Book Review: “The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John” (by Paul Anderson; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011)

Posted: July 29, 2012 in General

Dr. George L. Parsenios writes a review on the Book entitled “The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John” (Authored by Dr. Paul N. Anderson; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011. 396 pp. $22.00. ISBN 978-080-0604-271). Dr. George Parsenios taught me the Gospel of John at Princeton Theological Seminary (at the PhD Seminar level) and Dr. Paul Anderson (of George Fox University) influenced me through his various writings, lectures and personal interactions on John.

Read the Book Review below…

[THIS WELCOME BOOK provides a rich introduction to both the questions that occupy modern Johannine scholarship and to the various responses to these questions. The book comprises three basic sections: “Outlining the Johannine Riddles”; “Addressing the Johannine Riddles”; and “Interpreting the Johannine Riddles.” Issues covered range from authorship and sources to sacraments and charges of anti-Semitism. Traditional and long-discussed historical, theological, and source-critical questions receive attention at the expense of more contemporary literary and cultural questions, but Anderson thoroughly treats the areas he addresses. The book’s format both helps and hinders it, with regular recourse to charts and bullet-point lists. Indeed, there are rarely four pages in a row in which most of a page or an entire page is not given to a chart or list. This makes reading difficult from cover to cover. However, this format is immensely useful for the person looking for raw data, such as the list of the dozen verses on both sides of the issue that are relevant for understanding John’s treatment of the question of freewill vs. determinism; or a list of the scattered topographical and geographical references in John; or a list of scholarly views on all issues of concern in John. These catalogs reflect a careful reading of John and of Johannine scholarship. The greatest benefit is that these do not simply impart information, but are always accompanied by Anderson’s measured assessment. One may not always agree with him, but he is a recognized authority on the Fourth Gospel, and is a trustworthy guide through Johannine scholarship. The book thus offers a rare combination of authority and accessibility. I am glad to have it and will return to it often, both for material for teaching and for views on Johannine scholarship. I enthusiastically recommend it to both beginners and experts.]

The Review firstly appeared here.

You can order the book here.

  1. Paul Anderson says:

    Thanks, George, for the thoughtful review, and thanks, Johnson, for posting it. I have attempted to lay out the complex Johannine issues as clearly and extensively as possible, although I’ve confined myself to thirty-six sets of riddles (theological, historical, literary); these are the main ones. Just to clarify, the main place where the tables and charts occur is in chapters 1-4 (out of 10), where I display distinctive features of John and list most of the important texts on both sides of each issue. So, the text is broken up some, but this approach is much clearer than footnotes, and the reader would not be served well to omit the texts or to embed them in the field. I’d be interested to know what other readers think; my students, for instance, find the boxes themselves eminently useful, as they bolster an inductive inquiry into the issues being discussed for readers on all levels. Much appreciation to Professor Parsenios for a thoughtful review, and also for his noting the useful character of this introduction to John. I appreciate also his noting my attempts to judge fairly the strengths and weaknesses of a dozen approaches to John, which accounts for how I came to my own overall theory in ch. 6–John’s dialogical autonomy. Again, much appreciated!

  2. Nowadays, I deal a lot about ‘riddles’ in John. Until I read Tom Thatcher and Paul Anderson I never thought about the riddling language of the Gospel with care and concentration. Thanks galore, Dr. Paul Anderson.

    • Paul Anderson says:

      You’re most welcome! One of the theological riddles addressed (chapter 2), of course, is the Father-Son relationship–a Johannine subject that engaged the early church in about three centuries of debate! In chapters 6 and 7 I draw in the agency motif (Deut 18) as a factor in the origin of that particular one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s