Vom 23.-25.05.2018 findet die Jahrestagung der internationalen Society for Ricoeur Studies in Stellenbosch, Südafrika statt. Das hermeneutische Thema der Tagung lautet: „From where do you speak?“  Olivia Rahmsdorf hält im Rahmen dieser Tagung einen Vortrag mit dem Titel „Speaking from above and below: The Gospel of John as metaphorical and narrative reference to a distant reality“. Das  folgende Abstract informiert über das Vortragsvorhaben.


The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all (John 3:31).

What does it mean to speak from the earth? How can one speak from the earth but at the same time about heavenly things? The Fourth Evangelist creates a tension between these two realms of perception and cognition. Those from above (ἄνωθεν) are fundamentally different from those who belong to the kosmos (John 15:19). But how can we, as the Johannine Jesus suggests, be born from above resp. born again (ἄνωθεν), in order to be able to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3)? As the Greek preposition ἄνωθεν indicates, this glance at the heavenly realm is not only a matter of locality but, even more pivotally, of temporality. In order to see beyond or above our cosmological realms, we have to transcend our earthly time and space, our individual context and limited visual field.

How is this project feasible? To overcome the obstacle of confined space and limited visual horizon, we can rely on the linguistic instrument of metaphors, since their key faculty is to transport/ transcend (μετα-φέρω = transfer). Paul Ricœur notes, “It is this change of distance in logical space that is the work of the productive imagination.” (Ricœur 2009, x) And according to Hans Blumenberg, metaphors are entrusted with “the transportation of the reflection on one object of intuition to another, quite different concept, to which perhaps no intuition can ever directly correspond.” (Blumenberg 2010, 44)

To transcend the limitations of time and its epistemological horizons, Paul Ricœur then recruits the genre of narration. In Time and Narrative (Vol. I), he detects a close connection between metaphors and narratives in their similar mode of reference: Just as the metaphor “brings to language aspects, qualities, and values of reality that lack access to language that is directly descriptive,” the narrative executes the same metaphorical reference only in “application to the sphere of action.” Therefore “the mimetic function of [narrative] plots takes place by preference in the field of action and of its temporal values.” (Ricœur 2009, xi)

In my paper I will demonstrate how the two modes of reference to a reality that is located and dated beyond (ἄνωθεν) our cosmological realms are at work in the Gospel of John. It is not only known for its “riddling arabesque” (Attridge 2015, 40 – 44) and complex metaphorical network (see among others Zimmermann 2004), but for its ingenious narrative play with the cosmological linearity of time (see among others Estes 2008). With Ricœur’s theoretical assistance on Time and Narrative, I will highlight these formal features of the Fourth Gospel as the prerequisite for its synthesis of the heterogeneous: the two opposing realms of above and below, light and darkness, day and night, spirit and flesh, and, respectively, the synthesis of high Christology and Christology of incarnation, without ever leveling those poles.

Vortrag auf der Jahrestagung der Society for Ricoeur Studies in Stellenbosch