Established in 1995, the Global Research Institute (GRI) at Fuller Theological Seminary offers a fellowship to post-doctoral non-Western Christian scholars, enabling them to undertake research at Fuller Theological Seminary and complete texts for teaching in their home countries. The GRI program operates out of Fuller’s Center for Missiological Research (CMR). The Global Research Institute exists because Fuller believes that one of the primary tasks of the global Christian community is to provide local churches and Christian institutions with written material that reflects the history, needs, priorities and peculiarities of their specific contexts, and that these local concerns must matter to churches and Christian scholars everywhere. Today this need is particularly compelling in Asia, Africa and Latin America where the Church is experiencing its most rapid growth. This program provides a fellowship that allows recipients to take a two academic quarter sabbatical (6 months) to Fuller Theological Seminary’s Pasadena campus to research and write materials to further the intellectual and spiritual mission of the church in the scholar’s particular region. More details about the program go here.

I, Johnson Thomaskutty, started my GRI Research Fellowship at Fuller on 1st October 2015 and today (31st March 2016) I finish all the requirements toward its successful completion. CMR and Fuller provided the following resources toward my research: first, its extensive primary and secondary resource facilities at the David Alan Hubbard Library; second, interactions with global scholars like Marianne Meye Thompson, Frederick Dale Bruner and others from the Johannine point of view; third, interactions with New Testament scholars such as David J. Downs, Joel B. Green, Tommy Givens, Donald A. Hagner and others from the broader New Testament points of view; fourth, interactions with missional and theological points of view with Amos Yong, John Goldingay, Veli-matti Kärkkäinen, Scott Sunquist, Mark Labberton, and others; and fifth, multi-level interactions with PhD and Masters level students and scholars.

The most valuable aspects of the program include: first, encouragements from Amos Yong, Director of CMR, and his comments and recommendations; second, time-to-time personal one-on-one interactions with Marianne Meye Thompson and David J. Downs and their constructive criticisms and encouragements; third, the program helps scholars to interlock their majority worldviews and methodologies with that of the western scholarship; fourth, as a person writing about Didymos Judas Thomas I was able to see how Thomas was perceived in the western academia and was able to fill the gap with the Indian understanding of the historical person; fifth, the program provided me with a broader outlook and extended resources; sixth, provisions at various levels of the research; and seventh, I was benefited by the encouragements of GRI to attend the following conferences: (1) Golden Jubilee Conference of the School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller, Pasadena; (2) the “John and Judaism” Conference at Mercer University in Atlanta; (3) Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in Atlanta; and (4) Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting in San Dimas, California.

The primary audience of my forthcoming book on Thomas would be academic scholars, students, and the common people alike. Thomas was so far looked at from a disciplinary point of view. My upcoming book attempts to address him from an interdisciplinary point of view, i.e., by bridging the New Testament, Apocryphal, and historical traditions together. Through this my ultimate aim is to invite the global audience/readers toward the historical person. A comprehensive study that focuses on Thomas and the Thomas traditions from the eastern context is a genuine need of the time. The need to build the Thomas scholarship, by bridging the eastern and the western perspectives and by interlocking the canonical, extra canonical, and traditio-historical evidences, is yet to be actualized.

I would like to make known the following things with regard to the GRI program: first, I remain ever thankful to GRI and its sponsors for this remarkable program; second, the program provided me with new insights in my thought processes about the historical person called Didymos Judas Thomas; third, special appreciation goes to Prof. Amos Yong for his initiatives to encourage and facilitate my scholarship toward the higher levels, Prof. Marianne Meye Thompson for her critical reading of my exegeses and helpful suggestions, and Prof. David J. Downs for his interactions, meal fellowships, and motivations as my academic interlocutor; fourth, the program provided me an excellent opportunity to present my views during the CMR Colloquium in Geneva Room, Fuller, Pasadena; and fifth, special thanks to both the School of World Missions and School of Theology for their openness and time-to-time encouragements.

As a Thomas scholar, I was privileged to present my views at the church pews and receive feedback from, first, Rock of the Nations Church, Norwalk, California; second, IPC Los Angeles, Whittier, California; third, Sadhana Sangat Hind-O-Pak Church, Artesia, California; fourth, India Christian Fellowship, San Diego, California; fifth, Fremont Grace Church, Fremont, California; sixth, United Methodist Church, San Francisco, California; and seventh, International Assembly of God, Phoenix, Arizona. Moreover, it was my honor that I was interviewed for Light from the East Studios by Eric Sarwar and Joe Bevins. My friends Mathew Varghese, Joy Clement Daniel, David Muthukumar, Achenkunju Pappy, John Wesley Mathew, and co-GRI scholar Prof. Teresa Chai deserve special thanks for their friendship and love during my stay in Pasadena. Fuller staff members, Johnny Ching and Sam Bang, made all the arrangements for my travel and smooth stay in the US. Thanks are also due to the students, faculty, and administration of The Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India. Finally, the sacrifices of my wife Shiny, daughter Jemimah, and son Jeremiah make all my travel and research plans possible. Thanks to one and all.

Johnson Thomaskutty, GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California


You are welcome to watch Light from the East Studio’s interview with me about my current research on “Didymos Judas Thomas: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions” below. Click the link given below:

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.


[Joy Clement Daniel is a PhD candidate in the School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, focusing his research on “Mission to the Children.” Johnson Thomaskutty is Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, and currently a Global Research Institute Writing Scholar at Fuller.]

Question # One: Why are children absent in the pages of the Gospel of John in comparison to the Synoptic Gospels?

The Gospel of John is written from an entirely different point of view. While the Synoptic evangelists capture the story of Jesus from once upon a time point of view John captures it from once before time point of view. Due to this fact, John does not include the genealogy and the infancy narratives of Jesus. The following points are significant to note in this regard: first, while the Synoptic evangelists portray several stories related to children (infancy of both John the Baptist and Jesus and many other stories) John speaks about children from an entirely different perspective, i.e., children as eternal followers of Jesus/God; second, while the first three gospels use the expression Kingdom of God, i.e., a political metaphor, to delineate the relationship between God the King and His subjects, John uses eternal life, i.e., a filial metaphor, to decipher the Father and children relationship; third, while the Synoptic evangelists unravel the King-and-subjects relationship by way of a horizontal eschatology where the vertical aspects are presented in subsidiary fashion, the Fourth Evangelist brings to the fore a Father-and-children relationship in a vertical eschatological fashion where the horizontal aspects are subsidiary; and fourth, while the first three evangelists look at the story of Jesus mostly from a resurrection (and also historical) point of view and arrive at their conclusions on the basis of literal happenings (and literal children in the process), John unlock the events mostly from a post-resurrection point of view (and also merges history with theology) and arrives at his conclusions on the basis of both literal happenings and the ideological brainstorming (and hence children are more a kind of ideological construct). The above differentiation might help us to understand John’s view of children as a more developed and ideologically inclined one.

Question # Two: Marianne Meye Thompson develops her thesis on a metaphor ‘Children of God’ to better understand children in the Gospel of John. She portrays ‘children of God’ as a lived out identity in the world in reference to messianic community with social consequences than a spiritual status which is the traditional way of understanding it. This community is a new family that becomes a point of identity for those who are children of God and called to be an identity for all who are created by God. What is your view about it?

What Marianne Meye Thompson proposes in her article (“Children in the Gospel of John.” The Child in the Bible. Edited by Bunge, M.J. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008: 195-214) looks like a good model as far as my knowledge is concerned. By placing the theme of life at the center of the Fourth Gospel Thompson beautifully foregrounds the relationship between God the Father and his children. She emphasizes the following expressions with greater theological significance in the process of interpreting the Fourth Gospel: first, children in John are “any and all persons as children of God”; second, they are “reborn as children of God”; third, their identity as “being in the eternal life experience”; fourth, as a “new nascent messianic community”; and fifth, they are ultimately a “new community.” When Louis Martyn (History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. Nashville: Abingdon, 1968) was suggesting that the Gospel of John as a two-level drama, he was in reality unlocking something intriguing. At the first level of the drama, the story revolves around Jesus, the child par excellence, as a paradigm for humanity in relation to God the Father. At the second level of the drama, the same is expected from the children of God as they are a model community following the grand model of Jesus the eternal child of God. Johannine community as the children of God differs in several ways from other communities including the Qumran community. While the Qumran community adopted a rhetoric of distance, John’s community accepted a rhetoric of difference. It further suggests that Johannine community, as Marianne Meye Thompson suggests, “a lived out identity in the world in reference to messianic community with social consequences.” I may re-emphasize the following things for clarity: first, Johannine narrator presents Jesus himself as a paradigm of God’s child; second, the community of John was expected to adopt the Father/God-and-Son/Jesus relationship as their esteemed model in this world; third, the world can follow the model of the children of God/Johannine community that was shaped by the ideologies of Jesus the child of God; and fourth, while those who accept this model are considered as “children of light,” those who do not accept are considered as “children of darkness.” Thus, John suggests a model that can be appropriated through people’s acceptance or rejection.

Question # Three: In your understanding of the Gospel of John what other imageries or metaphors are useful to understand this Gospel with special reference to children and childhood?

The Gospel of John is a gospel of symbolism and metaphorical expressions. A reader who reads the text with external eyes may not really get the deep-rooted and polyvalent meanings of the text. I see the theme of water runs all through the gospel with an indication about the children of God, i.e., born with water (3:5), drinking the water Jesus provides to be part of the new community (4:13-14; 7:37-38), and being part of the family of God through the water (7:7; and also possibly in 5:2). In all these occasions Jesus uses water as a symbol of regeneration, new identification, and transformation to be children of God. The newness motif of the gospel further clarifies several things: first, the theme of new wine (as ‘new joy’; 2:9-10); second, new temple (as ‘new identity’; 2:19-21); third, new birth (as ‘new beginning’; 3:3); fourth, new water (as ‘new worship’; 4:13-14); fifth, new life (as ‘new faith development’; 4:46-54); sixth, new bread (as ‘new perspective’; 6:25-51); and seventh, new light (as ‘new sight’; 9:5, 41). The introduction of Jesus as the new Moses, new manna, and the new exodus motif (6:16-21) bring to the fore some of the significant aspects of the gospel. All these themes are introduced in relation to becoming the children of God and being part of the messianic community. Jesus offers everything new to those who approach him by faith. Thus, children of God are a new community and they are the children of light.

Question # Four: I know that you had been involved in ministry to the children in your early years. What is the point of attraction of this Gospel to the children and how they can be brought to this Gospel? Would you like to prefer few stories or chapters for Sunday school teachers or child development workers?

The main attraction of John to the children is its theme of life. The Fourth Gospel is a Gospel of life. Jesus came to give life in abundance. This theme has to be foregrounded when we approach the Sunday school children. In my early years, especially as a Sunday school student from the age three and later on as a Sunday school teacher from the age fifteen, I was attracted to the Fourth Gospel mainly because of this theme. From that point of view, I look at two stories in the gospel with keen attention: first, the story of the Samaritan woman and her faith reactions and gradual growth as a child of God (4:1-26); and second, the story of the blind man turned healed and his faith and commitment as a newly added member of the community of John (9:1-41). God’s love for the world and the provision of eternal life are to be expounded further by keeping the Sunday school children at focus.

Compiled by: Joy Clement Daniel and Johnson Thomaskutty

Bas WielengaNational Council of Churches in India [NCCI] News reports the demise of Indian Christian theologian Bastiaan Wielenga.

[[Rev. Dr. Bastiaan Wielenga,  a German missionary who opted for Indian citizenship, and a globally renowned Indian Liberation theologian of our times passed away on 23rd Dec 2015.  Among several commitments, he served the Ecumenical Christian Centre,  the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, and Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, where he played a major role in founding the’ Centre for Social Analysis’, and from where he retired as a Professor of Biblical Studies.

Dr. Bastiaan Wielenga was a colleague of Dietrich Bonheoffer and was part of the anti-Nazi regime in Germany. His contributions towards articulation of contextual theologies, particularly Theology of the Poor and Indian Liberation Theology, through the Centre for Social Analysis and  Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in particular and the Senate of Serampore College at large, are indeed remarkable.

Dr. Bas authored several books including Towards an Eco-just Society (1999),Understanding Indian Society , co-authored with his wife Dr. Gabrielle Dietrich (1998), It is a long Road to Freedom: Perspectives of Biblical Theology (1996), A Commentary to Revelation (1995), Social Movements: Towards a Perspective, co-authored with John Desrochers (1991), and  Introduction to Marxism (1984). He was part of the editorial team that worked on Encyclopaedia of Marxism appointed by the Russian Marxian Council.]]

Read the rest here.

5861414It was nice having a valuable time and conversation with Prof. Donald A. Hagner at Archives Book Shop in Fuller, Pasadena. Ever since 1993 I was using his phenomenal two-volume commentary on Matthew (Word Biblical Commentary Series) for teaching and preaching purposes. Thus I became an admirer of his writings, especially on the Gospel of Matthew and the Letter to the Hebrews. The one hour I spent with him this evening [December 21, 2015] was beneficial in several ways. Within that short span of time he taught me what simplicity is all about through his character and what encouragement is all about through his friendly speech. Even after his retirement, he is engaged in several teaching programs in both the western and non-western contexts. His current writing projects include the following: first, a monograph entitled How New the New Testament Is? Continuity and Discontinuity between Formative Judaism and Early Christianity; and second, a revised edition of his commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (WBC Series). Donald Hagner bought a book from the Archives Book Shop and gifted me as a Christmas gift. The title of the book is Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (by Richard B. Hays; Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2014). Thank you Prof. Donald Hagner.

[[Donald Hagner [BA., Northwestern University; BD. and ThM., Fuller Theological Seminary; PhD., University of Manchester] joined the faculty of Fuller in 1976, after seven years on the faculty of Wheaton College, and is the George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament in the School of Theology. His courses have included New Testament: Gospels, Acts to Revelation, Exegetical Method and Practice, selected book studies (Greek text), and selected subjects in New Testament theology. Hagner’s writings include a commentary on Hebrews (New International Biblical Commentary), The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus, the Word Biblical Commentary on Matthew (2 vols.), Encountering the Book of Hebrews, New Testament Exegesis and Research: A Guide for Seminarians, and The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction. In addition to coediting several volumes, he has produced a new, revised edition of George Eldon Ladd’s A Theology of the New Testament, and has rewritten and updated Everett Harrison’s Romans (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). He has also had many articles and book reviews published. He is the coeditor of the New International Greek Testament Commentary. He has been the recipient of the Weyerhauser Award for Excellence at Fuller, and the Golden Award from the Christian Booksellers for the Best Commentary of 1995. Hagner is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Although he has now retired from full-time service, Hagner continues mentoring PhD students and teaching occasional courses in his senior faculty role.]]

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller, Pasadena, California]

72003 (1)Matthew Montonini’s “New Testament Perspectives” is one of the most updated and visited blogs in the area of New Testament studies. Recently, he organized an interview with me about my publication entitled “Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50” (Leiden/Boston: E.J. Brill, 2015). It was my privilege to respond to his highly proficient questions. See his introductory statements and the interview-links herewith:

[[Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Johnson Thomaskutty, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Editor of UBS Journal at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, on his recently published dissertation, Dialogue in the Book of Signs (Brill). Currently, Johnson is serving as a Global Research Institute scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary. Johnson’s Dialogue in the Book of Signs is methodologically sophisticated and will be a volume that Johannine specialists will need to consult for further work in this section of John’s Gospel. I have split the interview into two parts, (as follows)]]:

Part I:

Part II:

Matthew Montonini’s Blog is here:

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller, Pasadena, California]

Johnson Thomaskutty at SBL/AAR 2015

Posted: November 27, 2015 in General

AARSBL 2015_Main Banner_0Center for Missiological Research [CMR] of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, gave a new turn in my life as it sponsored my trip to the SBL/AAR at Atlanta, Georgia. As a Global Research Institute [GRI] scholar at Fuller, I found my trip rewarding. The SBL/AAR was held from 21 to 24 November, 2015. I express my sincere thanks to Prof. Amos Yong [Director of CMR] and Johnny Ching for the arrangements and support. I was benefitted out of the annual meeting in the following way.

On the first day, I had a very hectic schedule. My schedule started with the “International Cooperation Initiative Forum Meeting” at 9.30 AM and finished with “Scholar Leaders International Dinner” at 9.00 PM, i.e., with Evan Hunter of SLI and scholars from the Asian context. It was nice attending “John, Jesus, and History” presentations by Graham Twelftree, Tom Thatcher, Jan G. van der Watt, Andrew T. Lincoln, Mark Goodacre, and Catrin Haf Williams. During the sessions on “Comparison of Johannine and Markan Characterization,” I attended five papers including the one by Elizabeth Struthers Malbon. The day was pleasant with face-to-face interactions with scholar friends like Nijay Gupta, Darrell Bock, Ben Witherington, Jo-Ann Brant, Christopher Skinner, Francois Tolmie, Francis X. Clooney, John Christopher Thomas, Iain Torrance, Brian Small, and others.

On the second day, I was privileged to interact with John Dominic Crossan, Kasper Bro Larsen, Jesudas Athyal, Ekaputra Tupamahu, Erik Eynikel, John Byron, Paul N. Anderson, Alan Culpepper, Bill Heroman, Craig Koester, Mike Licona, and many others. Attending the Nordic Reception in the evening provided me opportunities to discuss with some of the key figures like Ismo Dunderberg.

On the third day, I attended three Johannine Forums: [1] Johannine Literature (9.00-11.30 AM); [2] Johannine Characterization and Genre (1.00-3.30 PM); and [3] The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic (4.00-6.30 PM). It was interesting to attend the session by Finny Abraham [GTU, Berkeley] in the academic category of “Ritual in the Biblical World: Social Scientific Criticism of the New Testament.” Moreover, it was good to hear the presentations of Urban von Wahlde, Mary Coloe, Kasper Bro Larsen, Harold Attridge, Colleen Conway, Jo-Ann Brant, and Tom Thatcher. Also had wonderful moments with James Charlesworth, Michael Gorman, Tatsiong Benny Liew, Douglas Estes, John J. Thatamanil, Jayakiran Sebastian, Peter Williams, Mary Coloe, Sandra Schneiders, Lidija Novakovic, Sung Uk Lim, Olugbemiro Temba, Bill Heroman, Joshua Muthalali, and others.

The session on reviewing the new book “The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic” was significant for me in three ways: [1] I attended “The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic” Conference in Aarhus University, Denmark, and presented a gist of my dissertation; [2] This conference connected me with a good number of John and genre specialists; and [3] This book makes a mention about my work on dialogue (Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12;50. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2015).

There were several recognition scenes (anagnōrises) at SBL/AAR as many to whom I am connected through social media [Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia, WordPress, etc.] really appeared just in front of me and we had moments of interaction. I was happy to see the way my book was exhibited in the Book Exhibition Hall (i.e., at the Brill stall). Thanks friends for your love, appreciation, and encouragements. I look forward for SBL/AAR 2016 in San Antonio.

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary, CA]


The Peter Rhea and Ellen Jones Endowed New Testament Lectures at the McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia, were inaugurated in 2009 with lectures presented by James D.G. Dunn. The second lecture series occurred in 2010 with lectures presented by D. Moody Smith. This year, the Jones lectures were being offered at John and Judaism: A Symposium, hosted by Mercer University, during the period of 18-20 November 2015. The following lines are quoted from the Conference Booklet:

The relationship be John and Judaism is multi-layered and variously interpreted, yet it is crucial for understanding the Gospel, and continues to have ramifications for the relationship between Jews and Christians today. This conference will give particular attention to the relationship between the Gospel of John and its Jewish context late in the first century, during the period that has been characterized as “the parting of the ways,” and to Christian responses in recent decades to the Gospel’s anti-Jewish rhetoric.

The conference was started with the keynote address of Jan G. van der Watt, Professor of New Testament and Source Texts of Early Christianity, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Holland. His lecture was circumscribed around the central question, “Is Jesus the King of Israel?” Another key lecture was entitled “Evidence of Conflict with the Synagogue in the ‘Johannine’ Writings” (by Craig A. Evans, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Canada). The overall schedule of the lectures was divided into three main categories as follows:

First, “John as a Source for Understanding Judaism.” There were one lecture and two short papers in this section: [1] Main Paper: “The Gospel of John as a Source for First-Century Judaism” (by Craig R. Koester, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN); [2] Short Paper I: “John, Judaism, and ‘Searching the Scriptures’” (by Catrin H. Williams, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, Wales); and [3] Short Paper II: “John, Jews and Philosophy” (by Harold W. Attridge, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT).

Second, “Reappraising John’s Relationship to Judaism and Jewish Christianity.” There were one lecture and three short papers in this section: [1] Main Paper: “Story and History: John, Judaism, and the Historical Imagination” (by Adele Reinhartz, University of Ottawa, Canada); [2] Short Paper I: “Johannine Christian and Baptist Sectarians within Late First-Century Judaism” (by Joel Marcus, Duke University, Durham, NC); [3] Short Paper II: “Tensions in Matthean and Johannine Soteriology Viewed in their Jewish Context” (by William R.G. Loader, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia); and [4] Short Paper III: “Matthew and John: Reflections of Early Christianity in Relation to Judaism” (R. Alan Culpepper, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University).

Third, “Reading John as Jews and Christians.” There were one lecture and three short papers in this section: [1] Main Paper: “Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel Fifteen Years after the Leuven Colloquium” (by Reimund Bieringer, Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium); [2] Short Paper I: “Aspects of the ‘Parting of the Ways’ in Ephesus: From Paul to John and Further on” (by Jörg Frey, University of Zürich, Switzerland); [3] Short Paper II: “Antisemitism and Religious Violence as Flawed Interpretations of John” (by Paul N. Anderson, George Fox University, Newberg, OR); and [4] Short Paper III: “The Place of John in Christian-Jewish Relations Fifty Years after Nostra Aetate” (by Noam E. Marans, Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, American Jewish Committee, New York).

Alan Culpepper (McAfee School, Mercer, GA), Benjamin Reynolds (Tyndale University College, Toronto, Canada), Jaime Clark-Soles (Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX), and Peter Rhea Jones (McAfee School, Mercer, Atlanta) chaired the sessions. One of the significant things was that all the presentations were followed by Q & A sessions. The involvement of Vernon K. Robbins (Emory University, Atlanta, GA), Urban Von Wahlde (Loyola University Chicago), and others during the Q & A session needs to be specially mentioned. The conference was highly organized and I believe that it will introduce a new way forward to Jewish-Christian dialogue based on John’s Gospel. But, at the same time, whether John’s Gospel is “pro-Jewish” or it is “anti-Jewish” can only be determined on the basis of the stance an interpreter takes in the process of her/his reading of the text. This fact was reflective through the various vantage points adopted by the presenters. Above all, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference as it is instrumental in contributing new ideas in my ongoing struggle with the Johannine text.

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, California)

Seow, Leong-RJM

This evening [i.e., 12 November 2015, 5 PM], Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller organized a Guest Lecture at Geneva Room. On the occasion, one of the leading figures in the field of Hebrew Bible, Prof. Choon-Leong Seow [Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School], was the speaker. He was formerly serving as professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey. Prof. Seow’s paper was on an interesting topic, entitled “The Book of Job in Its Ancient Near Eastern Milieu.” Special appreciation goes to Prof. Christopher B. Hays [D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, School of Theology, Fuller, Pasadena] for this important initiative.

In his lecture, Prof. Seow arrayed several parallelisms between The Book of Job and the ANE Literature. One of the striking points to me was about the usage of dialogue genre in both the traditions. In my recent book, I made the following similar observations:

The religious traditions of both the Ancient Near Eastern and the Greco-Roman contexts are rich in having dialogue as a literary genre. In the east, dialogue dates back to the Sumero-Babylonian dialogues and disputations (preserved in copies from the early second millennium BCE). In the Akkadian Gilgamesh Epic, conversations develop within the larger dialogue framework of Gilgamesh and Ishtar. Similarly, the living together of the divine pantheon under the supreme triad, Enlil, Enki, and An, and other gods surrounding them, makes the Mesopotamian creation myths confrontational and dialogical. The creation myth of the Enuma Elish develops as a series of verbal disputations among those figures making up the Babylonian divine pantheon. The dispute is primarily between the younger-generation gods and the primordial gods. The dialogue is one of the important means through which the confrontation is reported in this document. The Ugaritic texts of the Canaanite tradition contain various episodes of the Baal cycle. In Baal’s battle with the sea, implicit and multi-level war dialogues develop, especially among El, Baal, and Yam. Another array of dialogues develops among El, Baal, Athirat, Anat, and Kothar before the construction of a palace for Baal. The brief survey above of the Sumero-Babylonian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Greek, and Roman religious traditions serves to confirm that dialogue and interactions among the deities themselves and between the pantheon and the human world were part and parcel of the affairs of the ancient world (Thomaskutty, 2015: 27-29).

In a sub-section entitled “Old Testament Traditions” I had made the following observations about the Book of Job:

The Book of Job has this pattern at a distinct level. The ‘happy ending’ pattern of the Book of Job finds parallels with the materials from Mesopotamia and Egypt (cf. Clines, 1989). Majercik (1992: 186; cf. De Regt, 2007: 119, 162) points out that, “Among the OT writings, the Book of Job is the chief example of a literary work in dialogue form, but a type of dialogue that is influenced by literary precedents in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.” This feature of the text provides dramatic appeal to the portrayal of Job’s story (Thomaskutty, 2015: 34-36).

Prof. Seow’s literary and narrative analysis of the Book of Job in relation to the ANE traditions throws light on to a well developed literary genre called dialogue. In the analysis, he also made it poignant that though there are parallelisms between Job and ANE Literature, at certain points and levels the said biblical text distanced itself from other literary works. Keeping that into mind I argue that: “The Johannine dialogues show striking similarities with the dialogues of the OT. As in the case of the OT dialogues, the Johannine dialogues maintain an ‘inner-negotiation’ and ‘outer-confrontation’ pattern. Though we identify similarities between the dialogues of the OT and the Gospel of John, John employs the pattern in his own terms to comfort the ‘believing insiders’ and to address the ‘unbelieving outsiders’” (p.36). From the above observation one can notice the following things: first, dialogue was a common literary genre found in ANE Literature, The Book of Job, and The Gospel of John; second, though Job had influences from the ANE Literature, it has its own unique features in implementing the dialogue genre; and third, John, similarly, has ample number of parallelisms with the dialogues of ANE Literature and The Book of Job. But the Fourth Evangelist maintained dialogue as a literary genre in his own idiom. Thanking you Dr. Seow and Dr. Chris.


Thomaskutty, Johnson., 2015. Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50. Leiden/Boston: E.J. Brill.

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller, Pasadena, California]


There was another significant time of presenting my paper during the Center for Missiological Research [CMR] Colloquium, on 11 November 2015, at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA. Prof. Amos Yong, Director of CMR and Professor of Theology and Mission, was graciously chairing the session. The introductory lines of the paper are herewith:

[[The paper attempts to investigate how the narrator of the Fourth Gospel captures the socio-religious realities of the First Century CE through his narrative lens. The rhetoric of John is reflection of reality. In that sense it is a mimesis. In a context in which emerging Christian communities were denied religious freedom and were widely persecuted, the Johannine community members realized that their very existence was at risk. The community was undergoing persecution from the hands of both the Jewish religio-political authorities as well as from the Empire of Rome. Johannine community’s antilanguage and its antisocial outlook placed it well over against the Jewish and Roman power structures. While the narrator employs dualism as a major narrative means to decipher the realities, the from above ideology of Jesus is in constant conflict with the from below ideology of the Jews. In this way, two ideologies are brought into a sharp conflict (cf. Petersen, 1993). Through the usage of conflict and characterization as a major narrative devise, the narrator adds vigor and flavor to the narrative dynamics of the story and its discourse in order to turn it out as a dramatic masterpiece (cf. Chatman, 1978). This situation persuades the reader to pose the following questions: How does the narrator of John’s Gospel exemplify religious freedom and persecution both in explicit and implicit terms? How does the narrator convert the message from the Sitz-im-leben Jesu to the Sitz-im-leben kirche? How does the narrator employ the narrative techniques of mimesis and diegesis? How can the Johannine community realities be used as a paradigm in the contemporary Indian context where religious freedom and conversion remain as prima factors? The task of the paper is threefold: first, identify the Johannine tenets of narration to decipher the socio-religious realities; second, investigate how religious freedom and persecution are used as elements that the narrator propels to foreground the contextual realities; and third, understand the relevance of the topic in the present day Indian context where Ghar Wapsi and other anti-conversion activities are widely practiced.]]

Tobias Schuckert’s Missiological reflection of the paper is herewith:

[[Thomaskutty uses the Gospel of John as a framework to understand and interpret the struggle of the church in India. He uses three circles, the Sitz im Leben of the Indian church with the Sitz im Leben Jesu and the Sitz im Leben of the Johannite church to come to his conclusions (Thomaskutty 2015, 13). Thomaskutty’s passage may function to launch the conversation about how local churches can identify themselves with certain books in the New Testament.

Thomaskutty’s study resonates with van Engen’s framework of missiological research (1996, 23) that looks at the faith community (the church in India), the biblical text (the gospel of John), and the missional context (the Indian society). However, in Thomaskutty’s passage, the emphasis is strongly on the biblical text, his interpretation of the gospel of John. Therefore, following van Engen (1996), it would be fascinating to see how the Indian church would follow and interpret some of Thomaskutty’s statements. Has the gospel of John a greater impact on Indian Christans as other biblical books? Do Indian Christians identify themselves with the Gospel of John?


Thomaskutty, Johnson. 2015. Religious Freedom and Conversion in India Today-Reading John’s Gospel as a Jewish-Christian Conflict Narrative. In CMR Colloquium, November 11, 2015. Pasadena, CA.

VanEngen, Charles Edward. 1996. Mission on the Way : Issues in Mission Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.]]

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller, Pasadena, California]

31agjWj4PbL__SX334_BO1,204,203,200_On November 9 at 7:00 PM, Archives Bookshop and Fuller Theological Seminary partnered to host an evening with Prof. Marianne Meye Thompson in celebration of the release of her new commentary on the Gospel of John, ‘John: A Commentary’ (Westminster John Knox, 2015). This special evening was special with a talk by Prof. Thompson, a brief Question and Answer session, and a book-signing. Archives Bookshop sold copies of the commentary at a special, discounted event-price. In his introductory speech Prof. Joel B. Green introduced Marianne with the following words: “Marianne is a scholar who teaches to write rather than writes to teach,” “she is a woman of the church,” and “she is a slow, powerful, reflective, and theological writer.” In her speech, Marianne made it clear that she signed a contract with Westminster John Knox Press on 13th October 1997. She also told: “I was always interested in John because it is a unique gospel and because it goes on its own.” In my reference of the commentary to grasp a bit more about Thomas, I realized that she has done something significant by taking into consideration the feelings of both the church and the academia. As Joel B. Green rightly put it the commentary came through slow and steady plans and processes. Marianne Meye Thompson is George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. She has devoted many years of focused study to the Gospel of John and is widely regarded as one of its most significant contemporary interpreters. The event was held in Travis Auditorium, which is located on campus at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Psychology in Pasadena, California. I was really inspired by the way the whole program was conducted and I congratulate Dr. Marianne for this great contribution to the Johannine scholarship.

Read a brief description from below:

[[Almost from the earliest days of the church, John’s distinctive presentation of Jesus has provoked discussion about its place among the other Gospels. One cannot help but see the differences from the Synoptics and wonder about the origins and character of John. In this new volume in the New Testament Library series, Marianne Meye Thompson explores the ministry and significance of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the Gospel of John, paying special attention to the social, cultural, and historical contexts that produced it. John’s Gospel, Thompson posits, is the product of a social-cultural world whose language, commitments, and contours must be investigated in order to read John’s narrative well. In doing so, Thompson studies the narrative, structure, central themes, and theological and rhetorical arguments found in the Fourth Gospel. Thompson’s expert commentary unpacks and illuminates John’s unique witness to Jesus—who he was, what he did, and what that means.


“In this exceptional commentary, Thompson wears her deep scholarship lightly. We are given a clear and fresh vision of John’s portrayal of Jesus and its enduring significance for today. Here is real insight.” —Walter Moberly, Professor of Theology and Biblical Interpretation, Durham University

“Without neglecting the cultural contexts of this most ‘spiritual’ Gospel, Thompson demonstrates the depth of the Gospel’s scriptural roots and, in conversation with interpreters ancient and modern, the breadth and height of its theological claims. This expert engagement with the Gospel narrative is a much-needed contribution to its contemporary interpretation. It will now be my go-to commentary on John.” —Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary & University

“Thompson has written a richly rewarding theological commentary that reads the Fourth Gospel first and foremost as a story of Jesus. No one is better qualified today to write such a commentary, and Thompson’s work does not disappoint. Both pastor and scholar will be greatly rewarded by giving this work their attention.”  —Nijay K. Gupta, George Fox Evangelical Seminary

“Both the specialist and the less informed student will find here a careful and faithful reading that traces the actual contours of the narrative while not ignoring historical considerations, literary context, patristic traditions, and contemporary scholarly debate. Professor Thompson’s main concern is to ‘illumine the witness’ of the evangelist and so to train the lens thoroughly on that witness’s ‘understanding of Jesus—who he was, what he did, and what that means.’ This she does, with grace and erudition.” —Edith M. Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary]]

See the links:

 Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller, Pasadena, California]

John Goldingay and the New Testament

Posted: November 3, 2015 in General

profile-goldingayToday [on 3rd November 2015, Tuesday, 8.00 AM] I had a face-to-face interaction with renowned Old Testament scholar Prof. John Goldingay at Fuller Seminary’s refectory over breakfast. My interest was on his new title Do we need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015). He begins this important work in a rhetorical way of expressing his views: “Yes, of course, we do need the New Testament, but why? Why is the Old Testament not enough? By asking that question, I am reversing the one Christians ask under their breath, the question whether we need the Old Testament, or whether the New Testament isn’t enough” (p. 7). In another place he says: “Yes, of course, we need the New Testament Scriptures, but they don’t supersede the earlier Scriptures. We need the First Testament for an understanding of the story of God’s working out his purpose, for its theology, for its spirituality, for its hope, for its understanding of mission, for its understanding of salvation and for its ethics” (p. 32). In the concluding remarks he further states that:

In the course of telling his story and working out its implications, the New Testament does make some affirmations that supplement what people could know from the First Testament. One is the fact that Sheol is not the end for humanity. At the end, all humanity is going to be raised from death in order to enjoy resurrection life or to go to hell. Thus people in the First Testament “did not receive what was promised. God had planned something better for us, so that they would not be brought to completion without us” (Heb 11:39-40). Paul pushes the argument further in connection with affirming that all God’s people will be raised or will meet the Lord together (1 Thess 4:13-18). We do not go to heaven when we die; the entire people of God will reach completion together. Alongside this truth is the way the New Testament assumes the existence of Satan. While the First Testament presupposes the existence of an embodiment of resistance to God, the New Testament puts more emphasis on this motif (p. 178).

The book has nine major sections excluding the introduction and conclusion. They are as follows: [1] Do We Need the New Testament? [2] Why Is Jesus Important? [3] Was the Holy Spirit Present in First Testament Times? [4] The Grand Narrative and the Middle Narratives in the First Testament and the New Testament; [5] Hoe People Have Mis(?)read Hebrews; [6] The Costly Loss of First Testament Spirituality; [7] Memory and Israel’s Faith, Hope and Life; [8] Moses (and Jesus and Paul) for Your Hardness of Hearts; and [9] Theological Interpretation: Don’t Be Christ-Centered, Don’t Be Trinitarian, Don’t Be Constrained by the Rule of Faith. This new title is a good initiative to see the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament in a new way. While, on the one hand, it affirms the special identity and theology of the OT, on the other hand, it emphasizes the further supplementation of the Old Testament aspects in the New Testament. A good way to look forward.

Thanks to Prof. John Goldingay for his precious time as well as his new book as a free gift to me. Read more about John Goldingay below:

untitled[[John Goldingay (BA [University of Oxford], PhD [University of Nottingham], DD [Archbishop of Canterbury at Lamberth]) is the David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament in the School of Theology and has been at Fuller since 1997. Before coming to Fuller, Goldingay was principal and a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at St John’s Theological College in Nottingham, England. He studied theology at Oxford and was ordained and worked in a church in London. Goldingay’s most recent publications include the 17-volume Old Testament For Everyone series (Westminster John Knox/SPCK (2010–15), which provides clear, concise comment on all the Old Testament Scriptures, and The Theology of the Book of Isaiah (InterVarsity Press, 2014). His book Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself comes out in 2015 (InterVarsity Press). He is the author of a three-volume Old Testament Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2003–2009). His other recent books include Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers (Baker, 2010) and Key Questions about Biblical Interpretation: Old Testament Answers (Baker, 2011). He has also written commentaries on Daniel, Isaiah, and Psalms. He holds membership in the Society of Biblical Literature and the Society for Old Testament Study, and serves on the Task Force on Biblical Interpretation in the Anglican Communion and the editorial board for the Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies.]]

For more details about Prof. John Goldingay, go here:

Order his book here:

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller, California]

Fuller%20Seminary%20Dean%20of%20the%20School%20of%20Theology%20Joel%20Green%20Speaking%20300x300Fuller Theological Seminary is also known through some of the renowned New Testament scholars. Joel B. Green is one among them. I admire his commentary on Luke as a classic in that field. It was introduced to me while I was a Masters student in Princeton. One of my favorite Gospel dictionaries, i.e., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels [First Edition], was edited by him. Today I received a copy of the second edition of DJG as a free gift from him. With regard to my research project Prof. Green attuned my attention toward two things: first, keen observation to the oral traditions concerning Didymus Judas Thomas; and second, the necessity to use the Social Memory Theory. Now, I have to consult Chris Keith, Anthony Le Donne, and Alan Kirk for that very purpose. Dr. Green, I loved your friendly attitude, encouraging words, and intellectual engagement. It was indeed an excellent morning.

[[Joel B. Green (BS [Texas Tech University]; MTh [Perkins School of Theology]; PhD [University of Aberdeen]) was named dean of the School of Theology as of July 1, 2014, and has been associate dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies since 2008 and professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller since 2007. Prior to coming to Fuller, he served for ten years at Asbury Theological Seminary as professor of New Testament Interpretation, as dean of the School of Theology, and as provost. Green has written or edited more than 40 books, including six that have won awards: Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2nd ed., 2013), Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics (2011), In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem (with Stuart Palmer, 2005), Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology (with Paul J. Achtemeier and Marianne Meye Thompson, 2001), The Gospel of Luke (1997), and Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (with Scot McKnight, 1992). Among his most recent publications are Why Salvation? (2013), The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts (with Lee Martin McDonald, 2013), Ears That Hear: Explorations in Theological Interpretation of the Bible (2013), Wesley, Wesleyans, and Reading Bible as Scripture (with David F. Watson, 2012), Practicing Theological Interpretation: Engaging Biblical Texts for Faith and Formation (2011), Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: The Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (2nd ed., with Mark D. Baker, 2011), the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary on 1 Peter (2007), Seized by Truth: Reading the Bible as Scripture (2007), and Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible (2008). He is also general editor the Common English Bible Study Bible (2013), which Christian Retailing magazine awarded “Best Devotional or Study Bible of 2014.” He has written scores of essays and reviews. He is the editor of the New International Commentary on the New Testament and co-editor of both the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary and Studies in Theological Interpretation. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Theological Interpretation and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Theology and Science and Science & Christian Belief. Green has been elected to membership in both Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) and the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR). Green has 12 years of pastoral ministry, and is currently Teaching Pastor at La Cañada United Methodist Church.]]

For more details about Joel B. Green, go here:

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

[GRI Writing Scholar @ Fuller, Pasadena, California]

profile-downs-davidDr. David J. Downs serves me as my academic dialogue partner vis-à-vis my research project at Fuller Seminary. This involves an informal conversation over lunch once a month during my stay here. David Downs has written about ‘Thomasine Christianity’ as it relates to the presentation of almsgiving in the Gospel of Thomas and the Acts of Thomas. Moreover, he is always happy to make connections with colleagues from around the world. His family has lived and worked in Tanzania for half the year since 2009, so he is interested in theological education outside of the US. Through my interaction with David Downs, I see another chance of extending my vision in theological education, i.e., a dialogue between the Eastern and the Western New Testament scholarship. Again, thanks to Prof. Amos Yong [CMR Director] for this fantastic arrangement.

[[David Downs joined the Fuller faculty in 2007. Prior to coming to Fuller, he was a teaching fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey and a visiting assistant professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. His research has focused on Pauline theology, economic issues in the New Testament and early Christian literature, and the Apostolic Fathers. His dissertation, The Offering of the Gentiles: Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem in Its Chronological, Cultural, and Cultic Contexts, was published by Mohr Siebeck in 2008. In 2013, Downs and Matthew L. Skinner edited The Unrelenting God: Essays on God’s Action in Scripture in Honor of Beverly Roberts Gaventa (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). Downs has also published articles in numerous peer-reviewed journals such as Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Horizons in Biblical Theology, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Journal of Biblical Literature, Journal of Early Christian Studies, Journal of Theological Interpretation, and New Testament Studies. He has contributed articles to Engaging Economics: New Testament Scenarios and Early Christian Reception, The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2d. ed.), The Background of the New Testament, The New Interpreter’s Bible One Volume Commentary, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, and The Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics. In 2011, Downs and his wife, Jen, a doctor of infectious diseases and a clinical medical researcher, were awarded a Lilly Theological Scholars Collaborative Research Grant for a cross-disciplinary project entitled, “New Creation Is Everything: Christian Identity, Male Circumcision, and HIV/AIDS in Northwest Tanzania.” Part of this research was published in the British Medical Journal Open. The Downses spend several months a year living in Mwanza, Tanzania, where David regularly teaches at P.A.G. Bible College. Downs is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the North American Patristics Society.]]

See links below:



Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller Theological Seminary, California]

MarianneThompsonIt was nice having a wonderful conversation with a world-class Johannine scholar here at Payton Hall, Room # 215, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Prof. Marianne Meye Thompson’s suggestion to develop arguments (concerning Didymus Judas Thomas) from explicit level to implicit level is significant to reckon with. She considers the aspect of seeing, especially in relation to Thomas, as an important area to explore further in the Gospel of John. Thank you Marianne for your valuable time.

[[Marianne Meye Thompson, the George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, joined the School of Theology faculty in 1985. Thompson has been instrumental in developing advanced-level interdisciplinary courses that integrate biblical interpretation with other disciplines of the theological curriculum. She is author of 1–3 John (IVP New Testament Commentary, 2011), A Commentary on Colossians and Philemon (The Two Horizons Commentary, 2005), The God of the Gospel of John (2001), and The Promise of the Father (2000), and co-author of Introducing the New Testament (2001). She has also published numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals. She has just finished her new commentary on the Gospel of John in The New Testament Library series (2015). A member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, Thompson has participated in various projects at the Center of Theological Inquiry (in Princeton, NJ), including “The Scripture Project” and “The Identity of Jesus,” as well as consultations on “Children in the Scriptures,” sponsored by the Valparaiso Project on Childhood Studies, Theology, and Ethics, and “Teaching the Bible in the 21st Century,” at the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning. Adept at communicating Christian biblical scholarship to a popular audience, she was featured on the PBS series Genesis. Thompson has served on various editorial boards, including Theology Today and New Testament Studies. Thompson is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Her courses include New Testament 1 and 2, Exegetical Method and Practice, Greek Exegesis courses, Life of Jesus, Contemporary Quests of the Historical Jesus, and Johannine Theology.]]

See links below:



Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

[GRI Writing Scholar, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California]

st.thomasAs I begin to explore deep into the person and work of one of the most significant, but most neglected and demeaned, personalities in Christian history and interpretation, I have many questions to deal with and many existing answers to accept/counter with. It is my earnest desire that I may make a good progress in this important endeavor. Thanks to all those who have already inspired me to take up this important challenge and to all those who stand firm with me to see the successful completion of the task. The following are some of my preliminary questions:

[Didymus Judas Thomas is one of the most misunderstood characters from the beginning of the New Testament history and interpretation. The nickname ascribed to Thomas (as “doubting Thomas”) is mostly accepted as a synonymn for ‘doubt,’ ‘unbelief,’ and ‘lack of devotion.’ The general tendency of studying the character from the New Testament, Apocrypha, and historical traditions, idependently from one another, led the interpretors away from a broader understanding of the character. The dychotomy of studying the character of Thomas independently from within the limits of canonical, apocryphal, and historical disciplines created a lot of gaps within the area of Thomas studies. This situation persuades us to look at the Thomas literature comprehensively to understand the character from a broader perspective. The current study is intended to address the following questions: Whether Thomas was merely ‘doubting Thomas’ or was he ‘genuine Thomas’? Did we understand Thomas comprehensively by bridging the New Testament, apocrypha, and historical traditions together? Or did we understand him only through disciplinary perspectives? How can an interdisciplinary perspective will help us to understand the character comprehensively? How was Thomas connected to the Eastern Christianity and how does the Thomas literature support/not support this connectivity? Can we understand the Thomas traditions related to Judea, Syria, and India with the help of canonical, extra canonical, and traditio-historical documents? These questions have to be adequately dealt with in the process of exploring the Thomas literature. The task of the study is threefold: investigate the development of the Thomas literature right from the beginning, understand the peculiar approaches and methodologies of interpreting Thomas documents, and analyze the Thomas literature integratively to understand the character and his mission involvements.]

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

[GRI Writing Scholar @ Fuller Theological Seminary

Pasadena, California, USA]

The Gospel According to John in the Christian New Testament Bible

The Gospel According to John in the Christian New Testament Bible

During the current academic year [2015-2016], I had another opportunity to organize a Johannine Seminar at the Master of Theology [MTh] level. At the initial ten sessions we discussed seven of the Johannine commentaries in nutshell, i.e., of Rudolf Bultmann, Rudolf Schnackenburg, Raymond E. Brown, Andreas Köstenberger, Francis Moloney, D.A. Carson, and Leon Morris. Moreover, at the New Testament Departmental level we discussed “The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John” [Paul N. Anderson; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011]. Anderson’s monograph enabled us to focus on the historical, theological, and literary riddles of the Fourth Gospel. The book suggested several solutions for some of the problems with which the Johannine students grapple with. I used some of the sessions to present the following articles for discussion: [1] “Dialogical Nature of John’s Prologue,” Union Biblical Seminary Journal, Vol. 8.2-9.1 (Sep., 2013-Mar., 2015): pp. 1-17; [2] “Reading John’s Gospel to the Nepali Context,” Nepali Theological Journal (ACTS College, South Korea, 2015); [3] “Glo[b/c]alization and Mission[s]: Reading John’s Gospel,” New Life Theological Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan.-June, 2015): pp. 56-77; and [4] “Dialogue as a Literary Genre in the Book of Signs” (an Unpublished Paper). The publication of my dissertation entitled “The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50)” [Nijmegen: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, 2014] and its revised edition in monograph form entitled “Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50” [Leiden/Boston: E.J. Brill, 2015] further added flavor to our discussions.

Students of our class presented the following topics as seminar papers: [1] The Thought-World of Johannine Literature; [2] The Similarities and Differences between Synoptics and John’s Gospel; [3] Johannine Community Aspects; [4] Johannine Eschatology; [5] Johannine Christology; [6] Johannine Soteriology; [7] The Nature and Function of Signs in John; [8] The “I AM” Sayings in John; [9] Dualism in John; [10] The Role and Function of ‘Paraclete’ in John; [11] Women in John; [12] The Use of Old Testament in the Fourth Gospel; [13] Metaphor in the Gospel of John; and [14] The Use of John by Indian Christian Theologians. These topics were discussed extensively by taking into serious consideration the Dalit, tribal, feminist, and ecological issues and other related socio-political and religio-cultural concerns both at the Indian and at the global levels. These were occasions for us to see the Johannine ideas from a gnomic perspective rather than merely looking at it descriptively.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

AcademiaSome friends requested me a summary of my Ph.D Dissertation (that was defended on 19th June 2014 @ Radboud University Nijmegen, Holland). Herewith I publish the English version of the ‘Summary.’ My Promoter was Prof. Jan G. van der Watt.

[[The primary aim of this dissertation is to analyze and identify the nature and function of dialogue in the Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50). Though the Gospel of John is extensively studied, a comprehensive treatment of its dialogue, i.e., within the framework of narratives and in relation to monologues and other literary genres, has not been adequately explored by scholars. This specific context necessitates a genre analysis of John’s dialogue. Questions such as ‘how does John use the literary genre called dialogue?’ ‘what is the central idea that governs the dialogue?’ ‘what type of information is conveyed through them?’ ‘how are they structured?’ ‘what are their peculiar literary characteristics?’ and ‘what is their theological/rhetorical function?’ are extensively treated and evaluated within the present study. Moreover, other hypothetical questions like ‘how are the self-revelatory aspects conveyed through the dialogues?’ ‘what are the ways exchanges/episodes function within the narrative framework?’ ‘how do the content, form, and function contribute to the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic levels?’  ‘how are dialogues involved in expressing the aspects of the Johannine community?’ and ‘how is Johannine dialogue related to or different from other dialogues of the time?’ are also treated here. In this study, our focus is on the Book of Signs in which the reader identifies a great deal of dialogue in comparison to the latter half of the gospel. The layers such as the dialogue among the characters of the story and the dialogue between the narrator and the reader have a significant place and are closely examined. Through this study, the hermeneutical interests and insights of the dialogue and its interpretative significance are brought to the forefront.

In Part One, the following things are outlined. First, it introduces the rationale, aim, and task of the dissertation, where the primary questions of the thesis, as mentioned above, are introduced. Second, it attempts to review some of the works related to dialogue by scholars such as Bultmann, Strachan, Dodd, Brown, and others. The review is designed to show that the previous studies either lack breadth or depth. Third, the methodological aspects of the research are stated with an intention of filling the gaps that are obvious in the previous works. Fourth, the use of dialogue as a literary genre before and during the time of John (i.e., religious and philosophical, and OT and Synoptic traditions) is brought to the fore in order to state that dialogue was a well-established genre in John’s thought-world. A proposed definition of dialogue in John and the plan of the research bring to a close Part One of the study.

In Part Two, the Book of Signs (1:19-12:50) is analyzed genre-critically. The use of a problem-oriented approach in order to discern the nature and function of dialogue provides extensive results. In the analysis, we are able to show that the first half of the gospel is divided into thirteen episodes (i.e., 1:19-2:11; 2:13-22; 3:1-21; 3:22-36; 4:1-42; 4:43-54; 5:1-47; 6:1-71; 7:1-52/8:12-59; 9:1-10:21; 10:22-42; 11:1-54; and 11:55-12:50) and those episodes are composed of several exchanges and sub-exchanges. The genre-theories of David Hellholm and David Aune are applied to the Johannine text in order to show the development of dialogue in relation to other literary genres within the narrative framework of the gospel. The elaboration of settings at the beginning of each episode provides dramatic appeal to the storyline. The content, form, and function analysis of the utterance, exchange, and episode units provide us with the important details concerning the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic levels of the dialogue. While at the micro-level the utterance and exchange dynamics are explained, at the meso-level we assess how the utterance and exchange units contribute to the development of the individual episodes. In our analysis, we also identify the way episodes are stitched together to present the story with suspense and surprise. Along with other aspects, the attempt of the narrator to engage the reader, through the medium of character-dialogue, is made conspicuous in the analysis of the text.

In Part Three, first of all, we go one step further to see the development of the dialogue at the macro-level of the Book of Signs. While Part Two focuses on the description of the dialogues, here we discuss the classification of the dialogue(s) at the micro- and meso-levels. This further helps us to come to an understanding of the dialogue at the macro-level (i.e., within the extended framework of 1:19-12:50). We discuss the exchange and episode development and some of the significant features of Johannine dialogue at the outset. Then, we examine the signs and ‘I am’ sayings in relation to the subject matter, the genre elements such as content, form, and function, the Johannine community aspects, and the contribution of the dialogue at the macro-level of the Book of Signs. The discussion is conducted with the help of several literary critical tools and with the help of classical (i.e., ANE and the Greco-Roman world) sources. As a result, the study helps us to identify the distinctive features of dialogue in the Book of Signs. Part Three also contains the concluding remarks, where we pinpoint the significant features or insights that are the results of this study. The aspects such as the characterisation, point of view, plot structure, dramatic aspects, thematic development, and theological contribution are discussed in summary fashion at this point. Following the concluding remarks, suggestions for further study are offered. The study as a whole confirms that the questions raised at the beginning are adequately addressed.]]

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

10294225_1433156870275451_4308208658960534357_nSome friends requested me a summary of my Ph.D Dissertation (that was defended on 19th June 2014 @ Radboud University Nijmegen, Holland). Herewith I publish the Dutch version of the ‘Summary’ (or the ‘Samenvatting’). This is a translation from English to Dutch by Prof. Gerrit Steunebrink (Professor Emeritus, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen). My Promoter was Prof. Jan G. van der Watt.

[[Het hoofddoel van deze dissertatie is het analyseren en identificeren van de eigen aard  en functie van de dialoog in het eerste deel van het evangelie volgens Johannes, het Boek der Tekenen genaamd (1:1-12:50). Ook al is het evangelie van Johannes uigebreid bestudeerd, toch hebben wetenschappers nog te weinig de mogelijkheden verkend een omvattende behandeling te geven van dialoogvormen binnen de context van verhalen en in relatie tot monologen en andere literaire genres. Deze specifieke context dwingt tot  een analyse van van de dialoog als genre.  Daarom worden in deze dissertatie uitgebreid vragen behandeld en geëvalueerd als: ‘Hoe gebruikt Johannes het literaire genre van de dialoog?’ ‘Welke is de centrale idee die de dialoog beheerst?’ ‘Welk soort informatie wordt door dialogen overgedragen?’ ‘Hoe zijn zij gestructureerd?’ ‘Welke zijn hun typische literaire kenmerken?’ en ‘Wat is hun theologische/rethorische functie?’ Daarnaast worden andere hypothetische vragen behandeld als: ‘Hoe worden aspecten van zelfopenbaring van Jezus overgedragen door de dialogen?’ ‘Op welke wijze functioneren de gebeurtenissen binnen het narratieve raamwerk?’ ‘Welke bijdrage leveren inhoud, vorm en functie ervan op semantisch, syntactisch en pragmatisch niveau?’ ‘Hoe zijn de dialogen betrokken in het tot uitdrukking brengen van bepaalde aspecten van de Johanneïsche gemeenschap?’ en ‘Hoe is de Johanneïsche dialoog verbonden met of verschillend van andere dialogen van die tijd?’ In deze studie concentreren we ons op het Boek der Tekenen waarin de lezer een groot stuk van de dialoog bepaalt vergeleken met de tweede helft van het evangelie. Niveaus daarin als de dialoog tussen de karakters van het verhaal en de dialoog tussen verteller en lezer hebben een significante plaats en worden nauwgezet onderzocht. Door deze studie worden het hermeneutische belang en de interpretatieve betekenis van de dialoog naar voren gehaald.

In deel Een worden de volgende zaken geschetst. Allereerst introduceert deel I the beweegreden, het doel en de taak van de dissertatie daar waar de primaire vragen van de thesis, zoals boven vermeld, ingeleid worden. Ten tweede probeert het sommige van de werken te bespreken, verbonden met de dialoog, van auteurs als Bultmann, Strachan, Dodd, Brown en anderen. De opzet van de bespreking is te laten zien dat de vroegere studies breedte dan wel diepte missen. Ten derde worden de methodische aspecten van het onderzoek precies omschreven met de bedoeling leemten op te vullen die duidelijke aanwezig zijn in  de vroegere werken. Ten vierde wordt het gebruik van de dialoog als een literair genre vóór en in de tijd van Johannes (d.w.z. in religieuze en filosofische, oudtestamentische en synoptische tradities) naar voren gehaald om vast te stellen dat de dialoog een goed geëtableerd genre was in de denkwereld van Johannes. Een voorstel tot definitie van de dialoog in Johannes en een plan van onderzoek sluiten deel I van de studie af.

In deel Twee worden de tekstgedeelten (1:19-12.50) kritisch geanalyseerd betreffende het literaire genre. Het gebruik van een probleemgerichte benadering om de eigen aard en functie van de dialoog te ontdekken levert uitgebreide resultaten. Met onze analyse zijn we in staat te laten zien dat de eerste helft van het evangelie is onderverdeeld in dertien episodes (deze zijn: 1:19-2:11; 2:13-22; 3:1-21; 3:22-36; 4:1-42; 4:43-54; 5:1-47; 6:1-71; 7:1-52/8:12-59; 9:1-10:21; 10:22-42; 11:1-54; en 11:55-12:50) Deze episodes zijn weer samengesteld uit verschillende scènes en sub scènes. De genretheorieën van David Hellholm en David Aune worden toegepast op de tekst van Johannes om de ontwikkeling te laten zien van de dialoog in relatie tot andere literaire genres binnen het narratieve raamwerk van het evangelie. De uitwerking van de ‘setting’ aan het begin van iedere episode geeft dramatische aantrekkingskracht aan de verhaallijn. De inhoud-, vorm- en functieanalyse van eenheden bestaande uit ‘uiting-scène-episode’ (‘utterance-slot-episode’) leveren ons belangrijke details betreffende de semantische, syntactische en pragmatische niveaus van de dialoog. Terwijl op microniveau de dynamiek van scène en episode verklaard wordt, stellen we op mesoniveau vast hoe eenheden van ‘uiting’ en ‘scène’ (‘utterance’ en ‘slot’) bijdragen tot de ontwikkeling van de individuele, afzonderlijke episodes. In onze analyse bepalen we ook specifiek de manier waarop episodes aan elkaar gestikt worden om een verhaal te presenteren met spanning en verrassing. Tesamen met andere aspecten wordt de poging van de verteller om de lezer te mee te nemen door middel van karakter dialoog als opvallend naar voren gehaald.

In deel Drie gaan we allereerst een stap verder om de ontwikkeling te zien van de dialoog op het macro-niveau van het Boek der Tekenen. Terwijl deel Twee geconcentreerd was op de beschrijving van de dialogen, bediscussiëren we hier de classificatie van de dialoog(-ogen) op micro- en macroniveau.  Dit helpt ons verder te komen in het begrip van de dialoog op macroniveau (d.w.z. het brede raamwerk van 1:19-12:50). We bediscussiëren de ontwikkeling van scène en episode en van meet af aan sommige significante kenmerken van de Johanneïsche dialoog. Dan onderzoeken we de tekenen en de ‘Ik ben’ uitspraken in relatie tot het onderwerp, elementen van het genre zoals inhoud, vorm en functie, aspecten van de Johanneïsche gemeenschap en de bijdrage van de dialoog op het macroniveau van het Boek der Tekenen. De discussie wordt gevoerd met verschillende soorten literairkritisch gereedschap en met behulp van klassieke bronnen (d.w.z. de oude culturen van het Nabije Oosten en de Grieks-Romeinse wereld.) Het resultaat is dat de studie ons helpt de verschillende kenmerken van de dialoog in het Boek der Tekenen te identificeren. Deel Drie bevat ook de concluderende opmerkingen, waar in we de significante kenmerken of inzichten die volgen uit deze studie nauwkeurig aanwijzen. Aspecten als karakterisering, gezichtspunt, structuur van het plot, dramatische aspecten en de theologische bijdragen worden op dit punt samenvattend bediscussiëerd. Volgend op de concluderende opmerkingen worden suggesties voor verder onderzoek aangeboden. Uit deze studie als een geheel  blijkt dan dat de vragen die aan het begin gesteld werden, adequaat behandeld zijn.]]

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

72003 (1)Herewith I publish the “Foreword” of Prof. R. Alan Culpepper to my book entitled “Dialogue in the Book of Signs: A Polyvalent Analysis of John 1:19-12:50” [Biblical Interpretation Series, Vol. 136; Leiden/Boston, E.J. Brill, 2015]. The book will be released by Brill in August 2015.

[[Typically the narrative sections of the Gospel of John have received more attention than the dialogue and discourse sections.  This division of the Gospel into narrative and discourse can be traced at least to Rudolf Bultmann’s magisterial commentary in which he attributed the narrative sections to the semeia-source and a pre-Johannine passion narrative, and the discourse material to the Offenbarungsreden (revelatory discourse source).[1]  His theory of a semeia-source has been more widely accepted than his proposal that the Johannine discourses derived from a pre-Johannine source that was not connected with the signs until the fourth evangelist composed the Gospel using these sources.

For refinements of the theory of a source for the Johannine signs material, one can now consult the monographs by Robert T. Fortna and the commentary by Urban C. von Wahlde.[2] C.H. Dodd found a much more integral connection between the Johannine signs and discourses, observing that the first two signs (2:1-12 and 4:43-54), like the synoptic miracle stories, are not followed by discourses.[3]  Then, the signs in chapters 5, 6, and 9 are followed by discourses that develop themes related to the foregoing sign.  With the raising of Lazarus and the death of Jesus, the discourses precede the sign and prepare the reader to understand their significance.

With the emergence of narrative criticism and rhetorical analysis, the functions of the Johannine discourses began to attract the attention of Johannine scholars.  Not surprisingly, the longest discourse section, the Farewell Discourse in John 13-17 was the first to be studied as an integral unit within the Gospel. Fernando Segovia mined the resources of ancient rhetoric for interpreting the functions of the farewell discourse within the narrative in which it is embedded,[4] and D. F. Tolmie applied narrative criticism to this non-narrative section of the Fourth Gospel.[5]

Johnson Thomaskutty has now written a comprehensive, exegetical analysis of the dialogues in the first half of the Gospel, the Book of Signs, that is synchronic (focused on the text of the gospel narrative and the functions of the dialogues within the narrative) rather diachronic. Taking what he describes as a “multivalent” approach, Thomaskutty describes the setting, form, content, and function of each of the dialogues in John 1:19-12:50.  He is also concerned with the functions of these dialogues at both the intradiegetic level (dialogue among the characters within the story) and the metadiegetic level (dialogue between the author/narrator and the reader of the story).[6] At the micro-level, he discusses the dynamics of the individual utterances of the interlocutors and their role, alongside the narrative, within the exchange units. At the meso-level, he analyzes how the exchange units work in relation to one another and how they form the episodes. Finally, at the macro-level, he describes the holistic features of dialogue in the Book of Signs, which is considered as a single literary unit.

Thomaskutty’s descriptions of the various forms of the dialogues in the Book of Signs offer a critical vantage point from which their functions in advancing the plot the narrative can readily be seen.  Among the formal structures he finds are:  question-response-command format, request-rebuke-response format, double meaning-misunderstanding-clarification format, challenge and riposte dialogues, pedagogical dialogues, and report and defense dialogues.

The breadth of this volume’s analyses can be seen, for example, in the four levels of dialogue that Thomaskutty observes in his discussion of John 6:1-15:

first, dialogues between Jesus and his disciples (one explicit, vv. 5b-10a; and one implicit, v. 12), which reveal the identity of Jesus; second, a community dialogue (v. 14), which makes the reader aware of the impact of Jesus’ words and deeds outside the circle; third, the inter-textual dialogue, which confirms the fulfillment aspects; and fourth, the narrator and reader dialogue, which marks an ever-continuing impact of Jesus’ story in the life of the reader. (p.215)

This layered approach yields a richly detailed analysis of the dialogues in the Book of Signs. The macro-level reflections in the last chapter take note of the role of the dialogues as they interact with other literary elements, such as monologues, signs, the “I am” sayings, metaphors, and dramatic elements in the Gospel narrative.

Thomaskutty’s extensive research, eclectic methodology, expanded focus on the functions of dialogue in multiple narrative relationships, and his sheer industry and attention to detail will establish this volume as an important resource for the ongoing study of the role of dialogue within the Fourth Gospel.

End Notes:

[1] Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, The Johannine Monograph Series (1971 rpt.; Eugene, Ore.:  Wipf & Stock, 2014).

[2] Robert T. Fortna, The Gospel of Signs (SNTSMS 11; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970; idem, The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor: From Narrative Source to Present Gospel (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1988). Urban C. von Wahlde, The Gospel and Letters of John (3 vols.; Eerdmans Critical Commentary; Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010).

[3] C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1953), 363.

[4] Fernando F. Segovia, The Farewell of the Word (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 1991).

[5] D. F. Tolmie, Jesus’ Farewell to the Disciples:  John 13:1-17:26 in Narratological Perspective (BINS 12; Leiden:  E. J. Brill, 1995).

[6] These terms were introduced by Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (trans. Jane E. Lewin; Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press, 1980), 228-34.]]

R. Alan Culpepper

McAfee School of Theology

Mercer University

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For the preview of the book, go here.