The new paradigm presented by the Society of Biblical Literature Meals in the Greco-Roman World Seminar challenges, among other things, the exegesis of John. Both the “eucharistic overtones” of selected passages in the Gospel of John and the assumption of a cultic meal on the level of the community have been called into question. The Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22–59) can be analyzed as a textual phenomenon that makes use of the imagery of eating and drinking but does not refer to a specific meal practice of early Christians. In this article, I argue that the complex metaphorical network in the Bread of Life discourse rests on conceptual imagery that we might refer to as EATING/DRINKING IS ADOPTING TEACHING. The intensification of the concept of adopting teaching into the language of eating the flesh has several parallels in antiquity. Moreover, this vivid imagery in John 6:53–58 is a conscious provocation of the recipients at the level of the narrated world and part of a typical Johannine misunderstanding scene. In the narrative strategy of John 6, these strong metaphors narratively enact the separation of the believing from the unbelieving disciples. The metaphors do not, however, point directly to specific practices of the believers. The argument will focus on the motif of drinking the blood of Jesus in John 6:53–58. An analysis of the ancient reception of this motif shows that it entered the discourse on meals prior to its influence on the ritual semantics itself. This observation suggests that it was the textual reception of the Gospel of John that influenced the development of a ritual and not the ritual that gave rise to the text.

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