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RE: [John_Lit] Legend of the BD by Prof. Tom Thatcher

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  • Thomas (Tom) Butler
    Professor Thatcher and Other J.L. Listers, I have read your paper on the J.L. web site, though I was unable to access the copy pack with your diagrams in it.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 12, 2001
      Professor Thatcher and Other J.L. Listers,
      I have read your paper on the J.L. web site, though I was unable to access the copy pack with your diagrams in it. I appreciate your folksy style, which succeeds in making what could be a complex theory seem simple.

      Your theory seems consistent with similar work by those who have been identified with the postmodern school of literary analysis, sometimes called reader response criticism.

      In ANATOMY OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL: A STUDY IN LITERARY DESIGN (Fortress, 1983), Professor R. Allen Culpepper suggests that we can discern both an author and an implied author, as well as a reader and an implied reader in the FG. These categories may coincide with your source at stage 1 (author), source at stage 2 or 3 (implied author), the reader at stage 1 (members of the J. community "we who have witnessed") and the implied reader at stage 2 or 3 (J. preachers who wish they had been witnesses).

      Culpepper includes a drawing (p. 6) which he credits to Seymour Chatman in STORY AND DISCOURSE , p. 267 of dynamic structure of this theory of literary analysis. Since I could not access your diagrams, I cannot comment on whether Culpepper's diagram might correspond with yours, however, it seems likely, since you have suggested that time is an important factor influencing whether the identity the reader discerns in the FG is a historic or mythical figure. Culpepper suggests that there are at least three time factors involved. 1. The events in the story are connected by the plot to the settings and characters who are presented through action and dialogue. 2. These events are linked in what he calls "story time." 3. The story time takes place within the context of what he calls "narrative time." 4. All of this may be seen as a medium for providing both explicit commentary and implicit commentary (irony and symbolism).

      (I have taken the liberty of naming Culpepper's diagram The "Eye" of Reader-Response, since it looks something like a simple diagram of an eye. For those who have access to a copy of my book, Let Her Keep It, it is on p. 302).

      Like you, I suspect that of your three possible conclusions that the third seems most likely. As I understand it, those three possible conclusions are:
      (1. that the BD may be a purely legendary "ideal" figure invented to stress the validity of the witnessing tradition of the J.community,
      2. that the BD could be a mirror image of another character already in the J. tradition, created to make up for that existing character's deficiencies -ie: Peter, and
      3. that the BD is the latest version of a real person who has become mythical)

      It does seem important to recognize that the BD may well have been an historical person whose role is later enlarged by a community of witnesses (disciples - or a school as Culpepper sees it) who used the BD's theological perspective to make a clearer case for their own well-developed Christology.

      Yours in Christ's service,
      Tom Butler
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