The Lawsuit Motif in John’s Gospel from New Perspectives

Jesus Christ, Crucified Criminal and Emperor of the World


The study sheds fresh light on aspects of the lawsuit motif in John from the background of Diaspora-Jewish and Greco-Roman data and perspectives. – John’s narrative of the attempts on Jesus for such crimes as breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, and seduction are illuminated from Philo’s perspectives on vigilante execution. – Furthermore, John’s narrative of the official Jewish and Roman forensic procedures against Jesus can also be situated within the framework of the Greco-Roman administration exemplified by the legal papyri from the Roman Egypt. – Philo’s expectation of an eschatological emperor, who shall rule over many nations, provides a cultural context for the way John’s gospel re-inscribed Jesus as the true “Emperor” of all the nations.

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Biographical Note

Per Jarle Bekken, Ph.D. (1998), Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is Associate Professor at the University of Nordland. He has published articles and a monograph in the field of the New Testament entitled The Word is Near You (De Gruyter, 2007).

Review Quotes

"Per Jarle Bekken engages in a series of comparative studies of aspects of the motif found in various Philonic treatises as well as P.Oslo II 17. The results of these studeis are presented with great attention to method and logic [...] For those who study the forensic debates, the efforts of the Jewish authorities to seek Jesus out and entrap him, the numerous attempts to stone or apprehend him, and then finally the steps taken to have him crucified, Bekken’s book will be a valuable reference work."
Jo-Ann A. Brant, Goshen College, Indiana, The Journal of Theological Studies 66/2

"The book as a whole will help to unravel the complex ambiguity involved in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of John’s Jesus by gradually probing both human and divine aspects of his identity in the Hellenistic Jewish and Roman imperial context. This work will be appealing to those readers interested not only in the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of John’s lawsuit motif but also in the colonial and imperial context of Jesus’ death as a crucified emperor."
Sung Uk Lim, Yonsei University, Republic of Korea, Biblical Interpretation 24

"The book is a careful examination of the sources. It provides valuable background material for the Johannine narrative in the context of ancient legal practice, historical experience, but also of narrative conventions and cultural expectations."
Jutta Leonhardt-Baltzer, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 38/5

Table of contents

1. Introduction
Part One: The Jewish and Roman 'Trial'
2. Jewish Reactions against Violators of the Torah in Philo and John
3. The Official Jewish and Roman Proceedings against Jesus in the Light of Greco-Roman Protocols
Part Two: The Johannine Lawsuit Motif in the Light of the Divine Realm and Jurisdiction
4. The Debate about Valid Testimony in John 5:31–40; 8:12–20 and Philo, Legum Allegoria 3:205–8
5. The Reversal of the Accusations of Blasphemy: John 5:1‒18 and 10:31‒9 in a Jewish Context
Part Three: The Theme of Jesus' Kingship in Negotiation with Jewish Hopes and the Roman Empire
6. The Divine Lawsuit Motif in John in the Light of Philo’s Treatise De Iosepho
7. The Theme of Jesus’ Kingship in Negotiation with Jewish Hopes and the Roman Empire


All those interested in the Gospel of John, New Testament, Early Christianity.