The spatiality of John is conceived as a concept of narrative, and forms the structure of the gospel in connection with the important theological statements. This Ph.D. project analyzes to which extent the narrative in the Gospel of John implicitly contains spatiality and against which background it is to be interpreted. The central issue addressed here is the relationship between soteriology and spatial aspects of metaphors in John and whether this is an overarching strategy in his writing.


Methodological approach

The spatial movement of thought in narrative research takes place in certain concepts, which frame the spatial motifs and the formal structure of the images. The view expressed in this research is whether the linguistic findings of the spatial motifs make other aspects more important. Following the metaphorical issue (the metaphor of the house), John’s narrative describes the present experience of salvation through the household highlighting the social-structural perspective to the foreground.

The theological value of John’s narrativity is expressed through spatial metaphors, which are a guiding structure for a better understanding of salvation. The study assumes that the space metaphor in John is a language pattern of the protective and saving experience of space.

The starting point of the research is chapter fourteen of the gospel of John: the beginning of the farewell speeches. The main image field to be taken on this occasion is a house, which contains many rooms. This is laid out on the horizon of the path scheme, under the concept of orientation. A central question of the research concerning the usage of conceptual metaphors is according to which criteria these metaphors are to be determined.

The conceptual metaphor of John will be related to the cognitive methodology of George Lakoff/Mark Johnson who assume that everyday metaphorical statements are the bearers of emotional and cognitive structures.

The different pictorial forms fulfill the theological-spatial function intended by John and lead through the creative-conceptual metaphor to a gain of knowledge based on specific life-consciousness, everyday experience and perception.

First results

Essential area of this research is John 14,2-6. This section of John’s Gospel deals with the departure of Jesus and the salvation message of the house (οἰκία) and its mansions (μονή). This course of action can be recorded by the description of the dimension of the space (the Spatial Perspective). The spatial movement of thought takes place with certain concepts, which are context-dependent and determine a strong spatial structure. The path concept is pointed out and sharpened in John narrativity through the metaphorical development of houses and rooms. The spatial statements here build a structural principle, which specifies a particular path. The essential point of view is that by the motif οἰκία, as a local image forms this one adjustment to the local center τόπος. As a matter of fact, the motif οἰκία has a saving perspective with a double function:

  1. For the purpose of protection and
  2. To illustrate the collective point of salvation – the common household

The copulative metaphor of John 14,6 is connected with a construct ὁδός (the content of everyday experience) and two abstractions ἀλήθεια and ζωή (relation to thought). John 14,6 involves an interaction of all spheres of meaning in order to present a potential of action as innovative and linguistic-creative. It is not to be assumed that the abstractions stand against a primary meaning of the path metaphor, but that they elucidate the remedial perspectives of the path metaphor. The path (way) as an orientation, under the perspective of property in John 14,2 describes a guiding certainty, which provides an existence under spatial perspective for life. This spatial perspective is to be identified by the spatial metaphor concept as orientation and access to salvation.


Summing up, the fact that the metaphorical spatiality in the Gospel of John forms a structure with an exit (egress), a direction, an intention, and a goal (purpose). The guiding principle of this work is that the salvation in John 14,2.6, under this concept (concepts into spatial structures) brings the essential moment of spatiality into the language, and at the same time the prerequisite (condition) for salvation, with the aim of the perception of space. In light of all this, the spatiality of John shows a striking possibility for orientation, security, and allows the condition for a knowledge, which allows life and a hold in this life. The assumption of this metaphorical conceptualization in John represents imagery, based on elementary human experience, in order to make the theological statements promising and understandable.

In the final phase of the dissertation project, the conclusions that created the whole picture of the project came to the point that spatial metaphors are not only the basis of John’s narratology in describing the soteriological aspect, but the statement of the dissertation project also formulated the achieved goal showing that John’s understanding of spatiality is the community (spatially understood community) and its present organizational purpose, as a feature of a family aspect. So the spatial metaphors as one big picture in the message of John’s narrative is understood as a basic narratological toolkit for developing a narrative representation of familiarity and belonging to a family community.

From the project, the lexical meaning of John’s terminology was generated as a basis for detailing the metaphorical image of spatiality, namely the main feature of the spatial element in John’s narratology is the relating of spatiality as a hermeneutic key to the descriptive representation of socially structured communion as a family and as a soteriological consequence. The general difficulties that were clarified refer to the community as a place of realized present in the world. The completion of the overall project also provided a broader picture of John’s theology as well as its discussion of the temporal discrepancy between the present and the future, but also their connection to the spatial aspect of the community as a place where the soteriological consequences are already present, started, but not closed. This has led to the explanation that the community has a future-oriented soteriology. Аlso the dissertation project provides an opportunity for a methodological approach to John’s theology with spatial metaphors, therefore arises opportunities for new researches, particularly on the aspect of future (eschatology), especially with regard to future soteriology and understanding of spatiality (spatiality as a basis in John’s metaphorical language), and what the spatial metaphor may have in relation to future theological thought in the Gospel of John.

This Ph.D. thesis was written within the program Ancient Languages and Texts (ALT) of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS).