SC 241 The Eagle’s Vision: An Introduction to the Narrative, Christology, and Theology of the Fourth Gospel

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Module Level

8 (undergraduate)

Time Allowance

126 hours


Continuous Assessment: 50% End of Term Examination: 50%

Module Aims

The Fourth Gospel is at once very accessible and profound. The distinctive presentation of the story of Jesus, rich in symbolism and with an elevated Christology, challenges readers more deeply with each subsequent reading. Attention is given to the historical dimension, including the impact of the Qumran discoveries on Johannine scholarship, and especially the literary and narrative dimensions of the text. Many paradoxes and tensions emerge: the prominence of Jesus’ divinity but also his humanity, the relationship of Jesus to the Father and to the Spirit, the contrastive models of leadership (Beloved disciple and Peter), the present and future eschatology, the various timings of Pentecost, the positive and negative references to various groups or entities, especially the Jews, the world, etc. With due recognition of the inherent tensions, these questions generate fruitful openings to balanced theological reflection on very pertinent topics, such as the structure and place of the Christian community in the world, the place of faith, the relationship with Judaism, with nonbelievers, etc. The literary and narrative readings enable greater access to the inner dynamics of the text and the acquiring of more probative exegetical skills that contribute pastorally to teaching or preaching.

Timetable: Semester 2

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the main features of Fourth Gospel, the principal characters (God, Jesus, the Spirit, John, the disciples), the principal plot lines (the biographical and cosmological tales) and the broad religious and historical background.
  • Articulate the broad historical, literary, narrative, and theological dimensions of the Fourth Gospel. Situate interpretations of Gospel texts within the historical, socioeconomic, political and religious contexts, and explain the significance of these readings within the wider New Testament and the lectionary.
  • Employ literary and narrative concepts and tools to unfold the text so as to show how it speaks to the life of faith, and the experience of Christian ministry.
  • Explore the paradoxes in the theological motifs across the Gospel, e.g. eschatology, the world, Judaism, etc. and their tensive relationships.
  • Express how the Fourth Gospel presents its narrative Christology and how the wider theologies of the Gospel link with it, including Pneumatology and Theology of Mission and Discipleship.
  • Consider the broader ethical implications of various theological readings and demonstrate careful judgment regarding the diverse interpretations of texts involving Jews or Judaism.


  • Kysar, Robert. John, the Maverick Gospel. Third ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2007
  • Byrne, Brendan. Life Abounding: A Reading of John's Gospel. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.