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John in the Company of Poets

The Gospel in Literary Imagination

Thomas Gardner

Publication Year: 2011

Thomas Gardner artistically describes Jesus—"the Word made flesh"—as a poem penned by God for the world, and John—author of the Fourth Gospel—as the poem's interpreter. John's structural patterns, repetitions, and narrative interventions invite readers to experience for themselves the beauty of the divine poem. John in the Company of Poets deepens this invitation by re-imagining the biblical text through the eyes of such artists as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, and T. S. Eliot, offering a literary reading of the Gospel based upon their powerful poetic replies. Poets are our best readers, contends Gardner, and his deft analysis forges a fresh path into the issues and tensions of John's Gospel.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Cover Art

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Title Page

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

Esther Richey has been part of this project from its very beginning, encouraging me, reading drafts, helping me to see what I had written. I am very grateful. I have been fortunate to read the Gospel over the years with John and Linda Tyson, Chris and Kirstan Hutchinson, David Poteet, and others...

Poems Examined

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p. xiii

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pp. 1-12

In an essay entitled “Psalm Eight,” the novelist Marilynne Robinson focuses on the words Jesus greets Mary Magdalene with on the morning of his resurrection. Mary, in John’s account, has come to the tomb while it is still dark and found the stone blocking its entrance rolled...

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1-Prologue (John 1:1-18)

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pp. 13-22

John’s Prologue raises the issue of understanding who Jesus was and what he was saying in a very powerful way. It falls into three parts, which, much like the three stanzas of a poem, work together to focus the reader’s eye on the claims John wants us to consider. John lays many...

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2-Come and See (John 1:19-51)

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pp. 23-34

John twice notes in his Prologue that God began the process of opening eyes to the glory of Jesus by sending a witness—John the Baptist. His glory is not obvious, which is why someone must be called to direct eyes to him. Nor are the words obvious that the Baptist uses to...

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3-Life (John 2:1–4:54)

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pp. 35-68

After the Prologue and these opening acts of giving witness, John puts together a three-chapter arc (chapters 2–4) in which Jesus begins to describe himself and the life God is offering the world through him.1 Moving with his disciples from a wedding in Cana up to Jerusalem...

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4-Blinded (John 5:1–10:42)

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pp. 69-106

In chapters 2–4 of the Gospel, the Cana to Cana arc, Jesus has pictured the life he is offering the world in a number of striking ways, each linked to the other. It is abundant (the wedding wine) because it is lived out in God’s presence (the restored temple), that presence embraced...

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5-Glory (John 11:1–12:50)

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pp. 107-122

After all the focus on not seeing, John 11 and 12 turn back to the inner circle of those who are willing to have their eyes opened, who wait expectantly even if all is not clear yet. The central focus here is the raising of Lazarus from the dead—the last sign. Raising Lazarus quite literally...

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6-Looking Forward (John 13:1–17:26)

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pp. 123-154

Now we draw the circle even tighter. We move to a private meal, shared by Jesus and the disciples, on the eve of the Passover. Jesus has been pointing to his death—his death as a source of life and victory. God’s glory will be revealed. All will be drawn. But it has not happened...

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7-Seen (John 18:1–20:31)

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pp. 155-194

After praying, Jesus leads the eleven disciples out and over the ravine of the Kidron to a garden where he had often met with his disciples. He does not go there to hide, since Judas would certainly have known the place. He goes there to pray and wait. The next three chapters, recounting the betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, are the display of...

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8-Epilogue (John 21:1-25)

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pp. 195-198

What’s most striking about the Epilogue is how quiet and personal it is. Juxtaposed to the Prologue’s inspired and impassioned theology about the light coming into the world and the Word becoming flesh is a quiet story about a group of disciples recognizing Jesus and being fed by him. It is intimate, as if to remind us that the Gospel’s grand...


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pp. 199-208


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pp. 209-214

Scripture Index

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pp. 215-218

General Index

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p. 219

E-ISBN-13: 9781602584266
E-ISBN-10: 1602584265
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602583153
Print-ISBN-10: 1602583153

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1st

OCLC Number: 769189746
MUSE Marc Record: Download for John in the Company of Poets

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Christian poetry, English -- History and criticism.
  • Christianity in literature.
  • Christianity and literature -- United States -- History.
  • Christianity and literature -- Great Britain -- History.
  • Bible. N.T. John -- In literature.
  • American poetry -- History and criticism.
  • Bible. N.T. John -- Criticism, interpretation, etc.
  • English poetry -- History and criticism.
  • Christian poetry, American -- History and criticism.
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