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Johannine Theosis: The Fourth Gospel's Narrative Ecclesiology of Participation and Deification

BYERS, ANDREW,JASON (2014) Johannine Theosis: The Fourth Gospel's Narrative Ecclesiology of Participation and Deification. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (The focus of this thesis is not the Johannine comunity behind the Gospel text, but the Johannine vision of community presented within the text. It is argued that this communal vision entails collective deification and divine participation.) - Accepted Version


Though John’s Gospel has been widely understood as ambivalent toward the idea of “church,” this thesis argues that ecclesiology is as central a Johannine concern as Christology. For the fourth evangelist, there is neither a Christless church nor a churchless Christ. Jesus is consistently depicted in the Gospel as a figure that destabilizes the social construct and generates a new communal entity. Rather than focusing on the community behind the text, the following study concentrates on the vision of community prescribed within the text. This vision is presented as a “narrative ecclesiology” by which the concept of “church” gradually unfolds throughout the Gospel’s sequence. Attending to this cumulative development, it will be argued that Johannine ecclesiology entails a corporate participation in the interrelation between the Father and Son, a participation helpfully described by the later patristic language of theosis. Before drawing on this theological discourse the thesis will provide exegesis on the theme of participation within the Prologue and the oneness motif. John 1:1–18 is recognized as one of the most influential Christological texts in early Christianity, but the passage’s Christology is inseparably bound to ecclesiology. The Prologue even establishes an “ecclesial narrative script”—an ongoing pattern of resocialization into the community around Jesus or, more negatively, of social re-entrenchment within the “world”—that governs the Gospel’s plot. The oneness theme functions within this script and draws on the Jewish theological language of the Shema: the Johannine claim to be “one” signifies that Christ-devotion does not constitute a departure from the “one God” of their Jewish religious tradition; moreover, to be “one” with this “one God” and his “one Shepherd” involves the believers’ participation within the divine family. Such participation warrants an ecclesial identity summed up in Jesus’ citation of Psalm 82: “you are gods.”

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Theosis, Deification, Participation, Ecclesiology, Gospel of John, Fourth Gospel, Johannine Community, Prologue, Shema, John 17
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Dec 2014 10:46

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