Mark 9:33-37 is one of the key passages that deal with the subject matter of humility. This passage can be mainly divided into three parts: first, worldly standard of greatness (vv. 33-34); second, Kingdom standard of greatness as an alternative (v. 35); and third, illustrating the Kingdom standard of greatness (vv. 36-37). We shall ponder deep into these three sections for more clarity. First, worldly standard of greatness is discussed (vv. 33-34). Jesus alongside of his disciples came to the city of Capernaum. It is stated that “when he [Jesus] was in the house” (v. 33a). Jesus had good connections with Capernaum and he often stayed there with his disciples (1:21; 2:1; 9:33).

Some readers take 2:1 as evidence that Jesus may have owned a home in the town. In that sense, ‘house’ can either mean his own house or the house of Peter. Jesus says: “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). There is no possibility that Jesus owned a house; but, rather he would have stayed in someone else house. In the city, a house turned into a church is traditionally believed to have been the house of Peter. After healing the mother-in-law of Peter, Jesus had access to his house (1:29-31).

On the way to the house, Jesus was observing the speech patterns, interactions, and behaviours of his companions from a distant angle. At home, he asks them: “What were you arguing about on the road?” This is a miserable situation that they are attempting their best to establish their position in relation to Jesus. They were attempting this each moment including the times when they were in public places. Even they forgot the presence of Jesus with them in that process. The disciples developed their thought-patterns based on the worldly standards.

They understood “greatness” merely in terms of the worldly standards and strived hard to achieve that. In that process, they developed their own self-claims: “I am the Peter and upon me the church shall be built” (Peter, Matthew 16:18); “I am the Beloved Disciple” (John; John 13:23; 20:1-10; chap. 21); “I am the keeper of the money bag” (Judas Iscariot; John 12:6; 13:29); “I am the [Spiritual] Twin of Jesus” (Thomas; John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2); “I am son of Thunder” (James; Mark 3:17); “I brought Peter to Jesus” (Andrew; John 1:42a); “I testified to Nathanael about Jesus” (Philip; John 1:45); and the like. They argue both in the presence and absence of Jesus about their position and status.

The disciples were proud of their responsibilities, portfolios, financial management, connection to Jesus, influence among people, and the like. In an honour and shame context, the disciples understood things (even the spiritual aspects) only in relation to the social norms rather than in terms of the Kingdom principle. Their quietness before Jesus’ question figuratively proves that they were in fact guilty of their material and worldly thinking pattern.

Second, Kingdom standard of greatness is introduced by Jesus as an alternative (v. 35). The sitting down of Jesus, may be on the floor, is symbolically demonstrating his lowliness and attachment to the earth. It reveals that Jesus is very much to the ground realities of the world. In another sense, this was the posture he was using when he taught the disciples. Usually, Jesus was sitting down when he spoke and the hearers were standing around him with their sharpened ears. He utters a conditional statement here: “If anyone wants to be first . . .” (v. 35). It means that rather than imposing things upon the disciples, they were given freedom to take decision of their own. Humility is a virtue that can be developed on the basis of one’s own decision and determination rather than someone else’s imposition.

A person who is very last shall be considered as first. Front seat is always considered honourable according to the Jewish understanding (Matthew 23:5-7). The Pharisees and the Scribes attempted to be seated always at front seats and places of honour. A person who is a servant of all shall be recognized as first. According to the Jewish and the Greco-Roman standards, being a servant was not considered a noble occupation. Being last and servant are considered honourable according to the Kingdom principle. That is totally opposite to the worldly standard of being first and authoritative. Jesus here exhorts his disciples to embrace the heavenly over against the earthly norms and patterns.

Third, Jesus demonstrates the heavenly greatness through the means of an earthly metaphor (vv. 36-37). He took a “little child and had him stand among them” (v. 36a). According to worldly standard a child can nowhere be associated with greatness. A child was considered as a symbol of “inexperience,” “novice,” and “dependence.” In an adult-centered society, children were not at all considered worthy. In v. 35, it is stated that Jesus was “sitting down”; but here the child is “standing among them.” Jesus here symbolically demonstrates that adulthood should go down and we should allow the childhood stand up. As Jesus lifts the child in his arms, it can symbolically mean that Jesus was embracing childhood as something unique to be cherished.

Jesus states that “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Here, Jesus foregrounds children as symbols of humbleness (Matthew 18:4). While the world insists to develop from childhood to adulthood, Jesus insists to develop from adulthood to childhood. In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus allows the children come to him and made the adult disciples be silenced. The children are occupying the space that the adult disciples occupied.

Jesus’ statement in v. 37 can be considered as the punch-line statement of the event. As per the heavenly principle, one can achieve honour through the means of accepting the neglected, outcastes, children, strangers, and little and feeble ones in the name of Jesus. Welcoming Jesus means welcoming the heavenly Father who sent him. According to the heavenly standards, honour is not simply welcoming the socially-ranked, financially sound, racially higher, and educationally greater. But, rather embracing the neglected ones in the world. That is possible only when we transform ourselves and be humble. We should consider humbleness as a virtue to live a worthy life as children of God and representatives of the Kingdom of God.

Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty, Professor of New Testament, United Theological College, Bengaluru, India

We live in a multi-religious context; hence, we should be open to the realities around us. A closed outlook to the surrounding realities shall lead us to impossibilities in the midst of possibilities. We should navigate our thought-patterns as optimists rather than remaining pessimists and refraining from the cultural realities in the world. One of the marks of a mature Christian identity is openness to the conceptual and ideological framework lie beyond our own. Christian mission in the Indian context is a herculean task and at the same time it has multiple possibilities. Possibilities can be channelized if we involve diplomatically and engage dynamically within a culturally and ideologically rich world. We should consider Sindoor as a possibility rather than a problem.

Sindoor is called mang in Hindi and simandarekha in Sanskrit. Usually, women apply it in their parting of the hairline. The parting of hair is symbolic of a river of red blood full of life. Sindoor was part of Hindu culture from the Harappan civilization about 5000 years ago. It can be symbolically identified as a mark of unique Christian living in India. I do not mean that Sindoor should be considered as a mark of Christian identity; but rather the argument is that we should not go against this cultural practice.

Though Sindoor has several mythological and superstitious roots, it is accepted as a cultural norm in the Hindu society. As it was practiced among the Hindus during a long span of time, it has deep-roots within the Hindu culture. While Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) maintained that culture is the soil of religion, Paul Tillich (1896-1965) believed that religion is the soul of culture. Here we see both Troeltsch and Tillich attribute an integral relationship between religion and culture. In that sense, religion cannot flourish without having a cultural framework. Hence, we Christian theologians and missiologists in India need to appreciate the positives of the cultural symbols and ideologies rather than suppressing them altogether. It is one of the general principles we need to adopt as we live in a multi-religious context.

Richard Niebuhr understands Christ and culture through a dynamic relationship at five levels. If we take the position of “Christ against the culture,” a clash between the gospel and the culture is unavoidable. The “Christ of the culture” model enables the interpreter comfortable to find the interpretability of Christ in context. In the “Christ above culture” paradigm, Niebuhr considers “cultural aspects are basically good and they can be perfected by Christian revelation and the work of the church.” In the model of “Christ and culture in paradox,” the tension between Christ and the Culture does not advocate a total negation of culture but rather simultaneously embracing and rejecting certain aspects of it. In the paradigm of “Christ transforming the culture,” a transformation is suggested with the accompaniment of the culture rather than doing it away from it. These five paradigms of Niebuhr should be properly placed in order to understand the gospel and culture interlocking in a pluralist and multi-religious context.

Nothing under the sun is a hindrance to the gospel. In the Corinthian context, Paul was strategic and diplomatic in implementing the Christian principles. If at all Paul gave any strict rules to the community, he did it because of the weaker sections of the community. Paul considered some of the socio-cultural elements to build his Christian ideology as a ‘third space.’ A ‘third space’ can be built based on the ideals and the principles of the ‘first’ and ‘second’ spaces. In postcolonial terms, an “accommodation and disruption” methodology can be well placed in the Indian context. For example, Sindoor has a lot of positives rather than the underlying negatives. It exists as a cultural practice over 5000 years because of its foregrounding positive aspects. In Christian mission and praxis, we can accommodate the positives and disrupt the negatives. There is no insistence from anybody that Christians should use Sindoor; but, for the sake of Christ and for a new missional paradigm, we should widen our perspectives and scope toward Sindoor in our multi-religious context.

In Hinduism, Sindoor signifies that wife is the property of the husband. It symbolizes her never dying love toward her husband. In another sense, Sindoor was used to please men in the male chauvinistic society. If a 2000 years old Christian Scripture has a large number of male chauvinistic denotations and connotations, how can we expect a 5000 years old culture and practice free from male chauvinistic ideology? In Christianity, we metaphorically place Christ as the bridegroom and church as the bride. The same metaphor is idealized even when Paul talks about family, husband and wife relationship, and household codes. Indian Christians can adopt Sindoor as a symbol with a claim that the church belongs to Christ. It is not necessary to implement it as a legal requirement within the church; but we should take initiative to teach the church about the significance of Sindoor as a symbol with Christian connotations.

Sindoor can symbolically mean that a woman is unclean during her periods. In the Bible, women during their periods were considered as unclean. The Pauline passages like “women should be submissive to their husbands” and “women should be silent in the church” are dictums of the male chauvinistic culture. If we can interpret these Pauline passages in favor of women with a hermeneutics of suspicion, we can progress steps further with a prospective hermeneutics of Sindoor. It is not a compulsion to accommodate it or practice it; but, we can at least deter from going against this cultural practice that has a lot of ethical and moral concerns and principles.  

The mark of Sindoor communicates a message that the one who uses it is no more a virgin, but a grown up and married lady. This symbolism of Sindoor is pregnant with Christian ideologies. Radha, intense beloved of Krishna, and Sita, wife of Rama, wore Sindoor not as people without personal identity but as people devoted to their husbands and as ideal women lived in human history. Radha and Sita were/are considered as ideal women, wives, and powerful ladies in par with their men counterparts. In Christianity, we refer to the mark of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit as symbolical expressions to reveal our identity as bride of Christ or “married to Christ.” Such accommodative ideas are welcome in a multireligious context to unravel the Christian identity.

Sindoor is considered as a woman’s holiest mark as she begins her journey as a bride. It is also considered as a woman’s validation as a married woman. Put on by the husband during the wedding rituals, Sindoor is then applied by women every day to mark his presence in her life. It is a mark of female energy as in Hinduism marriage is a ceremony with a lot of hope about the future. It is in several ways true with Christianity as we hope new heights with our marriage. Marriage is one of the overarching metaphors used in the Bible to demonstrate the relationship between Christ and the church. The nuptial relationship between Christ and the church is our future hope. The mark of Sindoor and its denotative and connotative semantics play a significant role in Christian hermeneutical endeavors.

Sindoor is thrown in the air as a sign of prosperity and honor during festivals like Holi. Studies prove that Sindoor enhances people’s concentration and it has medicinal value. According to Hindu understanding, Sindoor is a mark of strength, blood, fire, and life. Here again we see several reminiscents between the Hindu understanding of Sindoor and the Christian understanding of Jesus’s blood. In Christianity, Jesus’s blood is considered as a mark of power and strength and as a symbol that transforms human life. As Sindoor is a mark of fire, Christians conceptualize fire as a symbol of purity and Holy Spirit. Just as Sindoor is a mark of a life-stream, Jesus came to give us life in its abundance. The symbolic representation of Sindoor cannot be disregarded in the process of interpreting Christian ethos in the Indian context.

Sindoor has a global appeal. In several Hindi movies, Sindoor is used with a positive appeal (for example: “Sindoor” [1987]). Several female characters in Hindi movies have been shown with utmost power and courage due to the Sindoor being marked on their forehead. Priyanka Chopra promotes feminist ideology while bearing thick Sindoor and choodas. The ideology of Sindoor goes well with the Christian understanding of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The blood of Jesus transforms, rejuvenates, purifies, and empowers people. Similarly, Holy Spirit empowers people for mission and cleanses them so that they may be holy and transformed. A lady who has Sindoor on her forehead and committed to do the will of her husband demonstrates her servant-leadership model in the family. Christ came as a servant-leader to transform the world. As her commitment and sacrifice build the Indian family ethos, Christ’s commitment and sacrifice build the family of God. A woman with a Sindoor on her forehead can be considered as a Christian personality existing beyond the Christian borders.

Sindoor is part and parcel of Indian culture with several positive values. Christian mission initiatives without considering its positive significance and value are attempts to develop a rhetoric of distance. A rhetoric of distance is a hindrance in witnessing Christ in a pluralistic and multi-religious context. In order to avoid extreme levels of syncretism, Biblical interpreters and missiologists can adopt a rhetoric of difference. Keeping away from the cultural practices shall lead Christian theologians and interpreters to anachronistic missional endeavors with resultant frustrations ahead rather than missional possibilities. Exact representation of one word, concept, culture, ideology, religion and philosophy in other contexts is impossible. Hence, missiologists and theologians should employ a dynamic equivalent approach to interpret the linguistic and cultural aspects. In that sense, Sindoor is a possibility rather than a problem in the Indian Christian hermeneutical endeavors.

For Further References:

Marbaniang, Domenic, 2014. “The Gospel and Culture: Areas of Conflict, Consent, and Conversion.” Religion and Culture. Hong Kong Baptist University.

Niebuhr, H. Richard, 1951. Christ and Culture. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Soja, Edward W., 1996. Third Space: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Malden: Wiley.

Tillich, Paul, 1959. Theology of Culture. Ed. Robert C. Kimball. London/Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thomaskutty, Johnson, 2022. “Culture-Dynamics in the Johannine Community Context.” One Gospel, Many Cultures. Ed. Arren Bennet Lawrence. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (Forthcoming).

Troeltsch, Ernst, 1977. Writings on Theology and Religion. Eds. and Trans. Robert Morgan and Michael Pye. Atlanta: John Knox Press., accessed on 6 April 2022., accessed on 7 April 2022., accessed on 6 April 2022., accessed on 6 April 2022., accessed on 6 April 2022., accessed on 7 April 2022.

Prof. Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty

The United Theological College

Bengaluru, India

A Glance of Johnson Thomaskutty’s 2021

Posted: December 27, 2021 in General

Present Status

2021: Appointed as Professor of New Testament at The United Theological College, Bengaluru, India.

2021: Research Associate of the Department of New Testament and Related Literature at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Peer Review Editor

  • 2021: Article [“Ubuntu Constructs through the Lens of Womanism”]: HTS Theological Studies, South Africa.
  • 2021: Article [“African Women’s Theology and the Re-Imagining of Community in Africa”]: HTS Theological Studies, South Africa.
  • 2021: Article [“An African Biblical Interpretation of Matthew 20:1-15 in Relation to Social Justice for Workers in Cameroon”]: Stellenbosch Theological Journal,South Africa.

Works in Progress and Awaiting Publication:

  • BOOK: Contemporary Readings of the Gospel of John (Christian World Imprints).
  • BOOK [Edited]: Reading the New Testament in India (Oxford University Press).
  • BOOK: A Commentary on John’s Gospel (Asia Commentary on the Gospel of John; London: Langham Publications).
  • ARTICLE: “A Polyvalent Hermeneutics of the New Testament” (HTS Theological Studies).
  • ARTICLE: “Oneness in John 17:1-26 as a Paradigm for Wider Ecumenism and Dialogue” (Neotestamentica).
  • ARTICLE: “Wider Ecumenism in John 17:1-26 in the Light of Theological Education in India” (Bangalore Theological Forum).
  • ARTICLE: “Ethnomusicology of the New Testament in the Indian Context” (Asian Journal of Theology).
  • ARTICLE: “Normal, Postnormal, and New Normal: A Theology of Hope in John 20:1-29” (HTS Theological Studies).
  • ARTICLE: “Reading John 11:1-45 from a Postnormal Times (PTN) Perspective” (Acta Theologica).
  • “‘Healing’ and ‘Life’ in the Fourth Gospel: A Reflection from the Pandemic COVID-19 Realities” (Masihi Sevak, UTC, Bangalore).
  • ARTICLE: “‘Healing’ and ‘Life’ in the Fourth Gospel: A Reflection from the Pandemic COVID-19 Realities” (ECC Journal, Bangalore).
  • ARTICLE: “Re-reading the Bible from a Management Perspective in a Pandemic/Post-Pandemic VUCA World” (Christian Institute of Management).
  • ARTICLE: “Culture-dynamics in the Johannine Community Context” (Fortress Press).
  • BIBLE STUDY: “God in the Midst of Pandemic COVID-19,” NCCI Review.

Published Works:

  • BOOK: (Edited): An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2022). Consulting Editors: Brian Wintle, Tatsiong Benny Liew, and K. K. Yeo; Foreword by: R. S. Sugirtharajah; Preface by: Nijay K. Gupta; Endorsements by: Michael Gorman, Raj Nadella, and Sharon Jacob.
  • BOOK (Edited, with Mathew Chandrankunnel CMI): Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality (New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2021). Foreword by: Cardinal Mar George Alencherry; Endorsement: Chilkuri Vasantha Rao.
  • BOOK: Yuhanna Rachith Susamachar (Hindi Translation; Pune: Union Biblical Seminary, 2021).
  • ARTICLE: “The Gospel of John,” An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2022): 127-156.
  • ARTICLE [Co-authored with Edwin Jebaraj]: “The Gospel of Mark,” An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2021): 75-101.
  • ARTICLE: “Introduction,” An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2022): 1-4.
  • ARTICLE: “Universalistic Language and Literary Style of the Fourth Gospel,” Bangalore Theological Forum LIII/1 (June 2021): 222-233.
  • ARTICLE: “Jesus and Spirituality: Reading the Fourth Gospel in the Light of the Indian Culture,” Religions 2021 [MDPI], Vol. 12/9, 780: 1-12.
  • ARTICLE: “‘Gospel’ and ‘Culture’ from a Johannine Community Perspective,” Theological and Ethical Issues in Nepal: Papers Presented at Nepal Theological Forum, Eds. Akumtila Jamir and Chubamongba Ao (Kathmandu: Samdan Publishers, 2021): 111-134.
  • ARTICLE: “The Johannine Community and the Fourth Gospel in the Pandemic Covid-19 Context,” Gurukul Journal of Theological Studies (Vol. XXVII/1; March 2021): 5-25.
  • ARTICLE: “New Testament Ethnomusicology in the Indian Context,” The Bible and Interpretation (Online Journal), Hosted by University of Arizona, Edited by Mark Elliot (June 2021):
  • ARTICLE: “Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality—Introduction,” Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality. New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2021: xvii-xxiv.
  • ARTICLE: “‘Humanhood’ in the Gospel of John,” HTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies 77/4 [a6643; 2021): 1-8.
  • ARTICLE: “Johannine Spirituality in the Indian/Asian Contexts,” Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality. New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2021: 155-170.
  • ARTICLE: “Reading the Fourth Gospel in the COVID-19 Pandemic Context,” HTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies 77/4 [a6355; 2021): 1-9.
  • ARTICLE: “Reading the Fourth Gospel in India,” The Bible and Interpretation (Online Journal), Hosted by University of Arizona, Edited by Mark Elliot (January 2021):

Reflective Writings:

Academic Presentations

  • 2021: A colloquium organized by TransLe (Transforming Leadership) Ministries International, Australia. Topic: “ordinarius hermeneutica” (Ordinary Hermeneutics).
  • 2021: Academic Presentation during the UTC Alumni Refresher Seminar. Topic: “Normal, Postnormal, New Normal: A Theology of Hope in John 20:1-29.”
  • 2021: Professorial Lecture organized by the Doctoral Studies Department and the Administrative Council of The United Theological College, Bengaluru, India. Topic: “Reading John 11:1-45 from a Postnormal Times (PNT) Perspective.”
  • 2021: Faculty Research Seminar organized by Post-Graduate Studies at The United Theological College, Bengaluru, India. Topic: “‘Gospel’ and ‘Culture’ from a Johannine Community Perspective.”
  • 2021: Book Launching Program of Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality, organized by The Ecumenical Christian Center (ECC, Bengaluru). Topic: “The Topics and the Authors of the Book.
  • 2021: International Consultation on “Relevance of Christian Management in the Pandemic/Post-Pandemic World,” organized by Christian Institute of Management (CIM, India) and Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD, UK). Topic: “Re-reading the Bible from a Management Perspective in a Pandemic/Post-Pandemic World.”
  • 2021: Biblical Studies Department Book Proposal on “Biblical Models of Leadership,” at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.
  • 2021: Academic Virtual Paper Presentation on “Reading Mark’s Gospel in the Asian Context,” MTh students, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

Academic and Ecclesiastical Interviews:

  • 2021: An Online Interview with Dr. Manoja Korada on the topic Ordinary Hermeneutics, organized by TransLe Ministries International, Sydney, Australia.

Johnson Thomaskutty

United Theological College

Bengaluru, India

Full Access to Some of My Recent (2019-2021) Peer Reviewed Articles and Biblical Reflections Online

  • New Book: An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (2021)
  • Jesus and Spirituality: Reading the Fourth Gospel in the Light of the Indian Culture (2021)

  • ‘Humanhood’ in the Gospel of John (2021)

  • Reading the Fourth Gospel in the COVID-19 pandemic Context (2021)

  • New Testament Ethnomusicology in the Indian Context (2021)

  • Reading the Fourth Gospel in India (2021)

  • New Book: Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality (2021)
  • Characterization of Thomas in the Fourth Gospel (2020)

  • Suffering for Christ: A New Testament Perspective (2020)

  • New Book: The Gospel of John: A Universalistic Reading (2020)
  • Dialogue as a Literary Genre in the Book of Signs, John 1:19-12:50 (2019)

  • Universalistic Style of the Fourth Gospel (2019)

  • New Book: Serampore Mission, Perspectives in Contexts (2019)
  • As the Father has Sent Me, I am Sending You, John 20:21 (2021)
  • Medical Expressions in Luke Chapter 1 (2021)
  • Hindi Book: An Indian Introduction to the Gospel of John (2021)
  • Believing is Living (2021)
  • Jesus is Our Benefactor and Our Helping Hand, John 6:1-15 (2021)
  • Lent and the Action Oriented Prayer of Jesus, John 17:6-19 (2021)
  • A Man Born Blind and His Discipleship Model, John 9:1-41 (2021)
  • God’s Work in Times of Quarantine, John 5:1-18 (2021)
  • “Newness” in John’s Gospel and the Year 2021 (2021)
  • New Joy of Salvation (2020)
  • Joseph’s Commitment for the First Christmas (2020)

Though I started teaching the Bible as a Sunday school teacher in my local church set up in Kerala (1987-1993) and as a Bible Trainer at Faith Bible Training Center, Faridabad, Haryana (1997-1999), I settled as a New Testament teacher when I started equipping students at the BD level in Serampore College, Hooghly, West Bengal, from 2001 onward. The same is continued until today as a faculty member in the United Theological College, Bengaluru. In 2021, I complete twenty years of teaching the New Testament at the BD level

Serampore College, Hooghly, West Bengal (2001-2004)

In June 2001, I was appointed as Lecturer of New Testament at BD level in Serampore College. Serampore College is located in Serampore, in Hooghly district, West Bengal state, India. Established in 1818, it is the second oldest college in the country after Presidency College, Kolkata, and one of the oldest educational institutes in India that is still functional. The college consists of two entities: The theological faculty and a separate college with faculties of arts, science, and commerce. As a college founded by William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward, popularly known as “The Serampore Trio,” I was influenced by the great works of the Serampore missionaries and the legacy of the college. During my four years of teaching at Serampore College, I also served the institution in the capacity of College Chaplain. Thanks to the Serampore College Council and the administration for the opportunity to begin my teaching ministry at the BD level.

Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, Maharashtra (2008-2021)

In June 2008, I was appointed as Lecturer of New Testament at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, Maharashtra, one of the premier Evangelical theological institutions in the country. Over the years, I was promoted at the Assistant and Associate professor levels and was occupying the offices of Head of the Department of New Testament, Dean of Biblical Studies, and Dean of Distance Learning program. Union Biblical Seminary (UBS) is founded by Wesleyan and Methodist denominations in India. UBS started as a Marathi-medium Bible School opened by the Free Methodist Church and was finally established in 1953 and initially located in Yavatmal, before relocating it to Pune in 1983. It is affiliated with the Senate of Serampore College (University) and accredited to the Asia Theological Association (ATA). The Union Biblical Seminary is unique in the sense that it represents evangelical Christians from almost all the major Indian ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups as well as from other countries. The dynamic principle of ‘unity in diversity’ finds expression in everyday experience based on the solid foundation of the person of Jesus Christ, to whom every member of the UBS family is committed. I was teaching and guiding students at the BD, MDiv, MTh, and DTh levels in the seminary. I remain thankful to the Board and administration of UBS for my teaching ministry over a period of 13 years.

The United Theological College, Bengaluru, Karnataka (2021 onward)

In July 2021, I am appointed as professor of New Testament at The United Theological College, Bengaluru, Karnataka, one of the prestigious ecumenical theological institutions that completed 110 years of fulfilling ministry in the national and international levels. The United Theological College (UTC) is a Christian college founded in 1910 situated in the southern city of Bangalore in the state of Karnataka in South India and affiliated to India’s first Theological University, the Senate of Serampore College (University) with degree-granting authority validated by a Danish Charter and ratified by the Government of West Bengal. Since 1976, UTC has been granted the status of an autonomous college under the University. The college has welcomed world leaders. Mahatma Gandhi visited it in 1927 and declared: “To live the gospel is the most effective way . . . I can say that the life of service and uttermost simplicity is the best preaching.” India Post released a centenary commemorative stamp in honor of the United Theological College (UTC) on 8 July 2011. The college emphasizes the freedom of expression, academic and ministerial emphases, national and international connectivity, transparent administrative system, and ecumenical theological framework. I enjoy teaching and guiding at the BD, MTh, and DTh levels in the college.

During the last twenty years, teaching the New Testament equipped me to interpret the Scripture by taking into consideration the ethos and pathos of the nation of India, the local and global aspects embedded within the Scripture, and the historical, literary, theological, and contextual layers of the Bible. A wider-ecumenical path in which I was able to develop a dialogical interpretative framework between Western and Eastern, Christian and non-Christian, Catholic and Protestant, Pentecostal and Charismatic, Dalit and non-Dalit, Tribal and non-Tribal, feminine and masculine, and other ideologies for convergence and crosspollination. Thanks to all my friends, colleagues, churches, institutions, and organizations for being part of my life realities, ministerial involvements, and interpretative endeavors.

Your brother and friend

Johnson Thomaskutty

The United Theological College

Bengaluru, India

The Union Biblical Seminary (with the acronym UBS), Pune, Maharashtra, India, was our home during the last thirteen years (2008-2021). I still remember our first day in June 2008 when I alongside of my family members stepped into the UBS campus as a Faculty Member. I came to the seminary after four years of my service as a Junior Faculty member at the Serampore College, Hooghly, West Bengal. As UBS being a seminary affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College and accredited to the Asia Theological Association, I got enormous opportunities to grow up as a learner, teacher, preacher, conference speaker, researcher, scholar, and above all a servant of God. The faculty and students representation from wider geographical, ethnic, and denominational backgrounds revived and exposed me to the varied cultural and theological convictions of the country.

The period in UBS was some of the most productive days in my academic and spiritual life. On June 19, 2014, I defended my PhD Dissertation at Radboud University Nijmegen (under a renowned Johannine scholar, Prof. Jan van der Watt) while I was a faculty member in UBS. I had a wonderful privilege of doing a post-doctoral research on Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions in Ecole Biblique and Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Fuller Theological Seminary, California; Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey; Harvard Divinity School, Massachusetts; Tyndale House and Cambridge University; Oxford University; Oxford Centre for Mission Studies; British Museum; and British Library in UK. While a member of the faculty, I had wonderful privileges to attend international seminars and colloquiums like 500th Anniversary of Reformation in Wittenberg, Germany; Johannine Colloquium in Aarhus University, Denmark; SBL/AAR Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia; Johannine Research in Leuven, Belgium; and various research seminars in University of Amsterdam and Free University, Amsterdam; Theological University, Kampen; Utrecht University, Utrecht; Leiden University, Leiden; Groningen University, Groningen; and other universities in Holland. I made use of all those occasions to expand the connections between UBS and some of the prestigious universities across the globe.

Ministerial involvement was another area where I equipped myself alongside of the UBS graduates spread across the globe. I received large number of invitations from Nepal, Bangladesh, and different parts of India like Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and the North Eastern States for various involvements. The churches irrespective of denominational barriers in Pune, Nasik, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Mumbai, Ahmed Nagar, Solapur, Baramati, Paud, and other places often extended their invitation to me as a resource person. My continuous involvement in the ministry of the NICOG church in Pune was a great blessing for me and my family enjoyed it with all fondness. Churches in Pune and Mumbai like St. Paul’s Church, Oldham Methodist Church, CFCC Church, CORe Church, CNI Paud Church, IPC Church, First Contextual Church, Church of God, AG Church, and others often extended their invitation to me as a preacher, Bible teacher, and conference speaker. Organizations like YWAM ministries (Lonavala, Pune, Mysore, and Delhi), New Life Ministries (Borivali, Mumbai), Mukti Udharan Seva Trust (Pune), Pandita Ramabhai Mukti Mission (Kedgaon), Maharashtra Fellowship for Deaf (MFD), Asian Academy for Leadership and Peace (Daund), Kolhapur Churches Council (Kolhapur), Narayan Vaman Tilak Trust (Ahmed Nagar), YMCA and YWCA (Pune), and other organizations were a blessing for me to exposit the Biblical passage.

Institutions like Christian Institute of Management (CMI), Chennai; Ecumenical Christian Center (ECC), Bangalore; Vineyard Ministries in Malaysia; Church of God Ministries in Lalmonirhat and Dhaka, Bangladesh; Nepal Ebenezar Bible College, Kathmandu; Nepal Theological College, Kathmandu; Nepal Theological Association, Kathmandu; Everest Theological Seminary, Kathmandu; Beth-Shalom School of Theology, Kathmandu; Hindustan Bible Institute, Chennai; Rhema Bible Seminary, Kerala and others considered me as their well-wisher and ministry partner on multifarious occasions. UBS Extension centres like Tyrannus Hall, Women’s Studies Department, Nepal Center, Indore Center, Ahmednagar Center, Kolhapur Center, Bangladesh Center, and others opened their ministerial platform for me on various occasions.

In the academic level, I developed a lot of connections at the local, national, and international levels while remaining as a member of faculty in UBS. I published and completed some of my monographs and edited works as a faculty member at UBS, like: (1) The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs [John 1:19-12:50] (Proefschrift; Nijmegen, Holland: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 2014); (2) Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50 (Leiden/Boston: E. J. Brill, 2015); (3) Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions (Jewish and Christian Texts Series 25; London and New York: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2018); (4) Serampore Mission: Perspectives in Contexts (Edited work; New Delhi/Pune: ISPCK/Union Biblical Seminary, 2019); (5) The Gospel of John: A Universalistic Reading (New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2020); (6) Yuhanna Rachith Susamachar (Hindi Translation; Pune: Union Biblical Seminary, 2021); (7) Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality (Edited work with Mathew Chandrankunnel; New Delhi: Christian World Imprints, 2021); (8) An Asian Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2021; in the press); and (9) A Commentary on John: Asia Bible Series (Langham Press, upcoming). I also started organizing an edited volume for Oxford University Press with a title Reading the New Testament in India and awaiting its completion soon. More than three years I served as the General Editor of Union Biblical Seminary Journal and produced several issues of the journal. It was my privilege to contribute academic articles published in peer reviewed journals like HTS Theological Studies, Acta Theologica, MDPI: Religions, Journal of Asian Evangelical Theology, Asia Journal of Theology, SATHRI Journal, Bible and Interpretation, Bangalore Theological Forum, and many others.

What I learned and what I advise are that when we faithfully engage in God’s work, people around us are often disturbed. My conviction is that we should not do and involve in things that we are not called for. When we are not able to understand our divine call, we often involve in everything and remain frustrated by the end. People of this sort can survive only for a short span of time. If you are interested in a long lasting result, there is no substitute for hard work. Be acquainted with God and be friendly with people around. If someone disguise your genuine friendship to her/his personal benefits, identify such people and do not trust them anymore. Be yourself rather than becoming someone else. Ultimately God is with the righteous and industrious people. Let us please God, not Mammon!

My last working day in UBS shall be June 30, 2021. We earnestly pray for a smooth transition as we look forward for our future ministry for God’s kingdom and glory. UBS is always in our hearts and also in our prayers.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Union Biblical Seminary

Christianity and Parochialism

Posted: June 15, 2021 in General

The Cambridge Dictionary defines parochialism as: “the quality of showing interest only in a narrow range of matters, especially those that directly affect yourself, your town, or your country.” The term originates from the idea of parish (Latin ‘parochia’), one of the smaller divisions within many Christian churches.[1] Parochialism originates when someone ignores the cultural and social impacts, professional aspects and policies, and procedures and programs. It happens when “one’s own concepts are perceived as culture-free and the only and universal way of thinking and acting.”[2] A person who fosters parochialism can be “exclusive” in attitude and “delimiting” in her/his deliberations.

Biblical interpreters and preachers often behave like “type-personalities” with their closed mind-set. Often we brainstorm, exegete, exposit, and theologize the Biblical ideas within a closed framework detached from the circumstantial and evidential aspects, socio-religious and politico-cultural realities, and logical and universal truth. Our myopic worldviews delimit us to self-centeredness. By seeing “I,” “mine” and “myself,” we weigh down the collective ideals like “We,” “our,” and “ourselves.” At least during the pandemic, we need to put aside all sorts of parochial attitudes when we express our views, interact with the divine and the rest of humanity, and live our life out in the public square. Often we abnegate the suffering neighbourhood while we erect mansions, neglect the needy-poor on the pretext of their sinful natures and attitudes, and hide ourselves behind the huge physical and ideological walls built around us. We have a claim like ‘God has given me everything’; but, unfortunate it is to affirm that we/you are steeped into parochialism. 

When we use the expressions like “my identity,” “my family,” “my church,” “my mission,” and “my community” without thinking of the rest of the world-order, we are at the verge of parochialism. Rather than understanding our faith and practices within the framework of the world outside and the existential struggles of the larger human society, we often look at the world outside exclusively from the vantage point of our own parochialism. We need to affirm the fact that our first identity is worldly and it is an added privilege that we are transformed by the death of Jesus on the cross.

We need to help our Christian community to overcome parochialism by acquainting them with values, customs and institutions that differ from our own. Selfish pettiness or narrowness (as of interests, opinions or views) might be a hindrance to our Christian living in the world. Sometimes, parochialism is the state of mind, whereby people focus on small sections of an issue rather than considering its wider context. In that sense, parochialism is almost identical to Pharisaism. As Jesus, the Gospel writers, and Paul the apostle par-excellence interacted with the world outside in a broader outlook, we are required to interpret the truths of the Gospel within the canvas of the world outside.




Johnson Thomaskutty

Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality

Edited by: Johnson Thomaskutty & Mathew Chansdrankunnel CMI

Associate Editors: RSV Sukumar Babu & Thangminlun Vaiphei

A Brief Description of the Book

The current edited volume entitled Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality is ecumenical in nature as the authors attempt to interpret the Biblical narratives and the extra-Biblical documents from multiple vantage points and suggest a new way forward for Christian spirituality in the contemporary Indian context. The articles aim to answer the following questions: How can we conceptualize and interpret the Christian Scriptures and extra-Biblical documents for a borderless spiritual formation and orientation? How can the Biblical spirituality cross the human made boundaries like caste, colour, ethnicity, gender, denomination, religion, and others? Can we understand Biblical Spirituality above and beyond the so-called denominational and religious boundaries? How Bible can be used as a paradigm to cross the traditional boundaries, create contextual and ideological constellations, build dialogical relationships, incorporate relevant Indian categories, and rhetorize the discourse toward a ‘Third Space’? Answering these questions are key in the process of searching for a new paradigm of spirituality.

The existent notions of “spirituality” and “biblical interpretations” lag behind in making inclusive and accommodative aspects of the multi-religious, multi-cultural, and pluralistic contexts in India. The prevailing interpretations of biblical spirituality, with their exclusive and parochial tendencies and approaches, do not have the potential to make a wider impact in the contemporary contexts of our country. Often Biblical interpretations introduced to the Indian context are seemingly distanced from the Indian cultural heritage and the message of Christ needed to be incarnated into our ethos imbibing from the wealth of our traditions such as the concept of Guru! Therefore interpreters should employ dynamic and inclusive strategies to interlock the religious scriptures with the spiritual semantics relevant in the Indian contexts. In that process, the Christian Scriptures in closer relationship with other religious traditions of India and the day-to-day lived experiences of the people should be clustered together as kernels to address the pathos of diverse people groups, irrespective of their ethnic, caste-oriented, religious, and gender backgrounds.

In order to achieve this goal, an interpreter of the Bible, first of all, should cross the traditional hermeneutical strategies, moving from exclusive and ecclesiastical interpretations to inclusive and inter-textual and inter-religious interpretations. Creating constellation of ideas between the biblical worldview and the Indian worldview might help interpretations in particular contexts. In a pluralistic context like India, building dialogical engagements with other religious and cultural aspects is both necessary and has the potential to enhance the scope of the interpretative task. Furthermore, through the ways of crossing the traditional boundaries, creating ideological constellations, and building dialogical relationships, the interpreters should aim to direct the Indian mind toward a “third space” that transforms people’s spiritual aspirations and experiences. These are the ways an interpreter can rhetorize her/his interpretative discourse in contexts both “here and now” and “everywhere and ever.” Through all these processes, an interpreter should aim to formulate an inclusive spirituality that transcends all human made boundaries.

The four words used in the title of the book require some attention. The adjective wider can mean either “having great extent or range” or “to the full extent.” The current volume attempts to incorporate some of the varied ideas of the people from different backgrounds with their inclusive outlook and diverse perspectives. The expression contextualized is used with a sense “to place (something, such as a linguistic element or an activity) in a context” or interlocking the contextual realities of the biblical times with that of the Indian ground realities. The term Biblical is inclusive as both the canonical and non-canonical writings are incorporated for ideological convergence and interpretative significance. The noun form spirituality is used here with a broader connotation as it points the reader toward a wider spectrum of human life situations and existent problems. Thus, the title Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality is an attempt to interpret and understand the human life situations both in the Biblical thought-world and in the contemporary Indian scenario in cross-pollination and cross-fertilization. The following seventeen articles provide the reader a wider range of understanding of spirituality with a broader outlook.

The seventeen articles in this book deal with a wider contextualized Biblical spirituality that can encompass and accommodate the socio-religious and politico-cultural aspects of the Indian context. In that sense, Biblical spirituality is wider as it is emerged out of people’s varied levels of livelihood and contextualized as it is engaged with the day to day affairs of human surroundings. A crosspollination of the Biblical spirituality that is wider and contextualized with that of the contemporary socio-religious and politico-cultural aspects enables us to understand its inclusive nature. The authors of the articles agree that Biblical spirituality is liberative, transformative, and accommodative as it takes into account a wider spectrum of the human life situations.


“I am very happy to introduce this great work on Biblical Spirituality which has collated and corralled a variety of reflections based on the Bible against the background of the cross currents of  the modern age. Fr. Mathew Chandrankunnel CMI and Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty have done a marvellous job in bringing together scholars with expertise in different areas of biblical scholarship to reflect on contemporary situations. As believers in Jesus Christ, we re-enact in our lives the experience of the Lord in His incarnational existence. Every facet of human life and every aspect of the universe were touched by the life of Jesus so that the Word of God has got a message for everyone and everything, however insignificant it may appear to be.  From ‘The Cry from the Margins’ to ‘The Healing Ministry and Biblical Spirituality,’ the authors have made an attempt to examine the different aspects of human life in the light of the compassion and love offered through the Bible. I congratulate all the writers who have used their scholarship and intellectual acumen to examine the realities of human experience through the prismatic lens of the Bible.” (Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church).

“This collection of articles on Wider Contextualized Biblical Spirituality will provide an excellent reading to anyone who appreciates the inclusiveness of Biblical spirituality that embraces the contextual realities of the Indian communities. The articles are wide-ranging, the editors and the authors seek to delve into Biblical spirituality from various perspectives—cry from the margins, eco-gender issues, God’s silence, subversiveness, Messianic identity, inclusiveness, discipleship, holism, male-female pairing, Pentecostal experiences, contextualization, intertextuality, identification with the marginalized, pneumatic nomism, ‘lived experience’ of the divine, tribal identity, and healing ministry and borderless church. This book is a rich mine of information on Biblical spirituality and contextual interpretation, taking our attention toward a wider hermeneutical interplay to gain a deeper and wider understanding of the spiritual truths. I warmly recommend this book to all serious readers of the Word.” (Chilkuri Vasantha Rao, Dr. Theol., Hamburg University, Principal and Professor of Old Testament, The United Theological College, Bengaluru, India).

Table of Contents  


Preface, Mathew Chandrankunnel CMI

Foreword, Mar George Cardinal Alencherry

Introduction, Johnson Thomaskutty

  • Cry from the Margins as Prayer: A Search for Biblical Spirituality of Prayer           

– Joy Philip Kakkanattu CMI

  • Eco-Gender Spirituality in the Hebrew Bible: Symbiotic Relationship between God, People and Land           

– Shiju Mathew

  • The Spirituality of God’s Silence in Lamentations

– Balu Savarikannu

  • A Subversive Spirituality of Prophet Jeremiah

– Akanksha Samuel Makasare

  • The Messianic Spirituality in the Large Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) and Its Relevance to the Indian Christian Spirituality

– Yeshwanth Bakkavemana

  • Matthean Inclusive Spirituality

– Laurence Culas

  • Spirituality and Discipleship: The Role of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52

– J. Stanly Jones

  • Holistic Spirituality in Luke 19:1-10 and Its Response to Poverty in India

– Atoholi Swu

  • Male-Female Pairing in Luke-Acts: Spirituality of Inclusive Humanism

– Prema Vakayil CSST

  • Luke-Acts Paradigm and Pentecostal Spirituality

– George Philip

  • Johannine Spirituality in the Indian/Asian Contexts

– Johnson Thomaskutty

  • Logos and Dharma: A Spiritual-Hermeneutical Spiritual Analysis of the Fourth Gospel to Proclaim Jesus as Sanatana Sat Guru

– Mathew Chandrankunnel CMI

  • Identification with the Marginalized: The Pattern of Jesus’ Spirituality

– Sajitha Varghese

  • Pneumatic Nomism: Law Obedience and the Spirit in Pauline Spirituality

– Arren Bennet Lawrence

  • ‘Lived Experience’ of the Divine: Towards Understanding Community Spirituality in the Johannine Epistles

– Asish Thomas Koshy

  • Tribal Spirituality and the New World: The Vocation of the Transformed Identity in the Book of Revelation

– Supongmayang Longkumer

  • Healing Ministry, Borderless Church and Biblical Spirituality

– Arul Dhas T.

Index of the Ancient Sources

Index of Authors

Book Details:

Published by: Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC) and Christian World Imprints (CWI)

Format: Hardcover and Paperback

Pages: 302

Year of Publication: 2021

ISBN: 978-93-5148-550-6 (HB); 978-93-5148-551-3 (PB)

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An Asian Introduction to the New Testament

Edited by Johnson Thomaskutty, PhD.

Consulting Editors: Brian Wintle; Tatsiong Benny Liew; K. K. Yeo

An Asian Introduction to the New Testament is the first book of its kind with a focus on the NT writings in relation to the wider Asian realities. The Asian realities such as the multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and pluralistic phenomena set some of the common aspects of the Asian societies. As the Jesus Movement was emerged out of the contextual realities of his time and the growth of Christianity was spearheaded in Jewish and Asian contexts, understanding the NT writings from the Asian context might provide a unique perspective in the interpretation of the Christian Scriptures.

Contemporary issues such as poverty, casteism, class structure, honour and shame aspects, colonial realities, discrimination against women, and others cannot be neglected when an interpreter engages in NT exegesis and its hermeneutical application. Perceiving the NT from the above mentioned contextual perspective, both from the “there and then” and “here and now” aspects, enable the reader to throw light on those issues and relate the Jesus Movement with the contemporary situations. The beginnings of the Jesus Movement in the Asian context, the spread of the mission through the initiatives of Paul and other apostles across the globe, and the later canonization of the Christian scriptures can be understood as progressive movements only if it is accepted that the kernels of Christianity sprouted out of the Asian contextual realities.  

As Asian realities are family-centered and community-oriented, an emphasis on the integral relationship within the family, clan, and tribe can be explored within the framework of the NT thought-world. The household codes of the biblical narratives demand significant treatment in that regard. Frederick C. Tiffany and Sharon H. Ringe state that, “The journey of biblical interpretation begins at home, with attention to the immediate contemporary environment in which the biblical text is encountered.” As Asian realities are community-oriented, individuals are well connected to other social institutions and systems. This aspect of the Asian reality can be connected to the NT worldview through the oral and written reflections of Jesus, Paul, and other apostles. Thus, it is possible to build bridges between the historical situations of the authors and the contemporary realities of the Asian readers.

As Asia is the cradle of some of the major religions of the world, such as Judaism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shamanism, and others, the NT writings should be interpreted in the light of the pluriform religious and ideological aspects. Moreover, the existence of multiple Christian denominations demands a doctrinally and conceptually balanced interpretation of the scriptures. In that sense, the present book shall demonstrate inclusive biblical claims within the multi-religious and multi-denominational contexts. With the understanding of these diversities, the authors of the essays guide their readers toward the core biblical axioms, belief aspects, anthropo-centric and cosmic realities for a new way forward.


“We all read from a location. The contributors to this important volume demonstrate the significance of Asian approaches to interpreting the New Testament, and not only for Asian Christians. Of special consequence are the affinities between Asian values, life experiences, and texts and New Testament realities: honor and shame, family and community, persecution and perseverance, colonialism and resistance, poverty and pain. I highly recommend this unique, eye-opening, and helpful guide to the New Testament.”

Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

“An Asian Introduction to the New Testament breaks new ground and creates a much needed and long-awaited space for Asian voices in the study of the New Testament. This book captures the realities of a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and the pluralistic contexts of Asia. It is an essential resource for those of us teaching New Testament texts, as it locates the growth of Christianity in both Jewish and Asian contexts and brings forth a unique perspective that is critical to the study of New Testament.”

Sharon Jacob, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, USA. 

“This ambitious volume featuring diverse Asian and Asian-American voices breaks new ground and makes a significant contribution to the field of biblical studies. By placing New Testament texts and figures in conversation with disparate Asian religious traditions, contributors offer fresh and powerful insights that have deep implications for Asian realities. The volume will stimulate lively conversations about the New Testament and prove to be a valuable resource for students and scholars alike within and outside Asia.”

Raj Nadella, Samuel A. Cartledge Associate Professor of New Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Georgia, USA.   



Preface, Nijay K. Gupta

Foreword, R. S. Sugirtharajah


Introduction, Johnson Thomaskutty

  • The New Testament and the Socio-cultural and Religious Realities of the Asian Contexts 

– Kar Yong Lim

  • An Introduction to Asian Biblical Hermeneutics      

– Yung Suk Kim

  • The Gospel of Matthew

– Jae Hyung Cho

  • The Gospel of Mark

– Edwin Jebaraj and Johnson Thomaskutty

  • The Gospel of Luke

– Ekaputra Tupamahu

  • The Gospel of John

– Johnson Thomaskutty

  • The Book of Acts

– Esa Autero

  • The Letter to the Romans

– Arren Bennet Lawrence

  • The Letters to the Corinthians

– Rolex Cailing

  • The Letter to the Galatians

– Roji T. George

  • The Letter to the Ephesians

– Jayachitra Lalitha

  • The Letter to the Philippians

– Naw Eh Tar Gay

  • The Letter to the Colossians

– Finny Philip

  • The Letters to the Thessalonians

– Andrew B. Spurgeon

  • The Letters to Timothy

– Asish Thomas Koshy

  • The Letter to Titus

– Xiaoli Yang

  • The Letter to Philemon

– Thawng Ceu Hnin

  • The Letter to the Hebrews

– Gilbert Soo Hoo

  • The Letter of James

– Daniel K. Eng

  • The Letters of Peter

– Layang Seng Ja

  • The Letters of John

– Sookgoo Shin

  • The Letter of Jude

– Stanly Jones

  • The Book of Revelation

– Biju Chacko

Index of Ancient Sources

Index of Authors

Book Details:

Publisher: Fortress Press

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 9781506462691

Dimensions: 7.75 x 9.5

Pages: 480

Publication Date: November 2, 2021

Links to Purchase Online:

Fortress Press

Christian Book

Barnes & Noble







Apostle Paul calls Luke “our dear friend, the doctor,” who is considered as the author of Luke-Acts (Col 4:14). As a trained physician, he used some of the correct medical jargons in his writings. In that sense, Luke theologically reinterprets some of the medical terms or interlocks the medical knowledge that he acquired with that of his theological and historical discourse in Luke. In the current reflection, we attempt to see Luke’s usage of medical terminologies with an exclusive focus on chapter one of the Gospel.  

The verbal expression epecheirēsan means “have taken in hand” (see Luke 1:1; Acts 9:29; 19:13) is a derivation of epichepeō (means, “to put hand to a thing” or “to undertake”). This is used to refer a physician’s practice of laying hands on a patient. It can also mean her/his active role in undertaking a patient for investigation. In the text, the word is used with a sense of undertaking the work of writing the Gospel materials.

The noun form diēgēsin means “a declaration,” “a narrative,” or “a history” (1:1). In the ancient world, it was used as a reference to a medical prescription or a treatise. The root word diēgēsis even indicates the medical history or description of a person. In the passage, it is a word that makes a reference to the life history, message, and other details regarding Jesus Christ.

The adjectival form Autoptai means “eye-witness” (1:2), the root for the modern expression “Autopsy,” is a term used to determine the cause of death, to observe the effect of disease, and to establish the evolution and mechanisms of disease processes. In Luke 1:2, the word is used to decipher about a careful witness of the traditions forwarded by the Gospel writers.

The noun form hupēretai means “ministers” or “attendants” (1:2), which in the Greco-Roman sense can refer to “medical assistants.” Usually, the medical attendants were waiting for the instructions of the doctor so that they may fulfil everything possible to the diseased people. In Luke 1:2, the expression “servants of the word” amply describes the role of the Gospel writers in writing them down in connection to the person and work of Christ.

The participle form parēkolouthēkoti, means “having investigated” (1:3), is a reference to a medical investigation. In the modern medical sense, it is an activity of a doctor by way of a thorough check-up or a careful examination of the body parts. Here, Luke uses the expression with a different meaning, i.e., a detailed scientific examination of the events related to Jesus of Nazareth.

The noun form steira, means “barren,” “sterile” or “incapable of bearing children” (1:7: 1:36; 23:29; Gal 4:27), is a reference to a medical condition. It is someone’s inability to become pregnant after one year of intercourse without contraception involving a male and female partners. The reference about Elizabeth in Luke 1:7 indicates that she was infertile even after living with Zechariah for so long.

The masculine perfect participle probebēkotes, means “having advanced” (1:7), is a derivation of probainō (means, “to go forward,” or “to advance”). It is used to indicate the physical and emotional developments of human beings as the years go by. In Luke 1:7, it is stated that Zechariah and Elizabeth were physically in an advanced stage. This is an indication about their physical advancements and emotional degradation due to their barren nature.  

The aorist infinitive thumiasai, means “to burn incense” (1:9), is an exclusive expression in Luke referring to fumigating with herbs. Though it is used as a religious activity in the text, the roots of the word are in the ancient practice of fumigating human body with herbal treatment. In the contemporary context, Ayurveda treatment with herbal fumigation is a well-known medical practice. In the text, Zechariah’s religious activity in the temple is at view. 

The verbal form gennēsei in 1:13 means “shall bear,” is a derivation of gennaō (means “to beget,” “to generate,” “to give birth”). The medical term Gynaecology is one of the derivations of this word. The angelic utterance to Zechariah is “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son.” The expression here illuminates the medical knowledge of the Gospel writer.

The participle siōpōn, means “dumb” (1:20), is a derivation of siōpaō. The word siōpaō means “to be silent,” “calm” or “dumb,” which is considered as a human inability. Zechariah was turned to be “dumb” due to his unbelief in the oracles of God. The evangelist uses this expression to indicate his unexpected and new physical condition.

The verbal expression sunelaben (1:24) means “conceived.” It is a physical development of “becoming pregnant” or “causing a baby to begin to form in the womb.” In the contemporary context, it can be ascertained through the means of a medical examination. In the text, the narrator indicates that “his [Zechariah’s] wife Elizabeth became pregnant.” The work of God in the family is made obvious as Elizabeth turns from her barrenness to the condition of conception.

The noun form parthenon (1:27) means “a virgin” or “a maid.” A virgin is described as “someone who has never had sex.” In medical terms, virginity test is the practice and process of determining whether a girl or a woman is a virgin. In Luke 1:27, the narrator describes as follows: “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Here, Mary is considered as a woman who has never had sexual relations.

The noun form gastri means “womb” (1:31), is a derivation of gastēr. This part of the body is also considered as the source for “gastric.” Womb is the human body part where life takes its shape. The text clearly says that “And behold you shall conceive in the womb and bear a son.” This is an indication about the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb.

The noun form gērei in 1:36 means “old age,” which is considered as the last of the three physical stages of human kind (i.e., childhood, young age, and old age). Here, the physical stage (old age) and the infertile condition of Elizabeth are explained to Mary in order to emphasize the fact that “nothing is impossible with God” (1:37). 

The verbal form anephōnēsen in 1:42 means “called out,” a reference to a voice exercise. In the medical world, this term is used to indicate the various sounds a rhetorical speaker or a musician produces to modulate her/his voice. In the text, the activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of Elizabeth is emphasized (as the child is leaping in her womb). This activity of the leaping of the child made her to utter the voice in a strange manner and sing about the blessedness of God in the life of Mary (1:42-45).

The aorist infinitive peritemein means “to circumcise” or “to cut around” (1:59), a reference to the cutting around of the male’s foreskin. Though it is a religious practice, it also has several medical significances as the protective efficacy of male circumcision increases with time from surgery. In the text, the circumcision of John the Baptist is in view.

The neuter noun form paidion is translated as “a child” (1:59), referring to an infant of eight days or a small child. The medical terminology Paediatrics is a field in which children’s physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional aspects are treated. In the text, the childhood of John the Baptist and his circumcision are emphasized.  

The noun form pinakidion means “a writing table” (1:63), referring to a small tablet for writing medical observations. Ancient doctors used such tablets to put their medical tools and to write prescriptions to the diseased. In the text, the dumb Zechariah asks a writing tablet to write the name of the new born child who was later on called John.

The adverbial form parachrēma means “immediately” or “instantly” (1:64), referring to immediate healing or death because of affliction. In the text, the divine punishment was upon Zechariah. Immediately after naming John, Zechariah was cured of his dumbness as his mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed, he began to speak, and he started praising God.

The above details demonstrate how the medical jargon is embedded within the narrative framework of Luke’s Gospel. As Luke fuses his medical knowledge dynamically with that of his theological conviction, a reader of the Gospel can understand the scientific nature of the Lukan rhetoric. This Lukan style reflects how the third evangelist used his secular profession when he turned to his missiological and theological interpretation of the Christ event. Luke’s Medical-Theological fusion introduces a new way forward in Christian thinking.

In the Pandemic/Post-Pandemic context, the medical world is experimenting innovations so that new vaccines and medicines can be introduced to the global community. As Luke envisages a new approach in communicating the Gospel message and comforting the Christian community in the first century context, a new way forward in which medical assistance and emphasis on divine healing can be intertwined to deal with the affected humanity. The new situation demands a missiological approach, in which God the Creator and human beings as the stewards of the created order work together, for liberative action. The Lukan approach to combine the medical and the theological in his rhetoric can be further explored in today’s context so that both are to be integrated at the practical human situations.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17 is divided mainly into three parts: first, Jesus’ prayer for himself (vv. 1-5); second, Jesus’ prayer for the disciples (vv. 6-19); and third, Jesus’ prayer for the future believers/the world at large (vv. 20-26). As a High Priest from the line of Melkizedek, Jesus intercedes for the believing community (Heb 5:6; cf. 4:15). Jesus’ greatness and uniqueness as a High Priest for the believing community are at the foreground here. As we focus on vv. 6-19, we attempt to explore the prayer of Jesus for the disciples. The following ten things are important to note.

First, Jesus made known the name of the Father (v. 6). As Jesus made the name of God the Father known to the disciples, the Gospel functions as a revelatory document. Yahweh revealed His name to Moses as “I AM WHO THAT I AM” (Exo 3:14). Through his programmatic “I AM” statements, Jesus revealed his unique identity as God himself (6:48; 8:12; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 11; 11:25; 15:6; 15:1). In the world, Jesus revealed the identity of God to the disciples through his very life and ministry.

Second, Jesus shared the words that the Father given to him (v. 8). During the public (chaps. 1-12) and the private (chaps. 13-17) ministerial involvements, Jesus shared with the disciples the words of eternal life. Through the means of dialogues, monologues and sign performances, Jesus shared with them the words of hope, love, and comfort. As a result, though unknowing and misunderstanding in nature, the disciples believed his words.

Third, Jesus asked the Father on behalf of the disciples (v. 9). As the disciples are the possession of the Father and at the same time they are given to the care of Jesus, the Son stood as an intercessor or mediator between the Father and the believing community (see 1 Tim 2:5). Jesus as one who draws the disciples and their concerns near to God (Heb 7:25), an eternal communion is demonstrated through the oneness of the Father, the Son, and the children of God.

Fourth, Jesus glorified himself in the disciples (v. 10). While Jesus revealed the glory of the Father/Himself during the public and private ministries, the disciples remained as the witnesses of the divine glory and later on as the medium of the glory revealed in the world (2:11). The believing community is the means for God/Jesus to reveal the heavenly glory in the world below. People of this world can understand Jesus and the values and virtues of the Kingdom of God through the believing community.

Fifth, Jesus prayed for the unity of the believers (v. 11). Jesus prayed: “Let them be one as we are one” (v. 21). For Jesus, the unity of the believers is a great concern. The standard he set in front of them was the eternal unity of the Father and the Son. In order to shatter the human-made hierarchy among the disciples, Jesus washed their feet and exemplified the servant-leadership model (13:1-20). Paul conceives it profoundly in Gal 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus came to establish unity, equality, and fraternity among humanity.

Sixth, Jesus exemplified his duty of protecting and guarding (v. 12). As Jesus exemplified his model of ministry by protecting and guarding humanity, he is identified as a Good Shepherd over against the counterfeit shepherds or hirelings of this world (10:11). Jesus’ signs and eternal words provided both physical and spiritual protection to many. By sending “another comforter” into the world (chaps. 14-16), Jesus continues the ministry of protection even after his departure. Thus, Jesus stood tall as a paradigmatic teacher and guardian.

Seventh, Jesus completed the joy of the believers (v. 13). The Father’s joy is the joy of Jesus; the Son’s joy is the joy of the believers. As Jesus came to fulfil the mission of God, he accomplishes the joy of the believing community. By turning water into wine in Cana, Jesus brings back the lost joy of the family (2:1-11). He completes the joy of the Royal man (4:46-54), the Samaritan woman and her fellow villagers (4:1-45), the invalid person (5:1-18), the man born blind (9:1-41), the family of Lazarus (11:1-12:8), and many others. Jesus reveals that only through him people can enjoy the joy of salvation (14:6).

Eighth, as Jesus did not belong to this world, the believers do not belong to this world (vv. 14-15). The followers of Jesus are given a new identity as the children of God (1:12). The Johannine community was not identified as a distanced group like the Qumran community. John’s community was instructed to be distinct in the world rather than being distanced from the existent life situations. As Jesus became flesh and dwelt among humanity (1:14), the followers of Jesus are supposed to reveal the glory of God in their own life situations.

Ninth, Jesus prayed for the sanctification of the believers (vv. 17, 19). Believers can be sanctified through the name of Jesus, his words, and the initiative of “another comforter” (i.e., the Holy Spirit). As the pandemic Covid-19 is widespread, people pay attention on external sanitization. In God’s presence, both the external sanitization and the internal sanctification are important requirements. God’s commandment is: “Be holy, as I am [God is] holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16; cf. Matt 5:48).

Tenth, Jesus sent them into the world (v. 18). The resurrected Lord says: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21). As God fulfils the heavenly mission through sending Jesus (3:16), the Son sends his disciples for the global mission. Jesus’ imperatives are made obvious as he sends the disciples for universal mission (Matt 28:16-20). In Mark 16:15, Jesus commands: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Though God sends his Son from the heavenly setting, Jesus sends his disciples in the earthly setting.

During this Lent season, Jesus’ prayer for the disciples can be considered as a paradigm for our spiritual and practical rejuvenation. Jesus’ prayer was not merely a verbal delivery, but it was an action-oriented prayer. The death of Jesus on the cross was the epitome of his action-oriented prayer. By accepting the prayer of Jesus, we can revitalize our lives for radical transformation. By making known the name of God, sharing the words of God to the world, glorifying God’s name, standing in unity with one another, protecting and guarding the world, completing the joy of God, being distinct in the world, standing as sanctified, and moving to fulfil the mission of God, we can actualize the prayer of Jesus here and now. Let us go and redeem the oppressed, clothe the naked, satisfy the hungry, uplift the humble and thus fulfil the mission of God and complete the joy of salvation and liberation.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

[Presented during the Memorial Service of Rev. Dr. T. G. Koshy, Founder President of Faith Theological Seminary, Manakala, Kerala, India, organized by the FTS Alumni Association]

Rev. Dr. T. G. Koshy (affectionately called as “Achayan”) is the founder principal of Faith Theological Seminary (FTS), Manakala, Kerala, India, and the former president of Sharon Fellowship Church. He was one of the stalwarts of biblical spirituality, leadership, and missional and ministerial engagements. FTS was founded in 1970 and in the academic year 2019-2020 the seminary celebrated its Golden Jubilee year. It is respected as one of the premier Pentecostal theological institutions in India affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College (University) that offers Bachelor of Divinity (BD), Master of Theology (MTh), and Doctor of Theology (DTh) degrees. The seminary administration under the dynamic leadership of Achayan strove hard to fulfill the motto of the seminary, ‘Perfecting to make perfect in Christ.’ FTS reached its highest glory under Achayan as about 4000 graduates from the seminary serve the church and the community in various capacities all across India and beyond. The institution exists to equip men and women for the mission and ministry of the church as per the Great Commission of Jesus (Matt 28:16-20). FTS exists as a hub of Biblical spirituality in the Indian context.

Achayan was a Christ-centered and Biblically-based personality. In his reading of the Bible and hermeneutical engagements, he focused on the moral and spiritual dynamics of the Scripture that instills holistic transformation among the listeners. The ethos-logos-pathos rhetoric and its dynamic integration find significance in his life and ministry: the ethos of Achayan was demonstrative of his discipline, ethical and moral leadership, and value-oriented lifestyle; the logos of him was based on the Biblical characters, the cross of Christ, and the lifestyle of Jesus and the apostles; and the pathos that emerged among the people out of his ethos and logos was enormous. As per the Aristotelian rhetoric, one who presents her/his oral delivery should demonstrate her/him through the actions in life. Only then, a speaker can present her/himself a paradigmatic person to energize people’s pathos. In Achayan’s lifestyle, he always attempted to walk his talk. Thus he was a persuasive personality and a paradigmatic figure for others.

As a preacher of the Bible, Achayan focused on the characters like Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Anna, Daniel, David, Jesus, Paul, Peter, Mary, and others. As a mission-oriented preacher of the Scripture, Achayan analyzed the biblical characters and foregrounded their moods, ethical and moral behaviors, and movements for the edification of the church and the society. Mostly, his sermons were based on a conglomeration of multiple characters and passages to guide the hearers toward the hard realities of their life situations. He attempted his best to highlight the life situations (Sitz im Leben) of the Biblical characters in closer relationship with the contemporary aspects. Achayan had his own method of reading the Bible by taking into consideration the people around him and their spiritual needs, missional and ministerial requirements, and the emotional and sentimental aspects. As a straight-forward interpreter of the Bible, he used colloquialisms and local styles in order to manage the immediate context. In that sense, he was demonstrating his identity as a contextual interpreter of the Scripture.

As a leader of the church, he was keen in maintaining biblical axioms in his lifestyle before implementing them in the public spheres. Achayan’s voice was seemingly rough just like that of John the Baptist, actions were coherent and mission-oriented like that of Paul the Apostle, emotions and mentality were soft-hearted and affectionate like that of Elijah, and his lifestyle was simple and down-to-earth like that of the Apostles of Jesus. His life and ministry were similar to that of some of the biblical characters. His leadership was influential among the poor and the rich, uneducated and educated, women and men, young and elderly people, and nationals and internationals. He accepted the hard realities of life as a minister of God and stood tall as a servant-leader.

As a visionary, Achayan executed the mission and ministry of Jesus in a Biblical way. The Sharon Fellowship Church as a Bible-centered church has about 2000 congregations in different parts of India, Nepal, Gulf countries, United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe, and in other parts of the globe. Achayan encouraged the members of the congregations, pastors, missionaries, and evangelists to live a Biblical model of lifestyle and leadership. He exemplified a simple, ardent, prophetic, and long-sighted lifestyle for others. His vision was spreading the good news of salvation among varied walks of people irrespective of caste, color, gender, and nationality. Achayan was willing to cross the human-made boundaries to propagate the message of the Kingdom of God. As a prophet of God, he visualized a liberated community that can bring change in their own life situations.

As a Biblical student and now a teacher, I learned the preliminary lessons of the Bible while I was a Sunday School student at Sharon Fellowship Church, Chakkuvarackal, Kerala. Immediately after my 10th Grade, I was appointed by my church as a Sunday School teacher and the secretary of Christian Evangelical Movement (CEM). After my Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree, I joined FTS for my BD studies in 1993 and completed it in 1997. As a person who was grown up with Sharon Fellowship Church and Faith Theological Seminary, I have a great regard for Achayan and his leadership style. After my BD studies from FTS, I had the privilege of ministering God as a Bible teacher at Faith Bible Training Center (FBTC [an Auxiliary ministry of FTS] in Sector 23, Faridabad, Haryana) and as a church pastor in Haryana and Delhi areas of the SFC. My two years of ministry with FBTC and SFC enabled me to develop my biblical vision with a lot of impartation from Achayan, all my teachers at FTS, and all the pastors of the SFC.

I considered Achayan and all the teachers of FTS as my biblical models to transform my life and ministerial activities even when I served Serampore College, Serampore, West Bengal (2001-2004) and Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, Maharashtra (2008-2021) as a member of the biblical faculty. FTS ignited my interest in Biblical Studies and that further helped me to complete higher theological degrees from Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, Chennai (MTh; 1999-2001), Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA (ThM; 2004-2005), and Radboud University Nijmegen, Holland (PhD; 2010-2014). The influence went further when I did post-doctoral works at Fuller Theological Seminary, California; Tyndale House and Cambridge University, UK; and SAIACS, Bangalore. The persuasion I received from Achayan and the faculty members of FTS still continues in my life as I develop my journey of Biblical vision.

As a student at FTS, I was unable to pay even the minimum annual fee of rupees 600. I was not able to bear even rupees 600 as I was from a financially challenged family situation. Because of God’s faithfulness in my life, I was able to complete my studies with a lot of considerations from the seminary. I completed reading Bible multiple occasions and developed my understanding of the Scripture, narrative artistry and theological perspectives while I was in FTS. The Bible-centered and Christ-focused sermons I heard from the chapel equipped me to unlock the grand narratives of the Bible. Achayan’s ethically-oriented, missional and ministerial interpretations of the scripture equipped me to serve the church and the community at a wider level.

FTS gave us abundant opportunities and braveness to preach the biblical truths out in the mission fields. Inter-textuality was used as a prevalent hermeneutical method as we were addressing the Hindu and Muslim audiences. The theoretical lessons of interpretation we learned in the BD classes and the practical demonstrations in the public arena helped us enormously to understand, exegete, and preach the Bible with confidence. Achayan and the entire administration of the seminary facilitated such opportunities. FTS under the strong leadership of Rev. Dr. T. G. Koshy taught us the biblical values like how to pray, fast, engage in worship, prostate in the presence of God, being under the control of the Spirit of God, and interpreting and preaching the Scripture. We learned from the seminary that Bible has a paradigmatic message in the socio-religious and politico-cultural contexts of India and beyond. The Dalit, Tribal, feminist, ecological, and other contextual interpretations we learned from FTS inspire us to go on with a broader biblical and theological vision.

In short, we salute before this Bible-centered figure and a great man of God. As a Christ-centered and Spirit-filled man of God, Achayan demonstrated esteemed Biblical spirituality. He was a mission-oriented interpreter of the Bible, an able leader of the church of God, and a great visionary of God’s work in India and across the globe. May his soul rest in peace.

References, accessed on 24 February 2021.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

The Gospel of John is considered as one of the significant writings of the NT that appeals to the Indian spirituality and the Asian ideals in multifarious ways. The Gospel has unique features as a gnomic or a universalistic literary masterpiece that encompasses the feelings and the aspirations of Asian communities from a universal perspective. The Gospel’s genre dynamism, features of setting, ideological constructs, character traits, plot structure, and point of view reflect and reveal its assimilative power to reverberate the situational aspects of the Asian communities, with a special impression on the Indian contextual realities. In the current essay, first of all, an attempt is made to see the preliminary concerns such as authorship, audience, date and place, structure, and the outline of the Gospel in a succinct fashion. In the latter part of the essay, we attempt to place the Gospel in the Indian/Asian context in order to derive an interpretative dynamism that takes into account the diverse religious and cultural aspects.

You can access and download the Hindi version of my book on John’s Gospel below.

At present, people suffer as they are in social isolation and in quarantine. The same is true with the animals and the birds. When human beings suffer, the environment suffers alongside. In the global scenario, people would have never experienced a prolonged social isolation as it is tangible now. People suspect the ‘other’ and keep safe distance from one another. In an honor-and-shame socio-cultural context in Asia, people flee away from the ‘other’ in order to avoid a shameful future.

At present, there is no obvious distinction between the rich and poor, men and women, and white and black. All are engrossed in suspicion and attempts to avoid the ‘other.’ The effect of Corona/Covid-19 in an honor-and-shame context is rather more severe. Today, in the Asian context, all categorizations are summed up into two: the shameful ‘covidized’ and the honorable ‘non-covidized.’

Something similar is at view in the Israelite context. Nicodemus, as a socially influential, financially affluent, and religiously learned person, considers Jesus and his newly formed movement as shameful in comparison to his honorable Jewish status. He develops an interest in Jesus based on four grounds: first, his eloquence and rhetoric are reminiscent to a Rabbi; second, his status as “a teacher who has come from God”; third, his performance of miraculous signs; and fourth, God’s presence with him (3:2).

At least in two ways Nicodemus comes closer to Jesus: first, he has the status of a ‘Rabbi’; and second, he is a “teacher of Israel” (3:10). But as an honorable person, he avoids all sorts of public associations with the leader of a ‘shameful group.’ In reality, he is trapped between his recognition concerning Jesus and his own honorable status as a Jew. He finds the shadows of night as the best time to converse with Jesus.

Later on, Jesus levels his sharp criticism to him: “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that her/his deeds will be exposed” (3:20). On the one hand, Nicodemus attempts to keep social distancing/isolation to the Jesus movement, on the other, he is persuaded by the status, words, and deeds of Jesus.

Nicodemus acknowledges the miraculous signs of Jesus; but his honorable position does not permit him to appreciate Jesus in public. Jesus says to him that he should be “born from above” and “born of water and Spirit” in order to see/enter the Kingdom of God (3:3, 5). The experiences of birth from above and birth by water and Spirit are requirements to be part of the newly formed community.

Jesus asks Nicodemus to turn away from his fleshly nature and to get involved in the spiritual affairs (3:6-8). Though a teacher, he emerges as a misunderstanding character (3:10); though an honorable Jew, he lags behind in believing (2:12). That means, though Nicodemus has a claim that he is an Israelite teacher and an honorable Jew, Jesus weighs him down as a shameful human.

The criterion for becoming an honorable is stated in 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). For Jesus, an honorable person is: first, one who understands that God loved the world through Jesus; second, one who has faith in Jesus, the Son of God; and third, one who is counted among the living, not among the perishing (3:16, 18). There are only two options: either be a “son/daughter of light” or be a “son/daughter of darkness.”

All other social stratifications are purely based on human-made criteria. Retrospect and find among us whether we are ‘honorable’ human beings or we are ‘shameful’ persons? Our status, either as honorable or as shameful, cannot be determined in relation to Corona/Covid-19. It can be determined only in relation to Jesus.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

Differences are obvious between the First century CE Palestinian context and the Twenty-first century Indian situation. We live in an age of scientific and technological advancements. While the conveyance of Jesus was made possible either by foot or by means of donkeys, our travel is facilitated through postmodern means and methods. Without the means of physical conveyance, we can communicate and reach out people even in the remote parts of the world. Jesus as a teacher par excellence was living in a culturally enriched context. As an itinerant teacher, Jesus followed a peripatetic (a walking teacher as in the Aristotelian school) style and gained many disciples from different parts of the Palestinian geographical territory. The content, form, and function of the teaching of Jesus were distinct from that of his peers. Jesus never implemented a method of teaching based on literary knowledge, but rather he focused on oral, natural, and divine wisdom that was imparted on him from above. Even Nicodemus, one of the great teachers of his day, was in amazement of the wisdom and knowledge Jesus had (John 3:2). Jesus was a proponent of divine knowledge and he endeavored hard for the liberation of humanity.

In human history, a good number of teachers remained as agents of liberation. Some of the classical Gurus influenced people without contributing any literary masterpieces and some even after writing their own masterpieces mostly known through their oral deliberations. Gautama Buddha, Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Sri Ramakrishna were influential teachers who communicated their pedagogical messages through the means of orality. As an exception, Confucius remained as a teacher who contributed both through oral and written expositions. Ancient teachers never restricted their role and function among their students who were placed under them; but rather they influenced the society at large through their intellectual knowledge and exemplary lifestyle. During ancient times, India was well-known for the Gurukul method of teaching. Even in the western context, teachers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others used teaching methods similar to the Gurukul system. Later on, Christian educational centers also implemented such methods in schools, catechetical academies, and theological seminaries. One of the core aspects of the ancient educational system was its teacher-centered and student-focused methods. Within that functional set up, teachers had a larger role to play in educating and correcting the students and the extended society from all sorts of ignorance and injustices.

In the Gurukul system, a student was expected to learn the lessons in direct interaction with the teacher and it was done apart from the means of pen, ink, paper, and books. Some of the ancient Gurus were occupied with the affairs of a large number of disciples. A teacher who had 1100 students was popularly known as a Kulapati. As a teacher placed above 3000 students, Confucius was called a Mahakulapati. In that sense, Jesus’ Gurukul was one of the largest in the world. In the Gospel narratives we read that more than 5000 people stayed with Jesus and learned in direct interaction with him. As a teacher, Jesus was not simply attempting to fill their intellectual vacuum; but rather he taught his followers lessons to their intellectual, physical, material, emotional, ethical, religious and behavioral needs and demands. He shared the heavenly wisdom with earthly implications.

One of the natures of the Gurukul learning was to equip the students in the moral and ethical living through the means of dynamic and natural methods. The students had to learn the lessons from the mouth of the teacher at a natural terrain. This phenomenon created a long-lasting effect in inculcating a teacher-and-student dynamism in the society. Jesus explored the natural phenomenon at its best as he used the sea shores, plains, mountains, and public places as the settings of his teaching. His Sermon on the Mount is one of the transformative lessons ever delivered by a teacher. As ‘Son of the Soil,’ Jesus created his parables out of the realities of the nature. The parabolic and metaphoric expressions of Jesus demonstrate his esteemed status as a teacher who was ‘Schooled in Nature.’ He encouraged his disciples to cherish right cognition and liberative praxes. While Jesus endeavored to attune his disciples to the values and the virtues of the Kingdom of God, the disciples were expected to obey his commandments. In that sense, Jesus used the guru-sishya interaction as an apex means to impart heavenly wisdom among the disciples. Moreover, Jesus taught them practical lessons on multifarious occasions.

In modern times, reading and writing are some of the most significant means of education. While learning through the means of literary works remains as a mechanical method, the oral methods are considered closer to the core realities of the people. While the written knowledge is considered as an elegant type, the oral knowledge is more to do with the flesh and blood aspects of the people. This aspect is more obvious from the teaching methods of Gautama Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, and Jesus Christ. In the Gurukul system, as the disciples were expected to follow the teacher, the teachers were also expected to do likewise. The teacher was expected to watch and understand the student at a very personal level before imparting knowledge. Majority of the disciples of Jesus were from the ordinary life situations and there emerged a close-knit relationship between the master and the students. Within this purview of their relationship, Jesus advised the disciples through the means of one-on-one conversations and provided them instructions to keep them out of dangerous circumstances.

In today’s context, teachers are not expected to be experts in comprehensive and wholistic knowledge. In Gurukul system, teachers were expected to be experts in wholistic understanding of all subjects. It was believed that knowledge is indivisible. The students were expected to progress in their educational career without having doubts. As a teacher par excellence, Jesus was teaching his disciples with a wholistic outlook of knowledge. While he was teaching in the temple, people were astounded at his wisdom and knowledge (Matthew 13:54; John 7:14-15). Moreover, he responded to the questions of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes in clear and convincing terms. The Jewish religious leaders were attracted to the wisdom, pedagogical methods, and rhetorical skill of Jesus. They considered him as a Sadguru (i.e., True Teacher) and addressed him as a Mahaguru (i.e., Great Teacher). Some of them even expressed their desire to follow Jesus (Matthew 8:19; 12:38; 22:24). One of the priests among the Pharisees addressed Jesus as a Guru (Matthew 22:35). Judas the betrayer addressed Jesus as Rabbi (Matthew 26:25, 49).

Jesus taught his disciples with the divine authority from above (Mark 1:22). As the authoritative Son of the heavenly God, Jesus even washed the feet of his disciples and taught them the virtue of humility. Hence, he was able to ask the disciples “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27) and received good testimony from them (Matthew 16:15-16). In short, Jesus was one among the greatest teachers ever lived in human history. As a Sadguru and as a Mahakulapati Jesus imparted his knowledge, delivered his teachings, and exemplified his actions above and beyond the levels of all other teachers in human history. As the Word became flesh and lived among humanity, Jesus followed the axioms of God. Jesus was a teacher of teachers and the Son of the Great Teacher called the heavenly Father.

In human history, teachers were honored with high esteem as agents of liberation. Jesus as a teacher with holistic transformation as his method ushered a ground-breaking mission and ministry in the world. He introduced radical changes in the world with heavenly ethos. As the only begotten Son of the heavenly Father, he became a friend of the oppressed, brother of the orphaned, liberator of the downtrodden, healer of the diseased, and comforter of the wounded. He never attempted to impart his knowledge through the means of mere intellectualism; but rather he did his level best to make known his knowledge as per the life situations of the people. As a praxis-oriented teacher, Jesus was an agent of universal liberation and transformation. As we are agents of God’s kingdom, we should do as Jesus has done to us.

Prof. Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty

Professor of New Testament

The United Theological College

Bengaluru, India

We are in 2021. As the year begins, we have a lot of new hopes and aspirations. How do we understand the theme of “newness”? The Gospel of John introduces a list of new things in the early Christian context. As John stands out as a rhetoric of difference, the story-teller magnifies certain aspects to transform the novice Christian community as a distinct group. We shall look at the following aspects of “newness” in John chaps. 1-6.

First, while the old Israel prepared tabernacle by the efforts of the community members and thus invited the glory of God among them (Exo 25-27; 36-39; 40; Num 9:15; Lev 8:10), in John, we notice that the Son of God tabernacled among humanity and made a new community that enjoy the glory of God (1:14). The arrival of Jesus marked the beginning of the eternal glory shining among humanity. While the old Tabernacle increased people’s nationalistic hope, the new Tabernacle through Jesus was a universalistic arrangement for human salvation.

Second, Jesus attends a wedding in Cana in Galilee alongside of his mother, brothers, and the disciples (2:1-12). The Jews considered ‘wine’ as a synonym for ‘joy.’ In a wedding place, when there is ‘no wine’ gives the meaning that there is ‘no joy.’ In the context of the lack of wine, the family members and the invited guests experienced a situation of frustration. Mary the mother of Jesus brings the concern before Jesus and He acts as per the hour of the heavenly Father. The Master of the wedding testifies the superior quality of the wine that Jesus provided. Jesus’ intervention was instrumental in bringing a ‘new’ and superior wine and the resultant joy. This incident led many people to believing in Jesus.

Third, Jesus visits the temple at Jerusalem and makes a whip of cords to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple premises (2:13-22). As a revolutionary, He overturns their tables and scatters the coins of the money changers. In the temple, Jesus proclaims: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The hearers (including the disciples) misunderstand the double meaning statement of Jesus. They responded to him: “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple.” While speaking in the temple, Jesus was not stating about the literal Jerusalem temple; but the new temple [Jesus Himself] that is tabernacled among humanity.

Fourth, a dialogue is at view between Jesus (a teacher “from above”) and Nicodemus (a teacher “from below”) in 3:1-10. Jesus advises Nicodemus to be born “from above.” His concern here is attuning his interlocutor with the “from above” ideology. Nicodemus’ misunderstanding is obvious through his statement “How can a man be born when he is old?” While Jesus speaks from a metaphorical sense to reveal a spiritual truth, Nicodemus takes Jesus’ speech in a literal sense. When Jesus invites Nicodemus to the experience of “new birth,” His concern was to attune his interlocutor to the spiritual and heavenly truths.

Fifth, there is a conversation develops between Jesus and a Samaritan woman on the theme of water (4:4-26). Jesus speaks to her who is racially, sexually, and morally at the margins. She comes to fetch water from a public well and is proud of the one who gave them the well (forefather Jacob). While she offers literal water to Jesus, Jesus in turn offers her “living water.” Jesus finds a distinction between the water from Jacob’s well (literal water) and the water he provides (spiritual “living” water, 4:13-14), and thus affirms his superiority over Jacob. Jesus as the giver of living water (a “new water” that satisfies people eternally) transforms the life of the woman and her villagers and directs them to the heavenly realities.

Sixth, the story of the Royal official is dramatic with a lot of twists (4:46-54). The man comes to request Jesus to come down and heal his son. Jesus rebukes the man as he is a representative of conditional belief (4:48). The punchline statement of the story is emphasized in vv. 50a and 53b: “Your son will live.” The event introduces a transformation in the family of the Royal official as his son was brought back to life, he came to a matured faith, and the whole family believed in Jesus. Though the story begins with a death-like situation, it ends with a spiritual transformation of the family. The theme of “new life” is at the core of the event here.

Seventh, John chap. 6 demonstrates some of the Exodus imageries. When Jesus says that he is “the bread of life,” it takes us back to the question of the disciples: “Could someone have brought him [Jesus] food?” (4:33). Jesus is introduced here as the provider of food (6:1-15), one who enjoys “spiritual food” through his works (4:34-38), and the “eternal bread” from heaven (6:35, 41, 48, 51). As the “bread of life,” Jesus proved his superiority over Moses who gave the people of Israel Manna in the desert (6:49, 58). While those who ate Manna died in the desert, those who eat Jesus shall live forever. As the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea and saved themselves from Pharaoh, Jesus crosses over the Sea of Galilee to bring transformation in human life (6:16-22). Thus, the motifs of “new bread,” “new Moses,” and “new Exodus” are put together here.

As we begin the year 2021, we need to renew our spiritual and moral commitments. Jesus as a new Tabernacle can encamp among us and protect us from all sorts of exploitation, dehumanization, and pandemics like Covid-19. As giver of renewed joy, Jesus enables us to see a bright year ahead with a lot of possibilities and prospects. His presence as the “new temple” motivates us to enjoy the continuous blessings and divine fellowship from heaven. As born “from above,” we are invited by Jesus to enjoy the heavenly realities. As the Samaritans drank from the well of God and recognized Jesus as “truly the Savior of the world,” we are invited to drink from the eternal well of God. Through his interaction with Jesus, the Royal official turned away from the valley of death to the eternal life experience. Those who cling on to Jesus shall eat the bread of God and be saved. It is assured that a transformed, liberated, and eternal living is possible through Jesus. Let’s enjoy the “newness” of God on a day-to-day basis throughout the year 2021.

Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty

Associate Professor and Dean of Biblical Studies

Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

As the Christmas season has already approached, I wish all my students, colleagues, relatives and friends across the world a Warm and Merry Christmas. Irrespective of the Pandemic Covid-19 situations God has brought us thus far. We need to celebrate the divine protection and guidance even in the midst of the difficult times in 2020. Below read my Christmas message derived out of the life experiences of Joseph of Nazareth.

Matthew chapter 1 is mainly divided into two parts: first, the genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17); and second, the conception and birth of Jesus (1:18-25). The Matthean narrative is framed in a literary device called inclusio with the assurance of the imminence of God in the world. At the outset of the Gospel, the narrator states that Jesus is Immanuel (i.e., “God with us,” 1:23). Similarly, at the close, Jesus states that: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20). Jesus’/God’s imminence is the most important aspect that the world should cherish during the occasion of the Christmas and the New Year. Often Mary the mother of Jesus is given significance during the Christmas season. Here I would like to see the characterization of Joseph, who is considered as the earthly father of Jesus (1:18-25). The following three things are significant to note concerning the character of Joseph.

First, Joseph was confused of the things happening around him (vv. 18-19). Though Mary was pledged to get marry Joseph, she was pregnant even before they came together. Becoming pregnant without having association with the engaged man was punishable to stoning until death. As a righteous man and from the lineage of the Hebraic Fathers, Joseph was in a puzzlement between the oracles of the Law of Moses (Exo 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-21) and the events that were happening around him. Though he was not willing to expose Mary to public disgrace, he was attempting to divorce her quietly. He was bewildered of the following things: (1) as one who was not aware of Holy Spirit’s work in the womb of Mary, he was unable to understand the divine mysteries behind her pregnancy; (2) as per the Law of Moses Mary is punishable to death (Exo 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-21), but Joseph was unable to figure out the things and expose her to the public; and (3) in an honour and shame context, he was perplexed between the public disgrace and his private life with her.

Second, Joseph was confirmed about the divine plans (vv. 20-21). While he was almost settled in his confusions, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream and gives him confirmation about the divine plans through his family. As Jesus was addressed, Joseph is also considered as “son of David” (vv. 1, 20). He gathers braveness and takes Mary home. Joseph was confirmed with the divine realities in the following ways: (1) the appearance of the angel brings him into greater clarification of many things; (2) the work of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb is attested by his testimony; and (3) Joseph, as a righteous man and a follower of the Mosaic commandments, realized the heavenly intervention in his family.

Third, Joseph’s commitment to fulfil the divine oracles (vv. 22-25). He realized that the things happen in his family are according to the prophetical oracles (v. 23). He commits himself to the work of the Lord: (1) he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him; (2) he took Mary home as his wife and protected her; (3) he led a sacrificial life without having a union with her until the birth of Jesus; and (4) he gave him the name Jesus as the angel commanded him (v. 21). Thus Joseph was moved far away from all the confusions and came to a confirmation about the heavenly plans in his family. The confirmation he had through divine oracles led him to a greater commitment to the will and purpose of God. During this Christmas season, let us redeem ourselves from all sorts of confusions and come to a greater confirmation about the salvation we received through Jesus. Such a confirmation shall help us to commit ourselves to the task of God placed ahead of us.

Dr. Johnson Thomaskutty

PhD (Nijmegen, Holland)

Associate Professor of NT

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

CAA-770x433Jubilee is one of the most significant themes in the OT that envisions an ideal nationalistic kingdom for the people of Israel. Luke quotes Isa 61:1-2 in 4:18-19 as Jesus’ programmatic pronouncement of the Gospel. The Third Gospel as a whole orchestrates its ideological framework based on the Nazareth Manifesto of Jesus. But in Luke, Jubilee demonstrates a meaning beyond the traditional and nationalistic understanding of it. The Lukan narrator takes the message of Jubilee from the OT and reinterprets it for his new Sitz im Leben that comprises of the poor and the oppressed communities. In that sense, the Lukan understanding of the New Jubilee, as a gnomic and universalistic concept, can encompass the feelings and the aspirations of all people in everywhere and ever contexts. In today’s Indian scenario, the New Jubilee concept introduces a new paradigm that can transform the existent realities.

The Lukan concept of New Jubilee can be considered as a paradigm to the contemporary Indian context. Milgrom foregrounds Jubilee as a “rallying cry for today’s oppressed.” The Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19) stands out as a persuasive artistry that moves the entire discourse of the Gospel forward as a rhetoric. Jesus, as one who was endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and as an anointed one, proclaims the programmatic pronouncement with efficacy. As the statement rightly elaborates, his main concern was proclamation of good news to the poor. As the Lukan community was in an expectation of a transformative and liberative voice, Jesus’ utterance inaugurates a new paradigm that focuses on the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed communities of his time. Mija states that, “The poor belongs to the Kingdom now.” In that sense, the socially, religiously, and politically marginalized communities of the Indian society can take advantage of the New Jubilee message.

Lukan Jesus proclaims the message of release. In the Gospel, the God of solidarity and God’s way of solidarity through Christ are at the foreground. As God is in solidarity with the oppressed communities, the Lukan poor is at the focus of his mission. God expresses his solidarity through the means of healing, comforting, encouraging, empowering, and leading to liberation/salvation. The ‘poor’ in the Indian context is not merely an economic category, but also those who are spiritually, socially, and physically vulnerable. The ‘prisoners’ is a broader category as they are captives—ideologically, structurally, that can be political, religious, cultural, and social in nature (Luke 4:1-5; 7:36-50; 11:37-53; 20:20-26). The existent realities of the Indian context seeks a paradigmatic touch through the New Jubilee message. It can bring peace and harmony to transform the society.

The ‘blind’ constitute not only physically blind people but also those who are blind to the broken realities of others and the true values of life. The ‘oppressed’ refers to those who are subjugated by the dominant in particular contexts. In the contemporary Indian scenario, the poor, Dalits, Tribals, Adivasis, women, and children undergo various socio-political and religio-cultural stigmas on a continuous basis. As a gnomic/universalistic Gospel, Luke has the power and potential to engage with the contemporary realities of the Indian society. As Luke and the Lukan Jesus envision a New Jubilee in the theological focus, the Lukan message has the potential to establish an egalitarian community within the social, economic, religious, political, and cultural realities of our country. In that sense, the Nazareth Manifesto is embedded within the wider text with a potential to transform human cultures.

The Lukan framework does not treat Jubilee in the old perspective, but rather in a renewed and contextually pragmatic manner by looking at the core realities in the socio-political and religio-cultural contexts. The current Government of India does not emphasize the minority rights as they exist as proponents of a majoritarian propaganda. The Ghar Wapsi issues, holy cow ideology, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR), and the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) are used to stabilize a majoritarian propaganda that curbs the freedom and security of the minority religious communities of the country. This is the context in which the New Jubilee ideology can bring forth a radical transformation.

The CAA/NPR/NRIC agenda violates some of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution. While CAA excludes people based on their national and religious identities, New Jubilee is inclusive of all sorts of people irrespective of their citizenship or immigrant status. While the message of the New Jubilee embraces community formation and solidarity with the oppressed, the CAA scatters the community based on various national, ethnic, and religious factors. While CAA divides the community and puts the life of many into panic, the New Jubilee restores life and thus exists as a life-sustaining ideology. The message of New Jubilee fosters basic Human Rights to live and make life possible. While the CAA curbs the Human Rights of the Muslims, Christians, and other minority communities of the country, New Jubilee gives a new hope to the hopeless and the ostracized. Thus the New Jubilee ideology exists as a paradigm in the contemporary socio-political and religio-cultural situations of our country.

In India, a large number of farmers commit suicide as they lack Governmental support to manage their lands and yield profit. Displacement of the Adivasis and their misfortune to become landless in different parts of our country is yet another concern to be dealt with. Women are raped, nakedly paraded, and brutally murdered in different parts of our nation due to their distinct identity. It is also reported that child labour is rampant in today’s Indian context. Many live under the shadow of fear of death and spend their life in seclusion. It is in this context, the message of the New Jubilee can bring a positive change. Through the New Jubilee movement, the right to speech and freedom of life can be enhanced in the community living. The New Jubilee, as a “Freedom Movement,” proliferates freedom and deals with Human Rights issues. As the CAA targets the Muslims and the minorities of the nation, millions of the inhabitants live in jeopardy. The discriminatory acts of the Indian Government does not guarantee the rights, privileges, opportunities, and benefits of the citizens in the mode of righteousness and justice. Majority of the rules and laws are made to protect the majoritarian rights and subsequently to side-line the minorities, the refugees, and the migrants. This is the context in which the Lukan New Jubilee guarantees life and protects the Human Rights. As Jesus was envisioning a paradigmatic and egalitarian society in the First Century CE context, the same ideology can be implemented with a renewed thrust, rhetorical punch, and practical implication in order to redeem the divisive, accumulative, dehumanizing, and communal tendencies of the elites.

In recapitulation, the Lukan ideology of the New Jubilee can be considered as a gnomic or universalistic concept that brings forth multifarious initiatives in community building and social transformation. It is brainstormed as an ideology that takes into account everywhere and ever realities to show solidarity with the ostracized communities. As a message of hope to the poor, the captives, the oppressed, and the blind, it can be considered as an inclusive concept to transform human cultures. The Lukan Jesus takes side with the oppressed and begins his mission and ministry with a programmatic pronouncement in 4:18-19. On the one hand, the narrator takes insights from the Old Testament idea of Jubilee, but on the other hand, he goes above and beyond the Pentateuchal and Isaianic understanding of the concept for a wider efficacy. As the Old Testament concept is mostly a space-bound and time-bound idea in its execution, the Lukan idea crosses the traditional boundaries, creates a contextual and ideological constellation with the Old Testament, the Sitz-im-Leben Jesu, and the Sitz-im-Leben Kirche, builds a dialogical relationship with the Lukan poor, and leads the discourse toward a “third space.” This quality of the Lukan rhetoric unravels myriad possibilities for creating interpretative avenues for the Indian poor. As Luke takes the attention of the reader toward the subjugated sections of the society, an Indian reader can build her/his hermeneutical spectrum to encompass the feelings and the aspirations of the Indian masses. This quality of the Gospel of Luke demonstrates its esteemed rhetorical power.

As the Third Gospel as a whole builds a rhetorical strategy by way of absorbing the contemporary realities, the Nazareth Manifesto foregrounds the New Jubilee ideology to build the narrative texture of the Gospel. An Indian reader of the Gospel can witness a paradigmatic function of it as it curbs many of the existent realities of the country. A re-reading of the Gospel in the face of the mirror realities of our country takes into account the poor, the captives, the oppressed, and the blind sections of the society for liberation and transformation. The poor, the Dalits, the Tribals, the Adivasis, the women, the children, and all other subjugated sections can build hope and identify justice once when they adopt and implement the New Jubilee ideology. In a context in which the CAA/NPR/NRIC, the Ghar Wapsi, the holy cow ideology, and the anti-conversion issues are discussed, the New Jubilee ideology enables the people to have a new smile on their faces. In sum, the Lukan ideology of the New Jubilee can be considered as a paradigm for holistic development in the nation of India and elsewhere.

Johnson Thomaskutty

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

Serampore Mission imageThomaskutty, Johnson., ed. Serampore Mission: Perspectives in Contexts. Delhi: ISPCK, 2019. ISBN: 978-93-88945-06-6. Pages: i-xxviii, 1-310.


Thawng Ceu Hnin (PhD)

Faculty of New Testament Studies

Hindustan Bible Institute

Chennai, India.

The title Serampore Mission: Perspectives in Contexts is a new book edited by Johnson Thomaskutty who is a New Testament professor at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India. Published in 2019, this book can be considered as one of the most recent books dealing on the topic of the Serampore Mission. It consists of 15 articles examining the contributions of the Serampore Missionaries. This book examines “the biblical, historical, hermeneutical, theological, missional, ministerial, and contextual disciplines of the movement” from multiple perspectives. It also aims to link the historical gap between the contexts of the Serampore Mission in its own Sitz im Leben and the 21st century Christianity in India. Primarily, this book deals with three significant aspects: first, “the influence of the Serampore Mission and the paradigm shifts that brought into the missional and the ministerial developments in the Indian scenario”; second, understanding the “significance of the Serampore Mission and its educational and theological contributions in the contemporary India”; and third, “the role of the Mission and its engaged and holistic tasks in the pluralistic Indian contexts.”

In his essay A Theo-epistemological Reflection on William Carey and the Serampore Mission, Songram Basumatary traces the theo– and missio-epistemological framework of the Serampore Mission. In that process, he poses many thoughtful questions such as “Are we theologizing Serampore Mission?” Whether to consider William Carey as a mere Missionary or he was also a socialist? Whether he was a pioneer of the praxis theology or was he also the father of the modern mission? Having asked the aforementioned questions, the author provides various factors that influenced Carey. In his essay Important Documents of the Serampore College and Their Significance to Higher Education in India, Subhro Sekhar Sircar attempts to underscore the historical value of four of the important educational manuscripts documented by various people: first, the First Prospectus of the College (1818); second, the Royal Charter (1827); third, Statutes and Regulations (1833); and fourth, the Serampore College Act (1918). In doing so, Sircar examines the contributions of these four documents to the Indian educational system. The author gives a short historical visit to the genesis of the Serampore College and its contextual relevance to the contemporary church.

In his essay The Impact of the Bible through the Protestant Reformation and the Protestant Missionary Movement, Prakash Abraham Mathew studies the tremendous impacts of the Protestant Reformation and the Serampore Mission which were founded and led by Martin Luther and William Carey. Mathew helps us to comprehend several factors such as: the ways Luther and Carey initiated their movements based on the Bible, the challenges they encountered in the process of accomplishing their tasks, their impacts upon the renaissance of Germany and India, and the historical significance of the Bible in transforming the lives of the people. In his essay William Carey’s Bible Translation Principles: Prospects and Challenges, Stanly Jones investigates the theological significance of the Bible translation, revisits Carey’s principles of the Bible translation, and underlines his challenges in accomplishing the task in the Indian vernacular languages. The author projects the salvific and holistic transformative nature of translating the Bible into Indian vernacular languages.

In his essay Re-reading the Gospel of John in the Light of William Carey’s Linguistic Methods, Johnson Thomaskutty examines Carey’s linguistic methods in the context of Bengal as well as in the wider Indian contexts. The author explores Carey’s linguistic principles for interpreting the Bible, implements some of his linguistic methods in the “narrative framework of John’s gospel,” studies the “sociolinguistic matrix of the Fourth Gospel for interpretive avenues,” and finally, brings forth a new hermeneutic or an indigenous hermeneutic for understanding the Bible. In her essay Educational Principles of the Serampore Mission and Its Implications for Contemporary Education, Annie George revisits the educational principles of the Serampore Trio/Quartet. The author enables us to see how the Serampore Trio/Quartet used education as a missionary tool and formulates various educational principles for the current education.

In his essay The Contribution of the Serampore Mission towards the Ecumenical Movement: A Historical Perspective, Woba James attempts to present the historical contribution of the Serampore Trio to the modern ecumenical movement. James perceives that the Serampore Mission is ecumenical in nature because it welcomes all regardless of their caste, race, color or even religion. He concludes that ecumenism was brought in various forms: by bringing together different theological institutions under one umbrella, by bridging the colleges together under one platform for “common theological vision and mission,” and by extending its ecumenical mission towards the people of other faiths. In his essay Reading the Life of Abraham and William Carey from a Missiological Perspective, Shiju Mathew makes a logical parallelism between Abraham and William Carey and demonstrates that they were two servants of God who lived once in the history of humanity. Mathew beautifully writes, “Both Abraham and Carey received the title ‘Father,’ Abraham as ‘Father of many nations’ and Carey as ‘Father of Modern Missions.’” The author considers these two prominent historical figures from a missional perspective and draws its relevance to the contemporary mission of the church.

In his essay The centrality of Christ and the Hermeneutical Perspectives of the Serampore Mission, George Philip attempts to answer the following question: “How can we understand the centrality of Christ in the activities of the Serampore Trio?” Philip also inquires the “hermeneutical principles of the Serampore Mission” and examines the “hermeneutical paradigms of the current theological education.” Philip writes that the hermeneutical lenses of the Serampore Trio were “proof-text method and literal interpretation of the text.” In his article Serampore Mission from a Botanical and Ecological Perspective, Jangkholam Haokip, as the title suggests, reads the Serampore Mission from a “botanical and ecological perspective.” The author depicts Carey as a botanist who paid special attention to the caring of plants and points out that for Carey, collecting and planting several plants was both religious and missional in nature. The nature is one of God’s creations and Carey vividly understood his role as a steward.

In his essay Serampore Mission and Dalit Theology, Viju Wilson addresses how the Serampore Mission and the Senate of Serampore College have contributed to the Indian contextual theological thinking and to the upbringing of the Indian Dalit theological thinking. Wilson argues that the Serampore Mission and the College have enabled the marginalized communities of India “to celebrate the life in its fullness.” The author contends that the Senate of Serampore College has developed many contextual theologians and they in return brought a holistic transformation among the marginalized sections of the society. In his article Revisiting the Serampore Missions and the Tribal Worldviews: A Postcolonial Reading, Mayang Longkumer interrogates and addresses one of the most significant questions: “Can something good come out of the Serampore missions lensing through the tribal worldview?” The author studies the Serampore Mission and other foreign missionary movements through the eyes of the tribal communities in India using a “post-colonial reading” as his interpretive tool. Longkumer suggests that mission movements should not be ignorant of the socio-cultural context of the target groups and that the approach of the Christian missions should be holistic.      

In his article The Modern Missionary Movement of the Serampore Trio: A Missiological Perspective, James Patole considers the “historical aspects of the Serampore Trio” and studies the missionary works of the Trio from a missiological perspective. Patole has chosen a handful of modes and approaches of the Trio and has brought application to the contemporary missional endeavor.  In her article Beyond the Serampore Mission Historiography: Re-defining Ecumenism from the Context, Kaholi Zhimomi sees the need to re-examine the historical dimensions of the Serampore Mission to address the modern missionary movement and pays a visit to the historical contributions of the Serampore Mission. Considering the Serampore Mission as her base, she redefines the meaning of the term “ecumenism” in the Sitz im Leben of Indian realities. In her conclusion, she suggests a life-centric ecumenism over against the prevailing church-centric and anthropo-centric ecumenical endeavors. The last essay in this book is William Carey’s Approach to the People of Other Faiths, Religious Practices, Caste System, and Conversion, written by Giri K. He considers the various ways through which William Carey approached the people of other faiths, religious practices, caste system and conversion in India.

Unlike any other books on the Serampore Mission, this book stands unique because it is one of the results of the bicentenary celebration in India. All the writers have put their efforts in viewing the Serampore Mission through multiple perspectives and their works bring a fresh light. A suggestion would be the need to address the relationship between the Senate of Serampore colleges and the colleges under the Asia Theological Association since a large number of churches and organizations only value the products of the Senate of Serampore College/s over and above the ATA graduates. Overall, this book is the need of the hour to re-emphasize the holistic mission initiatives of the Serampore missionaries. Abraham was called the “Father of many nations” and William Carey was called the “Father of Modern Missions.” In that sense, who will be called to be the “Father of Post-modern Missions?” It is the need of the hour for the Serampore College/s to consider this question with seriousness. While we celebrate our past glory, let us also work together to transform our students to become people like the Serampore missionaries who will be called the “Father/s [Mother/s] of Post-modern Missions.”

Overall, the editor and the authors together attempt to build a “third space” for witnessing Christ to the future generation of people out of the “first space” of the Serampore missionaries and the “second space” of the contemporary contextual realities. The editorial ventures, layout, research initiatives, marshalling of the evidence, multifarious topics, and the holistic nature of the book deserve special appreciation. For those who search for a book that focuses on the contemporaneity of the Serampore Mission, this book can be considered as one of the best choices.

Buy the Book here: Amazon Page

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Bloomsbury Book PictureJohnson Thomaskutty, Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions (Jewish and Christian Texts in Contexts and Related Studies 25; London/New York: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2018). Pp. xx + 256.

Saint Thomas the Apostle is an excellent study of Thomas traditions in the Gospel according to John, the Apocryphal texts, and the historical traditions in North western and Southern India. The movement of Christianity towards the East is relatively neglected. Many of the traditions and writings were treated more or less fictional and legendary and their historical veracity is often looked down with suspicion. But there are many untold stories of these men and women who were so close to Jesus of Nazareth. The Eastern regions have always maintained their fascinations about these people. One of such figures in the Christian history, a tiny figure amidst the towering figures like Paul and Peter, is Thomas, the Twin. Charlesworth has rightly commented in the Foreword that Thomas has been maligned in the west as the doubting Thomas, because of the misinterpretation of John 20 and therefore Thomas did not make, in the eyes of many, an ideal disciple (p. xi). This study challenges such conventional and stereotyped images and scholarly assumptions regarding Thomas traditions.

This monograph is indeed a remarkable effort to understand the person and work of “Didymus Judas Thomas” (p. 1).  The author’s attempt to reclaim the original image of Thomas as “believing Thomas,” over against the popular image “doubting Thomas,” needs appreciation.  In doing this, the author investigates the development of Thomas literature from its earliest stages, reads those traditions with fresh insights and scrutinizes the Thomas Literature to delineate the character and mission of Thomas. The author builds his thesis furthering the propositions of Charlesworth, as its basis, and cuts its own path employing an interdisciplinary method.

This monograph divides Thomas literature into three categories: canonical references, apocryphal documents, and traditio-historical materials. By interweaving these three layers of documents, the attempt is made to reconstruct the personality of Thomas. This research is structured into three parts. The first part (chaps. 1-4) talks in a detailed way how Thomas is portrayed in the Fourth Gospel. The second part (chaps. 5-8) delineates the person and work of Thomas in the Apocryphal documents and part three (chaps. 9-10) examines the Thomas traditions and attempts to reconstruct the Thomas community. In doing this, a brilliant attempt is made to reconstruct the person of Thomas as a historical and a literary figure.

In the first part, the attempt is to focus Thomas’s character within the narrative framework of the Gospel of John. The author brilliantly explains the “narrative artistry” of Johannine literature with an insightful reading of all four Thomas narratives in the Fourth Gospel (p. 5). The unique placement of Thomas, to the author, communicates something significant about the character and his development within the narrative. The utterances of Thomas is exegetically analyzed with its stylistic and rhetorical effects in the narrative units. In addition, the character of Thomas is brought forward from new directions by analyzing the arrangement of various themes like belief, love, glory and the titles given to Jesus.

The first place where Thomas comes to the forefront of the narrative is in John 11. Apparently, it is the narrative about the death of Lazarus, but at a deeper level it is pointing to the death and resurrection of Jesus. This narrative twist is done through the portrayal of Thomas, in which Thomas’s utterance impacts the whole story of Lazarus. This utterance makes crucial Christological turn in the narrative. Thus, Thomas is presented as one who stands against all odds and stands with the decisions and plans of Jesus and as a key figure in the plot of the story of Jesus (p. 34). The second occurrence of Thomas is in the Farewell discourse (13:1-17:26). By interpreting the question in 14:5 with its rhetorical effects in the narrative, the author brings forth the person of Thomas as one filled with love and concern for Jesus. His questions and utterances in the narrative enhance rhetorical force initiating new revelations. The third occurrence is in 20:1-31. This passage gives the highest Christological confession in the Gospel, the theological climax of the whole narrative. The expression “My Lord and My God” is also ‘rhetoric of resistance’ and therefore it can also be understood from its imperial context and its affiliative-alterity (mimicking and mocking) dynamics. The final appearance is in chapter 21:1-25, which is interpreted as a narrative expansion to stabilize the role and function of Thomas.

The second part of this book analyses the portrayal of Thomas in the Apocryphal documents to see how Thomas traditions continued to exist in the early centuries. It also delineates the significance of Thomas in the post-Johannine context. The Gospel of Thomas is the first document in this category, which is attributed to Didymus Judas Thomas (p. 90). He was identified within the Syrian church as the apostle and twin brother of Jesus. This document helps the reader to understand Thomas’s unique leadership role, his special knowledge about Jesus, and his unparalleled position in early Christianity (p. 101-102). The second document is ‘Book of Thomas the Contender,’ which is a revelation dialogue between Jesus and Thomas (p. 106). This book throws light regarding the engagement of the Thomasine community with that of the ideological and philosophical world of early Christian centuries. Book of Thomas portrays Thomas and his community (Thomasine community) with special attachment to Jesus and ability to comprehend Jesus’ sayings, while the rest of the world is in ignorance. Thus the person and character of Thomas could be seen as an extension of the Johannine tradition.

The Acts of Thomas and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas are the next two documents examined in this study. These documents give further information regarding Thomas’ significance and influence among the communities of faith. In the Acts of Thomas, the Apostle Thomas is described as the Apostle to the East, and more specifically as the Apostle of India (p. 122). This book indicates Thomas’ journeys beyond the Greco–Roman world, to the Eastern Hemisphere, especially to the Indo-Parthian and South Indian regions. This shows Thomas’s character and identity as a disciple with an intimate relationship with and commitment to Jesus and as one who crosses the geographical boundaries, and as one engaging with people from varied walks of life. Just as in the Fourth Gospel, he appears as Jesus’s spiritual twin and proclaims him as “My Lord and my God” (p. 125). The infancy Gospel of Thomas tells the stories of Jesus’ childhood, the stories that were in circulation regarding the earthly Jesus. Thomas was perceived as a philosopher (p. 142), a childhood friend and as a twin brother of Jesus in this document. The author brilliantly reconstructs the growth of Thomas from a “childhood friend” to an “earlier disciple” and later on to a “mature believer” (p. 149).

The third part of this monograph explores the historical traditions related to Thomas. Firstly, there is an attempt to understand the way the nation of India was perceived in antiquity and the possibilities of Thomas’s coming to the Greater Indian provinces. It is an established fact that through trade relationships, India became well connected to the rest of the world, especially the Jewish, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, and Persian kingdoms. Then the patristic evidences are marshaled to prove Thomas’ apostleship to India. Such traditions, for the author, were unanimous, consistent, and reasonably early, and they circulated among the church fathers, travelers, traders, geographers, and historians from a wider geographical area. To the author there is no convincing contradictory evidence stating that Thomas did not go to India.

Author’s analyses of the historical perception of the person and work of Thomas from the tradition- historical material deserve appreciation. Firstly, it is reconstructed from the Synoptic Gospels, Fourth Gospel and Acts of the Apostles. The author argues that the spiritual experiences on the day of Pentecost and in the upper room, the emerging situation of persecution in the Jerusalemite context, and the post-council (i.e., 49 CE) attitude of the mother church toward missions would have challenged Thomas to pursue the task of going beyond the Jewish and Greco–Roman boundaries. The evidences from the records of church fathers, historians, travelers, and geographers are called forth in proving Thomas’s visit to India. Thomas Christianity, though rooted in the Palestinian Jesus movement and connected to Gentile Christianity, kept its own identity as a mystical, ascetic, and esoteric group spread throughout the East Syrian, Persian, Indo-Parthian, and South Indian provinces. The living tradition of Malabar, the tomb of Mylapore, archaeological evidence relating to the kingdom of Gundaphoros, the local traditions of Malabar including the Ramban Thoma Pattu, Margan Kali Pattu, Veeradian Pattu, and other traditions, are indicators of such growth of Thomas Christianity. The author strongly argues that the traditions about Thomas as one of the oldest and strongest traditions in church history.

The author’s brilliant integration of Thomas’s literary character, historical persona, and theological traits for a comprehensive understanding of his person and work deserves appreciation. The reconstruction of Thomasine community and its development as a unique, concrete, and consistent movement in history, with its expressive forms, especially the Malabar traditions is enlightening and makes this monograph a valuable contribution to the academia. The meticulous examination of the development of this Thomasine movement through the Thomasine Literature indeed evidences the nature of research and its excellence. The quest for the person and work of Thomas and his community through these traditions is indeed a contribution to the theological fraternity across the globe.  With these analyses, the author proposes reasons for a Thomasine School hypothesis. This study of Thomas with the help of an interdisciplinary approach is iconoclastic in nature. With this eclectic reading, the author proves how Thomas stands tall as a unique figure in the history of Christianity. This is an interesting book for all theological students, biblical scholars and researchers on history of Christianity.

Dr. Biju Chacko

New Theological College

Dehra Dun, India.