SBL 2011

Sessions and Papers related to Johannine Literature
presented at the
Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature
San Francisco, CA - November 19-22, 2011

[For the latest updates, see the official SBL website.]

Program of the Johannine Literature Section

S19-222: Johannine Literature Section
Saturday, 11/19/2011, 1:00 to 3:30 PM

Theme: Johannine Scholarship Today - Global and Local Perspectives
This is the first in a series of sessions mapping the current developments in Johannine scholarship on a global and local scale. The series will continue in 2012.
Presiding: Mary Coloe, Australian Catholic University

  • Adele Reinhartz, Université d'Ottawa - University of Ottawa
    Johannine Scholarship Today: The North-American Scene (35 min)
  • Kasper B. Larsen, Aarhus University, Denmark
    Johannine Scholarship Today: The Nordic Contribution (35 min)
  • Francis J. Moloney, Salesians of Don Bosco
    Johannine Scholarship in the Australia-Pacific Region (35 min)
  • Discussion (40 min)

S20-126: Johannine Literature Section
Sunday, 11/20/2011, 9:00 to 11:30 AM

Theme: The Fourth Gospel and Greco-Roman Culture
Presiding: Kasper Larsen, Aarhus Universitet

  • Lindsey M. Trozzo, Baylor University
    Christ and Community: Encomium and Exhortation in the Fourth Gospel (30 min)
    • Abstract: The Fourth Gospel has been categorized as an ancient biography by such seminal studies as Charles H. Talbert’s What is a Gospel? and the more recent What are the Gospels? from Richard Burridge. Within this category, the rhetorical structure and methodology of the Fourth Gospel reveal its encomiastic tenor, designed to praise its subject: Jesus. This paper approaches John’s Passion Narrative in order to illustrate and expand upon this description, establishing the encomiastic tenor of the least likely part of the Gospel – where the hero is arrested, tried, tortured, and brutally killed. Also, considering the authorial audience, I will argue that an encomium does more than present a laudable subject; it includes a moralizing program, an engagement with the reader that challenges him or her to imitate the virtue of the hero and wrestle with the moral issues presented in the writing. Thus in the Fourth Gospel encomium extends to exhortation, and a dual emphasis is found, which when illuminated by its rhetorical character presents readers, ancient and modern, with a unique portrait of Christ and challenge for his community.
  • Whitney Shiner, George Mason University
    Aporia as Not Redactional: Indicators of Audience Address in the First Four Chapters of John (30 min)
    • Abstract: Much of the discussion of the fourth gospel in recent years has centered around various proposals concerning the redaction of the gospel and reconstructions of the Johannine community based on suggested redactional histories. Another strain of the discussion has concerned analysis of the narrative of the gospel. In spite of valiant attempts, the curious nature of the Johannine narrative has proved relatively impermeable to explanation, reinforcing the tendency to treat the gospel as an archeological dig, with perceived inconsistencies serving as markers of different strata. There is, however, a third alternative which takes seriously the apparent incoherences of the gospel while also taking seriously the received text as the locus of meaning. Assuming that the gospel was originally experienced as an oral presentation, the perceived inconsistencies serve not to mark different strata but to mark variations in performance style. In turn, these markers of performance style indicate that the genre of the gospel is something other than story. The performance mode of the gospel would have been firmly established by the end of the fourth chapter. Based on the received verbal text, it is apparent that the implied performance intentionally deconstructs the illusion of a consistent narrative world. The so-called prolog establishes two inconsistent though overlapping narrative worlds, the heavenly world of the logos and the earthly world of the witness. The ensuing pseudo-narrative forces the implied ideal audience into the middle of the overlapping inconsistency in part by completely collapsing reported dialog and direct address. The reported words of the pseudo-narrative Jesus (and John) to purported dialog partners collapse with direct revelation and with the words of (the audience’s constructed experience of) Jesus as logos to the audience itself. By the end of the fourth chapter, it is clear that the words of Jesus are primarily addressed to the audience. The dialog partners in the pseudo-narrative in turn reflect somewhat parodied aspects of the audience’s own reaction to words of Jesus, which are absolutely outrageous within the earthly half of the overlapping worlds. John’s joyful embrace of the absurdity of Jesus’ claims within all worldly standards of judgment allows the implied ideal audience to bridge the two worlds by simultaneously recognizing and rejecting their own worldly judgment that the claims are absurd. The apparent intent of the gospel is not to perform a coherent narrative of Jesus but to create, in conjunction with the audience’s knowledge of a synoptic-like Jesus and their experience of the community of the cult of Jesus, an experience of the risen Jesus/Jesus as logos. Such an attempt to create an experience of the cult god coheres with accounts of the effects of mystery cult performances, such as that found in Asclepius’s Golden Ass.
  • Jae Hyung Cho, Claremont Graduate University
    The Greek Sacrificial Idea of the Lamb of God in John 1:29 (30 min)
    • Abstract: This paper proposes to investigate the Lamb of God in John 1:29 in the perspective of the Greek sacrificial idea. Although unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament never includes any actual sacrifice, the connotation of sacrifice is dominant. One of the famous examples is Jesus’ title “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36), which is John’s unique description throughout the Bible. Scholars have struggled to define the meaning of “lamb,” but most of them have preferred the Paschal lamb. However, unlike the Lamb of God in John, the Paschal lamb does not remove sin. In addition, the scapegoat model cannot apply to the Lamb of God because the scapegoat is not killed, but just let go into the wilderness. Instead, Bultmann and Cullmann state that the Lamb of God is the sacrificial lamb which may include the symbol of the Paschal lamb and the Greek thysia sacrifice. The sacrificial idea of the Lamb of God in John 1:29 functions to link humans and God by dismissing sin of the world, rather than forgiving sin, which implies that John’s notion of sin was affinity to Greek miasma from which the concept of sin arises. Although the Jewish sacrifice and the Greek thysia sacrifice share some commonalities, their functions are different: While the Greek sacrifice emphasizes communion with the god, the Jewish one indicates that humans cannot be united with God, but just passively receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Jewish people might have known both the Jewish and Greek sacrifice at John’s time, but historical events pushed them closer to the Greek sacrifice: While the official Jewish sacrifice ended when the Jerusalem temple was totally destroyed by Roman army in 70 C.E., the thysia sacrifice continued until the fourth century, which might have influenced Hellenized Jews. Therefore, in the light of the Greek sacrifice, John 1:29 presents John’s understanding of sin and its role in promoting union with God.
  • William Lane Craig, Biola University
    Creation and Abstract Objects in the Johannine Prologue (30 min)
    • Abstract: John 1 affirms that God alone exists eternally and a se. There are no objects of any sort which are co-eternal with God and uncreated by God via the divine Logos. One might think the author of John’s prologue to be ignorant of Platonism, the view that there are eternal and necessarily existing abstract objects. But it is far from clear that the author was unaware of abstract objects and their relation to the Logos. The doctrine of the divine, creative Logos was widespread in Middle Platonism, and it has striking similarities to John’s Logos doctrine. Many scholars have sought to explain the origin of the Johannine Logos in the personified figure of Wisdom. But the evangelist does not speak of Sophia but of Logos. Others have sought to trace John’s nomenclature to God’s logos in the Septuagint. But while the LXX speaks of creation by God’s word, nowhere is God’s word hypostatized as an individual. It might be said that the evangelist has creatively blended Logos and Sophia. But why think that this is original to the fourth evangelist? The fundamental problem for scholars who appeal to biblical motifs like divine Wisdom or the word of the Lord to explain John’s doctrine is that those same motifs were already known and appropriated by Philo to produce a full-blown Logos doctrine. Philonic scholars have come to appreciate that Philo was primarily a scriptural exegete who employed the categories of Greek philosophy. It was Philo who blended the Logos of Middle Platonism with Jewish Wisdom literature and Torah to produce a doctrine of creation through the hypostatized Logos. The author of the Johannine Prologue does not tarry to reflect on the role of the divine Logos causally prior to creation. But this pre-creation role features prominently in Philo’s Logos doctrine. A cornerstone of Middle Platonism was the bifurcation between the realm of static being and the realm of temporal becoming. The realm of becoming was comprised primarily of physical objects, while the static realm of being was comprised of what we would today call abstract objects. But for a Jewish monotheist like Philo, the realm of Ideas does not exist independently of God but as the contents of His mind. Given the close similarity of the Logos doctrine of the Johannine Prologue to Philo’s doctrine, it is not at all impossible that if the evangelist took the realm of created things to include only concrete objects subject to temporal becoming, that is only because abstract entities were not thought to be independently existing objects external to God. Interested as he is in the incarnation of the Logos, he does not linger over the pre-creatorial function of the Logos, but given the provenance of the Logos doctrine, he may well have been aware of the role of the Logos in grounding the intelligible realm as well as his role in creating the realm of temporal concrete objects.
  • George van Kooten, Groningen University
    Spiritual vs. Physical Reproduction in John: A Non-Gnostic, Greek Metaphysical Reading (30 min)
    • Abstract: Contrary to Bultmann’s dualistic, Gnostic reading of pairs of opposites in John, it seems that a contextualization of John in the pre-Gnostic period, against a Greek-philosophical background has more interpretative potential. As an example I shall comment on the antithesis between spiritual vs. physical reproduction. In this paper I shall sketch the backgroup of the concepts of ‘ek theou genesthai’ and ‘divine sperma’. The commentaries ad locum only refer to a few Gnostic passages, or to the mystery cults, but hardly any references are made to Greek philosophical texts. According to Maarten Menken, “Hellenistic thought, mystery cults and gnosticism insofar as they are more or less contemporary with the Johannine writings, display verbal similarities but no exact parallels”. In this paper, however, I shall discuss pagan parallels, differentiating between (1) literal-mythological parallels, consisting of passages which contain phrases such as ‘sperma theou’, ‘ek theoon einai’, ‘ek’ as an preposition of divine origin, etc.; (2) literal-mythological parallels, but now personified and historicized instances of divine seed and divine birth: Hippocrates, Alexander the Great, and Augustus; and 3) metaphorical-philosophical references to divine seed. Especially the last category offers very relevant material to John’s distinction between spiritual and physical reproduction.

S21-224: Johannine Literature
Monday, 11/21/2011, 1:00 to 3:30 PM

Presiding: Colleen Conway, Seton Hall University

  • Robert C. Kashow, Dallas Theological Seminary
    Traces of Ecclesiastes in the Gospel of John: An Overlooked Background and Theological Dialectic (30 min)
    • Abstract: This essay argues that Ecclesiastes is to be included with other Old Testament books and Jewish Wisdom literature as a background which influenced the thought and composition of the Gospel of John, as evidenced by various points of contact between the two books. The implications which arise from this are theological in nature. Namely, the Evangelist engages in a theological dialectic with at least three of Qohelet’s more pointed theological assertions: (1) the basis of one’s epistemological discovery, namely, testimony/tradition vis-à-vis empiricism; (2) belief in the afterlife (this of course is related to [1]); (3) a main focus for living for eternal pleasures vis-à-vis temporary pleasures.
  • Sigve K. Tonstad, Loma Linda University
    The Priority of Theology in John (John 10:37-38) (30 min)
    • Abstract: In one of the most striking statements in the Gospel of John, Jesus points to his works as the one thing he cannot surrender in his dispute with his critics. “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works” (10:37-38). Here, Jesus speaks as though he is willing to forgo the honor of being the object of belief, even offering to remove himself from the picture, hypothetically speaking, if only his works will remain the substrate that shapes his listeners’ view of God. ‘The works’ take priority over other things that this Gospel invites people to believe. In the context of John’s contentious story, urging people to ‘believe the works’ is a last straw offer, a ‘Hail Mary’ pass into the end zone. Staking out ‘the works’ as the bottom line, John (1) makes Christology subservient to theology; (2) challenges Bultmann’s emphasis on the that (das Dass) of the revelation to the exclusion of the what (das Was); (3) suggesting instead that the Gospel is even more concerned about the content of the revelation than about its agent. Reading John 10:37-38 in this way has significant revisionary potential for the interpretation of this Gospel.
  • Dan Nasselqvist, Lund University
    Hearing Christ Proclaimed: Mapping the Aural Features of John 1:19–51 (30 min)
    • Abstract: In the ancient world, writings were routinely delivered orally by trained lectors. An important task for the lector was to give voice to the silent, close-knit lines of scriptio continua manuscripts. This was made possible by the fact that the oral structure and aural character were encoded into the text. This paper analyzes the sound structure of John 1:19–51 and identifies what aural features would have been prominent when it was read aloud. By applying the emerging methodology of sound mapping (introduced by Margaret Ellen Lee and Bernard Brandon Scott) to the first chapter of the Gospel of John, it intends to demonstrate how the sounded text varies and makes some passages stand out aurally at the expense of others. Analyzing the aural features encoded in the text, e.g. variations in tempo, smoothness, and rhythm, it will also point out that some of the Christological phrases are highlighted in a very conspicuous way and consider what this entails for the whole pericope.

22-124: Johannine Literature
Tuesday, 11/22/2011, 9:00 to 11:00 AM

Joint Session with John, Jesus, and History Group

Papers related to Johannine Literature in Other Program Units:

S19-109: Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics

  • Sang-Hoon Kim, Chongshin University - "Parallel Features in 1 John as Discourse Markers"

S19-118: Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity

  • Jeff Pettis, New Brunswick Theological Seminary - "Raising the Serpent: Gods, Magicians, and the Mystical in John 3.14-15"

S19-125: Intertextuality in the New Testament

  • Wooil Moon, Claremont Graduate University - "Johannine Love Emulates the Hesiodic Law of Justice"

S19-317: Christian Theology and the Bible

  • Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller Theological Seminary - "Jesus, the Spirit, and the Disciples in the Gospel of John"

S19-321: Ethics, Love and the Other in Early Christianity

  • Volker Rabens, Ruhr-Universität Bochum - "Loving One Another because One Has Been Loved First (Joh. 13:34): Ethical Enabling in the Johannine Corpus in the Context of Early Jewish Ethics"

S20-134: Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds

  • Michael J. Kruger, Reformed Theological Seminary - "The Date and Content of P. Antinoopolis 12 (0232)" (on 2 John)

S20-218: Contextual Biblical Interpretation

  • Nicole Wilkinson Duran, Meadville Lombard Theological School - "Like a Motherless Child: Procreation without Women in John 1–2"
  • Sejong Chun, Vanderbilt University - " “Born from Above?” Re-reading John 3:1-21 from Korean Cultural and Immigrant Perspectives"
  • Leticia Guardiola-Sáenz, Seattle University - "Remapping the Garden of Eden: A Cartographic Reading of the Johannine Genesis"

S20-306: Biblical Criticism and Literary Criticism

  • Noel Forlini, Drew University - "A Womb, a Tomb, and a Wound: Darkened Spaces of the Divine in John's Gospel"

S20-316: Exile (Forced Migrations) in Biblical Literature

  • Urban C. von Wahlde, Loyola University of Chicago - "Some Reflections on the Use of the Jewish Scriptures in the Gospel of John"

P20-339: Society for Pentecostal Studies
Theme: Spirit and Community in the Gospel of John

  • Blaine Charette, Northwest University (Washington) - "Spirit, Glory, and Sonship in the Gospel of John"
  • Reed Anthony Carlson, Luther Seminary - "The Spirit in the Body: Pneumatology of Creation in John 20:19-23"

S20-340: Speech and Talk: Discourses and Social Practices in the Ancient Mediterranean World

  • Gitte Buch-Hansen, University of Copenhagen - "The Johannine Jesus’ Speeches—Between Semantics and Sacraments"

S21-107: Bakhtin and the Biblical Imagination

  • T. Nicholas Schonhoffer, University of Toronto - "The World’s Language in the Gospels of John and Thomas"

S21-214: Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti
Theme: John and the Corpus Hellenisticum

  • Harold Attridge, Yale University - "Symposia and the Fourth Gospel"
  • David Armstrong, University of Texas at Austin - "Tragedy, Rhetorical Analysis, and Ethical Diatribe: Transformation of Classical Genres in John Chrysostom's Homilies on the Gospel of John"
  • Dennis R. MacDonald, Claremont School of Theology - "Johannine Parallels with Homeric Epic via Mark (or Matthew)"
  • George L. Parsenios, Princeton Theological Seminary - "A Sententious Silence: First Thoughts on the Fourth Gospel and the Ardens Style"

S21-222: Homiletics and Biblical Studies

  • Karoline M. Lewis, Luther Seminary - "Preaching John: The Word Made Flesh as Theological and Interpretive Method"

S21-320: Jesus Traditions, Gospels, and Negotiating the Roman Imperial World

  • Colleen Conway, Seton Hall University - "Teaching Empire: Gospel of John"
  • Matthew James Ketchum, Drew University - "The (Missing) Body of Christ in John's Gospel: Gender, Bodies and Roman Imperial Power"

S22-122: Intertextuality in the New Testament

  • Lori Baron, Duke University - "The Johannine Commandment and the Law"

Johannine Literature Section

Call for Papers for 2011 (retained here for archival purposes):

The Johannine Literature Section will have one session of invited papers. For the other two sessions, we will have an open call for any papers that deal with analysis or interpretation of the Gospel of John or the Johannine letters.

Steering Committee Co-Chairs:
Prof. Kyle Keefer, Converse College (
Prof. Kasper B. Larsen (

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