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Space, Social Space, and the Construction of Early Christian Identity in First Century Asia Minor

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Abstract A unique feature of the rhetoric of the Gospel of John is its imagination of space, both in terms of its narration of spatialised events, as well as its reconceptualisation of itself as a narrativised sacred space. Taking as starting point the conventional view of an Ephesian origins for the (final version of the) narrative, it can be shown how the Gospel of John plots the Ephesian temple-city space onto a Jerusalem/Judaean narrative space, and vice versa. Plotting the representation of Jesus onto such represented and reimagined sacred space, John reconfigures the narrative itself as sacred space. In this, it stands in a line with other similar reimagined conceptualisations of sacred space such as incipient Jewish mysticism – the Testament of Abraham for instance, as well as such representations of sacred space as the synagogue mosaics of Beth Alpha and others. Characteristic of these representations, graphic or narrative, is the imagining of the representation itself becoming the replacement of the represented space. In the case of the Gospel of John the narrative not only places the bulk of its narration in relation to the narrated temple in Jerusalem, but by portraying Jesus of Nazareth literally as replacement of the temple, the gospel narrative itself becomes the temple as dwelling-place of the presence of God.

Affiliations: 1: Department of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, University of South Africa P. O. Box 392, 0003 UNISA Republic of South Africa, Email:; 2: Department of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, University of South Africa P. O. Box 392, 0003 UNISA Republic of South Africa


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