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The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered (The Library of New Testament Studies) [Paperback]

Paul N. Anderson

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Book Description

5 Sep 2000 The Library of New Testament Studies
This book challenges the modernistic view that because "John" is theological and different from the Synoptics it cannot be historical.This book engages critically one of the most pervasive sets of assumptions within modern biblical studies: namely, that because John is theological and different from the Synoptics, it cannot be historical - nor does it contribute anything of substance to the quest for the historical Jesus. Part I develops a brief history of the debate. Part II assesses critically the strengths and weaknesses of six planks comprising the foundation for two major platforms. The first involves 'the de-historicization of John', the second 'the de-Johannification of Jesus'. Part III takes on centrally the question of how John's tradition may have developed in ways that are largely autonomous and individuated, but also holding open the possibility of contact with parallel gospel traditions.Part IV develops the particular contributions made by the Synoptics to the historical investigation of Jesus, and likewise those made by the Johannine tradition. Part V then develops an array of implications emerging from the present study, sketching trajectories for further investigation and paths of extended inquiry. While this approach may be mistaken as an appeal for the traditional view or a post-modern exploration, it is neither. It intends to be a critical analysis of the so-called 'critical consensus' on John's historicity and expulsion from historical Jesus resources. This book could contribute to opening a new approach in Johannine and Jesus studies alike.Formerly the "Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement", a book series that explores the many aspects of "New Testament" study including historical perspectives, social-scientific and literary theory, and theological, cultural and contextual approaches.

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"'This extremely interesting and instructive work creates a middle path between the harmonization and distortion of historicity in John. It deserves attention! The author lays open the aporias (perplexities) in the Johannine text and then proposes workable solutions for the furthering of Johannine exegesis. I warmly recommend this book.' Martin Hengel, the University of Tubingen"

About the Author

Paul N. Anderson is Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University. He is a founding member of the 'John, Jesus, and History' Consultation at the National Society of Biblical Literature meetings.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a Dubious Disciple book review 17 Jan 2011
By The Dubious Disciple - Published on Amazon.com
A boring looking book, eh? Don't let the blandness of the cover fool you. This skinny little book may be one of the most important theological efforts of the last five years. My next book will be about the Gospel of John, and Anderson's book contributed significantly to my research.

John's Gospel differs so significantly from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) that the question arises often between scholars: Do we trust John, or the other three? In one simple example, the Synoptics present a one-year ministry of Jesus, whereas John indicates at least a three-year ministry. But since John's Gospel reads so mystically (a more acceptable word may be "spiritually"), and since he seems outnumbered 3-to-1, most scholars through the centuries have given it little weight. It gets relegated to the pulpit as the "fourth Gospel," as if it didn't deserve a name.

Recent archaeological discoveries, however, have proven John's Gospel spot-on in a number of its claims. John is also the one Gospel that claims to be an eye-witness account. Anderson jumps on the bandwagon of recent scholarship and presents his argument that this Gospel is equally historically accurate, and as important to understanding the life of Jesus, as the Synoptics. And, of course, I believe he is right.

The casual reader may find little to hold their interest in this book, but the scholar and the pastor cannot afford to be without it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific overview of the current arguments about John 24 Mar 2012
By Jeri Nevermind - Published on Amazon.com
Anderson gives a truly evenhanded review of the last few centuries of biblical scholarship on John, as well as suggests many new areas of study.

More study has been focused on the Synoptics recently, not to mention the claims of Thomas and Q, or the now mostly discarded idea of Gnostic redeemer myth, than John. Most liberal scholars of the last century held that John was the least historical, least accurate, least early, of the gospels, and had no real claim to have been written by John.

Yet John is cited--arguably--as early as 1 Clement, about 95 AD, and Ignatius, about 110 AD, and is actually the gospel apparently most in use among early Christians, at least to judge by the fact that there are more fragments and papyri of John than any other gospel.

Anderson goes through all the various streams of research into John, citing their weaknesses and their strengths.

He finds that "where the great promise of critical scholarship has been its objective neutrality, the historical treatment of John comes across as less than that. When John's material is deemed different from the Synoptics it is excluded; where it is similar it is related to a derivative relationship to a non-Johannine source" (p 89).

For example, Anderson explains how Bultmann's approach "falls flat when tested on the basis of its own evidence" (p 77). Bultmann imagined that a "Theios Amer (a miracle-working God/Man) mythic construct prevalent in the contemporary social milieu would have affected" (p 90-1) the story told about Jesus.

Most problematic here is the timing. The Gnostic myths came later than the gospels. Nor does a possible influence mean an influence. Nor is it plausible that Second Temple Jew would use Hellenistic myths. On the contrary; it is clear John heavily uses the Old Testament and typological figures there--never Hellenistic myths.

Furthermore,it is also possible to see the Johannine Jesus as a "wisdom-imparting sage...Jesus not only brings divine wisdom; he is the Word and Wisdom of God: (p 94) as well as the "institution -challenging cynic" (p 94).

As for John's composition "the most plausible and least speculative of Johannine composition theories involves a two-edition theory of composition inferring that first edition of John was finalized around 80-85" ( p 78). And he argues that "The unreflective notion that religious typological ideas were simply taken over by Gospel traditions...is too simplistic. Religious typologies....were applied to interpretations of Jesus' ministry...because they made sense" (p 36).

Nor does he agree with the idea that the differences between the Synoptics and John suggest isolation by the author of John. Instead he proposes using "cognitive criticism...(which) examines the relation between the ministries of the purveyors of Jesus and their presentations of Jesus' ministry" (p 37).

One very helpful addition to this book is the way Anderson gives a review of all the strengths of one stream of scholarship versus the weaknesses of the same arguments, as detailed by later scholars.
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