A program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature
Sessions held at the 2016 Annual Meeting
(San Antonio, TX - November 19-22, 2016)
S19-330 (Joint Session): John, Jesus, and History; Synoptic Gospels; Q
11/19/2016, 4:00 to 6:30 PM Theme: Jesus Remembered in John and Q Paul Anderson, George Fox University, Presiding
Jesse Richards, University of Oxford Jesus the Teacher: Assessing Discipleship Sayings in John and Q from a First-Century Media Perspective (25 min)
Abstract: Across earliest Christian traditions, Jesus is remembered as a didaskalos who issues teachings to his disciples. Several of these discipleship sayings in Q also show up in John’s Gospel and provide historians with a corroborative impression of how Jesus of Nazareth was remembered by his followers. I will suggest that these corroborative features result from how first-century media culture encouraged conservation and creativity. When these media features are considered, it becomes reasonable to infer that the Fourth Gospel is rooted in early Jesus tradition while also at liberty to develop that tradition in diverse ways. For example, John can conserve the tradition that Jesus is a disciple-making teacher, while creatively developing an exalted Christology that goes beyond traditions found in earlier Christianity. This conservation and creativity not only accords with ancient compositional practices, but it also exemplifies how first-century media culture played a vital role in the shaping of the Jesus tradition as it came to expression in oral and written forms.
Mark Goodacre, Duke University Johannine Thunderbolt or Synoptic Seed? Matthew 11:27 // Luke 10:22 in Christological Context (25 min)
Abstract: The presence of a “Johannine Thunderbolt” in Matthew 11:27 // Luke 10:22 has long troubled those who stress the major differences between John and the Synoptics. How could so Johannine a Christological statement land out of the blue on the Synoptic Jesus’ lips? The surprise is all the more striking if, as some scholars maintain, the saying predates Matthew and Luke. But the appearance of a Johannine “thunderbolt” is a mirage. It results in part from slicing the evidence too thinly, and treating Matt. 11:27 // Luke 10:22 as an isolated saying. Once read in its full context, the saying becomes seen as typical of Matthew’s Christology, with its stress on the relationship between the Father and the Son, to whom all authority has been given, and who is engaged in knowledge that is revealed to the disciples. The saying is congenial to Luke, who repeats it almost verbatim, but it appeals still more strongly to John, for whom it becomes a foundation for his own idiosyncratic Christology that is so strongly focused on the Son’s divine relationship with the Father.
Clare K. Rothschild, Lewis University The Second Sign? John 4:46b-54 in Light of Matthew 8:5-13 // Luke 7:1-10 (25 min)
Abstract: The healing of the official’s son in John 4 is one of four narrative correspondences between Q and John. It is the only narrative correspondence without a noteworthy Markan parallel and one of two (or arguably three) narratives in this sayings source. However, Q neither explicitly attributes the healing to Jesus, nor states that the servant was healed. Rather, this healing arises in a context of speculation about “the coming one” (Q 7:8), and it compares the actions of this figure to a soldier’s deployments (“coming and going,” Q 7:22) as one “sent to announce good news” (Isaiah 61:1 LXX). Q 7:19 denotes this purpose with a question posed by disciples of John the Baptist to Jesus: “Are you ὁ ἐρχόμενος?” In contrast, the Fourth Gospel specifies Jesus as the subject and suggests highest approval of the healing by referring to it as the δεύτερον σημεῖον. But, John’s treatment of the cure resembles the healing of the man born blind on 9:1-41; namely, a recasting of one or more Synoptic traditions in Johannine terms (cf. Mark 8:13-26 // Matt 16:5-12; Mark 10:46-52 // Matt 20:29-34 // Luke 18:35-43; Matt 9:27-31). Adoption of the Q pericope by both Matthew and Luke, thus, seems to mark an intermediary stage in the development of the tradition.
Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University The Words and Works of Jesus: Media-Critical Dynamics in the John/Q Parallels (25 min)
Abstract: This paper will draw on insights from media studies to develop a framework for understanding the respective hermeneutical strategies of the Fourth Gospel and Q. While these two traditions reflect overlapping traditions at several points, they appropriate traditional material in significantly different ways. Q, as a “sayings Gospel,” appears to reflect a current in early Christian thought that emphasized the performative power of Jesus' words, rehearsing his teachings within a minimal narrative framework. John, by contrast, managed tradition by locating the words of Jesus within a carefully arranged narrative sequence that ties the “meaning” of Christ's words to particular moments in time and space that are self-consciously distinct from the audience's experience of that content. These contrasting approaches are best understood when viewed on a hermeneutical spectrum rather than in terms of one source's “dependence” on the other, especially in view of emerging media-critical perspective on the nature of Q.
Robert Derrenbacker, Thorneloe University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
S20-130: John, Jesus, and History
11/20/2016, 9:00 to 11:30 AM Theme: Portraits of Jesus in the Gospel of John
This is the third in the series on the Portraits of Jesus in the Gospel of John. It extends the work of previous sessions which considered Jesus as a rabbi, healer, controversialist, prophet, Messiah, apocalyptic Son of Man, and Son of God.
Craig Koester, Luther Seminary, Presiding
Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena) The Humanity of Jesus in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Abstract: The portrait of Jesus in John is the picture of the "human" Jesus. The perspective of the writer is expressed in John 1:14: The Word became flesh. The Fourth Gospel depicts the the Word of God made human. Four dimensions of Jesus' humanity will be considered here: (1) Jesus is depicted as a historical figure, connected to the Jewish people and to specific Roman provinces, villages and towns; (2) the repeated use of anthropos for Jesus and other human beings; (3) the death of Jesus in John and later accounts of later anti-Christian polemic that argued his crucifixion ruled out Jesus' divinity; and (4) the reserve that John manifests in attributing to the "earthly" Jesus the title "God" (1:1-18; and the post-resurrection, 20:28).
James Crossley, St Mary's University, London The Quest for the Johannine "Jesus the Jew" (30 min)
Abstract: This paper will look at what it might mean to label the Johannine Jesus, "Ioudaios." It will analyse and contextualize scholarly tendencies in the study of the "Jewishness" of the Johannine Jesus and unravel some of the problematic assumptions of a static (and often unconscious) imposition of a model of what scholars continue to assume Judaism essentially to have been. The focus of this paper will be on the complex portrayal of the Johannine Jesus in relation to the Johannine construction of "oi Ioudaioi" and "the world" more generally. However, rather than imposing modern, essentialist notions of what early Judaism supposedly is or is not, this paper will emphasize the importance of John’s presentation of Jesus as an exercise in the ideological creation of Jewishness and Judaism, or, indeed, indifference to such constructs. It will also ask how such constructions, including the construction of Jesus, might have been perceived by external audiences in relation to other ancient constructions of Jews and Judaism.
Chris Keith, St Mary's University (Twickenham) Jesus as Galilean in the Gospel of John (30 min)
Abstract: This paper will assess the significance of Jesus' identity as a Galilean in the unfolding narrative portrait of him in the Gospel of John. Particular attention will be given to the problem that it creates for characters' attempts to identify Jesus. Examples include the disciples' attempts to understand Jesus' identity John 1:43-51 and the attempts of "the crowd" to understand Jesus as the Messiah in 7:37-44. Attention will also be given to the significance of Galilee in the Gospel's construction of the significance of Jesus' ministry, especially as it relates to Jesus' travels back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem. This paper will argue that the Gospel of John portrays the "earthly" Jesus' identity as a Galilean as a crucial aspect of its high Christological claims and challenge the notion that Johannine Christology precludes serious interest in the past of Jesus on the part of the author.
Jens Schroeter, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Humboldt University of Berlin How to write a „Historical Portrait“ of Jesus? Reflections on the Hermeneutics of Historiography and the Gospel of John (30 min)
Abstract: The Gospel of John presents a unique portrait of Jesus with a "high Christology.“ It makes questions of a historical portrait of Jesus and the historicity of the early Gospels particularly urgent. This paper will argue that on the basis of careful reflection on the methodological and epistemological presuppositions of (re)constructing history it is possible to achieve a plausible historical portrait of Jesus. This general insight will be applied to John's narrative about Jesus as the "divine Logos that became Flesh," appeared in a concrete time and region, and who was crucified and risen. We will consider whether this Jesus story can be called a "historical" portrait of Jesus and in what sense it contributes to our understanding of Jesus as a divine and earthly figure.
Discussion (20 min)
S21-329: John, Jesus, and History
11/21/2016, 4:00 to 6:30 PM
Theme: John Among the Gospels Catrin Williams, Prifysgol Cymru, Y Drindod Dewi Sant - University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Presiding
Gilbert Van Belle, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven John’s Use of the Synoptics, His Creative Freedom, and his Historical Reliability: The Return of John to Jesus Research after the JJH Project? (25 min)
Abstract: The paper explores whether I still agree with the conclusion that I drew in my 2007 contribution to the JJH project, where I stated that “I can neither deny nor prove the possibility of historical traditions in the Fourth Gospel”. After providing a short evaluation of the JJH project, I will discuss, in three steps, how the project has influenced my own view on John’s dependence on the Synoptic Gospels: (1) How has John used the Synoptics? (2) How do we define John’s creative freedom? (3) How can we defend John’s reliability on the basis of John’s dependence on the Synoptics and his creative imagery? By way of conclusion I will reformulate my Louvain approach, stressing in particular that the Fourth Gospel is, in first instance, a theological narrative of the incarnated Word of God based on the evangelist’s intertextual play with the Synoptics (H. Thyen).
Urban C. von Wahlde, Loyola University of Chicago Lack of Concern for “History”? John vs. the Synoptics and “John” vs. “John” (25 min)
Abstract: The aim of the “John, Jesus, and History” section of the SBL has been focused on determining the historicity of various elements of the Gospel of John. However since the publication of J.L. Martyn’s book, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, scholars have taken seriously the belief that the Gospel of John not only addressed the events of the historical ministry of Jesus but also the problems the later Johannine community confronted. The Gospel was a “two-level drama.” If that is, in some sense, correct, then it has implications for the issue of the historicity of the Gospel. That is, some parts of the Gospel can be ruled out as being “historical” (i.e. in the sense of reflecting the history of the ministry of Jesus) even though that material could be considered useful as reflecting the later theological and intellectual history of the community). It would be foolish to expect history-of-the-ministry from such material which in fact reflects the history-of-the-community. Consequently it would be as useful to know what to exclude as it is to know what to include. In this paper I would like to explore two elements of the Gospel that show significant signs of not being historical with reference to the ministry of Jesus. These two elements rank among the most puzzling features of the Gospel. The first is the question of which Gospel is historically correct in the location of the so-called Cleansing of the Temple (2:14-22): John in locating it near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry or the Synoptics in placing it near the end of the ministry? Second is the question whether the miracles currently at the beginning of chapter 5 (5:1-9a) and at the beginning of chapter 6 (6:1-15) are in their proper location or whether their order has been somehow reversed or compromised. I will treat these two issues in the context of the Gospel as a whole and will show that the resolution of the one issue is related to the resolution of the other. Moreover, both of the texts represent instances where the author had no concern for historical (or narrative!) sequence.
Wendy E. S. North, University of Durham John and the Synoptics: Evaluating a Method (25 min)
Abstract: Following an introductory comment on the contributions to the John, Jesus and History Project Review, this paper will briefly describe the method outlined in my essay published in volume three of John, Jesus and History before discussing further work on the Gospel that has been pursued on that basis. The results of this approach to date will then be evaluated in terms of its potential as a contribution to the issue of John and the Synoptics.
Ruben Zimmermann, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz The Shepherd-Parables in John 10 and Luke 15: Recent Parable Research and the John-Jesus-History Project (25 min)
Abstract: Parables have been regarded as the bedrock of historical Jesus research for many years, most recently in A.-J. Levine´s book, Short Stories (2014). Only in his 2016 published vol. 5 of the “Marginal Jew” (entitled Probing the Authenticity of Parables) has John P. Meier challenged this view and narrowed down the parable database to just four authentic texts: one from Mark, and three from the Q document. Is he right in doing so? And what does this tell us about the historicity of the New Testament parables and the Fourth Gospel? In my paper I would like to take the parable genre as a test case for examining the “rehistoricization” of the Fourth Gospel, one of the declared aims of the JJH project, and even more so for the methods and criteria of historical Jesus research in general. In my 2015 book, Puzzling the Parables of Jesus (Fortress), I made the case that there are, indeed, parables of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, thus challenging the broad consensus that the Gospel of John should be excluded from parable research. However, parables are not to be reconstructed using the methods of historical Jesus research, neither in the Synoptics nor in John. Rather, John and the Synoptics can be examined in a new and even closer way in relation to each other. Both sources represent certain forms of memories of Jesus the parable teller. By focusing on the shepherd parables in Q/Luke 15:1-7/Matt. 18:12-14 and John 10:1-5, one can identify similarities as well as dissimilarities in the memory process of the Early Church. Thus, the parables do not represent the authentic voice of Jesus but, as media of collective memory, they reveal much about the form, function and theology of Early Christianity in the making.
Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
S22-128: John, Jesus, and History
11/22/2016, 9:00 to 11:30 AM Theme: History and Memory in the Fourth Gospel Helen Bond, University of Edinburgh, Presiding
Eve-Marie Becker, Aarhus Universitet Beyond History: How the Fourth Gospel Transcends Ancient Historiography (30 min)
Abstract: The Gospel of John sticks to some elementary narrative patterns which characterize the Synoptic approach to writing history. This paper argues, however, that at crucial points John intentionally leaves the historically oriented approach to the gospel story. The reason for this is primarily John's aim is to "transcend" the model of ancient history-writing.
Rafael Rodriguez, Johnson University "What is History?" Reading the Gospel of John as a Historical Text (30 min)
Abstract: Pontius Pilate asked: What is truth? We might ask: What is history? This paper draws on discussions of memory and media in order to question the notion that we find history within the text of the Fourth Gospel. Rather than trying identify and isolate history within John’s Gospel, our discussion aims to recover how the Gospel works as a set of historical claims, which join with or compete against other historical claims within the social sphere of its author, redactor, and/or audience. Questions of history and tradition are at the heart of the John, Jesus and History project and, beyond that, even at the heart of biblical scholarship “tout court.” The JJH group, for nearly a decade and a half, has raised questions about the nature of history and historical inquiry and, especially, the place and worth of the Gospel of John in efforts to know anything about the historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth. During roughly the same period of time, New Testament scholarship has been refining its understanding of “tradition” as an analytical concept. This refining has taken place in particular among historians of Jesus, who have turned with some enthusiasm to memory studies (and especially social or collective memory), as well as among those interested in media criticism (so-called “orality studies”), in order to reframe the question of the historical Jesus. After a précis of memory’s and media’s significance for our question (What is history?), we will localize these abstract issues by turning to the Johannine portrayal of John and his testimony for Jesus, reading the Fourth Gospel’s claims about Jesus of Nazareth (and John’s testimony to Jesus) within the broader discursive field of late-first century CE interpretations of Jesus. This approach respects the Fourth Gospel as a written text that developed and was compiled/redacted in the late first century without imposing a rigidly a-temporal conception of Johannine theology onto John’s claims about events six or seven decades earlier.
Anthony Le Donne, United Theological Seminary A Bending before the Breaking: A Case Study in the Flexibility of Memory and Ethnicity in the Fourth Gospel(30 min)
Abstract: In the Aristotelian mapping of the social world, a large part of ethnicity was constructed by polis orientation. Geographical provenance, supposed ancestry, shared myth, etc. were factors in this construct but orientation toward a polis was crucial in determining ethnos. This was especially true for Jews as Jerusalem was home to their temple in a singular way. The Fourth Gospel, however, suggests a reorientation of early Christians. This paper will argue that some post-70 Christians began to commemorate Jesus' body as a temple and thus reoriented the poliscentricism of Jesus-following Jews. While most Jews commemorated a fallen temple with hope that it might be rebuilt, most Christians commemorated the significance of the temple by orienting toward Jesus. This variance in commemoration created the possibility for a new ethnos. The Fourth Gospel will be used a case study for this thesis.
Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University, Respondent (15 min)