Jesus’ “Equality with God” in John’s Gospel

I have just returned from an enjoyable and stimulating conference in Italy on John’s Gospel and Jewish Messianism organised by the Enoch Seminar. The invitation to give a main paper to an international group of specialists on John and Judaism gave me the opportunity to explore my thinking on John’s testimony to the character and origins of the earliest beliefs about Jesus and his divine identity.

In short, I argued that we can make best sense of the dramatic altercation regarding Jesus’ work on the Sabbath and his “making himself equal with God” in John 5 once we situate that episode in the setting that the author of the Fourth Gospel has given it (an episode in Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem in the 30s C.E.). John 5 presents a plausible account of an event in the life of Jesus the Jew, once we recognise that the logic of the drama relies (1) on first century Jewish responses to patterns of pagan Ruler Cult in which kings are given “honours equal to the gods” (isotheoi timai) and (2) biblically-grounded and well-known beliefs about the “divine” identity of Israel’s high priest and a coming high priestly “one like a son of man”.

On my fresh reading of the passage, John 5 is a valuable witness to one part of the account of Christological origins that I will lay out in volume 4 of my Jesus Monotheism. So I was encouraged that the paper was well received and that it generated a lively and positive discussion.

I have posted a copy of the paper (that includes a fuller abstract) on my page.

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