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DSOUZA Richard Francis

“Yes Lord, I Have Believed”. Martha’s Confession of Faith in the Fourth Gospel.
A Narrative Critical Analysis

Mod.: Prof. R.D. Luca Pedroli

This study is on Martha’s confession of faith and her characterization in the Fourth Gospel. It primarily aims to establish Martha’s confession of faith (11,27) as the fulfilment of the Book of Signs (1,19–12,50) and as the prefiguration of the Book of Glory (13,1–20,31) in light of the narrator’s christological and soteriological conclusion to the Gospel (20,30‑31). Additionally, this study attempts to present an all-inclusive characterization of Martha through a close reading of the scenes in which she appears as a character (11,1-6; 11,17-28; 11,38-45).

Using the narrative critical method, at the outset, we trace the narrator’s development of the revelatory plot of Jesus’ identity as “Messiah” and “Son of God” in the Book of Signs. The revelatory plot introduced through John’s testimony (1,19-34), progressively unfolds through Jesus’ signs and discourses at different places (2,1–4,54) and at the Jewish feasts (5,1–10,42). It thus functions as a prelude to Martha’s confession of faith and culminates in the sign of raising Lazarus to life (11,1-54). In this context Martha confesses Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, which also puts an end to the extensive discussion on the twofold identity of Jesus. Through a close reading, this study examines the profoundly theological dialogue between Martha and Jesus (11,20-28a). Thereby expounds the narrator’s description of the progressive revelation of Jesus and the decisive faith journey of Martha. Since, Martha’s objection (11,39) poses a direct challenge to the authenticity of her confession, we have interpreted her objection in its narrative context and have explored its implications in light of Jesus’ revelatory response (11,40). Furthermore, against the background of the narrator’s comment (12,37-43), this study demonstrates Martha’s confession as the fulfillment of the Book of Signs.

After establishing the “sign” character of the Book of Glory, this study also explores its narrative and thematic similarities in relation to the Lazarus narrative in general and the dialogue with Martha in particular. Furthermore, we interpret Martha’s confession in light of the post‑resurrectional events and especially in relation to the highest post-Easter confession of Thomas. Subsequently, we affirm that Martha’s confession prefigures the Book of Glory and prefigures the post-Easter apostolic faith. One of the pertinent tasks of the narrative criticism is to grasp the narrator’s point of view which is summarized in 20,30-31. Since, narrator’s point of view closely resembles Martha’s confessional formula, through a comparative study, similarities between the two texts have been analyzed. While those similarities are interpreted in their immediate context, their function in the larger narrative context and the structure of the Gospel also have been explored and thereby we assert that Martha’s confession is reconfirmed in the narrator’s christological and soteriological conclusion. Thus, this study demonstrates that the narrator portrays Martha as an ideal character, the one who can courageously and openly make a confession of faith and respond appropriately, a fact that the narrator expects the readers to do also (20,31).