Ironic Authority: A Rhetorical Critical Analysis of the Stability of Irony in the Fourth Gospel Passion Narrative

Author: Kevin Sarlow

Sarlow, Kevin, 2017 Ironic Authority: A Rhetorical Critical Analysis of the Stability of Irony in the Fourth Gospel Passion Narrative, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis offers a new analysis of the nature and function of irony in the Fourth Gospel’s Passion Narrative (John 18-20). It utilises a new way of analysing the text in order to discern the irony and rhetoric in the Fourth Gospel narrative. This new methodology is adapted from George Kennedy’s method of rhetorical analysis. In addition, by revisiting the analytical categories of stable and unstable irony the research demonstrates that, despite the preponderance of stable ironies in the Fourth Gospel, some ironies remain unstable (twice in 18:35b; 19:15; 20:23), and others are temporarily unstable (18:2-11; 19:1-16; 20:8, 24-25, 26-28). The thesis introduces a new category for this temporary ironic instability: ‘perplexing irony’ and provides some examples of perplexing irony from various sources.

In this thesis, Ironic Authority, the analysis of irony in the Fourth Gospel passion narrative reveals, highlights and demonstrates Johannine theology. Some of the various aspects of Johannine theology examined in the light of irony include: Christology, intertextuality, a theology of the cross, and a theology of power and authority. These theological aspects are interwoven with irony and reveal new insights for this research.

It is widely recognised that the evangelist uses a wide variety of different types of irony, that can be specifically identified and categorised. By using an adapted rhetorical analytical methodology, the thesis examines the Gospel’s passion narrative and demonstrates the Gospel’s prolific use of irony. The abundance of it indicates that Johannine irony is intentional.

This study identifies a fivefold purpose in the evangelist’s use of irony which reveals aspects of his Christology. Irony provides a connection between the evangelist and the reader; helps readers ‘believe into Jesus’; awakens the reader to a double layer in the narrative; sometimes connects other Scriptures intertextually; and expresses the Gospel’s theology, mystery and revelation.

This research adds to irony theory and defines irony (and its various categories) in a relatively simple way. It demonstrates the purposes of irony in the Fourth Gospel; how to identify and categorise it; and it argues the case for temporary unstable (perplexing) irony. By extension, irony encourages faith and provides interest in the Gospel, and in addition, perplexing irony offers hope for those who face adversity.

Keywords: Fourth Gospel, stable irony, unstable irony, irony theory, rhetorical criticism, narrative criticism, passion narrative, biblical studies, New Testament, literary criticism, implied reader, implied author, covert irony, verbal irony, situational irony, dramatic irony, misunderstanding, paradox, reversal, symbolism, double meaning, parody, satire

Subject: Theology thesis, Humanities thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Rev Dr Vicky Balabanski