The Johannine Last Supper as a Site for Moral Formation

In recent years the generic affinities of John 13-17 to ancient literary symposia have been discussed as part of increasing interests in literary conventions of the Fourth Gospel (e.g., Harold Attridge, Gordon Lathrop). Building upon these studies, this paper aims to examine the ways the Johannine last supper serves as a venue for moral formation of Jesus’s disciples. Particular attention will be given to the friendship language in chapter 15, which is a basic category in ancient philosophical discussion of social ethics. In the symposium tradition, the bond of friendship is often considered to be the essence of a proper formal meal, as Plutarch famously describes what he calls “the friend-making character of the table” (QC 612D). In the context of the banquet, friendship defines the nature of the participants’ social obligation toward one another. By reading Plutarch’s dialogues regarding the adequate decorum for a social meal gathering in his Table-Talk as a comparative case, this paper will shed a valuable light upon some pervading themes in the Johannine supper narrative, which constitute the characters of the Johannine “friendship” community.