Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Hills, Julian V.

Second Advisor

Burns, Joshua E.

Third Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre A.

Abstract

In 1996, Robert F. Kysar identified one of the leading issues that would form scholarly debate regarding the Fourth Gospel for decades to come: whether the Fourth Gospel is designed to strengthen and affirm the faith of those inside a Johannine community (a sectarian document/community) or to bring to faith those who were not yet part of that community (an evangelistic tract/missionary community). The sectarian position, often connected to the work of J. Louis Martyn, Raymond E. Brown, and Wayne A. Meeks, has become the received tradition in Johannine studies. Increasingly, others have called into question not only the results but also the working presuppositions of the sectarian position and the supposedly positivistic mirror reading of the text that posits a “Johannine community,” while giving detailed attention to the Gospel’s trans-sectarian elements. Yet neither position can be said to be superior, so far as satisfying exegesis is concerned: neither accounts for the existence of both sectarian and evangelistic elements. As a means of rapprochement and a way forward in the debate, this work offers an authorial reading of the Fourth Gospel that suggests that the textual intention of the Gospel is to inculcate witnessing in its readers. By means of characterization, marked instances of narration, the employment and modification of recognition scenes, and other narrative elements, the implied author repeatedly returns to the motif of bearing witness in such a way that by the end of the narrative, the reader has learned to associate faith and discipleship with bearing witness and to understand that witnesses are themselves “signs.” As scholars in the areas of evangelism and fundamental theology have articulated, bearing witness is a praxis of the Christian community that is both community forming (“sectarian”—directed to strengthening the faith of community members) and evangelistic (“trans-sectarian”—directed toward creating faith in hearers). A witness-bearing authorial audience, rather than a sectarian one, better accounts for known second-century, post-apostolic concerns and the narrative situation in which the last member of the apostolic generation is writing to the post-apostolic generation in an effort to continue the mission of Jesus to the world.

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