Is Christianity a Hellenistic religion? In a 3-4 page typed double-spaced paper, discuss the distinctively Hellenistic "religious strategies" employed in Chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John, especially in Jesus' speech. Does this passage suggest that the early Christians were self-consciously founding a new religious movement, or reforming an old one?
Questions for small groups:
1. Which of Luther Martin's strategies: piety, mystery, or gnosis are most pronounced in this passage?
2. Does the text allude to features of the Ptolemaic cosmos? What terms - nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. refer to the sublunar or superlunar worlds and the beings who inhabit them? Are there references to some sort of up or down "travel" between realms? Who does it?
3. Where does the text emphasize misunderstanding of divine revelation? Who gets it and who doesn't: the Christian community as a whole? particular individuals? non-Christians? Women? Men? people from Jewish or Gentile ethnic background?
4. Why? What reasons if any does the text give? Is it a secret? what terms suggest that?
5. What terms does the text use for salvation? what are the means of salvation? what are people being saved from?
6. Does Jesus make a point of distinguishing his revelation from earlier Biblical traditions from the "Old Testament"? Where in the text? Where are there quotations of the OT in Chapter 6, and what if any new interpretations does Jesus (or the author of John's Gospel give them?
HINT: Use the notes to John 6 in your Oxford Study Bible. It gives you cross references to other Biblical passages. Look them up in their original context - how is it different from their new context in Jesus' speech in John 6?
7. Are other distinctive tendencies of Hellenistic religion, e.g. syncretism and/or apocalyptic relevant for understanding this passage?
Hint: Use the Perrin/Duling textbook's chapter analyzing John's Gospel as a resource (provided you properly document your sources according to the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines).
8. Where (if at all) does Jesus suggest he is making a radical break with the Judaism of his day? Where (if at all) does Jesus suggest that his revelation is just a continuation of the older tradition?
What is new - the content of the revelation or the audience to who is revealed?
9. Which Hellenistic religious texts (that L. Martin discusses) provide the closest analogies to John 6?
NB: I do not expect you to answer all these questions in your paper. Use your small group discussions of all these questions to pick out only those points that will best support the argument of your paper.