Michael Labahn, «Between Tradition and Literary. Art. The Use of the Miracle Tradition in the Fourth Gospel», Vol. 80 (1999) 178-203
An examination of the miracle stories in the context of the fourth gospel shows that the Evangelist, using different literary techniques, presents his tradition as an important part of his narrative. The Johannine signs are closely linked to the context and by no means subordinate to the other literary genres. By means of the signs basic reactions to the eschatological event of the coming of the Son of God are pointed out. Through the encounter with the revealer represented in the text possible readers are invited to accept him as a pledge for eternal life.
believe in Jesus; the reader is invited also to believe. In most cases, the Evangelist adds discourse passages to the narrative units he found in his tradition. In composing discourse texts he probably also used traditional material26. This technique enables him to build colourful scenes that are sometimes more impressive than the formal synoptic parallels. The different structure of these scenes, the changing narrative strategies, and the diverging sequence of narrative, dialogical, and monological texts form individual units expressing different intentions. Therefore we have to read every miracle narrative in its own right. Only John 5 and 9 may be read together because of the structural paralells. Both stories are about a man cured by Jesus. But both persons act differently. Only the man born blind believes in Jesus. There are two different possibilities for the reader to read the signs; one can believe or one may refuse the high christological belief of the author of the Fourth Gospel. John 24 shows that the main aim in the Gospel is to awaken belief or perhaps to strengthen belief (cf. also 20,30-31).
These different strategies might have their reason in the different forms of tradition used by the writer of the gospel. For example, in John 5 and John 9 the dialogical structure of the whole narrative is prepared by the form of the tradition. In both chapters the narrator uses Sabbath conflict stories which were expanded by discourses27.
What about the literary or theological hierarchy between miracle story and discourse genre? Formally, the compositional role of the Johannine miracle stories cannot be considered to be marginal. John 2,1-11 forms an accentuated prelude not only for the ring composition 2,14,54 but also for all further signs: John 2,1-11 as the a)rxh/ tw=n shmei/wn is the first of all the signs and it functions as