‘I Call You Friends’: Jesus as Patron in John 15 | Daniel K. Eng

This article proposes that John 15:13–16 draws on the language of Roman patronage, which impacts the understanding of Jesus’s sayings regarding friends. We will suggest that φίλος conveys a regent obedient to a royal patron. Thus, the role of Jesus’s friend is one of subordination, not equality. After an introduction to patronage, this article makes the case that Jesus portrays himself as the greatest patron. First, John’s farewell discourse points to the disciples being subordinates. Second, Jesus makes a contrast between slaves and friends, which is consistent with many patronal relationships. Third, Jesus describes himself as a broker, mediating benefit from the Father. Fourth, inscriptions and provincial coinage contained terms like ΦΙΛΟΚΑΙΣΑΡ (friend of Caesar), referring to regents of the emperor. Patronage best explains the saying, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (15:13).” Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice for subordinates makes his patronage greater than Caesar’s. [Read More]