Joint Conference of the Society of New Testament Studies (SNTS) Asia-Pacific and the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP) location:Quezon City, Philippines date:28 February-01 March 2015
In this paper I examined two potentially anti-Jewish or potentially supersessionist texts. I expanded the earlier research on Jn 14:6 (Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me) by considering also Jn 15:1 (“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower) and Jn 15:5 ( I am the vine, you are the branches) within the context of the Greco-Roman segregative commensality context which endeavors to delineate a group’s identity against other group(s). I showed that the narrative reading of the Johannine Jesus’ I AM sayings within this segregative meal setting helps to illumine the exclusivist Christocentric claims. Both Jesus’ words (the I AM sayings and the rest of Jn 13-17) and his actions (the meal and the footwashing) express Jesus’ identity and its consequent effect in the identity of his tablemates. I explained that the more exclusive Jn 14:6 and 15:1,5 are in their narrative context, i.e., addressed only to the Jesus-believers, there is less possibility for a potentially anti-Jewish reading since there is a bit more space for the others’ experience of God’s salvation in another religion and another epoch. In particular it also leaves some space for the Jews who continue to find fulfilment in responding to God through the Abrahamic covenant, a point well illustrated by the example from Rosenzweig. In dealing with Christocentric passages within Jewish-Christian dialogue, many find it important that partners can critically speak about similarities and differences of interpretation without losing sight of the potential anti-Jewish tendencies. In this study, I have discovered anew that Jn 14:6 and 15:1, 5 are some of the most difficult texts that need to be critically studied and confronted in the context of Jewish-Christian Dialogue. In reading these texts from a segregative meal context, one broadens the interpretation that they are spoken within the context of affirming the identity of Jesus and the process of upholding the Jesus-believers’ identity construction in the early years. It widens one’s understanding that an exclusivist or particularist reading that can potentially be used in an anti-Judaistic or supersessionist manner is not justified. Instead, partners in the Jewish-Christian Dialogue can continue to respect the ongoing conversation that will not lead to mutual hostility but to a realistic acceptance of a fundamental difference and continued dialogue.