Signs of the Times/Signs for the Times: Reading the Johannine Signs

This essay proposes to examine the contribution of the Johannine signs to the eschatological thinking of the Fourth Gospel and trace out the implications for contemporary readers of the Gospel.

It will be argued that the signs are both signs of the times and signs for the times. The Johannine signs indicate the advent and content of the eschatological times by pointing to the identity and work of Jesus, in fulfilment of prophetic expectations. In this sense they are signs of the times. The selection of the term ‘sign’, the content of the sign narratives themselves, and their function in relation to other elements of the Fourth Gospel’s presentation combine to direct the reader of the Gospel towards an appropriate response. This will be, in the first instance, faith but will extend to the believing reader promoting the spirit empowered testimony of the disciples of Jesus to a hostile world. It will finally be suggested that the sign narratives suggest implications for the way in which that testimony may be presented in the contemporary world. In this sense they are signs for the times.

It will be argued that the signs are both signs of the times and signs for the times.

This paper will contribute to a growing, number of papers relating the sign narratives to broader themes in the Gospel rather than focusing specifically on analysis from source or form critical perspectives. The particular contribution will be a more focussed discussion of the signs in relation to the question of eschatology in the Gospel. A further contribution will be to the discussion of the appropriation of the message of the Fourth Gospel by contemporary readers, which is in turn both an acknowledgement and defence of the universalism of the Gospel.