Seeing Blood and Water: A Narrative-critical Study of John 19:34
One of the most significant details of the Fourth Gospel is its unique version of the crucifixion (19:12-42). A full understanding of the central section of this scene, the depiction of Jesus' death and the details that immediately surround this event (19:31-37), is dependent on the interpretation of the vital verse that recounts the piercing of his side and the flow of blood and water (19:34). The problem, however, is that, though John 19:34 has been incorporated into many literary works throughout the history of Christianity, there has never been a thorough literary analysis dedicated solely to this key verse. The present study solves this problem by providing the first comprehensive narrative-critical study of John 19:34. The study begins with an introduction to the history of interpretation of John 19:34, the problem this verse poses for research, and the purpose and methodology of the present study. It then discusses the manuscript tradition of the pericope John 19:31-37, provides an analysis of its literary structure, and an English translation. Next, it investigates the symbolic significance of the images of blood and water in the Gospel's cultural milieu. It demonstrates that blood was associated with life and the purification from sin and that water was associated with life and the purification from uncleanness. The study then examines the use of the words "blood" and "water" in the Gospel preceding 19:34 and demonstrates that these words are used in accord with their symbolic significance from the surrounding culture. Finally, the study provides an analysis of 19:34 in its immediate literary context (19:31-37). It demonstrates that the explicit quotation of Zech 12:10 in John 19:37 was intended to show that the flow of blood and water in 19:34 was the fulfillment of two images in the immediate context of Zech 12:10, i.e. 13:1 and 14:8. The study closes with a summary of its findings, an explanation of how it contributes to the research of Johannine literature, and some suggestions for future research.
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