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John as Storyteller: Narrative Criticism and the Fourth Gospel.

John as Storyteller: Narrative Criticism and the Fourth Gospel. By Mark W. G. Stibbe. Society for New Testament Studies Monographs. New York: Cambridge University, 1992. Pp. xiii + 214. $49.95.

Stibbe attempts to redefine narrative criticism as a multidisciplinary procedure embracing historical, sociological, and structural criticism, as well as strictly narrative (or what S. here renames "practical") criticism. Two chapters outline and apply this "practical criticism" to John's passion account by analyzing the Christological aims of some of its narrative strategies (characterization, plot, symbolism, irony, etc.). Other chapters, evoking structural analogies with Greek prototypes (e.g. Euripide's Bacchae), argue that the gospel genre, and Jn 18-19 in particular, is tragedy. Others take up a sociological reading of the text that concentrates on the social function of familistic imagery (e.g. Jn 19:25-27) in transmitting community values and enhancing social identity for Johannine Christians. Still others deal with the relationship between history and narrative, touching on a number of disputed points of historicity and developing a theory of sources for Jn 18-19 (e.g. a primitive narrative stemming from Lazarus, the Beloved Disciple).

For those unacquainted with narrative criticism this well-informed and clearly written book could serve as a stimulating introduction. But those already familiar with the method may find that S. delivers less than he promises. Only two chapters address the genuinely narrative concerns intrinsic to the text of Jn 18-19. Elsewhere S. deals with largely extrinsic concerns, which, while perfectly legitimate in themselves, contribute little or nothing to the true aim and method of narrative criticsm, viz. understanding a narrative through close and careful analysis of its textual strategies. S. would have done better to apply his obvious talents to a more detailed, full-scale narrative reading of Jn 18-19. Instead he offers us a conflation of diverse methods that ends up diffusing the focus on what narrative criticism really is and does.

J. Warren Holleran

St. Patrick's Seminary

Menlo Park, Calif.
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Author:Holleran, J. Warren
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:323
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