Miracles and testimony in relation to faith in the gospel of John : a study in the text and its contexts
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It is not easy to describe the relationships between miracles and faith in the Gospel of John. On the one hand, the Gospel emphasizes the extraordinary nature of miraculous signs and their importance for believing in Jesus; on the other, it seems that in some passages faith based on miracles is disparaged and faith based on testimony is favored. Scholarly opinion on the matter varies from some admitting the existence of inconsistencies and explaining them by the usage of a separate source—or sources— which John loosely incorporated into his Gospel to others rejecting any tension at all and arguing for a consistent optimistic view of miracle-based faith in the Fourth Gospel. The purpose of the dissertation is to find out how John presents miracles and testimony in relation to faith in his Gospel and to explain, if possible, the origins of his view. In order to reach these objectives, it studies both the text of the Gospel and its contexts—theological and historical. In the text section, it analyzes all passages of the Fourth Gospel in which miracles and/or testimony are related to faith. In the context part, it surveys literature sources which might serve as background for the Gospel of John in its historical situation; these include the Old Testament, selected Second Temple literature, Greco-Roman literature, and rabbinic traditions. The study concludes that John does not belittle the value of faith that comes from seeing miracles; neither does he state that miracles are indispensable for believing. The Gospel shows both miracles and testimony as a means (although not always effective) to produce and strengthen faith, with the former being a content as well as a substantiation for the latter. However, John does not justify the absence of faith by the absence of miracles; instead, he claims the necessity of faith grounded only in testimony, faith without seeing, in the situation of the second and third generations where those are scarce. Such a view is not an invention of the author of the Fourth Gospel; it can be found in some Jewish sources, and even more so in the Exodus narrative of the Old Testament.