n Neotestamentica - Performing John : the participatory nature of the Fourth Gospel

Volume 53 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0254-8356
  • E-ISSN: 2518-4628


Scholars often refer to the term “implied audience” to describe the ideal audience an author intends to fashion through a specific story or narrative. The author of the Fourth Gospel articulates the purpose and implied rhetorical effect of the Gospel on its audience in no uncertain terms near the end of the narrative (19:35; 20:30–31). While the Fourth Gospel explicitly paints the picture of the implied audience as those who will believe and have life in Jesus’s name (19:25; 20:31), the Gospel’s engagement with the audience exceeds these purpose statements. The picture of the ideal audience is on the table from the beginning of the Gospel and strengthened by the rhetorical2 mastery of creating attractive identities who perform the purpose of the Gospel well and with whom the audience is implicitly exhorted to identify. These include the ideal group referred to as “we” (1:14; 21:24) and various characters, including the beloved disciple, who fulfil the aims of the Gospel by believing in Jesus. The audience, therefore, becomes more than spectators of the Fourth Gospel, but essentially participators, and finally performers as John opens up its performative axis to them.

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