|dc.description.abstract||In John 5.17-23 speech concerning the relationship between the father and son is presented as a response to a threat to kill Jesus. By virtue of the father/son relationship, godlike powers are attributed to the son. Interpretation of the speech has often routinely proceeded as if the mythic claim of the son's equality with the father could be understood in isolation from the threat in John 5.18a, though the two are juxtaposed; in contrast, threat and sonship are treated as interrelated parts of one speech pattern in this study.
Socio-rhetorical interpretation attends to aspects of socially interpreted action and speech that are typical within culture from which the text emerged. Thus it is assumed that the distinctive elements of John 5.17-23 can best be interpreted after identifying the elements of the speech that are typical. Analysis of patterns of speech and action in John 5.17-23 follows three main procedures. The first and most technically detailed, analyzes John 5 according to the conventions of Hellenistic rhetoric. It concludes that John fully elaborates an absolute case within the context of a thoroughly developed thesis argument.
The second procedure is intertextual, it assumes that the argument concerning the son's equality with God interacts with frames of significance that are taken for granted by author and audience. A frame of reference that lends coherence to the mythic pattern of lethal threat answered by an empowered god-like son, is found when John 5.17-23 is interpreted with reference to Psalm 2. Scriptural sources of early Christian testimony such as Daniel 7.13-14 and Psalm 2, reflect the pattern of the divine warrior myth; I propose that the divine warrior pattern as expressed in these texts lends coherence to the mythic sequence, mood, and the content of John 5.17-23. The content and sequence of elements of the divine warrior myth are closer to the form of John 5.17-23 than the Gnostic redeemer myth through which Bultmann interpreted this text.
The third procedure involves a provisional analysis of the social values reflected in John 5.17-23. John 5.17-23 appears to follow a familiar pattern of threat (5.18) juxtaposed with sonship speech (5.19-23). It is assumed that this pattern was generated in response to a conventional assumption that crucifixion inexorably shames its victim. John 5.17-23 is compared with rhetorically similar texts, such as accounts of the Synoptic trial question on sonship. Based on common elements found in these texts, the trial like speech in John 5.17-23 appears to reflect an already understood forensic/cultic Christian pattern of response to the threat of Jesus' crucifixion. A death threat is juxtaposed with images of the son enthroned.
The dissertation concludes by affirming that the argument in John 5.17-23 creates, what Hellenistic rhetoric calls, an absolute case. More tentatively it suggests that not only John 5.17-23, but also other early Christian speech reflecting a threat/enthronement pattern, might profitably be studied with reference to the pattern of YHWH's enthronement in the context of the divine warrior myth.||