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Riddles of the Fourth Gospel

An Introduction to John

By Paul N. Anderson

Publication Year: 2011

Paul Anderson, a leading scholar of the Fourth Gospel, provides an introductory textbook, crafted for a semester course, which leads students through literary, historical, and theological aspects of the Fourth Gospel's most vexing puzzles. Traditional, historical-critical, and literary-critical approaches are deftly introduced and their limitations evaluated; questions of the Gospel's authorship, composition, relationship to the Synoptics, and origins in particular historical experiences are succinctly addressed; and distinctive Johannine perspectives on Jesus, the church, and the world are discussed.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This book is written for students of the Fourth Gospel—students on several levels. For those coming to the text for the first time, it is designed to pick up on things one notices in a first reading or two, but also the sorts of things one is forced to confront as familiarity grows. ...

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Introduction: Navigating a Stream in which a Child Can Wade and an Elephant Can Swim

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pp. 1-6

The Gospel according to John has been described as a stream in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim.1 This imagery highlights an impressive fact: while the Fourth Gospel is widely considered the most reader friendly and accessible of nearly all biblical writings, it also continues to be one of the most perplexing of texts among serious interpreters. ...

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Part 1: Outlining the Johannine Riddles

The cover of this book features an artist’s depiction of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a religious expert and a leader among the Jews. He declares what he knows: Jesus could not perform the signs he does unless he were sent from God (John 3:2). And yet he fails to understand what it means to be born “from above.” ...

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Chapter 1: An Overview of the Fourth Gospel

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pp. 9-24

In posing an overview of the Fourth Gospel, discerning the lay of the land will help. As the most distinctive among the four canonical Gospels, noting John’s particular characteristics helps us focus on its contents in their own right. Therefore, the outline and flow of John’s narrative, its material’s distinctive features, and its intended purpose provides a fitting place to begin. ...

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Chapter 2: The Theological Riddles of the Fourth Gospel

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pp. 25-44

In simply considering the thematic center of the Prologue, the theological riddles of the Fourth Gospel become apparent. Is the central emphasis of John 1:14 the Word becoming flesh (featuring the humanity of Jesus), or is it that we have beheld his glory (featuring the divinity of Christ)? Is Jesus one with the Father, or subordinate to the Father? ...

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Chapter 3: The Historical Riddles of the Fourth Gospel

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pp. 45-66

In addition to theological riddles, John’s historical riddles are among the most perplexing features of any biblical text. Whereas John’s theological riddles especially captivated the attention of ancient theologians, John’s historical riddles have evoked some of the most explosive religious and scholarly discussions in modern times. ...

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Chapter 4: The Literary Riddles of the Fourth Gospel

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pp. 67-90

In addition to theological tensions and historical riddles, a host of literary perplexities confront the reader of the Fourth Gospel. Scholars call these aporias (meaning “impasses” or “puzzlements”), and in seeking to address them, they also look for ways to make sense of the other riddles we have already addressed. ...

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Summation of Part 1

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pp. 91-92

When considering even the basic features of the Fourth Gospel, its riddles quickly become apparent. Theologically, nearly every major theme appears to have more than one side to it, and these poles must be held together in tension lest the material be overlooked or misunderstood. ...

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Part 2: Addressing the Johannine Riddles

Having outlined the riddles of the Fourth Gospel, the question now is how to address them and how to interpret the Gospel of John in light of the issues they raise. Of course, the ultimate goal of reading any classic text, especially this favorite Gospel text, is to open oneself to its message and to allow its story to engage us personally. ...

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Chapter 5: Scholarly Approaches to John

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pp. 95-124

Approaches to the Fourth Gospel are often divided into two larger categories: traditional and critical approaches to John. But this simplistic division fails to do justice to astute scholarship on more than one front. While it is largely true that scholarly approaches to John before the nineteenth century were fairly uniform in their appraisals, ...

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Chapter 6: The Dialogical Autonomy of the Fourth Gospel

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pp. 125-156

Reflecting on a dozen leading approaches to the origin and composition of the Fourth Gospel, we see that each of them has its own set of strengths—and likewise weaknesses. Impressive also is the way each of these approaches to John seeks to make sense of the Johannine riddles, with varying degrees of success. ...

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Chapter 7: The Origin and Character of the Johannine Riddles

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pp. 157-170

We return now to the Johannine riddles and how to address them. The two previous chapters showed how composition theories and analyses of the Johannine tradition and its situation have sought to provide ways forward. In the light of John’s dialogical autonomy, we have here an independent tradition that developed alongside Mark ...

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Summation of Part 2

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pp. 171-172

While attempts to address the riddles of the Fourth Gospel have been rigorous and sustained, not all paradigms have fared equally well. Most have addressed some riddles but neglected others. Likewise, addressing one set of problems critically often leads to a new set of critical problems, which scholars have sometimes then ignored. ...

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Part 3: Interpreting the Johannine Riddles

As we turn now to the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, as well as its riddles and related themes, a theory of John’s dialogical autonomy provides a solid basis on which to build. Beginning with leading themes in John’s theology, a question to ponder is whether the theological conclusions of the church fathers and mothers would have been any different ...

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Chapter 8: The Christ of Faith and Johannine Theology

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pp. 175-194

John’s presentation of Jesus as the Christ is central to the Evangelist’s theology, and one is mindful of Oscar Cullmann’s view that for the early Christians, Christology was theology.1 This is especially true for the Fourth Gospel. In addition to the nature of Christ and the Son’s relation to the Father, ...

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Chapter 9: The Jesus of History in John

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pp. 195-220

A great irony of religious studies in the modern era is that the only Gospel claiming to convey tradition rooted in direct access to Jesus and his ministry is also the only Gospel that is programmatically expunged from studies of the historical Jesus. Reasons for this judgment, of course, are understandable. ...

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Chapter 10: The Life of the Church

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pp. 221-236

Bolstering the life of the church is one of the central interests of the Fourth Gospel, and the Evangelist seeks to engage the life of believers with the presence of Christ as the risen Lord of the church. The other Gospels also share this interest, but John excels in its distinctive approaches to church vitality. ...

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Summation of Part 3

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pp. 237-238

Having outlined and addressed the riddles of the Fourth Gospel, their interpretation follows readily. Given John’s dialogical autonomy, understanding it as an individuated tradition developing parallel to, but not dependent upon, the Synoptics, allows the Fourth Gospel to retain its own voice. ...

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Conclusion: Navigating the Living Waters

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pp. 239-244

Nicodemus came to Jesus “by night” making bold claims about what he “knew” as a religious leader, while ironically revealing his ignorance of the ways of the Spirit in the ensuing discussion. Did he come around or did he remain in the dark? Notice that he stood up for Jesus in John 7 and was present at the cross, helping to bury the body of Jesus (19:39). ...


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pp. 245-254


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pp. 255-258

Annotated Bibliography

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pp. 259-270

Bibliographic Appendix

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pp. 271-276

Subject Index

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pp. 277-280

Name Index

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pp. 281-282

Biblical Index

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pp. 283-296

E-ISBN-13: 9781451415551
E-ISBN-10: 1451415559
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800604271
Print-ISBN-10: 080060427X

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011