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10. The Sabbath Controversy in John 5:1–18 and the Analogous Controversy Reflected in Philo’s Writings

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Chapter Summary

The Sabbath question was part of the received Jesus tradition. These and other similar traditions contributed to the conflicts between Christians and the Jewish authorities on the question of Sabbath observance. The tradition behind John 5:1-18 was adapted to the specific arguments employed in the conflict, the exegesis of Genesis 2:2-3 about God working on the Sabbath in particular. The parallel material in Philo's writings makes evident that the Sabbath controversy reflected in John 5:1-18 is to be seen as a specifically Christian version of a conflict that already existed in the Jewish community in Alexandria, a tension and a conflict which probably existed in most Jewish communities. This chapter shows that Philo not only sheds light on ideas in John, but even on Johannine exegetical methods and traditions. Philo's writings illustrate how exegesis of the Law of Moses played a central role in controversies in the Jewish community.

Keywords: Christians; Jesus tradition; Jewish community; Johannine exegetical methods; John 5; law of Moses; Philo's writings; Sabbath controversy

10.1163/9789004258853_011
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