‘Work’ in the Gospel of John: a cognitive perspective
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date20/06/2023
Józsa PhD, Bertalan
The abundance of figurative expressions in the Gospel of John have always puzzled readers. The text’s riddles pose a challenge in various ways, occurring both on the linguistic and on the hermeneutical levels. The current thesis attempts to elucidate one path of this interpretational maze. ‘Work’ appears as a precarious topic in the text. It is not only present through various action-oriented expressions, both literal and figurative, but it has serious theological implications as well. Attentive readers have always perceived that, as a general conceptualisation or idea containing different kinds of activities, ‘work’ has defined the gospel’s soteriological message. John’s theology on this matter, however, is not unequivocal, as it is not only this work aspect that is expressed throughout the narrative but even more so ‘believing in’ Jesus appears as a preconditioned action for attaining eternal life. Using the conceptual metaphor theory to point out action-oriented metaphorical linguistic expressions, and thus to highlight the idea of work-theology in the gospel, I claim that work as a theological topic is first and foremost connected to the idea of eternal life and thus to the idea of salvation. Its ethical consequences, a current debate in Johannine scholarship, is only secondary to that. The thesis consists of six chapters that build up the main body of the argumentation. After an Introduction to the thesis that briefly presents different layers of tension in the scholarship, in Chapter 1, I trace the history of research concerning the figurativeness of the text. There are two main lines of analysis prevalent in the last five decades: those who understand the figurative language via symbols, and those who interpret it through metaphors. Chapter 2 presents the sophisticated conceptual metaphor theory, a complex methodology that provides access to a comprehensive metaphorical analysis. Using the improvements of Zoltán Kövecses, the context-induced and multi-level view of metaphors helps us to map the ACTIVITY metaphorical network in the text. This linguistic analysis is the content of Chapter 3. In Chapter 4 I present a diachronic approach to the concepts of WORK and PLANT in ancient literature. First, I look at conceptualisations of soteriological work, that is, perceptions of working for salvation in Graeco-Roman philosophy and Early Judaism, and second, I present the development of PLANT metaphor in the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible with a brief look at the Synoptics as well. The PLANT metaphor plays a key role in expressing eschatology and salvation in the Gospel of John (4.31-38; 6.27-29,50-58; 12.23-26; 15.1-8), hence its inclusion in the research at this point. Chapter 5 discusses the idea of work as a ‘chain reaction’ on the triple level of God, Jesus, and the people. Chapter 6 examines the theological implications of the ACTIVITY metaphorical network blended with the PLANT metaphor and argues for an idea of soteriological work in the gospel. The thesis ends with a Conclusion.