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Christology in the Fourth Gospel: Redaction-Critical Perspectives*


At the start, a definition of limits:

There is no attempt in what follows to give a total view of Johannine christology. We shall concentrate mainly on the narrative materials in the gospel, for it is there that redaction-critical work now seems most practicable; consequently, our sights can hardly be global. At the same time, however, we do not limit ourselves to the uppermost layer of christology in the narratives, for we shall be seeking to set the evangelist's thought in sharper perspective by the very process of comparing it – and often contrasting it – to the tradition, more specifically the source, on which he depends. Depth, then, more than breadth, will be our aim; depth such as we can gain from a few test bores into the Johannine terrain.

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page 489 note 1 Compare, for example, these studies of the ‘signs’ in John: Becker J., ‘Wunder und Christologie: Zum literarkritischen und christologischen Problem der Wunder im Johannesevangelium’, N.T.S. XVI (1970), 130–48;Fortna R. T., ‘Source and redaction in the Fourth Gospel's portrayal of Jesus’ signs', J.B.L. LXXXIX (1970), 151–66;Nicol W., The Sēmeia in the Fourth Gospel: Tradition and Redaction (Supplements to Novum Testamentum, XXXII; Leiden, 1972).

page 489 note 2 The Gospel of Signs: A Reconstruction of the Narrative Source Underlying the Fourth Gospel (S.N.T.S. Monograph Series, XI; Cambridge, 1970); hereafter cited as TGOS.

page 490 note 1 The image direction of flow seems to me more appropriate than ‘trajectory’, as Robinson J. M. and Koester H. have recently introduced it into the scholarly vocabulary: Trajectories through Early Christianity (Philadelphia, 1971). Robinson himself recognizes this (p. 14), and the term used in the German edition (Entwicklungslinie) properly lacks the connotation of pre-determined path which the English word has.

page 490 note 2 An early example is Wetter G. P., Der Sohn Gottes: Eine Untersuchung über den Charakter und die Tendenz des Johannes-Evangeliums (F.R.L.A.N.T., n. F. IX; Göttingen, 1916), ch. 3.More recently, Conzelmann H., An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament (New York, 1969), pp. 342 ff., simply uses the phrase as a kind of shorthand for the Johannine conception.

page 490 note 3 Nicol, op. cit. p. 49, n. I, lists many instances. Add Schnider F. and Stenger W., Johannes und die Synoptiker: Vergleich ihrer Parallelen (München, 1971), andPerrin N., The New Testament: an Introduction (New York, 1974), p. 225. I made a similar suggestion in TGOS, p. 231.

page 491 note 1 But see Tiede D. L., The Charismatic Figure as Miracle Worker (S.B.L. Dissertation Series, I, 1972) E. Schweizer, Jesus (London, 1971), p. 127, n. 10, holds it to be anachronistic when applied to First Century writings.

page 491 note 2 ‘Gospel miracle tradition and the divine man’, Interpretation XXVI (1972), 174–97. The question is put at the end of the article, against the background of the finding that in the period following the production of the canonical gospels there was no tendency to portray Jesus increasingly as a divine man, but rather any such tendency was transferred to the apostles. The question is then whether the gospels have successfully combated this way of thinking or on the contrary have exhausted it.

page 491 note 3 Conversely, the interest in soteriology and eschatology which distinguishes John's work from his source involves concerns not usually associated with the divine man. See my article From christology to soteriology: a redaction-critical study of salvation in the Fourth Gospel’, Interpretation XXVII (1973), 31–47.

page 491 note 4 ‘Source and redaction’ (see above, p. 489, n. 1); cf. Tiede, op. cit. p. 244.

page 492 note 1 Whether the author of the signs source, as I hold, or another, does not matter at this point.

page 492 note 2 Cf. XIX. 24, 28, 37.

page 492 note 3 It is noteworthy that the use of both testimonia and logia is confined to the passion story within the pre-Johannine narrative material.

page 492 note 4 TCOS, p. 230.

page 492 note 5 Cf. also ii. 25, vi. 6, xviii. 4a.

page 493 note 1 So Achtemeier, op. cit. p. 187; Tiede, op. cit.

page 493 note 2 Op. cit. pp. 137 ff.

page 493 note 3 Cf. Nicodemus' apparently inadequate assessment of Jesus in iii. 2: ‘You are a teacher sent from God; for no one can do the signs you do unless God is with him.’ Also iv. 48.

page 493 note 4 I am indebted here to some observations made to me by James Brashler.

page 493 note 5 The hypodeigma of xiii. 15 is no exception, for it is given by one who is ‘Lord and Master’, and it is later summarized not as example but commandment (xv. 12).

page 493 note 6 Nicol, op. cit. pp. 62 ff.

page 494 note 1 And if Becker, op. cit., is right that ‘Son [of the Father]’ represents even more characteristically John's view of Jesus' status, it shows the more clearly how far John finally is from the Hellenistic concept.

page 494 note 2 Martyn J. L., ‘Source Criticism and Religionsgeschichte in the Fourth Gospel’, in: Jesus and Man's Hope, I (ed. Buttrick D. G.; Pittsburgh, 1970), pp. 255 ff.

page 494 note 3 The Testament of Jesus: a Study of the Gospel of John in the light of Chapter 17 (Philadelphia, 1968 [Jesu letzter Wille nach Johannes 17 (Tübingen, 1966)]).

page 494 note 4 So Meeks W., in his review of Käsemann in Union Seminary Quarterly Review XXIV (1969), p. 418.

page 495 note 1 Käsemann nowhere defines his understanding of the term. The contexts in which it appears, however, suggest that he takes docetism to mean the tendency to underplay the earthly, historical fact of Jesus' humanity in favour of his heavenly divinity. See esp., op. cit. pp. 66, 69 f. For a brief discussion of the problematic character of these terms as applied to the NT, see Knox John, The Humanity and Divinity of Christ: a Study of Pattern in Christology (Cambridge, 1967), pp. vii f.

page 495 note 2 See the previously cited works.

page 495 note 3 Op. cit. p. 148.

page 495 note 4 Cf. Peter's reply to the crowd's amazement at his healing of a lame man in Acts iii. 12: ‘Why do you wonder at this…as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?’ The author of SG clearly shares the view that the power displayed by the miracles is not a human one, to be marvelled at, but the power inherent in one who is God; they are signs in just that sense.

page 496 note 1 Cf. viii. 40, where Jesus describes himself as ‘a man who has told you the truth’

page 496 note 2 Op. cit. p. 7.

page 497 note 1 Op. cit. p. 419.

page 497 note 2 See above, p. 495; cf. ‘From christology to soteriology’, pp. 37 f.

page 497 note 3 Op. cit. p. 262.

page 497 note 4 Op. cit. p. 144: aus der Geschichte beinahe schon Mythos geworden.

page 497 note 5 Cf. my ‘Source and redaction’, previously cited.

page 498 note 1 As Becker, op. cit. pp. 147 f., seems to imply.

page 498 note 2 Op. cit. pp. 22, 35.

page 498 note 3 ‘On the Gattung of Mark (and John) ’ in: Jesus and Man's Hope (see above, p. 494, n. 2), pp. 99–129.

page 498 note 4 A variant of the former alternative – a loose collection of miracle stories – is often taken as the safest hypothesis. One need then only speak of a tradition behind the present gospel – cf. Nicol, op. cit. But the clear evidence of pre-Johannine interconnections among the various pericopes suggests an authored work, and the fact that it referred to itself as a ‘book’ (xx. 30) points even more strongly in the same direction.

page 499 note 1 This distinction in nomenclature is not precise but used for convenience only. On the fact that SQ_is already in some sense a gospel, see below, p. 501.

page 499 note 2 In TGOS, pp. 214–18, I presented the more obvious evidence of pre-Johannine stylistic consistency between signs and passion (but see Robinson, Trajectories, pp. 247–9). I hope to give a more exhaustive presentation of the evidence in another place, but in the meantime I would maintain that some of the data I pointed to, while possibly ‘meager’ in an absolute sense, are nevertheless hardly negligible, given the relative brevity of the source, and are just as telling as the stylistic data that show the signs to be integral among themselves.

page 499 note 3 ‘Source and redaction’, pp. 159 f.

page 500 note 1 If the synagogue leaders of his time can be equated with the earlier Jewish leaders, he ignores them as being exceptional and addresses himself instead to the mass of synagogue members. More likely, in contrast to John, he sees no such connection between past and present.

page 500 note 2 Cf. R. T. Fortna, ‘Theological use of locale in the Fourth Gospel’, Anglican Theological Review (Supplementary Series, 3: Gospel Studies in Honor of Sherman Elbridge Johnson; March 1974), pp. 58–95, esp. p. 60.

page 500 note 3 No insignificant step. A miracle story per se – that is, the literary form novelle – is not the same as a sign episode, which may, but does not necessarily, involve the same literary form (cf. ii. 1–11, originally a pronouncement story). A sign involves not only a miracle but an explicit christological claim.

page 501 note 1 D. Moody Smith puts it aptly in an unpublished paper: ‘If [the pre-Johannine] community, operating within or in contact with the synagogue, had produced a catena of miracle stories, as it probably did, such a collection would have required a passion apologetic (therefore probably a passion narrative, given the narrative genre already implied by the miracle stories) before it could have been used effectively as a missionary document in that context. The death of Jesus as a criminal seems to have been the most widely known fact about him (witness Jewish as well as other sources), and this scandal required…to be set in the proper context.’ At another point Smith goes on to say: ‘In some early stage of development leading to the Fourth Gospel, miracle and passion materials may have existed side by side, and the possibility of their conjuncture became real as soon as either or both were regarded as part of a larger account of Jesus' ministry [emphasis mine]’, to which I would add that the necessity of their conjuncture became real as soon as one body of material (sc. the miracles) became the account of Jesus' ministry and was given the task of proving Jesus to be Messiah. This condition, of course, obtained only in the pre-Johannine period; for John the signs are no longer sufficient proofs of messiahship.

page 501 note 2 The tags used here (viz. passion-narrative-with-introduction and aretalogy-with-sequel) are not so much morphological descriptions of the finished Gattungen as genetic indications of the process by which they arose. In the case of SG, an account of Jesus' impressive deeds has been extended so as to include his death and resurrection.

page 501 note 3 Robinson, ‘Gattung’, p. 103.

page 501 note 4 Mark also gives christological import to the crucifixion; it is the means by which the secret of Jesus' divine sonship is revealed. But that is not Mark's only purpose. For him the death of Jesus itself is central and the miracles subordinate (almost the opposite is true of SG). They are not perceived as signs – on the contrary, cf. Mark viii. 12 – and they comprise only a secondary part of Jesus' pre-passion ministry; compared to SG, Mark gives considerable prominence to Jesus' teaching, even though compared to Matthew and Luke he does not. (SG and John stand at opposite ends of the spectrum in this regard.) Mark's format is therefore quite different from SG's, despite some similarities, and his Gattung is distinct.

page 502 note 1 This break does not correspond to the point of conjunction between signs and passion – the source's passion story began already with the anointing and entry episodes, which now become closing events in the first half of the gospel, to say nothing of the cleansing of the temple, transferred to almost the beginning. Nor does the long discourse provide a transition from ministry to passion, since it is set already in the passion context of the last supper. All this suggests that the joining of signs and passion took place, as on other grounds I have maintained, at an earlier stage in the gospel's development.

page 502 note 2 ‘Gatlung’, p. 113.

page 502 note 3 Die Entstehungsgeschichte des vierten Evangeliums (Zollikon, 1958). The relative unimportance of this aspect of Wilkens' source theory is shown by its almost total disuse in his later work on the Johannine theology, Zeichen and Werke (Zürich, 1969). See my review of the latter in J.B.L. LXXXIX (1970), 457–62.

page 502 note 4 This title is perhaps not original with John – in i. 36 it may be pre-Johannine – but he seems to call attention to it by reiteration (i. 29).

page 503 note 1 Of the First Century narratives of Jesus, all the canonical gospels, of course, know something of the same tension; only SG and Q lack it, the former by portraying Jesus' life as self-evidently messianic and the latter by omitting the biographical framework altogether.

page 503 note 2 ‘Gattung’, p. 113.

page 504 note 1 Cf. what I said earlier (‘From christology to soteriology’, p. 40): ‘Jesus does not accomplish salvation; he is salvation. ’ This, of course, is consonant with the I-am sayings, most of which, incidentally, occur in discourses based on pre-Johannine sign narratives.

* A paper presented in slightly different form to the Christology seminar at the General Meeting of S.N.T.S. in Sigtuna, August 1974.

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