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.
III. Theological and Hermeneutical Conclusion
1. The Evangelist as a narrator
The author of the Fourth Gospel uses traditions for narrating his miracle stories. Sometimes he followed the form of his tradition. Often, however, he changed it fundamentally, so that the reconstruction of the tradition becomes difficult (especially in John 9 and 11)69. He arranges the traditions anew and joins them together in many different manners in his literary context. For that reason we are justified in speaking of the Fourth Evangelist as a narrator of the miracle stories; a narrator who creatively accepts the basic claim of his tradition although he also narrates the signs according to the manner of his own theological way of thinking. This method of narration is clearly a theological or christological one. By narrating the miracle stories the author makes christological, theological, and anthropological claims. The miracles are told to portray Jesus as Gods giver of life (see below III.2); in so far as people are seeing the signs or are hearing the narrated stories of these signs and are understanding them as signs of the sent revealer, they receive the true life. Receiving this life is anticipated in the signs that Jesus had done during his ministry on earth70. Therefore, the narration of the signs repeats the krisis (the separation) into believers and unbelievers. But the aim of the writer of the Fourth Gospel in narrating the miracle stories is to awaken and to strengthen faith in Jesus (see below III.3).
2. The johannine Jesus as the Life-Giver
One of the main concerns in narrating the miracle stories is to portray Jesus as the mediator of true life. My thesis is this: always implicitly, but frequently explicitly the Fourth Evangelist portrays the Jesus who works signs as the giver of life71.