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Reading John 11.1–12.8, focusing upon the roles of Martha, Mary and ‘the Jews’, suggests that widely held positions concerning Martha's expression of faith in 11.27, the function of ‘the Jews’ across the narrative as a whole, and Mary's relationship to Jesus, especially in the light of 11.2, 31–3, 45; 12.1–8, should be questioned. The death and the raising of Lazarus manifest the glory of God and are the means by which the Son will be glorified (11.4, 40). Consequently, the passage summons Johannine readers to transcend understandable sorrow and pain generated by the menacing realm of human mortality (11.19, 21–2, 31, 33, 39) by means of belief in Jesus, the resurrection and the life (11.25–6).
In the ‘quest for the historical Jesus’ it has become axiomatic that the Fourth Gospel, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. certain elements in the passion narrative), has little to offer attempts to trace the person and activity of the pre-Easter Jesus. A study of the Johannine presentation of the beginnings of Jesus' ministry, his relationship with the Baptist, the calling of disciples and his presence in the Jerusalem Temple, suggests otherwise. Given the Markan imposition of a ‘framework’ upon the Synoptic tradition, the Johannine tradition may more accurately recall those early events.
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