“Will The Court Please Call In The Prime Witness?”: John 1:29–34 And The “Witness”-Motif -- By: J. Daryl Charles
TrinJ 10:1 (Spring 1989) p. 71
“Will The Court Please Call In The Prime Witness?”:
John 1:29–34 And The “Witness”-Motif
The Fourth Gospel is marvelously simple yet seemingly inexhaustible in its depth, as evidenced by the existing volumes of related literature. Its author, regardless of the reader’s interpretative scheme, is explicit in his intention; he writes to elicit faith: “… that all might believe through him” (1:7); “These things are written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have eternal life” (20:31). Of the four NT evangelists, only in the johannine narrative is the case for Jesus fully argued.
Significantly, the very πιστεύω, “to believe,” occurs one hundred times in the Fourth Gospel, one-third of all NT appearances. Its sustained usage reflects a particular concern of the writer and aids in clarifying his purpose. A second term employed quite frequently is μάρτυς (“witness”) along with its cognate forms.1 Almost immediately the reader is struck by the distinctly juridical tenor emerging in the Gospel narrative. Numerous “witnesses” take the judicial stand in the johannine drama, with testimony from three of these becoming crucial in the hands of the writer: John the Baptist (chaps. 1–3), the Holy Spirit (chap. 14 and 16), and the Father (chaps. 5–8, 10, 12, 15 and 17).2 By no means the only characters in the johannine drama, these three are “chief witnesses” in the case for who Jesus is. Initial — and perhaps the primary — testimony comes from John the Baptist. John is essential because he links subsequent historical statements with theological truth.3 Part of the profundity of the Fourth Gospel, for all its simplicity in style, lies in the structure and pattern of its “testimony” (μαρτυρία).4 John 1:29–34, in which crucial μαρτυρία from the Baptist is framed, is significant in that it brings together all three principle “witnesses.”
TrinJ 10:1 (S...
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