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Kinship, Discipleship, and Movement: an Anthropological Study of John's Gospel

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In John's Gospel, the Jesus movement is represented as developing in an environment in which kinship was the primary social matrix. Combining exegetical research and anthropological analysis, the article highlights the relation between two Jewish-Palestinian social forms, coexisting within the Jesus movement: discipleship and kinship (1:35-51). In the social imagination of John, the group of disciples allows for the participation of the mother and the brothers (2:12). Kinship, however, undergoes some modifications. First, the kinship system is no longer a unique instrument for the attribution of roles. Jesus, his mother and the brothers interact dialectically, moving between acceptance and rejection (at Cana and Sukkot). Second, the kinship system is characterized by the absence of the fathers. This anomaly introduces flexibility and indefiniteness into the roles. The disappearance of wide lineages and of male relatives of women modifies contexts and re-situates all the characters. Male functions are taken on by women in substitutive ways. On the other hand, discipleship is influenced in turn by kinship, which offers unquestionable social support to Jesus and his disciples, as is shown by the mediating function of the mother at Cana and the "adivising" function of the brothers. Kinship also takes on an integrative role in the movement, as in the case of the unnamed disciple and the mother at the cross (19:25-27). In Jesus' last words, discipleship is remodelled on the basis of kinship criteria and logic. To be "in possession of" Mary, the mother, alters the balance of power within the movement.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bologna


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