Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community

Article excerpt

Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community, by Craig R. Koester. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1995. 300 pp. $19.00 (paper). ISBN 0-8006-2893-4. KOESTER UNDERTAKES a multidisciplinary approach to Johannine symbolism. He attends to the literary, sociohistorical, and theological dimensions of Johannine symbolism in an attempt to arrive at a holistic understanding of the function of symbolism in the narrative of the Fourth Gospel. Chapter 1 lays out the understanding of metaphor and symbol that provides the theoretical framework for Koester's analysis of Johannine texts. His central thesis is that Johannine symbolism is "concentric, with Jesus at its heart" (p. 5), and has a twofold structure that moves from christology to discipleship (p. 13).

The book's central section explores the governing thesis from a variety of textual perspectives. Chapter 2 provides an overview of symbolic and representative figures in the Gospel, while chapter 3 analyzes symbolic actions. The next two chapters study two core Johannine symbols: light/darkness and water. In chapter 6 Koester offers an in-depth analysis of one Johannine theme, the crucifixion of Jesus, to highlight its symbolic value and meaning. Chapter 7 addresses the function of symbolism in shaping the identity of the Johannine community. …