“Chosen Traumas” and “Chosen Glories” in the Group Identity of the Johannine Community: An Exegetical Study of the Language of εἰρήνη in the Fourth Gospel through a Hermeneutics of Trans-generational Trauma and Social Memory
From the perspective of the gospel of John as an ideological product of its time, Jesus appears as a colluder or conspirator in his own death. In terms of Vamik Volkan’s notion of the trans-generational transmission of aspects of shared identity in ethnic groups, the gospel memorialises the “chosen trauma” (representations of past trauma) of Israel including the destruction of the temple in the “chosen glory” (representations of past victory) of Jesus’ death. His promise of peace, therefore, to his disciples (Jn 14,27; 16,33) suggests merely a peace predicated on oppression. Despite the violent context of the gospel, however, the first words of the crucified but risen Jesus to his disciples are εἰρήνη ὑμῖν (Jn 20,19.21.26) and forgiveness of sins (Jn 20,23). If biblical texts are literary witnesses to the formation of group identity, therefore, in the trans-generational transmission of Israel’s trauma, how does the language of εἰρήνη function in the fourth gospel against the cultural and socio-political frames of the time to fabricate new frames of group identity detectable in ways that allow the gospel to be read as an artefact of collective memory? Through a critical study of εἰρήνη in the gospel, this project posits that following the violent death of Jesus, the narrative of the encounter between the risen Jesus and the disciples envisages a transition from “chosen trauma” to “chosen glory” that is inclusive and restorative in the identity of God’s eschatological people.