John the Jew (2016 Enoch Seminar Conference)

John the Jew (2016 Enoch Seminar Conference) June 2, 2015

Next summer, the Enoch Seminar will hold a conference with the title “John the Jew: Reading the Gospel of John’s Christology as a Form of Jewish Messianism.” It will be held in Camaldoli, Italy, and I am delighted to be one of the participants in this event. Here’s a description of the purpose of the meeting from the Enoch Seminar website:

Purpose: The purpose of the sixth Nangeroni meeting is to explore the Gospel of John’s christology, traditionally considered to be “high christology,” as part of the diversity of Jewish messianism within the Second Temple Period. The focus of discussions will address John’s depiction of the messiah in relation to the following topics: “divinity” and a divine messiah, the Incarnation, wisdom traditions, Enoch traditions and the Son of Man, Davidic expectations, and Moses and Torah. The following questions will serve to guide our sessions: How and in what ways can the Gospel of John’s messiah be situated within Second Temple Period Judaism? Can John’s christology be seen as a part the diversity of Jewish messianism? If so, should it still be labeled a high christology? Can the Johannine messiah be considered “divine”? Were there other divine messiahs in Second Temple Judaism? What do we mean by “divine” and “divinity”? Is there a relationship between John’s λόγος and the Jewish sapiential tradition? What, if any, sort of relationship exists between Second Temple interpretations of the “one like a son of man,” particularly in the Parables of Enoch, and what we find in the Gospel of John? How do Nathanael and the Jerusalem crowd’s “King of Israel” and Pilate’s “King of the Jews” influence our perspectives on Davidic/kingship traditions in Second Temple Judaism, especially in light of Roman rule? How do the Moses traditions in the Gospel of John add to our understanding of prophetic messiah expectations of the time?

I am really excited about this topic, given my longstanding interest in the Christology of the Gospel of John and its relationship to Jewish monotheism.

I’d be interested to hear from readers who have visited Italy, as believe it or not this will actually be my first time. As this meeting will be in a rather remote setting in Tuscany, I am wondering whether or not it would make sense to bring my family along, as I’m not sure whether they could make convenient day trips from there to places like Florence and Siena. Any general tips for a first-time visitor to Italy?

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  • Gary

    “Any general tips for a first-time visitor to Italy?”
    Yes…take at least a week before or after, with rental car, and family, and explore everywhere. You only live once. Best food ever.

    • Nick G

      Public transport in Italy is good in and between towns of any size, but Camaldoli does look pretty remote so if your family are going to be based there, I agree a hired car would be a good idea – but I’d check out the minor roads you’d need to follow on Google Earth if you can, as i’ve no idea what they are like. Siena and Florence are both great places to visit. In Siena, there’s a tower, the Torre del Mangia in the Piazza del Campo (the main piazza) from the top of which the view is splendid. There’s stacks of Renaissance art in the museums and churches – if you go for a day then the tower, the Duomo and the Museo Civico are probably enough, apart from the streets of the old town. In Florence you could spend days in the Uffizi gallery alone, the Duomo and the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze are both well-merited priorities for most visitors, but my personal highlight was the Galileo Museum, which houses a wonderful collection of old scientific instruments, collected by one of the Medici dukes.

      • Gary

        I spent three weeks in Sicily. Then a second trip for two weeks there. Driving a rental car is the best way to go in rural areas, especially with a family. Just remember the right of way rules…the biggest vehicle has the right of way. And as a pedestrian, if you make eye contact with a driver of a car, don’t cross, or you’ll be dead. But the Cappuccino…heavenly. You don’t want to wait around the public transportation locations, bus and train. Major pain, unless you have lots of time to kill. As a note, I wouldn’t drive a rental car in Rome, unless it’s to get out of there.

        • Thank you Nick and Gary for this helpful input!

          • Gary

            They say only tourists drink cappuccino in the morning, but I’ll take it anytime, along with their Italian pastries. I regret not bring my wife along, since I was working. But given a second chance, I’d take the family along no matter what. The only down side was there were frequent airline strikes when I went. But that’s just an excuse to stay longer. The Italians like Americans, and I like them. Open-air markets were also a trip…that was in Sicily, but maybe they have the same up north.

          • What is the locals’ morning coffee of choice? I’ll gladly take espresso, or any of the other variations I’ve tried!

          • Gary

            Expresso, which is a little too strong for me. As a last note, that sums up rural Italy for me…we were being shown around by a person that lived there, in his tiny car. He drives up to a little house by a country hill town. It has what I thought was a gas pump out in front of the house. He gets out, and fills a plastic jug up with wine from the gas pump. Good, and cheap. What a wonderful country!

          • Gary

            Also, big time in Sicily… Amaretto shot in the coffee. Strong Amaretto. And tangerine liquer everywhere. And sheep running across the roads. Eden.

          • Gary

            One other story I have to relate. We flew from Rome to Catania on Al Italia Airlines. Being American, I figured the boarding process was orderly. The flight was full of little (like 4 foot tall) nuns. It was first come, first serve boarding. Boarding call, I was swarmed and elbowed by a sea of little nuns. I never saw a more aggressive group of nuns in my life, fighting to get on board the plane first. Both I, and my work mate, towered over the nuns, but we got worked over pretty good, and ended up getting on board toward the back of the pack. The. Then the airline lost my buddie’s luggage. But it was still fun. He got his luggage the next day.

  • This conference does look really interesting, especially the probable trajectory from the Enochic Son of Man to GJohn… now if only i could get there somehow.

  • John Thomas

    Gospel of John is a deeply Jewish mystic text in my opinion. I have been listening lately to John Shelby Spong’s talks on Gospel of John and spending more of my time on Gospel of John. More I read, more I am convinced that it was written with two layers of reading – one superficial (probably historical) and one deeper meaning which will be deciphered only if one thinks deeply about it. For example, Bishop Spong says that mother of Jesus in John’s gospel is a symbol for Judaism. Mother of Jesus appears only in two instances in the gospel and is not named Mary. In the first instance, she requests Jesus to create wine for the wedding when Jesus says his hour has not come (what that hour is revealed later). It could be interpreted as to bring new revelation in place of old one that is already finished that would encourage wedding (reconciliation) between Jewish and Non-Jewish world as prophesied by Isaiah that would signify beginning of Messianic age. Next mother of Jesus is shown at the cross, with Jesus saying to her that the disciple whom Jesus loved in her new son implying Jews need to accept its newly reformed version as its future religion and to the disciple whom Jesus loved that mother of Jesus is his new mother implying that newly formed Jewish followers should acknowledge their earlier version and not forget their roots. This could be a symbol for reconciling Judaism with the new movement that Jesus started with his disciples. Nathanael (gift of God or given by God) is symbol of righteous Jew even though initially skeptical about coming of Messiah, when he sees the sign is happy to pronounce the Messiah. Jesus saying that ‘I saw you under fig tree’ is a symbol for Messianic age taken right from the prophets where it says every righteous one will sit under fig tree during Messianic age (Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10). Jesus cleansing the temple is actually fulfillment of another prophetic saying about what will happen in Messianic age, that there will no longer be a merchant in the House of Lord Almighty (Zechariah 14:21). Judas Iscariot might represent Jews who betrayed those who are sent by God and even God’s Messiah by not listening to their words. Finally, only when Greeks come in the search of Jesus, Jesus says that hour has come which again supports the prophesy that reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews and non-Jews accepting Jewish God and all the people worshiping the same God marking the beginning of Messianic age. Cross by its shape itself seems to be a symbol of reconciliation, maybe between Jews and Non-Jews or divine and human. Resurrection seems to me a symbol for death into fleshly or material realm and rebirth into spiritual realm. This is gist of what Jesus says to Nicodemus (which literally means ruler of people and he is indeed said to be ruler of Jews). Jesus’ other signs, healing the blind, paralytic, resurrecting the dead also signifies arrival of Messianic age as said by the prophets (Isaiah 26:19; 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:7 and most significantly 61:1). There could be more, I have not yet finished studying gospel of John.

  • Urban von Wahlde

    I may be missing something but: What is the relation of the topic (Gospel of John) to the works of the Enochic Tradition. Do papers intend to relate the two?

    • The Enoch Seminar does not focus exclusively on the Enochic materials, but on early Judaism and indeed its intersection with other spheres of interest. That said, I do think that one can find some points of intersection between the Son of Man in John and the Son of Man in the Similitudes of Enoch. Hopefully that will be a topic discussed at the meeting!