Historical Sociolinguistic Approach to Social Identities of Believers and Sinners in John 9:1–41

In recent biblical scholarship, the question has been raised as to the inquiry of how the New Testament authors formulate a particular social identity through their writings. So far, a few scholars have employed sociolinguistic approaches to this inquiry in biblical studies. By employing Nikolas Coupland’s sociolinguistic model, I will propose a new methodology that identifies how the author of the Gospel of John, an entrepreneur of identity, illustrates the conversations of Jesus, his disciples, the blind man, his parents, and the Pharisees in John 9:1–41 in order to project a particular social identity to the readers.
In light of Ethnographical-Interactional sociolinguistics, Coupland argues for the concept of communicative competence, namely the ability that use sociolinguistic resources as an Act of Identity. Act of Identity refers to the function of a language usage in projecting its social meanings in relation to a particular social identity. On the basis of this concept, Coupland suggests the Identity Contextualization model that determines the processes by which speakers (writers) make use of a specific language in order to express a particular social identity corresponding to the macro contexts (political contexts), meso-contexts (religious contexts), and micro contexts (interpersonal contexts).
This study consists of three sections. The first section will introduce the methodological framework that applies Coupland’s model to the inquiry of the identity contextualization processes in John 9:1–41. The second section will analyze the macro, meso, and micro contexts of the sayings of Jesus, his disciples, the blind man, and Pharisees at the conversation level. The third section will analyze how the author of the fourth Gospel illustrates these conversations in order to project a particular social identity to the readers at the literary level.
In this study, I will argue that the author of the Gospel of John suggests a theological anthropology based on Christology by illustrating the blind man as the role model who follows Jesus. The Sanhedrin members’ decision to expel Jesus’s believers from the synagogue presents the macro context in which the Pharisees took political action against Jesus (John 9:22). Jesus’s conversations with the blind man and the Pharisees (9:53–41) articulate that the Sanhedrin members’ decision resulted in two different groups in the meso context: (1) believers (the seekers after Jesus) and (2) sinners (the spiritual blind men). On the basis of these macro and meso contexts, the micro contexts present the processes by which the historical figures’ saying index their social identity either as a believer or a sinner. These macro, meso, and micro contexts show that the author formulates Christian identity based on a Christ-centered life by illustrating the blind man as the good example and his parents and Pharisees as the bad examples at the literary level.

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