Descent and ascent in the Fourth Gospel: The Johannine deconstruction of the heavenly ascent revelatory paradigm
Holleman, C.P. Toby, Jr
Kelber, Werner H.
Doctor of Philosophy
The otherworldly depiction of Jesus in coordination with the origin and function of descent-ascent language in the Gospel of John is the subject of this study. In Chapter One it is found that the gospel explicitly and repeatedly refers to Jesus' heavenly origin, his divine titles, his descent from heaven, and his ascent back to his celestial home in order to emphasize his preeminent revelatory authority. Furthermore, it would appear that the gospel attempts to suppress a competing revelatory point of view in which heavenly visions and heavenly ascensions by mortals are normative. A review in Chapter Two of the way in which modern scholars have attempted to come to terms with these matters indicates that the Fourth Gospel depicts its protagonist according to one trans-cultural conceptual paradigm containing a descent-ascent pattern for revelatory figures in order to oppose an alternative paradigm in which both divine descent-ascent and human ascent-descent patterns are present. Focusing upon ancient Jewish and Christian angel stories, Chapter Three demonstrates that an essential difference between the two paradigms has to do with whether the locus of divine-human discourse is earth or heaven. In the EARTHBOUND paradigm revelation is transmitted solely upon the earth and the heavenly messenger possesses unrivaled revelatory authority. But in the alternative HEAVENWARD paradigm the role and status of the heavenly messenger are patently subordinated to the mortal who is permitted to see if not actually journey up into the celestial world. Chapter Four's selective but narratologically-informed reading of the Gospel of John shows how the gospel's depiction of its protagonist according to the EARTHBOUND paradigm methodically suppresses and deconstructs revelatory and salvific beliefs rooted in the HEAVENWARD viewpoint. Of particular interest is the way in which an historically necessary departure from the EARTHBOUND schema, by ironically representing the ascent of Jesus as a lifting up upon the cross, effectively puts to death (from the gospel's point of view) ideas about the possibility of mortals ascending to heaven with or without Jesus prior to the end of their own lives.
Religion; Biblical studies; Religious history; Ancient history; Religious education