2013.07.16 | Craig R. Koester and Reimund Bieringer, eds. The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John. WUNT 222. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. Pp. viii + 358. ISBN: 9783161495885.
Review by Josaphat Tam, University of Edinburgh.
Many thanks to Mohr Siebeck for providing us a review copy.
This book is a collection of essays on an important topic desperately needed in Johannine studies, even up to now. Many of the essays are from papers presented in various “Johannine Writings Seminars” of the Society for New Testament Studies (SNTS) over the period 2005—2007. The thirteen essays cover various aspects of resurrection in the Gospel of John, from the motif itself, the resurrection appearances, to its connection with the cross, the farewell discourse, the Johannine signs, the ascension motif, the concept of remission of sin, and eschatology.
The first insightful essay of Harold W. Attridge, “From Discord Rises Meaning: Resurrection Motifs in the Fourth Gospel,” reviews strategies to deal with the tension between the “already” and “not yet” aspects of resurrection in John. Both redactional hypotheses in dialogue with the Gospel of Thomas tradition and an integrative eschatological framework suggested by N. T. Wright are considered as not fully adequate to deal with the concept in John, where resurrection is both in the future and a present reality in encountering Jesus. From the perspective of the reader, Attridge suggests that the tension could be resolved in appreciating the relationship expressed in abiding in Jesus who abides in the Father. Such relationship is the core essence of the Spirit-powered forgiveness in John 20—21 and is shown from the experience of lived engagements with the risen Jesus as the ground for belief. The hopes for a future literal resurrection are realized in living a life of Spirit-filled love, forgiven and rooted in experiencing the resurrected reality of Christ (p.19).
John Painter, in “‘The Light Shines in the Darkness…’: Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection in John,” argues that the Johannine notion of creation implies incarnation and resurrection; resurrection presumes creation and incarnation. Both can be traced from the Prologue and its derived body of the gospel. Interestingly, Painter explores echoes of various Genesis passages in John 20—21.
Craig R. Koester’s “Jesus’ Resurrection, the Signs, and the Dynamics of Faith in the Gospel of John” discusses John’s approach to the question of faith due to the limited time frame of Jesus’ incarnate ministry, especially in light of his resurrection. John has to deal with Jesus’ absence for his readers. As such, both the post-resurrection perspective of the gospel (including its treatment on the relationship of signs/resurrection appearances to faith) and the stress on the work of the Paraclete given by the risen Christ are treated under such concern.
Ruben Zimmermann’s “The Narrative Hermeneutics in John 11: Learning with Lazarus how to understand Death, Life, and Resurrection” aims at finding insights from the Lazarus’ account that can “break through” the debate on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Conducting a literary analysis of John 11, prototypes of faith are identified from the siblings therein. Zimmerman then attempts to argue that they represent John’s emphasis on the “enduring closeness to the risen Christ” (here-and-now aspect) rather than the eschatological resurrection. This guides us to understand Jesus’ resurrection similarly as being “drawn into the challenges and encouragement of the present reality of Jesus” and experiencing “the counterfactual reality of life” (p.101).
Jean Zumstein approaches “Jesus’ Resurrection in the Farewell Discourses” by first exploring the hermeneutical perspective of proleptic statements in the farewell discourse. Exegesis of John 14:18-26 and 16:16-22 are then conducted. Zumstein argues that these two texts represent “a hermeneutical ‘portal’ allowing one to decode the significance of the end of Christ’s life in its entire meaning” (p.125).
Udo Schnelle’s “Cross and Resurrection in the Gospel of John” starts similarly by making observations from the Johannine post-resurrection perspective. With this perspective and the understanding of John as a “new literary genre,” Schnelle asks the question that whether “the cross and resurrection belong to the principles that guide John’s narrative and theological presentation of the story of Jesus Christ” (p.130). (Schnelle’s dialogue partner here is Ernst Käsemann who downplays them as no longer developed theologically, given Jesus’ divinity.) The answer is obviously yes. Schnelle shows this by carefully weaving the thread of the cross and resurrection through John. He argues that “the cross undergoes a semantic enhancement and a literary-rhetorical compression in which it becomes an abbreviation for a complex event” (p.149).
Sandra M. Schneiders, in “Touching the Risen Jesus: Mary Magdalene and Thomas the Twin in John 20,” proposes that Jesus’ resurrection is not “physical” but “bodily” such that “his body continues to mediate his relationship with his disciples but in a way that is both continuous and discontinuous” with the pre-Easter Jesus (p.154). Stating her presuppositions on the Johannine eschatology and anthropology (where she attempts to differentiate σάρξ and αἷμα from σῶμα), Schneiders discusses Jesus’ seemingly contradictory commands on touching him (to Mary Magdalene and Thomas) in 20:11-18, 24-29. She argues that, according to John, “faith based on seeing pre-paschal signs” should now be supplanted by “post-paschal faith that will be based on a new kind of sign” (p.169), namely the apostolic testimony mediated by the church as demonstrated in the characters’ experience. In a dichotomous manner, the resurrection narrative is not about vindicating Jesus but about where and how Jesus’ (first and future) disciples (will) encounter him as their Lord.
Jesper Tang Nielsen’s “Resurrection, Recognition, Reassuring: The Function of Jesus’ Resurrection in the Fourth Gospel” sets the discussion on the text’s “implied reading strategy” aiming at influencing real readers. Taking insights from Aristotle’s Poetics and from the perspective of narrative theory and communicative levels (narrative and discoursive), Nielsen applies them to issues related to the resurrection in the gospel with regard to John’s main structure, substructure, hamartia, and provoking emotional response.
Reimund Bieringer, in “‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (John 20:17): Resurrection and Ascension in the Gospel of John,” investigates the ascension theme in the resurrection context. With a sensible exegesis of different elements in 20:17 and taking tradition-critical and redaction-critical approaches, Bieringer sees the problem of fitting Jesus’ prohibition to touch (v.17b) with his ascension to the father (v.17c) as unsettled. To him, such chronological approach to the relationship of resurrection and ascension is a dead-end. Adopting a compositional-critical approach, he compares John 20:14-17 to Matt 28:9-10 (he sees a dependence on the synoptic here) and suggests that John corrects Matthew, by stressing that the Father should be the one to be approached and worshipped, not the risen Christ (touching him).
Johannes Beutler’s “Resurrection and the Remission of Sins: John 20:23 against Its Traditional Background” deals with the forgiveness motif in 20:19-23 and its connection to the New Testament tradition and the Old Testament and Jewish traditions behind. He shows that (1) the disciples’ forgiving/retaining sins derives its authority from Jesus’ resurrection, his presence among them, and commissioning them; (2) John is probably more influenced by Luke 24:36-49 than Matt 16:19 and 18:18; (3) the eschatological promises in Jewish traditions are at work in the Johannine text based on his study on the relevant semantic fields; the Jewish concept of new covenant also lurks in the background.
R. Alan Culpepper, in “Realized Eschatology in the Experience of the Johannine Community,” discusses the effect the realized eschatology of the early Johannine Christians has on their ecclesiology. Examining the eschatological terms used in John and the elements of Jewish and early Christian eschatology used in John, Culpepper concludes that both confirm John’s emphasis on realized eschatology though a future eschatology is not forsaken. Culpepper then discusses its implications to the Johannine community, including the Johannine mysticism of oneness with God, participation in the community’s sacred meal, adherence to the ethic of Jesus’ teaching, the issue of sin in the community, new kinship language for community members, and both enmity with and strong missionary mandate to the world.
Hans-Ulrich Weidemann’s “Eschatology as Liturgy: Jesus’ Resurrection and Johannine Eschatology” tackles again the connection of the resurrection account to the Farewell Discourse and the possibility of John’s dependence on the synoptic tradition. Weidemann considers both traditions derive from an older common tradition. Treating the three parts of the farewell discourses (13:31-14:31; 15:1-16:4a; 16:4b-33) as presupposing John 20 through Andreas Dettwiler’s model of relecture, he considers Jesus’ predictions, promises, and prophecies made in the farewell discourse to relate to later generations of the Johannine community more than the first disciples through the community’s liturgical Sitz im Leben and experience of the Paraclete.
The last essay, “The Significance of the Resurrection Appearance in John 21” by Martin Hasitschka, explores the numerous verbal connections of the two episodes of John 21:1-14 and vv.15-22 to chapters 1—20. He argues that John 21 should be read as an integral part of the gospel. In light of the faith of Easter, the disciples grasp deeper the true meaning of Jesus’ deeds and words before his death and resurrection.
Of these thirteen essays written by well-established Johannine scholars, one will find some of them intriguing but some are more contested or less convincing. Of course, more can be discussed under the topic of resurrection in John, like the role of John’s (collective) memory in shaping the resurrection motif and the correlation of the idea of testimony in the resurrection account to the gospel as a whole. Nevertheless, the present collection of essays already proves to be a big feast. Readers of the Johannine literature know that there is already a huge amount of English secondary literature in the scholarly field in recent decades but they will be benefited by these authors’ bringing in more from the German and French scholarship.
The book appears carefully edited. Indices of references to scriptures and ancient texts and of modern authors prove useful to readers. Only minor defects are detected: a few typos (p.76-100 wrong spelling of “Zimmerman” in the page headers; p.125 “johannine” [3x]; p.254 line 10 “have” instead of “has”), missing coma (p.247 line 15), and redundant space (p.258 line 13). They are hoped to be corrected in future reprints.
Josaphat C. Tam
School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh
Josaphat.Tam [ at ] ed.ac.uk