Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting location:Vienna, Austria date:6-10 July 2014
In addition to providing a hermeneutical framework for the contributions in Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel (Bieringer, Pollefeyt and Vandecasteele-Vanneuville, 2001), the editors also proposed an alternative hermeneutical approach that recognizes the anti-Jewish elements in the text but attempts to go beyond them. This approach recognizes anti-Jewish elements in the FG, holds that these are unacceptable from a Christian point of view and acknowledges that there is no convincing way to reinterpret them in ways that could save the core message of the FG. Nevertheless, it also considers the alternative world projected by the text and its “inclusive horizon” (Ricoeur, 1976; Schneiders, 1991). The editors’ applied the approach to Jn 8:31-59. However, the editors’ post-conference proposal of the alternative hermeneutics did not have much impact in the reviews and in the ensuing literature on Johannine anti-Judaism. This paper attempts to critically revisit the proposed alternative hermeneutics and to investigate what it has to offer the interpretation of anti-Jewish texts like those in John’s Gospel. By way of example, I will examine this approach with regard to a text considered as the basis for exclusive Christian claims (Reinhartz, 2011), namely "No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6b). Recent publications on Johannine meals (Smith, 2003; Kobel, 2011) do not deal with this Christocentric text. I argue that the exclusive words in Jn 14:6b need to be understood in light of the Greco-Roman symposium which aims to consolidate group identity. Yet, while the common identity of the Jesus-believers in John may be affirmed, the dangerous potential of Jn 14:6b for Christocentric supersessionism remains. In light of this observation, I will investigate how the hermeneutic proposed by Bieringer, et. al. can help discover the alternative world projected by this text and how it can contribute to Jewish-Christian dialogue.