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Kramp, Igna Marion
Die Gärten und der Gärtner im Johannesevangelium. Eine raumsemantische Untersuchung.
Münster: Aschendorff Verlag 2017. X, 320 S. = Frankfurter Theologische Studien, 76. Geb. EUR 49,00. ISBN 978-3-402-16066-4.
James Buchanan Wallace
This monograph is Igna Kramp’s dissertation, accepted by the Saint George Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Frankfurt am Main and supervised by Prof. Dr. Ansgar Wucherpfenning, SJ. The dissertation received the doctorate award given by the Friends of Saint George Graduate School. This recognition was well deserved. K. offers consistently insightful and nuanced analysis of how gardens serve as narrative spaces in the Gospel of John.
The book consists of three parts: an introduction, the investigation, and a brief summary of its significance. In the introduction, K. observes that artwork often depicts the »Garden of Gethsemane«, which is a conflation of Matthew and Mark (who mention Gethsemane, Mark 14:32; Matt 26:36) with John, the only evangelist to call this space a garden (κῆπος, John 18:1, 26). John also calls the place where Jesus is buried a garden (19:41), and Mary Magdalene initially thinks the risen Jesus is the gardener (κηπουρός, 20:15). Interpreters have tended to interpret both of the gardens in John literally, as more or less historical places. Some argue that if John had intended a symbolic meaning, he would have used the term »paradise (παράδεισος).« Others, however, have offered modest explorations of symbolic meanings. K. insists that regardless of their historicity, the gardens are narrative spaces (35). A narrative space is not identical with the historical space where an event took place, even if that space exists in the topography of Jerusalem (38). The work on spatial semantics by Jurij M. Lotman thus offers a promis-ing theoretical basis for understanding the Johannine gardens as narrative spaces. Lotman observes, for example, that »der Erzählraum besteht aus einem inneren, geschlossenen und einem äußeren, offenen Raum« (46), and crossing this boundary can signal a significant event in the narrative (48).
The second part of the book, the investigation, is subdivided into three major sections. The first section investigates the use of the terms κῆπος, παράδεισος, and κηπουρός. Most significantly, K. determines that both παράδεισος and κῆπος can be used for this-worldly gardens, the Garden of Eden, and heavenly and/or eschatological gardens. Thus, while John’s choice of the word κῆπος does not necessitate symbolic interpretations, neither does it exclude them. The second section investigates the historicity of the gardens in the topography of Jerusalem. There is nothing his-torically implausible about a space on the Mount of Olives (mentioned in all three Synoptic Gospels) being a garden, or even that this garden may have been called Gethsemane. Nonetheless, at-tempts to interpret John by equating his garden with the places mentioned in the Synoptics may actually obscure John’s purposes, as he may have told his readers exactly what he wants them to focus on (90–91). A garden at or near Golgotha is possible but less plausible. Jewish purity laws would prevent consumption of anything grown in a garden where corpses were buried. Hence, it is unlikely that Jesus would have been buried in the kind of garden that would employ a gardener, as gardeners usually protected the food grown there (108). In 19:41, »garden« would be a fictive but not entirely implausible or blatantly misleading term to use. Ultimately, garden terminology in John should be investigated as imagined narrative space rather than simple historical description.
The third major section of part two makes up the bulk of the monograph and is dedicated to systematic exegesis of all those passages informed by garden terminology. The exegetical work is exceptionally well done. In her analysis of 18:1–11, K. makes excellent use of Lotman’s theoretical work. The garden is an enclosed space, where Jesus Christ, as God’s presence on earth, has been wont to meet with his disciples. It is thus like the primal garden of Genesis, representing a space where communion between the divine and human beings can take place. Building on the work of other interpreters, K. observes that Judas comes with representatives of both J ews and Gentiles. Those sent to arrest Jesus thus represent the entire cosmos hostile to God. But they do not enter the garden. Rather, Jesus, in complete control of the action, crosses the boundary from the garden into the hostile world, thus initiating the road to the passion (155–57).
K. argues convincingly that 19:41 indicates that the entire crucifixion episode – and not just the burial – took place in a garden. Why, then, was the space described as a garden so late in the narrative? K. claims that the scene in which blood and water flow from Jesus’s side had to precede John’s naming the space a garden. The blood and water relate to the concept in John that Jesus’s own body is a temple. In Ezekiel 47:1–12, the ideal temple has water flowing from it, which waters trees, making possible a connection between the eschatological temple and Paradise (204). The blood and water, moreover, symbolize the outpouring of the Spirit that now takes place. Only in light of this outpouring of the Spirit can the place of Jesus’s death be perceived as a garden, a place of life and growth, suggestive of both the eschatological temple and garden, now in the midst of the cosmos that Christ overcame by his death (228–29). Also worked in, especially through the description of the prepara-tion of Jesus’s body, are allusions to the Song of Songs, so the garden is also the place where the lover finds the beloved.
Unlike the garden of chapter 18, the garden of 19–20 is an open space. As we move into 20:1–17, which must take place in the garden, the narrative focuses on the closed space of the tomb, which does not contain the beloved whom the disciples seek. Readers are only reminded that the space is a garden when Mary Magdalene confuses the risen Jesus with the gardener. K. insightfully argues that this is a classic example of Johannine irony, in which the incorrect identification conceals a deeper truth: Jesus is the gardener, insofar as he is inaugurating a new creation (confirmed by brea-thing on the disciples in 20:22; see Genesis 2:7). At this point, how-ever, as Jesus speaks of his ascent to the Father, the spatial dimen-sions of the garden are losing their importance to be replaced by personal relationships: »Die frühjüdische Erwartung des Paradieses erfüllt sich nach Johannes nicht in einem Raum, sondern in der Person Jesus.« (280) What matters now is Jesus himself, as the way to the Father, and as one who can be present in any space, even the closed doors of the fearful worshiping community (279–80).
K. reveals that John 18–20 contains a rich tapestry of images and allusions that John interweaves to express his theological and christological vision. Naturally, many of K.’s exegetical insights derive from the work of other scholars. Her distinctive contribu-tion is the careful analysis of narrative spaces and how the characters and events relate to these spaces. K. thus develops the insights of others in new, distinctive ways. Moreover, although K. utilizes Lotman’s spatial hermeneutics, her theoretical perspective is used to understand the text of John more deeply, not vice versa. Her work is never inappropriately dominated by theory or laden with jargon. K.’s approach is especially helpful in the way it pushes against dichotomies and oversimplifications. Despite renewed interest in the historicity of the Gospel of John, the gardens of John cannot be reduced to mere topographical references, whether historical or not. While the gardens have symbolic meaning, they cannot be re-duced to static meanings in isolation from the roles they play within the narrative. The garden where Jesus is buried is not simp-ly the new Eden or the place where the lover and the beloved meet; rather, the language is suggestive of these meanings but the spa-tial dynamics point to the more ultimate reality of Jesus himself as the way to a renewed intimacy and communion between the Father and believers.
K. might have further improved this excellent work by clearly stating her understanding of the relationship between Synoptics and John. The monograph concludes with an index of biblical passages but lacks all other forms of indices. Nonetheless, K. makes an outstanding contribution to the literary and theological investigation of the Gospel of John.