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Echoes of Friendship in the Gospel of John

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Friendship in the Graeco-Roman world took a wide variety of forms, with some ‘friendships’ involving nothing more than a political alliance or patron —client relationship and others involving deep personal intimacy. When Jesus says his disciples are to be called ‘friends’, what type of friendship does he have in mind?

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SKU: 978-1-907534-10-2

Friendship in the Graeco-Roman world took a wide variety of forms, with some ‘friendships’ involving nothing more than a political alliance or patron —client relationship and others involving deep personal intimacy. When Jesus says his disciples are to be called ‘friends’, what type of friendship does he have in mind?

Friendship may seem a relatively insignificant motif in the Gospel of John, since the author does not explicitly set out to provide a philosophical discourse on the nature of friendship, nor does he explicitly state that the narrative is about friendship. In this study, however, Culy, having carefully examined Graeco-Roman literature on friendship, demonstrates that the language of what he calls ‘ideal friendship’ actually pervades the Fourth Gospel from beginning to end and serves as a primary vehicle for characterizing the relationships that are introduced in the Prologue and fleshed out throughout the course of the narrative.

Taking up the friendship motif as a tool of characterization, the Gospel of John points to a striking implication of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus: that followers of Jesus are invited to enjoy a level of intimacy with him that can actually, and perhaps only, be compared to the level of intimacy that he enjoys with the Father. The Johannine Jesus, then, came not just to save the world but also to offer those who would follow him a relationship that Graeco-Roman philosophers only dreamed of, a relationship where all the ingredients of ideal friendship were present.

Additional information

Table of Contents

1. FRIENDSHIP, LITERARY MOTIFS, AND THE AUTHORIAL AUDIENCE
Recent Studies on Friendship
An Eclectic Approach
The Friendship Motif and Authorial Reading
Literary Approaches to Non-Literary Text
Overview of This Study

2. FRIENDSHIP IN THE ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN WORLD
Methodological Considerations
The Implied Readers of the Fourth Gospel
Greco-Roman Views of Friendship

3. FRIENDSHIP IN THE FOURTH GOSPEL: JESUS AND THE FATHER
Friends and Family
The Prologue
Identity, Knowledge, and (Mis)Understanding in the Fourth Gospel
Jesus’ Relationship with the Father
The Holy Spirit’s Relationship to the Father, Son, and Followers of Jesu
Conclusion

4. FRIENDSHIP IN THE FOURTH GOSPEL: JESUS AND HIS FOLLOWERS

Jesus and his Friends
Echoes of Friendship in the Upper Room
Reading John 15:13-15 in Context
Friendship in John 18-21
Conclusion

5. READING THE GOSPEL OF JOHN AS AUTHORIAL AUDIENCE

Reviews

  1. Louise Clines

    Echoes of Friendship in the Gospel of John constructs a conceptual field related to friendship in ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish literature and then uses it to inform our reading of the ways in which the Gospel characterizes Jesus’ relationship with God and with his followers. As a result, this well informed and nuanced study enriches our understanding of how audiences would have read the Gospel in the first and second centuries, and thereby opens various aspects of the Gospel to fruitful reexamination. This monograph will become a standard in the field.

  2. Anne M. O’Leary, Review of Biblical Literature.

    Culy’s work is coherent, well-argued, and richly furnished with references and footnotes. It is a timely example of the fruitfulness of reading the New Testament, in this case, the Gospel of John, with a historical consciousness of the world of Greco-Roman antiquity of which Israel was a part. His work augments current literary-critical approaches in … his development and use of audience criticism; and in his development of a methodology that takes account of the characteristics of the “conceptual field” of the authorial audience of the Fourth Gospel. … [T]his work is a must-read for any serious scholar of Johannine literature and/or literary criticism in relation to the works of Greco-Roman antiquity.

  3. Douglas Estes, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

    One of the great strengths of Culy’s approach is his willingness to state that friendship is not the one and only way to read the Fourth Gospel and his willingness to take a much more subtle (and accurate) approach by working through the conceptual fields of friendship in the ancient world … Highly recommended for NT scholars and libraries.

  4. New Testament Abstracts.

    [T]his volume contends that the language of ‘ideal friendship’ pervades the Fourth Gospel from beginning to end and serves as a primary vehicle for characterizing the relationships that are introduced in the Prologue and fleshed out throughout the course of the narrative. Its five chapters concern friendship, literary motifs, and the authorial audience; friendship in the ancient Mediterranean world; friendship in the Fourth Gospel—Jesus and the Father; friendship in the Fourth Gospel—Jesus and his followers; and reading the Gospel of John as authorial audience. Culy concludes that the Fourth Gospel’s use of the friendship motif is not only aesthetically pleasing and linguistically productive, but also theologically revolutionary in terms of its startling claim about human–divine relationships.

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Book information

Author
Martin M. Culy
List Price
£60 / $95 / €70
Series
New Testament Monographs, 30
Scholars' Price
£30 / $47.50 / €35
ISBN 13 hardback
978-1-907534-10-2
Format
Hardback
Page Extent
xii + 226
Publication Date
October 2010
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