A Distinctly Korean Re-reading of John 14:6: Jesus is the Kil (‘Way’) to the Father
Withington, Juan Kyongae
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This thesis presents a distinctly Korean re-reading of John 14:6, over against the present, popular reading within Korean Protestantism (KP). This new reading challenges, in particular, KP’s predominant reception of the Johannine passage so as to indicate ‘Jesus’ own claim’ to be the only way to (the salvation of) God. This project emerged from two disconcerting phenomena pertaining to predominant, fundamentalist exclusivism within KP. First, the often aggressive and occasionally violent, exclusivist behaviour from within KP in recent decades, resulting in equally aggressive anti-KP reactions among Korean citizens. Second, the lack of awareness and development of distinctly Korean biblical understanding and theological expressions within Korean churches. The thesis establishes its use of the term, ‘distinctly Korean,’ in its literature review by engaging in scholarly disputes about the nature of the present Korean Christianity. This is followed by a section which will introduce the methodology for a distinctly Korean hermeneutic with its three-fold focuses: Jesus, spirit, and Korea. The new Korean reading both respects and suspects established Western theology and biblical readings, by utilizing the accomplishments of Western scholarship, whilst pursuing an alternative, distinctly Korean biblical hermeneutic. As a part of the methodological structure of the thesis, the word ‘way’ in John 14:6—“I am the way to the Father”—is reviewed both from within the biblical tradition and also the East-Asian or Taoist tradition (which Korea is part of). The purpose of this task is two-fold: to appraise a traditionally-Korean—hence, allegedly ‘non-Christian’—concept, ‘to’ (‘way’), as a hermeneutical tool, and to utilize the findings of both reviews for the reading of John 14:6. The basic, literary-critical reading of John 14:6 asserts that the main audience of the saying is Jesus’ disciples, and the major force, pastoral. The observation of the speech-effect of Jesus’ being the ‘way’ identifies an ongoing reminder for the then-believers of Jesus: walk as Jesus walked. Associated with the Korean word, kil (‘path’) emerges the significance of theological themes such as sojourning, returning, and companionship. The popularly-received, ‘exclusivist’ message of the saying is newly interpreted as a (parallelistic) reiteration of Jesus’ being the ‘way,’ emphasizing the necessity of participating in Jesus’ holistic life. This Korean reading of John 14:6, together with newly-emerging kil Christological and soteriological insights, may contribute to Johannine scholarship and global theology. The demonstration of a Korean and biblical reading of John 14:6, together with Korean theological and hermeneutical methods, may serve to encourage other local/contextual theological ventures to honour one’s own culture and spirituality. Furthermore, biblically-based, kil missiological principles potentially strengthen a more peace-full, Christian path wherein faithfulness to Christian faith and respect for other religious faiths are compatible.