Untrustworthy Believers

The Rhetorical Strategy of the Johannine Language of Commitment and Belief

In: Novum Testamentum
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  • 1 Bible College of South Australia, Malvern, Australia

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Abstract

The Gospel of John seeks to evoke belief, the kind of belief that leads to eternal life (20:31). Yet the language of belief is used to challenge the reader, as in 2:23-25 there are believers whose faith falls short of the belief that leads to life. This account confronts a reader unprepared for the appearance of inadequate faith. In confronting the reader, the scene serves a rhetorical function to provoke the reader to question why this faith falls short, and what genuine belief entails. This pattern is repeated in a series of episodes (6:60-71; 8:30-31; 15:1-6) where characters are described in terms of faith and commitment, and yet in each case the narrative conveys that their faith-response is inadequate. These episodes contribute to a rhetorical strategy whereby readers are continually challenged to understand the nature of genuine belief, in order that they might take on such genuine belief themselves.

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