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Assess the view that the signs in Johns Gospel are actually early Christian theology. (20 marks)

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Introduction

Assess the view that the signs in John's Gospel are actually early Christian theology. (20 marks) John's Gospel, the fourth gospel, is referred to as an account of Jesus' life and teachings. It contains many similarities to the synoptic gospels, most notably Mark, which suggests that much of what John has written is based on factual events. However, the evangelist's deviations from the synoptics, in both style and content, hint at John's Gospel being more than a historically and topographically accurate account. John explicitly says of the signs: '...these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.' (John 20:31) It is therefore clear that the signs have an evangelistic purpose. John's frequent references to Old Testament accounts might be one way that he fulfils this purpose, as they make the signs applicable and relevant to the Jewish reader, who would be very familiar with the Old Testament. ...read more.

Middle

John also uses the signs to give a broader perspective on individual events. This is reflected in his use of the word 'semeia' ('signs'), instead of 'dunameis' ('miracles') which is used in the synoptics. The word 'signs' emphasises the fact that the role and purpose of Jesus' miracles transcend the acts themselves: they fit into a wider divine scheme. There are six signs in John, which seems to be significant as six is considered an incomplete number in Jewish tradition, whereas seven is a whole number. The passion and resurrection occur after the six signs, with some scholars calling it the seventh sign, so it could be interpreted that Jesus' death on the cross is the fulfillment (or as Bultmann says, the 'crowning conclusion') of the signs that came before it. There are aspects of the signs that seem to point towards Jesus' future. For example, in the Water to Wine account, Jesus replies to his mother's prompt: "...why do you involve me?...My time has not yet come." ...read more.

Conclusion

Jesus' words are powerful and true, so the crippled man could not refuse to do as Jesus said. He had no option but to walk and be saved. There are details that are probably historically or topographically accurate in the signs. For example, the five porticoes mentioned in the Healing at the Pool have actually been found near the church of St Anne near Antonia. However, this does not mean that they do not have theological significance, namely symbolising the five Books of the Law. As Marsh quite rightly points out, details presented for theological reasons are not necessarily unhistorical. John (or his redactors) made a conscious chose to include each detail presented in the account. The very fact that John calls Jesus' miracles 'signs', and that all sorts of underlying messages can be found, means that they must be more than simply accounts of what happened. It is possible to argue, as Dodd does, that the reader tends to see symbolism where there is none. ...read more.

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