2008
, 4:00 to 6:30 PM, Room: Grand Ballroom - SH

Theme: Glimpses of Jesus through the Johannine Passion Narrative (B)
Presiding: Jaime Clark-Soles, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (5 min)


S22-66: Donald Senior, "It Is Better for You That One Man Should Die Instead of the People!": History and Theology in the Johannine Portrayal of the Passion of Jesus

The Gospel of John offers indicates multiple and multi-layered reasons or causes for the opposition to Jesus and his ultimate arrest and crucifixion and subsumes all of these into the heart of the Fourth Gospel's theological perspective. At the same time, there are intriguing convergence points with probable historical circumstances surrounding the passion of Jesus, as, for example, in the case of John 11:45-57. This study will review John's account of why Jesus came to be crucified and consider the interweaving of theology and history in John"s reflections on the causes and meaning of Jesus" death.

S22-66: Warren Carter, Jesus and Pilate (John 18:28-19:16)

This paper will explore John's scene involving Jesus and Pilate, often refered to as Jesus' (Roman) trial. The central question to be engaged concerns whether the scene might function in any way as a source for information about the historical Jesus.

S22-66: Esther A. de Boer, Jesus and His Mother (John 19:25-27)

The presentation of Jesus and his mother in John 19:25-27 calls forth many questions. How many women accompany her under the cross; three, two or one? Why are they mentioned, whereas Jesus addresses only his mother? What does it mean that Jesus makes his mother the mother of the disciple whom he loved, who suddenly also appears to be there? Traditionally, John is said to draw on the Synoptic Gospels for the presence of women at the crucifixion and John's redaction is meant to make a symbolic statement about the church. According to Roman Catholic exegesis, before he dies, Jesus wants to proclaim that his mother is from then on the mother of the church. Protestant exegesis maintains that the church is not about blood relationship; from John 19:25-27 it emerges that, through the church, people become a new family. No one is left alone; they all have the care and love of and for one another. In this paper, I want to leave the redactional and symbolic level of interpretation and, by using historical imagination, focus instead on John's presentation of Jesus and his mother in their historical context. Is it historically plausible that Jesus" mother is standing under the cross, hearing Jesus" last words to her? And if so, how does she understand these words and what do they mean to her view of Jesus and his immanent death and to her view of her life after this traumatic experience?

S22-66: Jean Zumstein, Story, Plot, and History in the Johannine Passion Narrative

The paper will be related to current discussions in historiography (esp. Paul Ricoeur and Hayden White) and deal with the followings questions. First: How can the Johannine approach to the history of Jesus" death, based on constructions of memory, be differentiated from pure fiction? Second: Which is the relationship between story and history in John 18-19? Third: Within this debate, what is the function of the plot of the Johannine passion narrative?

S23-78: Book Review Session

Corollary to the John, Jesus, and History project several important books have recently contributed to the larger set of inquiries. Three of these will be reviewed by leading scholars from Britain and America, followed by responses from the authors and a general discussion. The books include: The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus; Modern Foundations Reconsidered, by Paul N. Anderson (T&T Clark, 2006); The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple; Narrative, History and Theology in the Gospel of John, by Richard Bauckham (Baker, 2007); and The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions: Judaism and Jesus, the Gospels and Scripture, by D. Moody Smith (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). The reviewers will engage particular aspects of all three books and their implications, as follows: “Implications for the Study of John,” Judith Lieu; “Implications for the Study of Jesus,” Amy-Jill Levine; and “Implications for History,” Andreas J. Köstenberger. Authors will respond to these reviews, and Felix Just, S.J. will moderate the following discussion.

S23-127: Craig S. Keener, "What Is Truth?": Pilate's Perspective on Jesus in John 18:33-38

The narrative in John 18:33-38 does not offer eyewitnesses to substantiate its account, but ancient historians and biographers also constructed scenes based on plausible inferences. The inference that Pilate categorized Jesus according to the categories of sage familiar to him is indeed a plausible one, one of the most plausible explanations, in fact, for Pilate's behavior even as it appears in the Synoptics. Even minimal attention to his Roman education would have exposed Pilate to a theme found among most kinds of philosophers, namely, that philosophers had the greatest wisdom for guiding the state. Stoics and Cynics, in particular, spoke of sages reigning as kings; but the heart of their "rule" involved persuading people about "truth." Unlike typical Stoics of this period, Cynics were considered antisocial, yet nevertheless usually escaped punishment because they were normally politically harmless. Although the ideal hearer of this Gospel recognizes that Jesus is no mere philosopher, Pilate within the narrative world would surely hear him in such terms. Pilate's response to Jesus makes sense historically on such terms.

S23-127: Stephan Witetschek, The Hour of the Lamb? Christology and Chronology in John 19:14

The chronological indication in John 19:14 that Jesus was condemned to death "about the sixth hour" is often interpreted as pointing to Jesus as the paschal lamb, since the time of his death sentence coincides with the hour when in the temple the paschal lambs were slaughtered. This paper is an attempt to evaluate the plausibility of the connection between chronology and christology. It is basically about two questions: Where does this scholarly tradition come from, and how plausible is it? How else can this chronological indication be explained, maybe based on historical knowledge?

S23-127: Wendy E. S. North, Points and Stars: John and the Synoptics

This paper proposes that observing how the Fourth Evangelist composed his narrative provides a useful entry-point into the issue of whether his work was directly dependent on Synoptic material. Certain references in the Gospel strongly suggest that John is re-telling a story that was already known to his readership. Since we do not know whether that bank of knowledge included the Synoptics, I propose to tackle the issue by examining how John composes on the basis of material known to his audience that we can identify: (A) within the gospel (1) references to earlier characters and events, and (2) material composed out of earlier gospel statements; (B) outside the gospel (3) explicit quotation from scripture. From the evidence of how he handles this material, I will attempt to construct an argument that John could have composed in direct dependence on Synoptic material in the following test-cases: (a) Jn 20:3-10; and (b) Jn 12:1-8. If this argument is plausible, then it raises the general issue that John's narrative was not based on independent information about the historical Jesus at those points where his gospel coincides with the Synoptic witness.

S23-127: Robert T. Fortna, Traces of Jesus in the Johannine Passion Narrative

Using criteria generated by the Jesus Seminar, an appraisal of the historical value of John 18-21, along with segments of chapters 13 and 14. Emphasis will be on items in John's account that most likely stem from the events at the end of Jesus' life--i.e., material that might merit a "red" or "pink" vote by the Seminar.

Call for Papers: 2008-2010 Overview (retained here for archival purposes):

The JJH Group will host two sessions at each of the 2008, 2009, and 2010 meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature (in addition to co-sponsoring some special sessions with other program units). During these years the discussion will focus on the following aspects of Jesus' life and ministry:

Proposals on general methodological issues will be considered for any session, but it will be most helpful if method papers can connect to the topic for the year in question. Please note also that we welcome proposals reflecting a wide variety of perspectives, including both those that defend and those that reject the "historicity" of the Johannine Literature. All proposals should be submitted through the Society of Biblical Literature website, using the appropriate online form.

Call for Papers 2008 (retained here for archival purposes):

The John, Jesus, and History Group will host one open session at the 2008 meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Proposals should develop glimpses of the historical Jesus through the lens of the Johannine Passion Narrative, including discussion of the arrest, trials (Jewish and Roman), and death of Jesus. Topics of interest to the group that fall outside the scope of these issues may also be considered as long as they deal centrally with some aspect of John, Jesus, and history issues. Papers may reflect a variety of methodological perspectives, including those that compare/contrast John’s account to those in other ancient sources. Preference will be given to proposals that interact directly with questions of John's historicity (either in favor of John's historicity or against John's presentation) arguing critically why one's thesis is tenable. Please include a detailed abstract.

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Return to the Homepage of the JOHN - JESUS - HISTORY Group

This website is sponsored by the Steering Committee of the John-Jesus-History Group.

For questions about the John-Jesus-History Group, please contact the Co-chair of the Steering Committee:
Prof. Paul N. Anderson, George Fox University,

For comments about this website, please contact Felix Just, SJ,

This page was last updated on November 22, 2013
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