Sessions and Papers related to Johannine Literature
presented at the
Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature
Boston, MA - November 18-21, 2017
[For the latest updates, see the official SBL website.]
Program of the Johannine Literature Section
S19-134 (Joint Session): Johannine Literature; New Testament Textual Criticism; Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
11/19/2017, 9:00 to 11:30 AM
Theme: The Gospels of John: New Perspectives from Textual Criticism and Papyrology
Kasper Bro Larsen, Aarhus University, Presiding
- Ulrich B. Schmid, Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel
Editing John's Gospel Digitally: Resources for the Exegetical Community (30 min)
- Abstract: In the course of preparing the Editio Critica Maior (ECM) of John a lot of data as well as tools to display and analyze them have been produced. As one of the co-editors I would like to showcase what is already there and might be useful for exegetes. Equally, I want to take the opportunity to get some feed-back from exegetes about what they would like to have as digital features and tools surrounding a modern day critical edition of John's Gospel.
- Brent Nongbri, Aarhus University
Some Reflections on the 'Early' Greek Manuscripts of the Gospel according to John (30 min)
- Abstract: The Greek manuscript evidence for the Gospel according to John has often been characterized as being especially early and extensive, and there is certainly some truth to these assessments. If the extant remains from Egypt are any indication, the fourth gospel was quite popular in the early Christian centuries. Yet the antiquity of some of these manuscripts may be considerably exaggerated. It remains common to see the small papyrus fragment of John known as P52 (P.Ryl. 3.457) described as dating from the very early part of the second century. P90 (P.Oxy. 50.3523), a fragmentary leaf from Oxyrhynchus, is regularly placed in the second century. P66 (P.Bodmer II) and P75 (Hanna Papyrus 1, a.k.a. P.Bodmer XIV-XV), which preserve more extensive parts of John, are also routinely assigned to the third or even the second century. Yet, these dates, which rest only upon analysis of handwriting, are not as secure as we might wish. The handwriting may allow for these early dates, but it also allows for considerably later dates as well. If these manuscripts of John should be assigned to rather later dates (say, the third century for P52 and P90, and the fourth century for P66 and P75), a number of exegetical possibilities emerge. An assumed early date for these Johannine papyri has played a decisive role in debates about the date of the composition of John’s gospel. The conclusions of these debates may thus be ripe for revisiting. Textual critics, of course, may adjust how they weigh these individual manuscripts in their pursuit of an Ausgangstext, or in the case of P75, reassess the importance ascribed to an entire group of manuscripts, namely “B Text.” But beyond that, an increased temporal distance between the earliest manuscripts and the imagined Ausgangstext of John might encourage us to pay greater attention to the exegesis of individual manuscripts of John as archaeological artifacts, a practice which carries its own set of challenges (and rewards).
- Jennifer Knust, Boston University
Seeing, Hearing, and Doing: The Impact of the Byzantine Liturgy on the Transmission of the Gospel of John (30 min)
- Abstract: Intended for proclamation as well as study and contemplation, the practical use of the Gospels in late antique liturgies had an important impact on their transmission, reception, and interpretation. This is particularly true of the Gospel of John, which was selected in Constantinople for continuous reading throughout the fifty-day period from Easter to Pentecost. Para-textual apparatuses like sense lines, section divisions, and chapter lists provide early evidence both of these recurring reading practices and of the interpretive priorities of ancient Christian readers, as mutually reinforcing processes of meaning production and scripturalization were literally written into Gospel texts. By focusing on one particularly beloved story, the pericope of the man born blind, and outlining the placement of this passage in the kephalaia (chapter divisions with accompanying titles), the emerging Constantinopolitan liturgy, and late antique homilies, this paper calls attention to the use of John as a liturgical object designed to teach audiences to see as well as to hear what was regarded as the healing message of Jesus Christ.
- Christian Askeland, Indiana Wesleyan University
Caveat Copticam: Cautionary Tales for the Johannine Exegete (30 min)
- Abstract: John’s gospel has survived not only in numerous Coptic manuscripts but also in a diverse group of dialectally-distinct Coptic translations, a bounty paralleled only by the tradition of the Psalms. The study of this tradition has confused discussions concerning the Pericope Adulterae and the ending of John’s gospel, while largely ignoring some significant translational idiosyncrasies of the ancient translators. The present discussion will consider how this versional tradition remains relevant to exegetes and historians, considering lessons learned and prospects for future research into the text and exegesis of John’s gospel.
S19-229: Johannine Literature
11/19/2017, 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Theme: Themes in Johannine Literature
Susan Hylen, Emory University, Presiding
- Adam Booth, Duke University
Long Lives the King: The Fourth Gospel’s Responses to Greco-Roman Suspicions Concerning Kingship (30 min)
- Abstract: Raymond Brown once wrote of Fourth Gospel’s “attempt to make Jesus intelligible to another culture…[by] presenting Jesus in a multitude of symbolic garbs.” In this paper, I consider the royal garb with which John dresses his protagonist. Would it have made him intelligible to inquisitive Hellenistic readers? Perhaps more importantly, would it have made him attractive? My contention is that a reader well-versed in Roman political thought would have concerns about the idea of following a king, not so much because of a worry that this is a bad king, but rather that kingship is bad in the long term, and that the Fourth Gospel provides resources – whether crafted by its author, or fortuitous – to assuage such worries. After reviewing the explicit references to Jesus as king in the fourth gospel, other Christological images in the text will be surveyed and it will be argued that many of these cohere with a standard Hellenistic conception of a monarch. Suspicions articulated by Polybius, Cicero, Sallust and Tacitus will then be examined and compared with elements of John’s presentation of Jesus that seem well placed to respond to these worries.
- Gregory M. Barnhill, Baylor University
Imitable Abraham: John's Use of a Legendary Figure (30 min)
- Abstract: As an important legendary figure, Abraham was used by Jews of the Second Temple period, and then by Christians, as a person around whom social and religious identity could be shaped. One can reasonably assume that when readers of early Christian texts, Jewish or otherwise, encountered Abraham in the narrative or argument, they had a certain amount of prior knowledge about the figure that shaped how they understood his presence in the text. Moreover, Christian authors utilized the figure of Abraham in a variety of ways, some closer to the way the figure Abraham had developed within the Second Temple Jewish texts and some with greater novelty. This paper aims to explore the function of Abraham in John’s Gospel from two perspectives: (1) From a literary-historical perspective, this paper takes into account the prior knowledge of Abraham as a legendary figure that John’s audience presumably would have had from texts such as the Hebrew Bible, Psalms of Solomon, 4 Ezra, Sirach, Josephus, Apocalypse of Abraham, Jubilees, Qumran, Pseudo-Philo, 1 Maccabees, and others. By tracing out the cumulative portrait of Abraham as a legendary figure that these texts develop, this paper uses this exploration to further understand John’s intended use of Abraham in the narrative. (2) From a theological perspective, this paper analyzes the function of Abraham in John 8:31-59 (the only place in John where Abraham occurs) as a figure in relation to whom both Jesus’ and the Johannine Christians’ identities and origins are defined, over against “the Jews,” as John characterizes his opponents. Furthermore, John’s use of the phrase “works of Abraham” points specifically to Abraham’s hospitality toward God and his reception of God’s revelation, which John uses to implicitly suggest the same response to Jesus as God’s revelation (i.e., accepting John’s Christology), again in distinction from John’s opponents. The final move of the paper connects these to perspectives with Johannine Ethics, a controversial subject. Read in view of Abraham’s legendary status, John 8:31-59 offers “Imitable Abraham” to the Johannine Christians as an ethical model. The “works of Abraham,” when understood in light of the development of the figure Abraham within Second Temple Judaism, model how one ought to respond to the revelation of Jesus. Thus, the Johannine Christians were to look to Abraham not only as a figure who defined their identity and origins, and not only as a figure who witnessed to the high Christology of Jesus, but also as a figure whose actions, or “works,” they could imitate.
- Jin Ki Hwang, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena)
Jesus and the Demonic Powers in the Johannine Tradition (30 min)
- Abstract: In the Fourth Gospel, John does not report Jesus’ casting out demons, which is one of the most prominent aspects of Jesus’ healing ministry in the Synoptic Gospels (e.g. Mark 1:21-28, 32; 3:11-12). And Jesus’ healing ministry is closely related to the physical illnesses, but not to demon-possession (e.g. John 4:46-54; 5:1-9; 6:1-2). But this does not suggest that John has little interest in demon-possession or Jesus’ victory over the demonic powers. The controversy between Jesus and the Judean leaders (John 8:48, 52; cf. also 7:20; 8:44; 10:20-21) seems to parallel the “Beelezul” controversy in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 3:22-27 pars.; cf. Mark 3:21) both in the language of demon-possession (echein daimonion/echein Beelzebul [ho archon ton daimonion]) and the narrative structure (the controversy about demon-possession being followed by Jesus’ Judean opponents’ accusation of him for his demon-possession). John also highlights that Jesus healed the blind young man by the power of God’s Spirit, but not by the demonic power (John 9:1-3, 31-33; 10:21; cf. Matt 12:22, 28; Luke 3:20). According to John, Jesus not only knew that Satan, the father of lies and ruler of this world, was already working to deceive people (John 8:44; 12:31) and would make Judas of Iscariot, one of his twelve disciples, hand him over to death (John 6:70-71; 13:27), but he also taught his disciples that his death (and his return to the Father) would bring judgment upon Satan (John 12:31; 16:11; cf. John 16:33). And the victory over the demonic powers is a controlling theme even in 1 John (2:13-14; 3:8; 4:4; 5:5, 18-20). In the present paper, I will examine John’s perception of demon-possession and his theological emphasis on the victory over the demonic powers laid out in the Johannine literature and their possible influences in other early Christian writings (e.g. Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus).
- Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, Universitetet i Oslo
Metaphor and Masculinity: Rethinking the «no longer slave» formulation in John 15:15 (30 min)
- Abstract: According to the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples that he no longer calls them slaves, but friends (John 15:15). In the research literature, “slaves” and “friends” are seen as different status groups. The change from slave to friend is interpreted metaphorical as a development for the disciples to a closer and more intimate relationship with Jesus. The categories used to think with, however, are taken from the semantic domain of household and friendship. By help of recent metaphor theory and gender studies, I ask: If a metaphor takes its meaning from the interaction between body and culture, what were potential alternative source domains of the slavery metaphor? If only friendship among free men was acknowledge in the social world of John’s Gospel (cfr. Plutarch), for whom could a change from slave to friend be accessible? Life stories are suggested as key factors for metaphorical conceptualization: How could a real slave, male or female, make meaning of the slavery metaphor? The complex tension between social reality and conceptual imagination comes to the surface when the Gospel of John uses slavery to talk about the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. Metaphor and masculinity may work as tools to rethink slavery and friendship in John.
- Jeff Jay, University of Chicago
Reclining in the Lap of Jesus: Another Look at John 13:23–25 and 21:20 in Light of Sympotic and Erotic Literature (30 min)
- Abstract: In John 13:23–25 and 21:20 the Beloved Disciple is said to recline “in the lap” (?? t? ???p?) and “on the chest” (?p? t? st????) of Jesus. Interpreters correctly read this in light of the typical positions recliners take at a symposium and, furthermore, connect these verses with 1:18, where Jesus is similarly “in the lap of the Father,” so that Jesus’ relationship with the Father mirrors the one Jesus has with the Beloved Disciple. I shall argue that this interpretation by itself underestimates the physical intimacy between the two, which, as some interpreters have already suggested, should also be read to be erotic in nature. What I shall contribute in support of this position is a set of fresh literary comparanda from sympotic literature, erotic poetry, love letters, and other erotically charged writings. In this literature lovers and beloveds recline intimately in this posture, and the key terms ???p?? and st???? denote erotogenic zones of the body. The literature I analyze demonstrates that “in the lap” or “on the chest” are the bodily locales where a lover longs for his beloved to be, embracing two-to-a-couch. Informed by research into the history of sexuality I shall thus argue that the relationship between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple is rightly understood in terms of ancient Greek pederasty, particularly as it functions in philosophical literature, where it is part of the motif of philosophical succession, in that the ??ast?? passes on both his teaching and headship over his school to his ???µe???. The erotic intimacy between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple thus functions to authorize this disciple as the true heir to Jesus’ teaching and, by implication, the Johannine text itself, for which this disciple is in some way responsible (21:20–24). This particular analysis is, finally, part of a more extended argument in which I seek to re-read the Johannine concept of ???p? in light of the motifs associated with ???? in Greek love literature. The role ???? plays in solidifying f???a, the willingness of lovers to sacrifice their lives for one another, the problem of the lover’s absence and resultant grief, tokens that render physically separated lovers present to each other, and ????-mysticism are all motifs that correlate Johannine ???p? with Greek ????. I thus argue that a rapprochement between ???? and ???p? is needed if we are to understand the latter in John and re-infuse it with the desire, passion, and mystical power that properly characterize it in this gospel. This larger argument will inform the more particular argument of this paper, in which, due to constraints of time, I shall focus primarily on the interpretation and significance of 13:23–25 and 21:20 in light of new comparanda in sympotic and erotic literature.
S20-127: Johannine Literature
11/20/2017, 9:00 to 11:30 AM
Theme: Anatomies of Johannine Rhetoric: Persuasive Aspects in John 10
Alicia Myers, Campbell University Divinity School, Presiding
- Catrin Williams, Prifysgol Cymru, Y Drindod Dewi Sant - University of Wales, Trinity Saint David
Persuasion through Allusion: The Rhetorical Impact of Scriptural Evocations of 'Shepherd(s)' in John 10 (30 min)
- Abstract: While there is overt engagement with 'scripture' towards the end of John 10 (vv. 31-39), imagery drawn from the Jewish scriptures also features prominently in the 'good shepherd' discourse in the first half of the chapter. The purpose of this paper is to examine the rich deposit of scriptural resonances in John's presentation of Jesus as 'shepherd', recalling not one but a configuration of Jewish scriptural resources. Particular attention will be given to the pattern and rhetorical dynamics of these scriptural allusions within the structure of the narrative, in order to determine how John uses the composite - and indeterminate - character of 'shepherd' imagery as an effective rhetorical tool within John 10.
- Warren Carter, Brite Divinity School (TCU)
The Sheep are Bleating: An Imperial-Critical Reading of the Shepherds in John 10 (30 min)
- Abstract: I read John’s Shepherds discourse in chapter 10 and its extensive cluster of intertexts – Jewish, Greek, and Roman – along an axis not of narrow religious concerns but of power, societal rule, and visions of societal structure. I suggest that John 10 contrasts Jesus with the Jerusalem-based, Rome-allied Ioudaioi, who are held to account in terms of the intertexts of Ezek 34 and of various political-philosophical discourses concerning shepherd-rulers for enacting and sanctioning societal structures and practices that benefit themselves and destroy others. Jesus offers a vison compatible with other traditions whereby the good shepherd exercises power to benefit others, even being willing to lay down his life for the sheep. I note both opposition to and assimilation with imperial good-shepherd claims, as well as significant intertextuality concerning claims of laying down one’s life and adding other sheep to his fold. I conclude that John 10 resists and reinscibes expressions of imperial rule, even as it promotes not the good shepherd but the best, all powerful shepherd, ruler of one people who is able to overcome the worst that an imperial power can impose – death itself.
- George Parsenios, Princeton Theological Seminary
Tell Us Plainly: The Bold Speech of Jesus in John 10:24 (30 min)
- Abstract: I will reflect on the question in John 10:24, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly (parresia).” Ancient discussions of parresia recognized two broad areas in which bold speech was useful. According to Isocrates (To Nicocles, 3), parrêsia is a “privilege which is openly granted to friends (philois) to rebuke, and to enemies to attack each others’ faults (hamartiais).” The 2nd century Epicurean Philodemus (PHerc. 1082 col. II.1-3) defines two similar social settings for bold speech, one in which parrêsia is directed “toward all people,” and another in which it is oriented “toward one’s intimate associates.” The bold speech of Jesus is separated into similar categories, since he tells the High Priest that he spoke boldly (parrêsia) before the world (18:20) in his public ministry (parrêsia at 7:26; 11:14; 11:54), and then he also speaks with parrêsia (16:25) privately with his disciples, whom he calls his friends (filoi; 15:13, 14). Thus, the bold speech of Jesus is divided into two categories (one more public, in which there is conflict, and one more intimate, among friends) that reproduce the categories of Isocrates and Philodemus. John 10 raises special questions about Jesus’ bold speech, suggesting that he does not speak with parresia. I will explore the nature of Jesus’ bold speech in my paper, especially the accusation that he does not speak boldly.
- Christopher Skinner, Loyola University of Chicago
The Good Shepherd paroimia and John’s Implied Audience (30 min)
- Abstract: It is often said that the Johannine Jesus never utters a narrative parable like those that are so ubiquitous throughout the Synoptics. However, in John 10, we have the closest parallel in the so-called “Good Shepherd” discourse, where Jesus uses a “figure of speech” (paroimia) to compare himself to a benevolent or noble shepherd. This paper will explore the comparative dynamics of this paroimia in light of the unfolding narrative Christology over the first nine chapters. Against that backdrop we will examine the question: What expectations and understandings would an implied audience have had relative to shepherding and how do these align with and depart from the comparative features of the paroimia?
S20-223: Johannine Literature
11/20/2017, 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Theme: Themes in Johannine Literature
Lindsey Trozzo, Baylor University, Presiding
- Sherri Brown, Creighton University
Creation and the Revelation of God as Interwoven and Interactive Themes across John 1 (30 min)
- Abstract: John 1:19-51 provides a bridge from the narrator’s introductory remarks in the prologue into the first half of the body of the Gospel narrative, the Book of Signs. The characters in the story who journey from the prologue into the body are John the Baptist and Jesus. The narrative is presented over the course of four consecutive days. During the first two days and the beginning of the third day, John gives his testimony. On day one John declares he is not the light (vv. 19–28), on day two he witnesses positively to the light (vv. 29–34), and on day three people begin to believe through him (vv. 35–42). They begin to address Jesus with a variety of titles. As day four commences the focus remains upon Jesus and his gathering disciples (vv. 43–51). They continue to heap praise upon Jesus by using titles of honor, and yet remain within well-known categories of authority. These opening days culminate as Jesus responds with his first major teaching and identifies the title is his preferred self-designation for his ministry: the Son of Man (v. 51). This public ministry is inaugurated as they all arrive in Cana for a wedding “on the third day” (2:1). Scholars have long debated the primary literary and theological themes that underlie these “opening days.” Many point to the repeated designation of “the next day” culminating “on the third day” as a creation motif based on the creation story of Genesis 1 that continues the imagery of John 1:1–5. Others argue for a revelation motif that reflects the revelation of the glory of God on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19–20 that begins to expound upon how Jesus “makes God known” set forth in John 1:16–18. The Fourth Evangelist, however, is known to be fond of double entrendres in the terms and concepts he chooses. Could he be doing the same thing across these opening days? If so, not only should we not choose between the two theories, the interpretive force of this narrative unit is best understood by drawing out the implications of both. Alan Culpepper’s influential study of the prologue concludes that the evangelist presents these opening verses in an extended chiasm with seven corresponding elements that turns on the pivot of v. 12b: Jesus gives those who receive him “power to become children of God.” This further claims that the opening and closing elements (vv. 1-5 and 16-18) correspond to one another, but the latter has been fundamentally affected by the central elements upon which the passage pivots: the incarnation of the Word of God and the human response to it. Since the prologue is also the key to unlocking all that follows, both the structure and content should affect the interpretation of the passages that follow. Based upon these foundations, this paper will therefore argue that themes of creation and revelation are both intricately woven through the early passages of John’s Gospel.
- Andrew R. Krause, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Mixed Metaphors in the Rhetoric of Identity and Alterity in 1 John and 1QS I–IV (30 min)
- Abstract: In the early years of Qumran scholarship, the Serekh ha-Yahad (1QS) was often used as a standard against which other Second Temple Jewish texts were measured, and any parallels in terms of theology and imagery—especially within the New Testament—were deemed derivative. Decades later, however, we have come to understand that these various texts were all part of larger dialogues in a time of great upheaval within Jewish society. The imagery of being God’s children, darkness vs. light, walking on one’s foreordained path, and connection to God-given (rather than malevolent) spirits were all common claims to divine election within Second Temple Judaism. Walking on one’s path is a common image for fate and ethical judgement, which is used throughout the Hebrew Bible, especially within the Deuteronomistic History. Likewise, divine illumination and progenation were common images used to claim divine favor and agency for one’s group. Connection to and congress with either pure or malevolent spirits was also a common way of claiming divine election, while conversely linking one’s enemies with God’s own enemies. These were not merely creative metaphors, but common tropes in an ongoing argument over God’s favor and were very real elements of the figural universe of those who claimed them. All four of these analogies are found in both 1QS I–IV (likely the latest extant text from the Serekh tradition) and 1 John. In both cases, the ‘stringing together’ of these specific rhetorical images was meant to separate the in-group from those outside. Together, these four metaphors provide a remarkable parallel, as the groups behind these documents claim divine favor and their ‘piling up’ of scriptural metaphors speaks to the assurance of salvation on the part of the two groups and a common rhetorical context.
- Douglas Estes, South University, Columbia
Dualism or Paradox? Rethinking the Worldview of John’s Gospel in ‘Light’ of a Rhetorical Approach (30 min)
- Abstract: Conventional scholarly wisdom often holds that a dualistic worldview undergirds the Gospel of John. However, this paper argues that modern scholars have often read philosophical viewpoints into what is actually a rhetorical problem: John’s Gospel does not use dualistic language, but instead uses paradoxical language as a means of furthering its rhetorical goals. To set the stage, I will survey the arguments for dualism in the Fourth Gospel with an emphasis on the history of interpretation from Johann Herder to present day, showing the weaknesses therein; then, I will survey the use of paradoxical language in the Greek tradition from Heraclitus to the first century with emphasis on Zeno, Eubulides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, deuterocanonical literature and Paul. Turning to the Gospel, I will cite examples of paradoxical language (both logical and rhetorical) in key areas such as the prologue and the epilogue. The paper will show evidence of how in each case the logic and rhetorical function of paradox in John echoes the paradoxical language from the Greek tradition. The remaining part of the paper will focus on the light/darkness motif, as it is the most cited example of dualistic language in John, yet it too is often misunderstood in modern scholarship, as it derives not from a dualistic worldview but from paradoxical language meant as a rhetorical argument for John’s readers. Overturning conventional wisdom about dualism in John and the potential use of paradoxical language as a rhetorical feature has significant implications for the future interpretation of the Gospel.
- Christopher A Porter, Ridley College, Melbourne (ACT)
The Evolution of Johannine Rhetorical Engagement – Mapping the Socio-Rhetorical shift from the Gospel to the Epistles (30 min)
- Abstract: The relationship between the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles has been questioned throughout the history of scholarship, with a wide variety of hypotheses raised: from Gnosticism, through Docetism and sectarian disputes. Currently the theory gaining traction focuses upon the locus of Jewish-Christian relations as the prime focus of both the Gospel and Epistles, and sees the epistolary interaction as arising from Jewish pressures under the reign of Domitian (Anderson, 2014; Streett, 2011). This focus on the apparent social pressures within the interaction of the communities following in the Johannine tradition should similarly give rise to an observable change in group arguments within the Johannine works. Considering this, the current paper seeks to apply the Social Identity metatheory (Tajfel & Turner, 1978; et al) to investigate the group arguments deployed in the social interaction of the Johannine works. It will do this through the analysis of external group rhetoric via the Structured Analysis of Group Arguments (SAGA; Reicher & Sani, 1998) model to illuminate aspects of social interaction present within the Gospel and Epistles. In this analysis, it will consider the shift in rhetorical focus from inter- and intra-group arguments, to in-group argument. It will also consider internal pressures using the Social Identity and Relative Deprivation (SIRD; Abrams & Grant, 2012) model to elucidate social pressures internal to the community. This will primarily be in conversation with historical factors in the proposed authorial period for the Johannine works, such as the first Jewish War and the persecution under Domitian. Through these analyses, it is possible to see a stronger picture of the interactive pressures facing those who would self-categorise as Johannine Christ-followers at the turn of the second century. Furthermore, this analysis will assist in building a richer tapestry of the Johannine social interactions, history and social identity.
- Karen L. King, Harvard University
The Gospel of Mary reads the Gospel of John (30 min)
- Abstract: The paper will argue that the Gospel of Mary offers an early (second century) reading of the Gospel of John. Scholars have long noted that Mary’s claim in the Gospel of Mary that “I have seen the Lord” resonates with John 20:18. So, too, when Peter asks, “What is the sin of the world?”, it is easy to think of John 1:29. Other themes have also been noted. For example, in both works, Jesus distinctively gives “my peace” to the disciples in a farewell discourse. The paper will argue that these examples are but “the tip of the iceberg,” so to speak. It will suggest that not only does the Gospel of Mary address other particular passages found in the Gospel of John, but that the text’s entire narrative structure is best understood as a reading of the Gospel of John. Like certain other texts, the events in the Gospel of Mary take place in a post-resurrection setting in which the Savior appears to the disciples. What is distinctively “Johannine” in the Gospel of Mary is the inclusion of a long discourse by Mary (Magdalene), presented as the content of the teaching which the Savior gave her and which he commanded her to convey to the other disciples. Beyond this broad framing, however, the most exciting point, in my view, is how the descent-ascent structure of the incarnation and ascent of Jesus in Gospel of John is interpreted as the model for all believers in the Gospel of Mary. Even as the Gospel of John depicts Jesus’s return as beginning during his earthly ministry, so too the Gospel of Mary depicts the disciples’ growing understanding of the Savior’s teaching as part of their leaving the world and beginning the ascent. This ascent is prepared by ritual and completed by the soul post-mortem as it passes through the spheres of the powers to its final rest in silence. The paper will chart these structural similarities and their implications. A question for discussion is whether and how we as modern readers might be able to see well-known aspects of the Gospel of John afresh through the lens of the Gospel of Mary.
Papers related to Johannine Literature in Other Program Units:
S18-241: Recovering Female Interpreters of the Bible
Theme: Women Interpreters in the Middle Ages and Reformation Era
- Kate Hanch, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Oneing as Theosis: Julian of Norwich's Use of the Johannine Farewell Discourse
S18-247: Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity
Theme: Sanctuary, Space, and Place in Antiquity
- Jolyon Pruszinski, Princeton Theological Seminary
The Samaritan Interlude as a Locus of Johannine Spatial Practice
S19-147: Ritual in the Biblical World
Theme: Ritual in Processions, Iconography and Architecture
- Sherri Brown, Creighton University
Jesus in Word and Deed through the Ritual Activity of Tabernacles in John 7:1–10:21
S19-218: Gospel of Luke
Theme: Reading Luke with Cultural Intertexts
- Elizabeth Schrader, Boston University
Is Luke 7’s “Sinful Woman” a Response to Mark 14, John 12, and John 20?
P19-232: National Association of Professors of Hebrew
Theme: Shema in the Synoptic Gospels
- Lori Baron, Saint Louis University
The Shema in the Gospel of John
S19-323: Jesus Traditions, Gospels, and Negotiating the Roman Imperial World
Theme: The Exercise of Power in the Gospels of Mark and John
- Arthur M. Wright, Jr., Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
A Big, Big House(hold): John 14 in Roman Imperial Context
- C. M. Blumhofer, Duke University
Subverting Glory: John’s Use of Doxa as Antilanguage
S20-207: Biblical Lexicography
Theme: Greek Lexicography
- Toan Do, Australian Catholic University
A Neglected Condition to Inhospitality in 2 John 10: Testing the Cases in 1 John 3:13 and 3 John 10
S20-306 (Joint Session): Bible and Visual Art; Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible
Theme: Gender Instability in Biblical Art
- Jeff Jay, University of Chicago
Two to a Couch: Visualizing Homoerotic Intimacy in John 13:23–25 and 21:20 in Light of Ancient Art
See also the sessions of the John, Jesus, and History Group
Johannine Literature Section
Program Unit Description: Our mission is to address issues and concerns having to do with the analysis and interpretation of the Johannine literature--a major component of the Christian Scriptures, encompassing for our purposes the Gospel of John and the three Johannine letters. The section has historically been committed to highlighting new voices and issues in the field.
Call for Papers 2017: We are accepting proposals for two open sessions on the Gospel and Letters of John, analyzing various features of these works from any number of methodological perspectives. We will also be hosting two invited panels: (1) co-sponsored with the Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds entitled “The Gospels of John: New Perspectives from Textual Criticism and Papyrology” exploring recent manuscript research and its implications for interpreting Johannine literature; and (2) “Anatomies of Johannine Rhetoric” focusing on the various rhetorical features, perspectives, and persuasive effects in the Gospel of John.
Steering Committee Co-Chairs for 2017:
Jo-Ann A. Brant, Goshen College
Prof. Alicia D. Myers, Campbell University Divinity School
(For more info, see the SBL website.)
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