to their practice. Chapter 13 recounts a simple final meal, with no symbolism attached to bread or wine, as in the Synoptic and Pauline accounts.120 Instead, Jesus washes the disciples' feet and requires that they do likewise (John 13:3-17). On the other hand, Jesus' lengthy discourse on the bread of life concludes (John 6:51-8) by affirming the importance of eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood. This passage clearly alludes to the kind of eucharist celebrated in Pauline and Synoptic communities.

One interpretation of this evidence sees theJohannine community celebrating its own sacred meal, without 'words of institution'121 or any reference to the symbolism ofbread/body, wine/blood. A redactor, concerned to fill a gap, expanded the 'bread of life' discourse of chapter 6 to include such elements. Although some have argued for the integrity ofJohn 6,122 most scholars accept the theory of literary stratification and its implications for the development of Johannine eucharistic practice.

The gospel's overall literary strategy should, however, signal caution. The gospel regularly recontextualises elements of early Christian teaching and practice. One might suspect a similar strategy at work in the eucharistic materials. As a redactional move, situating the reference to sacramental eating in chapter 6 is hardly an effective device to harmonise the gospel with some newly orthodox practice. Instead, the 'eucharistic' passages of chapters 6 and 13 could be designed to work together. One must 'eat flesh' and 'drink blood' to have a part with Jesus (John 6:53); one must also know and understand his act of loving service (John 13:17). If 'eating' and 'drinking' function as traditional sapiential metaphors, then the actions contemplated in chapter 6 must be correlated with the interpretation of the actions suggested by 13.

The 'sacramental' language of chapter 6 certainly alludes to a ritual practice used by the Johannine community at some point in its development. It might have come late to the life of the community or, more likely, it describes an accepted practice the understanding of which the evangelist wanted to deepen.


Johannine Christianity constitutes an alternative to other forms of Christianity in the late first or early second century. It does so in part because its community

120 Mark 14:22-5; Matt 26:26-9; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Cor 11:23-5.

121 The 'eucharist' of Did. 9-10 similarly lacks the words of institution.

122 See Borgen, Bread, and his 'John 6'; as well as Anderson, Christology.

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