“John and Judaism Conference” at McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia: A Brief Report

Posted: November 21, 2015 in General

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The Peter Rhea and Ellen Jones Endowed New Testament Lectures at the McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia, were inaugurated in 2009 with lectures presented by James D.G. Dunn. The second lecture series occurred in 2010 with lectures presented by D. Moody Smith. This year, the Jones lectures were being offered at John and Judaism: A Symposium, hosted by Mercer University, during the period of 18-20 November 2015. The following lines are quoted from the Conference Booklet:

The relationship be John and Judaism is multi-layered and variously interpreted, yet it is crucial for understanding the Gospel, and continues to have ramifications for the relationship between Jews and Christians today. This conference will give particular attention to the relationship between the Gospel of John and its Jewish context late in the first century, during the period that has been characterized as “the parting of the ways,” and to Christian responses in recent decades to the Gospel’s anti-Jewish rhetoric.

The conference was started with the keynote address of Jan G. van der Watt, Professor of New Testament and Source Texts of Early Christianity, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Holland. His lecture was circumscribed around the central question, “Is Jesus the King of Israel?” Another key lecture was entitled “Evidence of Conflict with the Synagogue in the ‘Johannine’ Writings” (by Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Canada). The overall schedule of the lectures was divided into three main categories as follows:

First, “John as a Source for Understanding Judaism.” There were one lecture and two short papers in this section: [1] Main Paper: “The Gospel of John as a Source for First-Century Judaism” (by Craig R. Koester, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN); [2] Short Paper I: “John, Judaism, and ‘Searching the Scriptures’” (by Catrin H. Williams, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, Wales); and [3] Short Paper II: “John, Jews and Philosophy” (by Harold W. Attridge, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT).

Second, “Reappraising John’s Relationship to Judaism and Jewish Christianity.” There were one lecture and three short papers in this section: [1] Main Paper: “Story and History: John, Judaism, and the Historical Imagination” (by Adele Reinhartz, University of Ottawa, Canada); [2] Short Paper I: “Johannine Christian and Baptist Sectarians within Late First-Century Judaism” (by Joel Marcus, Duke University, Durham, NC); [3] Short Paper II: “Tensions in Matthean and Johannine Soteriology Viewed in their Jewish Context” (by William R.G. Loader, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia); and [4] Short Paper III: “Matthew and John: Reflections of Early Christianity in Relation to Judaism” (R. Alan Culpepper, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University).

Third, “Reading John as Jews and Christians.” There were one lecture and three short papers in this section: [1] Main Paper: “Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel Fifteen Years after the Leuven Colloquium” (by Reimund Bieringer, Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium); [2] Short Paper I: “Aspects of the ‘Parting of the Ways’ in Ephesus: From Paul to John and Further on” (by Jörg Frey, University of Zürich, Switzerland); [3] Short Paper II: “Antisemitism and Religious Violence as Flawed Interpretations of John” (by Paul N. Anderson, George Fox University, Newberg, OR); and [4] Short Paper III: “The Place of John in Christian-Jewish Relations Fifty Years after Nostra Aetate” (by Noam E. Marans, Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee, New York).

Alan Culpepper (McAfee School, Mercer, GA), Benjamin Reynolds (Tyndale University College, Toronto, Canada), Jaime Clark-Soles (Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX), and Peter Rhea Jones (McAfee School, Mercer, Atlanta) chaired the sessions. One of the significant things was that all the presentations were followed by Q & A sessions. The involvement of Vernon K. Robbins (Emory University, Atlanta, GA), Urban Von Wahlde (Loyola University Chicago), and others during the Q & A session needs to be specially mentioned. The conference was highly organized and I believe that it will introduce a new way forward to Jewish-Christian dialogue based on John’s Gospel. But, at the same time, whether John’s Gospel is “pro-Jewish” or it is “anti-Jewish” can only be determined on the basis of the stance an interpreter takes in the process of her/his reading of the text. This fact was reflective through the various vantage points adopted by the presenters. Above all, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference as it is instrumental in contributing new ideas in my ongoing struggle with the Johannine text.

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, California)

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