The Temporal Mechanics of the Fourth Gospel

A Theory of Hermeneutical Relativity in the Gospel of John


Spiritual but broken, theological but flawed—these are the words critics use to describe the Gospel of John. Compared to the Synoptics, John’s version of the life of Jesus seems scrambled, especially in the area of time and chronology. But what if John’s textual and temporal flaws have more to do with our implicit assumptions about time than a text that is truly flawed? This book responds to that question by reinventing narrative temporality in light of modern physics and applying this alternative temporal lens to the Fourth Gospel. From the singularity in the epic prologue to the narrative warping of event-like objects, this work explodes the elemental temporalities simmering below the surface of a spiritual yet superior Gospel text.
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Biographical Note

Douglas Estes, Ph.D. (2006) in Theology/Biblical Studies, University of Nottingham, currently teaches at Western Seminary-San Jose, and serves as Lead Pastor at Berryessa Valley Church in San Jose, CA. He has a background in chemistry.

Review Quotes

Few books in biblical scholarship can truly be called groundbreaking. This is one of them.
David Rensberger, Biblical Interpretation 2010

Table of contents


Chapter One Prolegomena
1.1. Introduction
1.2. The Fourth Gospel as Narrative Literature
1.3. Method
1.3.1. Literary Origins of Narrative Criticism Russian Formalism New Criticism Structuralism Post-Structuralism
1.3.2. The Development of Narrative Criticism in Biblical Studies
1.3.3. Exploring the Temporal Mechanics of the Fourth Gospel A Semantic Approach A Traditional Approach A Historical Approach A Holistic Approach
1.4. Overview

Chapter Two The Mechanics of Time
2.1. Time in World
2.1.1. Time as a Line: Conventional Views of Time
2.1.2. Time as a Circle: Sacred versus Profane Time
2.1.3. Time as a Structure: The Philosophies of Time
2.1.4. Time as an Axis: Newton’s Absolute Time
2.1.5. Time as a Dimension: The Relativity of Time Time is Finite: The Edges of Time Time is Dimensional: The Shape of Spacetime Time is Deterministic: The Probability of Time Time is Warped: The Distortion of Spacetime Time is Restrictive: The Limits of Time
2.2. Time in Narrative
2.2.1. Narrative Time: A Paradigm of Relativistic Temporal Hermeneutics Narrative Time is Finite Narrative Time is Dimensional Narrative Time is Deterministic Narrative Time is Warped Narrative Time is Restrictive
2.2.2. Afterword: Narrative Time

Chapter Three Time is Finite
3.1. The Beginning of Time
3.1.1. The Temporal Function of the Prologue
3.1.2. The Temporal Function of Ἐν ἀρχῇ
3.2. The End of Time
3.2.1. The Temporal Function of Closure
3.2.2. Temporal Closure in the Epilogue
3.3. Afterword: Finite

Chapter Four Time is Dimensional
4.1. Pre-Modern Temporal Confi gurations
4.1.1. The Problem of a Pre-Modern Confi guration
4.1.2. The Solution: Demonstrable in Anthropology
4.1.3. The Solution: Demonstrable in Narratology
4.1.4. The Solution: Demonstrable in Historiography
4.1.5 The Solution: Demonstrable in Biblical Studies
4.2. A Temporal Confi guration of the Fourth Gospel
4.2.1. The Function of Temporal Markers
4.2.2. Temporal Markers in the Fourth Gospel Temporal Marker: Μετὰ ταῦτα Temporal Marker: Τῇ ἐπαύριον Temporal Descriptor: Ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα
4.3. Afterword: Dimensional

Chapter Five Time is Deterministic
5.1. Narrative Determinism
5.2. The Deterministic Nature of the Fourth Gospel
5.2.1. Diegetic Determinism
5.2.2. Diachronic Determinism
5.2.3. Anachronic Determinism
5.3. Afterword: Determinism

Chapter Six Time is Warped
6.1. The Tempo of the Text
6.1.1. The Variability of Narrative Tempo
6.1.2. The Tempo of the Fourth Gospel
6.2. Temporal Events and Temporal Discontinuities
6.2.1. The Function of Temporal Events Macro-Events: Episodes Events-Like Object: Temporal Value Words Events-Like Object: Temporal Process Words
6.2.2. The Function of Temporal Discontinuities
6.3. The Temporal Geodesic of the Fourth Gospel
6.4. Afterword: Warped

Chapter Seven Time is Restrictive
7.1. The Limits of Narrative
7.2. Possible Worlds
7.3. The Possible Worlds of the Fourth Gospel
7.3.1. The Witness World
7.3.2. The Epic World
7.4. The Function of Metalepsis in the Fourth Gospel
7.5. Afterword: Restrictive

Chapter Eight Conclusion

Index of Passages
Index of Authors
Subject Index


All those interested in the interpretation of the Gospels, biblical theology, postmodern hermeneutics, time and temporality, science and religion, ancient historiography and modern literary/narrative theory.


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