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John's Gospel: A Two-Level Drama?

Journal article
Authors Tobias Hägerland
Published in Journal for the Study of the New Testament
Volume 25
Issue 3
Pages 309-322
ISSN 0142-064X
Publication year 2003
Published at Department of Religious Studies and Theology
Pages 309-322
Language en
Keywords Gospel of John, Johannine community, allegory
Subject categories New Testament exegesis


During the past decades, scholars have attempted to reconstruct the history of a Johannine community through reading John’s Gospel as a two-level drama. According to this understanding, the Gospel relates events that took place in the community after Jesus’ earthly ministry, while these events are presented as a story about Jesus himself. The present essay evaluates this allegorical reading of the Gospel, first through a search for ancient parallels that would constitute a genre of the two-level drama, secondly through a discussion of the alleged intra-textual indications of the Gospel’s allegorical character. The conclusion arrived at is that both the search for an ancient two-level genre and the search for hints of allegory in the text are unsuccessful. The hypothesis of a Johannine two-level drama is therefore highly implausible.

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