SPECIAL TOPICS THAT HAVE OCCASIONALLY BEEN MENTIONED IN OUR STUDY of Johannine symbolism include the possible allusions to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the significance of geography, and the meanings of numbers. These elements do not constitute core symbols in the Gospel but play at most a supporting role. Nevertheless, some studies of the Gospel develop the sacramental, geographical, and numerical symbolism more extensively than we have done, and it may be helpful to consider these topics individually, drawing on the results of preceding chapters.
The relationship of the imagery in the Gospel to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper has been a persistent area of disagreement in Johannine studies. Some interpreters from ancient times to the present have correlated many passages in John with Christian sacramental practices. The foot washing and the healings at the pools of Bethzatha and Siloam have been related to Baptism, while the wine at Cana, the meals of bread and fish, and the figure of the vine and its branches have been associated with the Lord’s Supper. The blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side at the crucifixion have frequently been thought to bind both sacraments to the death of Christ.1 Other interpreters, both ancient and modern, have been more hesitant about relating texts to the sacraments unless the Gospel itself makes some clear reference to them. John, unlike the other Gospels, does not mention
1. A thoroughly sacramental reading of John was developed by Cullmann, Early Christian Worship. More moderate proposals are presented by Brown, Gospel, 1:111–14; Léon-Dufour, Sharing the Eucharistic Bread, 248–77; Cosgrove, “Place Where Jesus Is”; Rensberger, Johannine Faith, 64–86; Schnelle, Antidocetic Christology, 176–210.