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.
A further example of a more elaborated form of the context-oriented interpretation of the tradition is the Lazarus narrative which is made part of the reference system of the gospel as a whole; this shows that the text has a crucial meaning as a watershed in the narrated saga of the revealer.
2. Reader-directed comments
Wolfgang Iser stresses the importance of reader-directed remarks in a narrative:
"The comments may provoke a variety of reactions They can disconcert, arouse opposition, charm with contradiction, and frequently uncover many unexpected features of the narrative process, which without these clues one might not have noticed. And so such comments do not provide any definite assessment of the events; rather, they offer an assessment that contains different possibilities open to the readers choice"59.
The investigation of the tradition does not only show that the Fourth Evangelist frequently composes dialogue forms and misunderstandings but also that he instructs his readers through comments and commentaries and that he enriches his stories by the use of irony (cf., e.g., John 9)60. For theological reasons the reaction of the reader provoked by the comments in the narrative is not arbitrary; the readers reaction is the choice between belief and unbelief, and therefore, the choice between life and death. Prominent examples are the interpretation signals in 2,11 and 11,4. The importance of these signals for the theology of the Johannine signs should not be underestimated. These signals are "implicit reception