Van der Merwe, Dirk. "The Divinity of Jesus in the Gospel of John: The 'lived experiences' it fostered when the text was read." HTS Teologiese Studies 75(1), 2019, a541
Van der Merwe understands the Gospels as an attempt to describe Jesus from different perspectives. In John, we are presented with the Jesus who people realize to be the eternal Word of God, though entirely human (van der Merwe 2019(2), 1). Van der Merwe asks how a reader is brought into the experience of the divine by reading in John.
Active participation in reading a text may effectively draw a reader into the thought world of that text, resulting in an appropriation of some experience on a personal level (van der Merwe 2019(2), 2). The actual present orientation of the reader is pulled into the past events and, in some way, the reader experiences what is described in the text. Repeated experience with such a text results in entering into its world more easily and fully. At some point, then, van der Merwe says, we have new experiences "when the experiences that have been stored are restructured" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 2). A new kind of spirituality emerges.
This article reviews several "forms of speech" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 2) which are used in John to draw a reader into the text. The first form of speech van der Merwe describes is comparative language (van der Merwe 2019(2), 3). For instance, John compares Jesus with Moses, tents are compared with our earthly lives, and God's presence in the Tabernacle is compared with Jesus' presence among us. Van der Merwe argues that experiencing Jesus in the terms of comparisons John uses results in veneration of Jesus.
A second form of speech commonly used in John is dualistic language, in which contrasting categories are formed (van der Merwe 2019(2), 3). A prominent dualistic pttern is that of descent and ascent. In John's Gospel it becomes on of the primary ways we can recognize Jesus as bearing a different nature and history from other humans (van der Merwe 2019(2), 4). Van der Merwe takes the dialectic language to create tension within the reader, which, in turn, leads to an experience of Jesus' divinity as described in John.
Third, van der Merwe finds John to use "formulas of immanence" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 4), word clusters which emphasize the unity of the Father, the Son, and the disciples. Of these, van der Merwe discusses four. John repeatedly refers to a comparison in terms of "just as." for instance, in John 15:9, "Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 5). These comparisons can draw the reader in and create a desire to imitate Christ. Another concept frequently used in John is that of following Jesus. Jesus' divine presence is discovered by having him guide his disciples through life. This guidance further brings his followers into his command to "abide in me" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 5). Fourth, language which repeatedly shows Jesus as obedient to the Father may draw his followers into a relationship characterized by obedience themselves (van der Merwe 2019(2), 6).
Careful reading of a tet may draw readers to experience the different features of the text for themselves. The expreessions of John "stimulate emotions and prompt feelings to create an exciting Johanine narrative" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 6). The narrative brings events to the reader in such a way as to enable the reader to enter into the lives and events themselves. The identity of Jesus as the Son of God, as well as his experessions of desire to adopt others into God's kingdom call the reader to enter into rebirth (van der Merwe 2019(2), 7).
Van der Merwe observes that entry into a Gospel text operates in two directions. We retain information which we have read (retention), and we anticipate additional circumstances or outcomes (pretension) (van der Merwe 2019(2), 7). When reading the accounts in the Gospel, we not only learn about the past, but we also speculate as to the future actions of God.
One important way in which van der Merwe sees us entering into retention and pretension is as we are exposed to the titles of Jesus (van der Merwe 2019(2), 8). The names and titles of Jesus are considered important in describing his character and prioritis. Van der Merwe reviews four titles of Jesus - "Logos, Messiah, Son (of God) and Son of Man" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 8). Logos, as used of Jesus, emphasizes his pre-existent nature. John 1 uses the term four times, each time in a description of eternity. As the Logos Jesus is described as God, the creator, and the one who reveals things to us (van der Merwe 2019(2), 9).
Jesus is also described as the Messiah, who descends from David and takes on a role as a kingly deliverer (van der Merwe 2019(2), 9). John adjusts some presuppositions we might have about a Messiah by presenting Jesus more as a spiritual than a political deliverer.
Jesus as the Son of God is a clear claim to divinity, one which "is expressed over a hundred times in John" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 9). Jesus is clearly presented as having a unique relationship with the Father. It is distinctive in his fellowship as well as in his working relationship with the Father. Van der Merwe asserts that by the end of their reading, "the readers realized that they have actually experienced God. They have experienced his involvement in their lives when they have become part of the text and examined their lives" (van der Merwe 2019(2), 10).
John calls Jesus the "Son of Man" 13 times (van der Merwe 2019(2), 10). The usage may show some dvelopment when compared with usage in the Synoptics. Van der Merwe thinks the phrase is used to draw other appellations of Jesus together. The Son of Man is the one who descends and ascendds. He is the one who is able to speak and do as the Father equips him. He is the one who will be lifted up in the last day. Van der Merwe again emphasizes that the reader enters into the experience of the glory of Jesus, the Son of Man (van der Merwe 2019(2), 11).
Van der Merwe sees another way in which readers experience Jesus as the fact taht John omits some information. For instance, he never tells how Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection (van der Merwe 2019(2), 11). Filling in the information gap is a way we experience Jesus. Further connections are made for the readers as John uses large amounts of Old Testament materials. These association Jesus and the disciples with their Old Testament antecedents (van der Merwe 2019(2), 12). The goal is that the reader should make the same conclusion as Thomas i nJohn 20:2 - that he is his Lord and God.