Heavenly journey and divine epistemology in the Fourth Gospel

L.T. Witkamp, J.L.H. Krans-Plaisier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter Academicpeer-review


The Fourth Gospel has two travel scenarios, one mundane or earthly, the other heavenly or spiritual. On the earthly level Jesus travels from and to Jerusalem, on the spiritual level he travels from and to heaven. The first level is real, but the second level shows us what really is at stake. What is more, the mundane is there not for its own sake, but in order to direct us towards the heavenly spheres. The dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3) is crucial in this respect. Here it becomes clear that the way in which Jesus is depicted as a traveler from and to heaven, as the one who is sent by the Father and who will return to his Father, is closely intertwined with the question of epistemology. In other words, here we see what it means that “no one has ever seen God” and that “the only son has made him known” (John 1:18). We analyze the logic of the dialogue and its background in (mostly) Jewish apocalypticism. This results in a “thick” interpretation of the words “no one has ascended into heaven” (John 3:13) and what these imply for claims to spiritual knowledge. It is argued that the dialogue with Nicodemus centers around such claims. What is more, the theme runs through the gospel as a whole. The implications for Johannine sectarianism and the didactic outlook of the Fourth Gospel are discussed in the final section of the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJewish, Christian, and Muslim travel experiences
Subtitle of host publication3rd century BCE – 8th century CE
Place of PublicationBerlin
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783110717488
ISBN (Print)9783110717419
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameJudaism, Christianity, and Islam – Tension, Transmission, Transformation
Publisherde Gruyter
ISSN (Print)2196-405X

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