Grasping the Divine: apprehension of Jesus in the Gospel of John
Tam, Chi Chiu
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This thesis discusses the concept of "apprehension of Jesus" in the Gospel of John by focusing primarily on John's use of seeing, hearing, knowing, witnessing, remembering and believing terms. After briefly clarifying what is meant by a concept from a linguistic perspective, I analysed and examined the grammatical features of the key apprehension terms used. In view of the errors committed in previous studies of Johannine synonyms used for the apprehension terms, I set up the semantic fields for the concept of apprehension. On the basis of this linguistic foundation, I offer an exegetical analysis to investigate how the apprehension terms and related terms function in the contexts of the Gospel of John in order to show how John intends to affect his readers. Through my analysis of the selected passages and the persuasive strategies used in them, I argue for a new reading of the Gospel of John, proposing that there is a four-phased apprehension of Jesus where ideas of seeing, hearing, knowing, witnessing, and remembering collaborate with believing: (1) John 1-4. Initial encounters are characterised by a generally positive and sincere reception of Jesus which are guided by the message of the Jonannine preamble and monologues (1:1-5, 9-18; 3:16-21, 31-36); (2) John 5-12. Subsequent encounters are characterised by a largely negative and hostile response to Jesus; (3) John 13-17. Deepening encounters are focused on knowing Jesus in a more personal way and even beyond the time-frame of his earthly life; and (4) John 18-21. Heightened and climactic encounters engage the readers in a manner climactic to the overall plot. In a collaborative and progressive manner, the apprehension terms function in the four phases so as to demonstrate to the readers the multifaceted importance of faith; they highlight the characters' apprehension of Jesus and contribute to encourage faith in the readers. After identifying the author's persuasive strategies we shall be able to work out what his intended impact on the readers was. First, by depicting different characters' apprehension of Jesus, I shall show that John has a dual goal of faith-engendering and faith-fostering targeted to believing as well as non-believing readers. Second, by understanding how Jesus' own apprehension of the spiritual reality is relevant to the readers' perception of him, I shall show that the Gospel of John reminds readers of the importance of the "present"-ness of a living, omniscient, and divine Jesus. Third, an evaluation of John's strategy in helping his readers to understand the role of Jesus' signs and words will show that the activities of seeing signs and hearing words function complementary to bring about apprehension. The activities of "seeing" signs and "hearing" words in the parst are now associated with reading John's trustworthy testimony in the present. Finally, regarding the role of faith in perceiving Jesus, I explain that readers' belief/unbelief, as part of their apprehension/perception process, is open to challenging possibilities upon encountering and knowing the narrated Jesus. The readers of the Gospel of John should be struck by the fact that belief/unbelief is not only the end result of their process of apprehension of Jesus; it is also paradoxically their presupposition prior to the same apprehension in the Gospel of John. Thus, these four impacts generated from the four apprehension phases highlight the author's thoughtful concerns for his readers in subsequent generations. These findings present an original contribution to the significance of the concept of apprehension of Jesus which is insufficiently appreciated in current Johannine scholarship. They serve as the basis for opening new avenues for reflection and research.