Jesus and suffering in John 9 : a narratological reading from within Karanga faith communities

Chomutiri, E. M. (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2009-12)

Thesis (DTh (Old and New testament))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The thesis is mainly concerned with Jesus’ perspective on suffering according to John 9. The dramatic events in John 9 were triggered by a question by Jesus’ disciples about the cause of an unnamed blind beggar’s blindness. The disciples wanted to know whether the blindness was caused by the beggar’s sins or by the sins of his parents (;<= >?@A;BC; – 9:2). Jesus, however, instead of addressing the cause of the man’s blindness, surprisingly and ironically shifted the focus to its purpose: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (HC@ I@CBAJKLM ;N OAP@ ;QRM KBQRM SC @T;UM – 9:3). Ultimately, it is not the man’s blindness that is the issue in John 9, but how people understand Jesus as the revelation of God. This radical shift in perspective, and its implications for first and later audiences/readers of John’s Gospel, is the main question to be addressed by the thesis. Because of Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question, the researcher chose John 9 as a key section for understanding Jesus’ perspective on suffering. The purpose of the study is to explore the nature and implications of Jesus’ response to the blind beggar’s condition – particularly in opening up new possibilities of experiencing God’s presence in Jesus the Messiah, the giver of light and life. Chapter 1 of the thesis is the introduction of the investigation covering the research problem, hypothesis, motivation for the study, its proposed contribution, preliminary studies undertaken and the methodology to be followed. The research was done through a narratological reading of John 9. Chapter 2 contributes to the research question by explaining different elements of narrative theory such as implied author, implied audience or readers, narrator, characters, point of view, settings and plot development. Since these are major elements of a narrative theory, the same elements will be used in the following chapters of the thesis. Chapter 3 analyses the narrative of John 9:1-41 according to the categories discussed in chapter 2 of the thesis. The main question to be addressed is Jesus’ response to his disciples’ question regarding the cause of the beggar’s blindness. For Jesus it is not the cause of the man’s physical blindness that is the issue, but the cause of the spiritual blindness of the Jews who do not recognise him as God’s Messiah (cf 9:2, 41). The structure of John 9 takes the form of a drama in seven scenes. The purpose of this chapter of the thesis is to explore who Jesus is – inter alia through the (speech) acts of different characters in the seven scenes, through different settings, and the plot development in John 9. Chapter 4 elaborates on the research question with respect to John 9 by focusing on Jesus and suffering in the post-synagogal movement. The investigation into the relationship between Jesus and suffering in John 9 is extended to John 10-12 where the narration continues of Jesus giving light and new life to people. The anti-language in John’s Gospel reflects a new social group that upheld an alternative reality that ran counter to the social realities of society at large. In the final analysis John had a clear and explicit purpose in mind: “These miraculous signs are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Chapter 5 of the thesis focuses on the Karanga people’s interaction with the implied narratological purpose of John 9. The traditional belief of the Karanga is that any kind of illness, misfortune or death is a consequence of sin committed by a member of the community or family, which seems to be analogous to Jewish beliefs according to the disciples’ question in John 9:2. This belief is challenged fundamentally by Jesus’ practical yet ironical response. Chapter 5 of the thesis discusses the anticipated response to John 9 of present-day Karanga faith communities. It concludes by suggesting new faith responses to the Karanga people’s experience of illness and death, according to Jesus’ perspective on suffering in John 9.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die tesis gaan hoofsaaklik oor Jesus se perspektief op lyding volgens Johannes 9. ‘n Vraag van Jesus se dissipels oor die oorsake van ‘n onbekende blinde bedelaar se kondisie het gelei tot die dramatiese gebeure in Johannes 9. Die dissipels wou weet of die bedelaar se blindheid deur sy sonde of die sonde van sy ouers veroorsaak is (;<= ?@A;BC; - 9:2). Jesus skuif die fokus op verrassende en ironiese wyse van die oorsaak van die blindheid na die doel daarvan (HC@ I@CBAJKLM ;N OAP@ ;QRM KBQRM SC @T;UM – 9:3). Uiteindelik gaan dit in Johannes 9 nie oor die man se blindheid nie, maar oor hoe mense Jesus as die openbaring van God verstaan. Hierdie radikale skuif in perspektief, en die implikasies daarvan vir aanvanklike en latere gehore/lesers van die evangelie volgens Johannes, word die primere vraag wat in die tesis aangespreek word. In die lig van Jesus se reaksie op die dissipels se vraag, kies die navorser Johannes 9 as ‘n sleutel-gedeelte om Jesus se perspektief op lyding te verstaan. Die doel van die studie is om die aard en implikasies van Jesus se reaksie op die blinde bedelaar se toestand te ondersoek – veral in die oopbreek van nuwe moontlikhede om God se teenwoordigheid te ervaar in Jesus, die Messias, die gewer van lig en lewe. Hoofstuk 1 van die tesis is die inleiding tot die ondersoek en dek die navorsingsprobleemstelling, hipotese, motivering vir die ondersoek en voorgestelde bydrae daarvan, voorafgaande studies wat gedoen is, en die metodologie wat gevolg word. Die navorsing is gedoen deur middel van ‘n narratologiese lees van Johannes 9. Hoofstuk 2 van die tesis dra by tot die navorsingsvraag deur die verskillende elemente van narratiewe teorie te beskryf, soos die geimpliseerde gehoor of lesers, verteller, karakters, standpunte, tonele, en storielyn-ontwikkelings. Aangesien hierdie die hoofelemente van ‘n narratiewe teorie is, word dieselfde elemente in al die ander hoofstukke van die tesis gebruik. Hoofstuk 3 analiseer die verhaal in Johannes 9:1-41 aan die hand van die kategoriee wat in hoofstuk 2 van die tesis bespreek is. Die hoofvraag wat aangespreek word, is Jesus se antwoord oor die oorsaak van die bedelaar se blindheid. Vir Jesus gaan dit nie oor die oorsaak van die man se fisieke blindheid nie, maar die oorsaak van die geestelike blindheid van die Jode, wat hom nie erken as God se Messias nie (cf 9:2, 41). Die struktuur van Johannes 9 is in die vorm van ‘n drama met sewe tonele. Die doel van hierdie hoofstuk van die tesis is om te ondersoek wie Jesus is – onder andere deur die optrede van verskillende karakters in die sewe tonele, deur verskillende plasings en die storielyn-ontwikkeling in Johannes 9. Hoofstuk 4 brei verder uit op die navorsingsvraag met betrekking tot Johannes 9 deur te fokus op Jesus en lyding in die post-sinagoge beweging. Die ondersoek oor die verband tussen Jesus en lyding in Johannes 9 word uitgebrei na Johannes 10-12, waar die vertelling van Jesus wat lig en lewe gee, voortgesit word. Die anti-taal in die Johannes-evangelie reflekteer ‘n nuwe sosiale groep wat ‘n alternatiewe sosiale realiteit handhaaf, teenoor die sosiale realiteite van die gemeenskap as geheel. Uiteindelik het die Johannes-evangelie ‘n duidelike en eksplisiete doel gehad: “Maar hierdie wondertekens is beskrywe sodat julle kan glo dat Jesus die Christus is, die Seun van God, en sodat julle deur te glo, in sy Naam die lewe kan hê (20:31). Hoofstuk 5 van die tesis fokus hoofsaaklik op die Karanga mense se interaksie met die geimpliseerde narratologiese doel van Johannes 9. Die tradisionele geloof van die Karanga is dat enige vorm van siekte, ongeluk of dood ‘n gevolg is van sonde wat deur ‘n lid van die gemeenskap of familie gepleeg is. Volgens die dissipels se vraag in Johannes 9:2 lyk dit of as pekte van die Joodse geloof hiermee ooreen gestem het. Die geloof word fundamenteel uitgedaag deur Jesus se praktiese dog ironiese reaksie. Hoofstuk 5 van die tesis bespreek die verwagte reaksie op Johannes 9 van hedendaagse Karanga Christengemeenskappe. Dit sluit af deur ‘n nuwe geloofs-reaksie vir die Karanga mense se ervaring van siekte en dood voor te stel volgens Jesus se reaksie op die dissipels se vraag in Johannes 9:2.

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