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The evangelist included the signs in order to make people believe. Assess this claim. (20 marks)

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Introduction

'The evangelist included the signs in order to make people believe.' Assess this claim. (20 marks) There is much speculation from scholars as to why John chose to include the signs, which are unique to the fourth gospel. Broadly speaking, there are two main views. The first is that the signs were intended purely to be accurate accounts of Jesus' miracles, featuring historically and topographically factual details. The second, and perhaps more widely held, is that John had an evangelistic purpose in mind when he wrote the signs: he wanted to make his readers believe. John chooses to use the word 'semeia', meaning 'signs', rather than the 'dunameis' ('mighty act', used in the synoptics) to denote the miracles that Jesus performs. Whereas 'act' is a word firmly rooted in a particular place and timeframe, the word 'sign' evokes the idea of the miracles pointing to something else, or foretelling a future event. ...read more.

Middle

For example, neither the third or fourth sign ends with true faith from those involved. In the third sign, the Healing at the Pool, the crippled man does not embrace Christ's teachings but instead goes straight to the Jewish authorities, and even tries to shift blame onto Jesus for disregarding the rules of the Sabbath. At the end of the fourth sign, the Feeding of the 5,000, the crowd tries to make Jesus king by force. They do not understand that, as Sanders and Mastin put it, 'Jesus was a king, but...his kinship was not of this world'. Both signs three and four end in the same way: with Jesus quietly leaving the scene, because he has failed to inspire people to faith as he had hoped. Although these signs do result in negative outcomes, they are quite possibly a tool John has deliberately employed to help his readers understand the nature of faith. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, Marsh suggests that the 38 years could be a deliberate parallel to the 40 days that Moses spent wandering the desert. This parallel might be intended as a subtle message to the reader that Christ has fulfilled Judaism, making it good, just as Jesus makes the crippled man better in the sign. The details that John includes in the signs may also be a way of validating them and convincing the reader that Jesus' miracles did take place. It seems that the title claim is justified, and that John's main purpose for the signs was in fact to make his readers believe. Not only is it explicitly stated in John 20:31, but there is evidence for it throughout the signs. Whilst it appears at first that the gospel being a theological piece of writing and it being an accurate account are mutually exclusive, the two attributes do overlap. As Marsh notes, the historical and topographical details in John often give rise to symbolism and provoke theological thought, and can be just as important as the fictitious component of the signs in encouraging faith in the reader. ...read more.

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