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The Discipleship Paradigm: Readers and Anonymous Characters in the Fourth Gospel.

This study of some unnamed characters in the Fourth Gospel -- the mother of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, the royal official, the infirm man, the blind man, the woman taken in adultery, and the disciple Jesus loved -- accepts that `the social location of the reader is a necessary consideration prerequisite to any reading of any narrative' (p. 4). Beck then defines himself as a member of a faith community which holds the narrative as sacred text, commissioned by that community to proclaim the kerygma contained in the text, a member of a privileged elite in one of the wealthiest nations (USA), to whom war, poverty or persecution is unknown, and a person trained within an interpretive community of biblical scholarship. Further definition of this faith community is implied on page 6: `I read accepting the narrative's self-portrayal as a first-hand account of real events by an eye-witness whose testimony is true', a series of statements that need both clearer definition and some sustaining argument against the contrary views of many Johannine scholars. These presuppositions, however, explain the assumption that the Fourth Gospel exhibits `a strong correlation between characters encountered and real persons' (p. 6).

Moreover, dependence on twentieth-century discussions of characterization in modern novels imports into the reading of the Fourth Gospel contemporary perspectives which, used unself-consciously, determine the readings: `When names are absent, the reader has an option for the freedom of subjectivity, whereby the reader "impersonates many positions, and informs his or her subjectivity by losing identity as a nameable self"' (quoting Docherty's study of contemporary fiction, p. 12). `Empathy' and `identifying with unnamed characters' become ways of reading the Gospel without any discussion of their historical and cultural particularities.

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Author:Davies, Meg
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
Words:281
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