A program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature
Sessions held at the 2014 Annual Meeting
(San Diego, CA - Nov. 22-25, 2014)
S23-326: John, Jesus, and History
11/23/2014, 4:00 to 6:30 PM Theme: Jesus Remembered in the Early Johannine Situation (30-70 CE)
Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh, Presiding (5 min)
Jonathan Bernier, McMaster University Aposynagogos and the Aims of John (25 min)
Abstract: The argument of this paper is two-fold. First, that if properly defined John’s aims in general and particularly in the aposynagogos passages (9:22, 12:42, 16:2) exclude the two-level reading typical of redaction-critical work on the Gospel. Second, that the relevant data warrants the judgment that these passages plausibly describe events that occurred during (in the case of 9:22 and 12:42) and potentially short after (in the case of 16:2) the ministry of Jesus.
Peter Lanfer, University of California-Los Angeles Reading John from the Margins: Finding Jesus in the Judean Voice of John's Gospel (25 min)
Abstract: The Dead Sea Scrolls present a complex picture of the diversity of Judean Judaism in the first century CE. While there is little evidence of any direct influence or dependence between the Fourth Gospel and the scrolls, both preserve the writings of communities standing at odds with Jerusalem-centric Judaism. This paper will examine the Gospel of John within the context of peripheral sectarian movements emerging in Judea in the first century CE with particular attention to eschatological expectations for the coming messianic age and the role of Jerusalem in shaping these emergent communities.
Reinhard Pummer, Université d'Ottawa - University of Ottawa Samaritans, Galileans, and Judeans in Josephus and the Gospels (25 min)
Abstract: The paper will explore the relationship between Samaritans, Galileans and Judeans in Josephus and the Gospel of John as well as other New Testament writings. Among the subjects to be discussed will be that of the Samaritan idea of the eschatological prophet, the Taheb, and its distinction from Jewish concepts of messianism.
Clare K. Rothschild, Lewis University Baptist Influence on the Johannine Jesus (25 min)
Abstract: This paper analyzes the Fourth Gospel’s depiction of John the Baptist and his followers as a lens through which to understand the Johannine presentation of Jesus. Scholars such as Raymond Brown have inferred several dialectical engagements between John’s gospel and late first and early second century followers of the Baptist. This paper pursues these and other possibilities with the aim of understanding how the Johannine Jesus—representing an amalgam of influences—incorporates engagements with contemporary followers of the Baptist as an important factor.
Jonathan Draper, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
S24-321: John, Jesus, and History
(Joint Session with Synoptic Gospels)
11/24/2014, 4:00 to 6:30 PM Theme: Jesus Remembered in the Gospels of Matthew and John
A joint session of the John, Jesus, and History Group and the Synoptic Gospels Section will focus on the way Jesus is remembered in Matthew and John.
Sessions in previous years have explored possible connections between the traditions reflected in John’s Gospel with those in Mark and Luke.
Robert A. Derrenbacker Jr., Thorneloe University, Presiding (5 min)
James W. Barker, Rhodes College Ecclesial Authority from Matthew to John (25 min)
Abstract: According to Matthew, Jesus authorizes Peter (16:19) and the disciples (18:18) to bind and loose. According to John (20:23), Jesus authorizes the disciples to forgive and retain sins. Given that a single Aramaic term can mean both “loose” and “forgive,” C. H. Dodd concluded that these logia independently attest one orally transmitted saying. Revealing the weakness of Dodd’s semantic argument, this paper nonetheless strengthens the connection between the Matthean and Johannine traditions: John actually knows the “binding and loosing” saying from its redacted context in Matthew 18. Although these sayings do not meet the criterion of multiple attestation, they similarly remember Jesus’ institutionalization of the church as an historical event. Moreover, Matthew and John share a distinctive vision of ecclesial authority: whereas Mark (6:34; 14:27) and Luke (15:1–7) depict Jesus alone as a shepherd, Matthew and John delegate Jesus’ pastoral role to the disciples and Peter respectively (Matt 18:12–14; John 21:15–17). Finally, the paper contextualizes the adaptation of Matthean material and the exercise of ecclesial authority within the Johannine situation, particularly as pastors perform baptisms (John 4:2) and forgive post-baptismal sins (John 20:23).
Matthias Konradt, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg Jesus as the Royal Messiah and the Ambivalence of His Reception in Israel in Matthew and John (25 min)
Abstract: In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is remembered as the humble king of Israel, the son of David, who is sent to the lost sheep of Israel. His ministry, however, evokes ambivalent reactions: while the crowds gradually develop the insight that Jesus is the messianic son of David, the Jewish authorities react with firm and resolute rejection. With regard to the relationship between Matthew’s Jesus story and John’s Gospel on this topic, one can observe not only some agreements in narrative details – as for example in the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-17; John 12:12-19) –, but also a basic convergence in the overall approach of conveying the ambivalence of Jesus’ reception “by his own people” during his earthly ministry. At the same time, however, each evangelist develops this overall approach in a characteristic manner. This paper combines an analysis of the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and of his ambivalent reception with a reflection on the social situations of the Matthean and the Johannine groups which manifest themselves in the specific way in which the Jesus story is told.
Carsten Claussen, Elstal Theological Seminary Moses Typology and the Sending Motif in Matthew and John (25 min)
Abstract: The expectation of a prophet like Moses, based on Deut 18:15-18, was very much in the air in first century ancient Judaism. Thus it is not surprising that both the Gospels of Matthew and John show considerable influence of Moses typology and especially the sending motif (cf. Exod 3:10-15). In Matthew Jesus presents himself as being sent by God (Matt 10:40) and sends out his disciples (Matt 10:16; 28:16-20). In the Fourth Gospel the sending formula is the key to Jesus’ self-understanding: The Son is sent by God, the Father, and Jesus sends the disciples into the world (17:18). “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (20:21). This paper will explore the history and reception of the sending motif in light of Moses typology in both Matthew and John.
Judith Stack-Nelson, Hamline University The Holy Spirit as Witness of Jesus to, in, and through the Disciples in the Gospels of Matthew and John (25 min)
Abstract: The memory of Jesus' teaching on the Holy Spirit as empowering Christian witnessing power is discernible in both the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of John. This witness is understood to be initially to those around Jesus: John the Baptist perceives the lighting of the Holy Spirit on Jesus as indicative of his sonship and authority to pass on the presence of the Holy Spirit; Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God is a revelation engendered by God’s spirit. But the Holy Spirit was also understood to witness to Jesus through the disciples after Jesus’ death. John explicitly connects the witness of the Spirit with the witness of Jesus’ followers (“the Spirit of truth…he will bear witness about me and you also will bear witness” Jn 15:26-27) and Jesus’ commissioning of the Apostles in Mt to make disciples and baptize is in part in the name of Holy Spirit, the spirit of Jesus, whom they understand to be with them eternally and to be “God with us,” a commissioning analogous to Jesus imparting the Holy Spirit to the Apostles in John 20.
S25-125: John, Jesus, and History
11/25/2014, 9:00 to 11:30 AM Theme: Methodologies for Conducting Johannine Historiography
Methodology has been a major focus of discussion in studies of the historical Jesus. Since the nineteenth century, the criteria used for assessing early Jesus traditions have usually given priority to Synoptic material, with far less attention to John's Gospel. As part of an ongoing reevaluation of the criteria used the field, this session will focus on ancient historiography in relation to the Johannine witness to Jesus.
Paul N. Anderson, George Fox University, Presiding (5 min)
Beth M. Sheppard, Duke University History, Historical, Historiography: The Fourth Gospel’s Use of Dialogue as Window to the Past (25 min)
Abstract: In this paper focus falls on the role of dialogue in Greco-Roman histories. First, how and when conversation rather than either orations or straight narrative is used by ancient historians for communicating information to their audiences is examined. Then the verbal exchange between Livia and Augustus concerning the conspiracy of Cinna Magnus (as found in Cassius Dio and Seneca) is employed as a foil for examining Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan Woman in John 4. A survey of modern classical scholarship’s varied assessment of the historicity of the Cinna conspiracy follows to demonstrate that impasses about the historical nature of dialogical accounts of the past are not unique to the field of Biblical Studies. Concluding observations about the limits of the particular modern method that tends to result in inability to achieve consensus are presented and suggestions about alternate modern historiographical methods that may offer a way forward are raised.
Stanley E. Porter, McMaster Divinity College John’s Gospel and the Criteria for Authenticity (25 min)
Abstract: The criteria for authenticity traditionally used in historical Jesus research have fallen on hard times. Some continue to bolster them, while others either attempt to modify them or outright reject them. Where does this leave John’s Gospel? Similar criteria have not been consistently used in study of John’s Gospel—in most cases there being the presumption that John’s Gospel is not historical, or not historical in the same way as the Synoptics. After summarizing the state of research regarding the criteria, this paper attempts to bring John’s Gospel within the fold of criteria-based discussion of all four Gospels. This requires, if not entirely new criteria, at least newly refashioned or reconceptualized criteria that can address issues particular to John’s Gospel. The results of such reconfiguration are analyzed and tested against past research and future prospects.
Robyn Faith Walsh, Brown University The Literary Environment of John and the Influence of German Romanticism (25 min)
Abstract: This paper reexamines how contemporary studies of the Gospel of John, and the New Testament more broadly, continue to reinscribe terms and typologies that are heavily influenced by Romanticism. Chief among these is the concept of “community” which is rooted in certain anti-Enlightenment notions of a cohesive Volk, inspired by the Geist of a group’s oral teachings. To assume that sources like the gospels emerged from the folk speech of established early Christian groups, or simply reproduces the interests of a community, presumes a social environment for the production of this literature that, among other issues, agitates against what is known about ancient Mediterranean literary practices—namely that the composition and exchange of texts was an activity of the literate elite. Scholarly focus on communities has had enormous implications for John, which, historically, has been treated as “other” in scholarship on the gospels, given its seemingly more esoteric qualities. By placing John properly within a social network of ancient authors, his writings are understood as no less historical than any other life of Jesus. Moreover, reconsidering John’s social environment refocuses our attention properly on the author, his strategic choices and how we might class his writing within a more comprehensive field of Greco-Roman literature on the teachings and wonderworking of prophetic figures.
Chris Keith, St. Mary's University (Twickenham) The Competitive Textualization of the Jesus Tradition John 20:30–31 and 21:25 (25 min)
Abstract: This paper will argue that John 20:30–31 and 21:25 attest a competitive textualization of the oral Johannine gospel tradition, whereby the author of the Fourth Gospel intentionally moves the tradition into the manuscript medium in order to rival extant textualized versions of the Jesus story. By building critically upon the prior work of Thatcher, and also by giving attention to elements within the narrative of the Fourth Gospel, I will argue that John 20:30–31 and 21:25 constitute underappreciated indications of the Fourth Gospel’s knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels, which are the only certain prior Jesus books.
Discussion (20 min)
Description: The John, Jesus, and History Group will highlight issues related to the Johannine tradition and the composition-history of the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles, with special emphasis on the place of these documents in contemporary study of Christian origins. Dialogue on these issues will be encouraged through the group’s annual meetings and through other venues throughout the year.
Call for Papers: The John, Jesus, and History Group is planning three sessions for 2014, continuing the theme of Jesus Remembered in the Johannine Tradition. Papers will be by invitation, rather than by the submission of proposals, though SBL members may make inquiries about topics. One session, held jointly with the Synoptic Gospels section, will continue exploring John's relationship to each of the Synoptic gospels. In 2014 the focus will be on the gospels of John and Matthew. A second session will be devoted to Methodologies and Questions of Historicity in John. It will examine what constitutes historicity in the modern era, issues of criteria for assessing historicity, and possible new methods. A third session will turn to Jesus Remembered in the Johannine Situation: The Context of Galilee and Judea. Topics may include possible contexts for the development of the Johannine tradition in its early phases. Questions may include the identification of Jesus as a prophet, tensions between Jesus’ followers and synagogue leaders, and Jesus’ relationship to Roman authority.