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Koester, Craig R., and Reimund Bieringer[Eds.]
The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2008. VIII, 358 S. gr.8° = Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 222. Lw. EUR 89,00. ISBN 978-3-16-149588-5.
Jan van der Watt
»The resurrection of Jesus plays a central and yet disputed role in the narrative and theology of John’s gospel« (VII). This sentence from the editors grasps the essence of this volume on John’s Gospel. Based on work done on the topic of the resurrection in John’s gospel in the »Johannine writings seminar« of the SNTS (Societas Novi Testamenti Studiorum) since 2005 this volume offers 13 articles by some of the leading scholars in the field of Johannine studies (it is a pity that personal information about the contributors was not added however). The way the resurrection is treated in this Gospel is approached from different angles, illustrating the centrality of the theme in the Gospel, but at the same time showing why the resurrection in John is indeed disputed. Although all the articles deal with the resurrection, the angles from which the theme of resurrection is approached, as well as the methodological diversity with which the text is treated, results in a very interesting and rich volume.
In the opening article Harold Attridge starts by mentioning the tensive elements in the Gospel and then discusses the different sections or texts dealing with the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel. He constantly keeps the tension inherent in the Johannine text in mind and in the end integrates the different elements presented by the Johannine text. He emphasizes the experience of the presence of the resurrected one as grounds for belief – the resurrection stories are all grounded in the presence of the resurrected one. This presence is encountered in the community where the Spirit resides. The realized dimension is indeed expressed in a Spirit-filled life that is characterized by love that issues forgiveness. Though this is a realized experience, there is hope for a continued relationship.
John Painter follows with a particular analysis of the Prologue. His contribution is entitled: »›The light shines in the darkness …‹ Creation, incarnation, and resurrection in John«. Through his analysis of the Prologue, he illustrates the relationship between the incarnation, creation and resurrection. In creation and the incarnate life of Jesus the light shines into the darkness. The role of creation is an important point to make regarding the resurrection theme in this Gospel; though creation is not mentioned that often, the theme is consistently present and it is influential in the Gospel. Painter makes this point clearly. However, it is a pity that Painter largely relies on older literature to craft and substantiate his argument.
Craig Koester investigates the relationship between Jesus’ resurrection, and the signs and the dynamics of faith in the Gospel. He begins by focusing thoroughly on faith in John’s gospel and then considers the similarities between signs and the resurrection appearances. After the function of the spoken word and »seeing« the signs performed by Jesus have received his attention, the way in which the patterns developed in connection with the signs are related to the resurrection itself. Finally he moves on to reflecting upon the continuing activity of Jesus through the verbal witness of his disciples and the work of the Spirit. This makes faith possible and links the resurrection of Jesus to the resurrection of those who will follow him.
Ruben Zimmermann writes a thought-provoking article on John 11, focusing on the complex dynamics of this portion of the text. He calls his article: »The narrative hermeneutics of John 11. Learning with Lazarus how to understand death, life and resurrection«. He analyzes the text carefully and then shows how Mary, Martha and Lazarus each function as a prototype of faith: Martha believes in the more traditional way, Mary, by contrast, is led more by her emotions and gestures in her faith. Lazarus, however, distinguishes himself »through simple action, through the life itself that is born out of death« (97–98).
In his contribution Jean Zumstein gives attention to the resurrection in the Farewell discourses. He ably illustrates the hermeneutical perspective that dominates the Farewell discourses – noting that it should be read from a post-Easter point of view. He also gives attention to the narrative time and specifically to the Easter prolepses.
With a series of very pertinent hermeneutical questions Udo Schnelle approaches the problem of the cross and the resurrection in John’s gospel. He carefully moves through the Gospel showing how the cross and the resurrection are integrated throughout the Gospel, guiding its composition. He also gives attention to what he calls the key conceptual points regarding the cross and the resurrection. By integrating the different aspects he illustrates how John brings together very different streams of tradition.
The article of Sandra Schneiders is provocative to read. However it did create some mixed feelings, especially in light of Bieringer’s article that overlaps on certain important issues. Schneiders’ article deals with the issue of the bodily resurrection of Jesus by first making a semantic distinction between the physical and bodily aspects of humans. On this basis she argues that Mary, Thomas, and subsequently the later followers of Jesus see the sacramental and not the physical body of the Lord, which is mediated by, and trough, the church. Jesus has risen bodily and is now acting through his ecclesial body. What caused the mixed feelings when reading this article was that too many assumptions were made without proper substantiation or clear arguments in their favor. If one compares the thoroughness of the argument in Bieringer’s submission with that of Schneiders on what the semantic possibilities of, for instance, haptou are, the point becomes exceedingly clear. A characteristic of Bieringer’s article is the careful attention he pays to the grammar of the text. At one point he even engages with Schneiders and shows that although her suggestion is grammatically possible, it must be rejected on the basis of other reasonable considerations. One of Bieringer’s main points is that John 20:14–17 was dependent on Matthew 28:9–10 and although he makes a good case, I was not convinced in the end.
Nielsen reads the resurrection texts in the light of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy and tragic emotions. He gives attention to the performative nature of the text. Johannes Beutler is interested in the forgiveness of sins (John 20:23). He interprets John 20:23 within the broader perspective of the Gospel and then looks at the text from the perspective of the New Testament tradition that it reflects. This discussion is followed by a consideration of the text in relation to the Old Testament and Jewish traditions.
Culpepper wrote an excellent article, integrating various aspects of Johannine theology in order to come to a thoughtful consideration of the realized eschatology in the experience of the Johannine community. He concludes by discussing five areas in which the realized eschatology shaped the experience of the community, for instance, it gave them an experience of oneness with God, the reality of sin became problematic, there was a lack of institutionalized authority and they had a strong mandate of mission to the world.
Weidemann wrote an article on eschatology as liturgy relating it to the resurrection while Hasitschka discussed the significance of the resurrection appearance in John 21. He distinguishes the roles of Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Indexes of references and of modern authors conclude the book.
Obviously, in a rich and diverse book like this one, there is room for discussion and difference of opinion, also by the reviewer, but the volume itself is self-critical enough in the sense that the different contributors were free to express themselves. Although there are strong similarities in the views of the different contributors – for instance, all agree that the resurrection is important, that it forms an integral part of the theology of John, (many agree) that eschatology and the Spirit are central, etc. – the variety of views and approaches guarantees thought provoking and stimulating reading.
The quality of the articles in this book as well as the specific and detailed focus on the resurrection will ensure this book’s place among the important books to be consulted when studying the Gospel according to John.