My Flesh is Meat Indeed

My Flesh is Meat Indeed: A Nonsacramental Reading of John 6:51-58

Meredith J.C. Warren
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    My Flesh is Meat Indeed
    Book Description:

    Readers have long puzzled over the absence from the Johannine “Last Supper” of any words by Jesus over bread and wine—suggesting to some that John is indifferent or even hostile to sacramental thought or action—and the apparent dislocation to the feeding miracle, in John 6, of Jesus’ declaration that believers must eat his flesh. Meredith J. C. Warren argues that in fact, the “bread of life” discourse in John 6:51c-58 does not bear any Eucharistic overtones. Rather, John plays on shared cultural expectations in the ancient Mediterranean world about the nature of heroic sacrifice and the accompanying sacrificial meal, which established the identification of a hero with a deity. From Homer and continuing through Greek romances like Chaereas and Callirhoe, An Ephesian Tale, Leucippe and Clitophon, and An Ethiopian Story, Warren traces a literary trope in which a hero or heroine’s antagonistic relationship with a deity is resolved through the sacrifice of the hero. She argues that seen against this milieu, Jesus’ insistence that his flesh be eaten serves to demonstrate his identity and confirms the Christology of the rest of the Gospel.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9669-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The aim of the present study is to argue that Jesus’ divinity is made explicit in John 6: 51c-58¹ and thereby to present this scene as christological rather than eucharistic. I propose that this pericope makes claims about Jesus’ divinity because of the ways in which the Gospel of John participates in the literary world of the ancient Mediterranean: the author’s use of genres and his characteristic manipulation of common tropes makes finding affinities between John and other Hellenistic literature useful for understanding the multivalency of John’s Gospel. In particular, I show how John’s Gospel makes use of the established...

  5. 1 “The Word Was Made Flesh” (John 1:14)
    (pp. 19-62)

    The tension throughout the Gospel of John between the divinity and humanity of Jesus is of paramount importance for the interpretation of John 6:51c-58 because the historical debate in scholarship about this pericope revolves around its interpretation aseithera christological or eucharistic text.¹ As such, to anticipate my argument, the emphasis elsewhere in this Gospel, and especially in the prologue, on the relationship between Jesus’ divine and human characteristics lays the groundwork for a christological interpretation of John 6:51c-58 despite its eucharistic echoes. In John, the Word isbothflesh (1:14) and God (1:1); John’s primary concern is in...

  6. 2 “Second Only To Artemis” (Leucippe and Clitophon 7.15)
    (pp. 63-116)

    In the previous chapter, I illustrated how the Gospel of John is preoccupied with the identity of Jesus as simultaneously human and divine and I argued that this divine identity is established in John 6:51c-58. It is clear that John is particularly concerned with Jesus’ divinity; the prologue in particular sets the tone for the rest of the Gospel. But discussions of his identity preface John 6:51c-58 as well. In 6:42, the crowd questions his identity by referring to his earthly parents. This preoccupation suggests that the Bread of Life Discourse be understood as referring to Jesus’ identity as divine....

  7. 3 “Her Viscera Leapt Out” (Leucippe and Clitophon 3.15)
    (pp. 117-186)

    In the previous chapter I illustrated how, just as John’s Gospel is concerned with identifying its protagonist as divine, the novels also take pains to associate their heroines with the main goddesses driving the plots. The association between protagonist and god is clear, but its significance is yet to be uncovered. Jesus is killed in the course of John’s narrative; in 6:51c-58, Jesus advocates the consumption of his own flesh. How can these grotesque elements be reconciled with the Gospel’s fixation with Jesus’ divinity? To answer this question, it behooves us to return to the novels and the Greco-Roman religious...

  8. 4 “My Flesh is Meat Indeed” (John 6:55, KJV)
    (pp. 187-244)

    Returning at last to the Gospel of John and Jesus’ strange exhortation in 6:51c-58, we should, at the outset, lay out what we have discovered up until this point. First, it is crucial to remember my earlier argument that John 6:51c-58 is not making a eucharistic statement but rather a christological one. Throughout the Gospel, but explicitly in the prologue, John takes great pains to emphasize both Jesus’ fleshly and divine qualities. As I have argued above in chapter one, John understands Jesus’ humanity and divinity as coexisting in a dialectical state, since Jesus’ signs, often very physical, lead directly...

  9. Conclusion: “Equal to God” (John 5:18; Iliad 20.447)
    (pp. 245-256)

    Identity and ontology are major themes in both John’s Gospel and in the Hellenistic romance novels, as the present study articulates. Gregory Nagy’s seminal work on the relationship between extraordinary humans and deities is here applied to the Gospel of John, a text that participates in many of the conventions of the ancient literary world. Tracing the ways in which the narrative relationship between heroes and gods has been developed in Hellenistic literature such as the romance novels provides an innovative way of understanding Jesus’ simultaneously divine and mortal ontology. In doing so, I have created the space to examine...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-288)
  11. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 289-294)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 295-297)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 298-298)