provides a basis for judgement 'on the last day'. The gospel allows for an eschatological future, but it is firmly grounded in the present confrontation between the Word, both in the flesh and in the book, and those summoned to hear it.iC15
Ethics and religious practice The followers of Jesus depicted in the Johannine literature display few of the practices that characterised their lives. Unlike the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), the fourth gospel says nothing about an ethic of non-violence, of loving enemies, turning the other cheek, renouncing divorce, walking the extra mile.
Ethics for the fourth gospel can be reduced to the single command to love one another, emphatically proclaimed at the Last Supper (John i3:3i), illustrated with a proverbial saying (John i5:i3) and echoed in the epistles.'06 The gospel spends little time on practical consequences, although both it and the epistles insist on the importance of forgiveness of sins.i0/ Yet the love that disciples are to embody focuses on the community of fellow disciples. Such love is not deemed incompatible with harsh words against enemies (John 8:44), which perhaps mirror the hatred of an inimical 'world'.i08
Neither the evangelist nor the writer of i John elaborates a detailed ethic; both focus instead on fundamental motivations for ethical behaviour. The Last Supper discourses indicate that the foundation is not simply a divine command issued by God's legate, but, in Jesus' death for his friends, it is also an embodied example of the 'greatest love' (John i5:i4). This grounding of ethics in turn constitutes a soteriology: the cross reveals something that attracts (John i2:32) and heals (John 3:i4-i5), which, as the final discourses make clear, is love in action. In making 'the love command' central to Christian proclamation, John is hardly unique.i09 By connecting that command so closely to the cross, the evangelist innovatively fused a theoretical foundation of ethics and a doctrine of revelation.
Unconcerned about ethical details, neither does the fourth gospel worry about religious practices, such as fasting, which troubled other Christiansii0 and, according to Didache 8.2-3, marked community boundaries. Perhaps
105 i John 4:i7 maintains the same structure of eschatological hope. Living the life of love provides bold confidence (parrhesia) on the 'day of judgement'.
106 i John 2:7 refers to the now 'old command', particularly celebrated in 4:7-5:4.
108 John i5:i8-29; i7:i4. The fact that the gospel preaches love but uses harsh invective offends its most severe critics, such as Casey, Is John's gospel true?.
109 Cf. Matt 5:43-4; 22:35-40; Mark i2:28-34; Luke i0:25-8; Gal 5:i4; Rom i3:8-i0.
110 On the diverse fasting practices of early Christians, see ch. 7, below.
Johannine Christians rejected the biblical practice of fasting as did other early followers of Jesus, but the text is silent. In contrast to Matthew 7:7-13 and Luke 11:2-4, the gospel offers little explicit instruction about prayer. The final prayer of Jesus (17:1-26), faintly echoing the Lord's Prayer,111 is not proposed for imitation. Jesus endorses petitionary prayer (John 14:13-14; 16:26), but without specifying its form. The epistles provide examples of confessional forms (1 John 4:7-10), but not prescriptions.
The text suggests that Johannine Christians baptised and conducted a sacred meal, two hallmarks of Christian communities. The gospel offers conflicting testimony on whether Jesus himself baptised,112 but that seems irrelevant to the insistence that one must be 'born from above' by 'water and spirit' (John 3:5). The dialogue with Nicodemus offers a specifically Johannine interpretation of the action, precisely in the terminology of'birth again/from above'. Neither a cleansing from sin,113 nor an eschatological seal,114 nor participation in the death of Christ,115 baptism is, using language of Hellenistic religion, a 'rebirth'.116 While other baptismal theologies are not in evidence, there is an intricate literary development of baptismal symbols. The 'water' through which rebirth occurs is echoed in the water from Jacob's well in John 4, where the traditional sapiential equation of water and teaching is apparent. That traditional equation receives a new twist in the note that teaching will bubble up as a fountain within each believer (John 7:38). New associations appear through the connection of the believer's 'water' with what flows from Jesus' pierced side (John 19:34).117 Baptismal 'water' is thus ultimately connected with the believer's apprehension of the cross.118 1 John 2:26-7 also mentions a 'chrism' that teaches, perhaps alluding to another baptismal symbol.
That Johannine Christians celebrated a sacred meal is clear, although how they did so is not. Whatever their practice, we should not expect a standard formula in the late first or early second century.119 Two passages are relevant
111 The prayers share the addressee (Father), and the motives ofcoming, glory/hallowing and giving.
112 The discrepancy between John 3:22 (Jesus baptised) and 4:2 (only disciples baptised) may be redactional.
116 Cf. Corpus Hermeticum 13.
117 Some interpreters find baptismal allusions elsewhere in the gospel, but most are hardly clear. For examples, see Moloney, 'Sacraments?'; Morgan-Wynne, 'References'.
118 1 John 5:7 echoes the connection of blood and water.
119 Bradshaw, Worship, argues against positing a primitive normative form of eucharis-tic action, and McGowan, Ascetic eucharists, discusses the wide variety of eucharistic practices in the first two centuries.
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