After “Jesus the Jew” and “Paul the Jew,” the quest for “John the Jew” is now officially open. This is the message that came loud and clear from the Sixth Nangeroni Meeting of the Enoch Seminar, and the essays in this volume represent a selection of the papers given at that meeting. The group of international specialists who gathered in Camaldoli in June 2016 at the invitation of the Enoch Seminar read the Gospel of John as a first-century Jewish text and John’s Christology as a variant of first-century Jewish messianism. It was not long ago that the Gospel of John was still understood as a gentile Gospel and the document that marked the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, if not denounced as responsible for the long tradition of Christian anti-Semitism.
The contemporary emphasis on ancient Jewish diversity allowed us to recover the Jewishness of John while downplaying his distinctiveness, even his most controversial aspects. To say that John was a Jew, does not mean that John was a Jew like anybody else, nor that his thought was absent of original elements, nor that John lacks evidence of harsh confrontation against other groups of Jews. The “Jewish” John is no less “Christian.” However, in a time in which Christianity did not exist yet as a separate religion but already as a distinctive Jewish messianic group, the “Christian” John is and remains “Jewish.” John remains “Jewish” in his struggle to address questions that were at the core of the theological debate in first-century Judaism and to give (his own) answers using the categories inherited by the common legacy of Jewish tradition. If we should label any Jewish thinker in the moment in which he or she parts from consolidated paradigms to explore an original path as “non-Jewish,” none of them would pass such test of “Jewishness.” John’s λόγος Christology was indeed an original, bold step, and yet in the diverse context of first-century Judaism it appears only as a small “variant” in relation to existing Jewish messianic and earlier christological models that described the lowering and exaltation of the preexistent “divine” Messiah.
There are of course many issues that still need to be addressed and clarified, but I am convinced that as in the case of Jesus and Paul, the future of Johannine research lies in the ability to keep this delicate balance between continuity and discontinuity, tradition and originality. Being “Jewish” in the first century did not mean to conform to a monolithic model but to engage in a common debate, where the categories inherited from the past were creatively played and continuously given new (sometimes unexpected) developments.
The editors and authors of this volume are aware that we are only at the beginning of a long journey of research on “John the Jew.” The goal was not to provide all answers but a fresh start that would encourage Johannine scholars to follow the path of a closer reading of John within the diverse world of first-century Judaism.
As it has been a tradition in all meetings of the Enoch Seminar since their inception, all the papers circulated in advance and were discussed at length in Camaldoli. We thank Brill and the executive editors of the Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity series Cilliers Breytenbach and Martin Goodman for the opportunity to share the results of our research to a larger audience of students and specialists. It consolidates a partnership with the Enoch Seminar initiated with the publication of The Early Enoch Literature (ed. Gabriele Boccaccini and John J. Collins, 2007) and continued with New Perspectives on 2 Enoch: No Longer Slavonic Only (ed. Andrei Orlov and Gabriele Boccaccini, 2012) and Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall (ed. Matthias Henze and Gabriele Boccaccini, 2013). We are also grateful to Neil Lamont for his editorial assistance during the final editing of the volume.
A special thanks goes also to all those who made possible our meeting in Camaldoli: Benjamin Reynolds (who chaired the meeting), the Monastery of Camaldoli (which hosted the event), all the members of the Board of directors of the Enoch Seminar, and the secretary of the conference, Deborah Forger, for her valuable and tireless work of coordination and organization.
The Camaldoli meeting was the result of the contribution of many institutions and universities who supported the participants financially. We would like to acknowledge in particular the contribution of the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies and the Alessandro Nangeroni International Endowment. The partnership they have formed with the department of Near Eastern Studies and the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies of the University of Michigan has secured the continuity of the project and the future of the Enoch Seminar for the years to come.
As we were concluding the editorial process, the news came of the passing away of Dr. J. Harold Ellens. He was one of the founding members of the Enoch Seminar and President of the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies at the time of the Camaldoli meeting. This volume is dedicated to his memory, with gratitude.
List of Participants of the Sixth Nangeroni Meeting
Camaldoli, Italy; June 19–24, 20161
*Paul Anderson, George Fox University, USA
*Gabriele Boccaccini, University of Michigan, USA
Christiane Bramkamp, WWU Muenster, Germany
Jo-Ann Brant, Goshen College, USA
Andrew Byers, Durham University, UK
James Charlesworth, Princeton University, USA
Wally Cirafesi, University of Oslo, Norway
Kelley Coblentz-Bautch, St. Edward’s University, USA
James Davila, University of St. Andrews, UK
Douglas Estes, South University, USA
*Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Whymanity Research and Training, UK
Deborah Forger, University of Michigan, USA
*Charles Gieschen, Concordia Theological Seminary, USA
Robert Hall, Hampden Sydney
Angela Kim Harkins, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, USA
Matthias Henze, Rice University, USA
Giovanni Ibba, Central Italy Theological Seminary, Italy
Jonathan Lo, Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary, Hong Kong
*William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia
Grant Macaskill, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Paul Mandel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Mary Marshall, Murdoch University, Australia
*James McGrath, Butler University, USA
*Jocelyn McWhirter, Albion College, USA
*Marida Nicolaci, Facoltà Teologica di Sicilia, Italy
Chad Pierce, Faith Christian Reformed Church, USA
*Adele Reinhartz, University of Ottawa, Canada
*Benjamin Reynolds, Tyndale University College, Canada
John Ronning, Faith Theological Seminary, USA
Shayna Sheinfeld, Centre College, USA
*Beth Stovell, Ambrose University, Canada
*Andrea Taschl-Erber, University of Graz, Austria
Urban von Wahlde, Loyola University of Chicago, USA
*Meredith J. C. Warren, University of Sheffield, UK
*Catrin Williams, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Wales, UK
*Joel Willitts, North Park University, USA
Ziony Zevit, American Jewish University, USA
*Ruben Zimmermann, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz, Germany
Asterisks indicate contributors to the present volume.