I suppose the books written about the Gospel of John must number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and some of them are even worth reading.
High on the worth-reading list I would put Raymond E. Brown's The Gospel and Epistles of John as well as the commentary on John in William Barclay's series of commentaries on every book in the New Testament.
All of which raises the question of whether we need a new book that purports to introduce us to this enigmatic fourth gospel, John.
After reading Paul N. Anderson's new The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John, I'd answer with a strong yes.
I've written here about Anderson before and his work to help scholars and others see that the Gospel of John is, in fact, much more based on history than has been commonly believed. Most scholars have seen John as a theological or spiritual statement that draws on history but that offers unreliable history at best or that at least is not primarily interested in historical events. Anderson, a professor of biblical and Quaker studies at George Fox University, is among the movement of scholars that is opposing that conventional wisdom -- and with some success, too.
Indeed, I found the most interesting part of Anderson's new book to be his section on "The Historical Riddles of the Fourth Gospel." He makes there the persuasive case that the author of the gospel rooted much of the work in actual historical events, some even recorded by eye witnesses. But saying that doesn't discount the reality that the gospel also contains much theological reflection on those events.
The book is extraordinarily well organized, with many helpful charts to assist even readers completely unfamiliar with this pivotal New Testament work, though even Johannine scholars will find challenging and insightful words here as well.
I'm always encouraged when I find scholars who take the Bible seriously but who at the same time are able to make it accessible to readers who haven't had the time or opportunity to spend years unpacking these texts. That's what makes Anderson's book a prime candidate for church study groups.
Readers of Anderson's book -- whether scholars or relative novices -- no doubt will never read the Gospel of John in quite the same way again.
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BETTER LATE THAN. . .
The Vatican has adopted a new law that puts its bank in harmony with international banking standards. Good. But this seems like one more example of religious leaders following in matters of honesty and transparency and morality when they should be leading.
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P.S.: With members of my church's AIDS Ministry, I'll be participating in the 2011 AIDSWalk Kansas City to raise funds for the AIDS Service Foundation on Saturday, April 11. I'd greatly appreciate your contribution to this good cause. To help out, click here.