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Discuss the Nature and Purpose of the Signs in John's Gospel.

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Introduction

Gabriela Belmar-Valencia 13CA 24th September 2003 Discuss the Nature and Purpose of the Signs in John's Gospel The word used by John for signs was "semeia" as opposed to "dunamis" used in the Synoptic Gospels. "Semeia" literally means signpost, meaning that signs point towards a spiritual truth. The signs are heavily laden with symbolism and serve John's Gospel almost as the parables do in the Synoptic Gospels. For example the changing of water into wine at the Wedding at Cana is symbolic of Jesus transforming the inadequacy of Judaism into Christianity. The Wedding Ceremony itself is symbolic, as Israel is often depicted as being an unfaithful bride which Jesus as the true bridegroom, has come to claim. Barrett backs up this point maintaining that signs are marks or signals. The signs in John's Gospel are characterised by being especially spectacular. For example feeding a crowd of five thousand people from five loaves and two fish and still having twelve baskets to spare is fairly impressive. ...read more.

Middle

Evidence to support this is plentiful in the signs themselves, for example, in the Healing of the Official's Son Jesus states "unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe." Barrett supports this asserting that there are clear indications that he by whom the signs are wrought is the Son of God and equal to God himself. Motyer gives four more characteristics of signs. Each sign obviously contains a miraculous event, for example changing water to wine without the aid of equipment. There is also generally a command from Jesus, for example in the Healing at the Pool Jesus commands a paralysed man to "pick up your mat and walk" John 6. Motyer's fourth characteristic of John's signs is that they are all of pivotal significance in the Gospel. As well as having their own spiritual meaning, they are all linked to a discourse in some way which explains the sign further. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example in 1 Kings 17 "Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said 'look your son will live'." The same phrase "your son will live" is used by Jesus in the Healing of the Official's Son. The signs also reveal different aspects of the person of Jesus. For example, the Wedding at Cana reveals highlights "Jesus the Transformer". The Healing of the Official's Son shows Jesus as being Life Giver, linking back to John's prologue "In him was life". It also reveals his compassion. Jesus as a Judge, having divine authority from God, is revealed in the Healing of the Pool when Jesus breaks the Law of the Sabbath by telling the paralytic to "pick up your mat and walk", later going on to state "The Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son". The signs are complex and important events in John's Gospel laden with symbolism and spiritual meaning and also, according to Peter Vardy, demonstrating Jesus' love for people. ...read more.

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