SBL 2005

Sessions and Papers related to Johannine Literature
presented at the
Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature
Philadelphia, PA - November 19-22, 2005

[For the latest updates, check the complete Online Program Book from the official SBL website.]

Sessions Sponsored by
the Johannine Literature Section:

S19-16: Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005, 9:00 - 11:30 AM (Room 109-B - Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Theme: John and Empire

Felix Just, SJ, University of San Francisco, Presiding

  • Warren Carter, Saint Paul School of Theology, John’s Gospel: Negotiating the Roman Imperial World (45 min)
    • Abstract: While much contemporary scholarship views John's gospel as the "spiritual" and "anti-synagogal" gospel, John has seldom been viewed as a gospel involved in negotiating the Roman imperial world. This paper explores three ways in which the gospel engages Rome's empire. It considers the gospel's plot (the clash over power between Jesus, God's agent, and the Jerusalem-centered, temple-based, Rome-allied elite that results in Jesus' crucifixion), its central revelation of eternal life (physical transformation and establishment of God's purposes in a world dominated by the urbs aeterna and imperium sine fine), and the creation of a community of friends of Jesus (in contrast to those who are friends of Caesar).
  • Luise Schottroff, University of Kassel, Respondent (15 min)
  • Discussion (15 min)
  • R.S. Sugirtharajah, University of Birmingham, Subjecting the Johannine Letters to Postcolonial Criticism (45 min)
    • Abstract: This study of the Johannine letters has three aims. One is to draw attention to colonial tendencies embedded in the text, which could well play into the hands of the present day empire-builders. Among the colonial characteristics of the text are: castigation of those who are not with us as the enemies of God, resentment of any diverse or plural thinking, and employment of the trope of the child as a way of control and domestication. The second is to unmask the hermeneutics of denial at work among some Western biblical interpreters who refuse to accept any influence outside the Hebraic and Hellenistic background, illuminating some of the ideas in the epistles for which there are no Jewish or Greek parallels. Re-invoking the now marginalized hypothesis that Buddhist ideas could have influenced early Christianity, the paper will demonstrate that some of the Johannine theological categories such as indwelling could have benefited from Eastern thinking . The third is to show how postcolonial criticism readily aligns itself with the insistence of the letters on seeking and finding truth, justice and love not in doctrinal or spiritual categories but in the tensions and conflicts of life. Here postcolonialism will concur with the writer of the epistles that ethical involvement, not theoretical or doctrinal fine-tuning, is paramount.
  • Yak-Hwee Tan, Trinity Theological College-Singapore, Respondent (15 min)
  • Discussion (15 min)

S21-116: Monday, Nov. 21, 2005, 4:00 - 6:30 PM (Room 103-A - Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Theme: John and the Visual Arts

Adele Reinhartz, Wilfrid Laurier University, Presiding

  • Susan Ward, Rhode Island School of Design, A Visual Exegesis of Mary Magdalene in John 20 (45 min)
    • Abstract: After a brief discussion of representations of the Magdalene coming to the tomb, (John 20:1), the paper will concentrate on images of the interaction between the Risen Jesus and Mary Magdalene described in John 20:11-16, an episode called the noli me tangere, or touch me not. While earlier versions of the noli me tangere have minimal props and simply show two figures interacting, later medieval and Renaissance representations include elaborate details. Some are related to gardening and other recall Mary Magdalene's perceived status as a reformed prostitute as described in the Golden Legend (ca. 1275). Fifteenth- through seventeenth-century versions of the noli me tangere concentrate on the psychological nature of the interaction as the mimesis of human expression becomes a more important factor in visual representation. The final section of the paper will examine other iconographies of the Magdalene, which suggest alternative interpretations of her role. Even in the Middle Ages and Renaissance there are rare appearances of the Magdalene telling of the Apostles of Christ's resurrection. After 1700 the visual tradition of the Magdalene becomes less important as artists reinterpret John 20 in light of direct reinterpretations of the text and their personal ideas about the meaning of the story.
  • Margaret Miles, Graduate Theological Union, Respondent (15 min)
  • Discussion (15 min)
  • David Rensberger, Interdenominational Theological Center, An Iconic Reading Strategy for the Gospel of John (45 min)
    • Abstract: The narrative of the gospel of John is filled with passages that violate the reader's narrative expectations. Scholars have long observed such aporiae, often explaining them as resulting from redaction of sources, multiple editions, or even accidental transpositions. It may be worth asking, though, whether the aporiae have a function in themselves. Perhaps the communication that this text wishes to undertake is not something that can be accomplished within the framework of ordinary narrative logic; the "distortions" in the text may be deliberately intended as part of its communication. In the eastern Christian visual arts, a technique of visual communication was developed that was deliberately non-realistic. John Baggley writes, "[D]eliberate distortions of normal perspective... can lead to the recognition that our normal everyday world is also the scene where events of an inner or higher or spiritual world are taking place, a world where our normal values and assumptions are turned upside down" (Doors of Perception: Icons and Their Spiritual Significance). Perhaps some of the aporiae of John work like the technique of the later iconographers, deliberately using unrealistic depictions to present a reality "not of this world." To test this hypothesis, I will examine difficult passages from John to see whether their dilemmas of narrative logic can be read as pointers toward a reality that also violates logical expectations and turns assumptions upside down-the reality of the Logos made flesh and crucified. I do not claim that there is a direct historical connection between John and the technique of orthodox icon writers. I am simply asking whether the deliberately non-realistic aesthetic of the icons may provide the model for a reading strategy that takes positive account of the aporiae in the Johannine text.
  • Richard Schneider, York University, Respondent (15 min)
  • Discussion (15 min)

Papers related to Johannine Literature in Other Program Units:

S19-21: Psychology and Biblical Studies
11/19/2005, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM (Room 104-A - Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Paul N. Anderson, George Fox University, The Johannine Ego Eimi Sayings in Cognitive-Critical Perspective (4th of 5 papers in this session; will be available at the PsyBibs Website,

S19-56: Biblical Scholarship and Disabilities
11/19/2005, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM (Room 415 - Marriott)

Nicole Kelley, Florida State University, Two Ancient Christian Interpretations of John 9.1-3 (3rd of 4 papers in this session)

S19-58: Christian Apocrypha
11/19/2005, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM (Room 107-A - Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Paul G. Schneider, University of South Florida, "Christs in Paradox:" The Polymorphic Christologies of the Acts of Peter and the Acts of John (2nd of 4 papers in this session)

Trevor Thompson, University of Chicago, Claiming Ephesus: Pauline Legacy in the Acts of John (3rd of 4 papers in this session)

S19-73: Rethinking Plato's Parmenides and Its Platonic, Gnostic and Patristic Reception
11/19/2005, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM (Room 409 - Marriott)

Serge Cazelais, Universite Laval, Platonic Receptions of the Gospel of John: Marius Victorinus and his Predecessors (4th of 4 papers in this session)

S19-12: Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature
11/19/2005, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM (Room TBD - Hotel TBD)

Kari Syreeni, Uppsala University, Searching for the Bride: Nuptial Imagery in the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation (4th of 6 papers in this session)

S19-112: Ideology, Culture, and Translation
11/19/2005, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM (Room 305 - Marriott)

Hyo Joong Lee, Vanderbilt University, Assurance of the Word: An Ideological Reading of John 17 (2nd paper in this session)

S21-57: Christian Apocrypha
11/21/2005, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM (Room 112-B - Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Pamela Shellberg, Marquette University, Looking at Oxyrhynchus Parchment 840 through a Johannine Lens (4th of 5 papers in this session)

S21-112: Early Jewish Christian Relations
11/21/2005, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM (Room 105-B - Pennsylvania Convention Center)

Jason Coker, Drew University, Ioudaioi as White Boy: Identity and Name-calling in the Fourth Gospel and White Culture (1st of 5 papers in this session)

Susan E. Hylen, Vanderbilt University, Reassessing Religious Identity and the Character of “the Jews” in John (2nd of 5 papers in this session)

See also the "John, Jesus, and History Group" website

for papers to be presented at their two sessions (S20-21 and S21-22)

Call for Papers (from December 2004)

This year one session will be on the theme of John and Empire. The steering committee seeks submissions of proposals that involve consideration of the Gospel in its imperial context and/or proposals that draw on post-colonial theories for interpretation of the text.
The second session invites proposals in the area of John and the Visual Arts. Of particular interest are papers that explore the ways in which passages from the Gospel of John, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus' Encounter with the Samaritan woman, and the Raising of Lazarus are portrayed in the history of Christian art.

First-time presenters to the section should send their completed paper to the co-chairs:
Adele Reinhartz, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5, (O) 519/884-1970 ext. 3324, (F) 519/884-1020, (E)
Francisco Lozada, Jr., University of the Incarnate Word, Box 328, 4301 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209, (O) 210/283-5051, (F) 210/829-3880, (E)

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