The raising of Lazarus and the passion of Jesus in John 11 and 12: A study of John's literary structure and his narrative theology

Alexander J. Burke, Fordham University


The thesis of this study holds that the fourth evangelist has adopted and combined varied traditions in chapters 11 and 12 into a single, unified eschatological statement, separately and specially conceived, as a complex literary and theological hinge of John's Gospel, a bridge between Christ's ministry to the world and his ministry to his disciples. The extent and unity of this statement has been disguised by the tendency to apply to John a pericopean mentality suitable for the Synoptics but foreign to John. When John 11 and 12 are viewed as a single, eschatological statement, an analysis of its three dominant literary forms: plot structure, sign and dialogue structure, and narrative dramatic structure can help establish that the passage of 10:40–12:50 constitutes a tightly-knit literary unity. In the process of selecting, sequencing and interpreting both synoptic elements and elements from his own traditions, John makes known his literary and theological intentions for 11 and 12. Rather than a mosaic of vignettes; John creates a continuously unfolding narrative drama. The second and most profound source of unity, in addition to literary form, is the unity of the eschatological statement shaped out of John's unique haggadistic interpretations of the five eschatological themes that John has woven into a precise and progressive pattern: the mutual glorification of the Father and Son; belief and unbelief; resurrection and eternal life; and universal salvation and judgment. John in a complex, repetitive pattern first introduces, then echoes, then climaxes each theme. John's comprehensive interpretations depend upon his bifocal method, his ability to insinuate a second and symbolic level, his both mentality and his skill in using words that can ironically accommodate two meanings at the same time. John shapes Jesus' final discourse, 12:44–50 primarily as the natural conclusion of his eschatological statement, and secondarily as a summary of chapters 1–12 because the insertion of 11 and 12 is itself designed as the climax and summary of chapters 1–12. This new interpretation gives the passage a tight and comprehensive fit with the whole of John's Gospel.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Burke, Alexander J., "The raising of Lazarus and the passion of Jesus in John 11 and 12: A study of John's literary structure and his narrative theology" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3045121.