John: Introduced by Jean Vanier

John: Introduced by Jean Vanier

Darton, Longman & Todd, $19.95

Reading the Fourth Gospel in one sitting, uninterrupted, is an incredible experience. Try it in a modern translation sometime (I’d suggest Eugene Peterson’s The Message).

Here we have a small, pocket-sized, 124-page volume with the New Jerusalem Bible translation and a five-page introduction by one of my heroes, Jean Vanier.

Vanier, good Catholic that he is, sees the role of Mary the mother of Jesus as very significant in John’s account. But, summarising the gospel, he writes:

“The heart of this gospel is relationship: the relationship of the logos and of God, of the Father and the Son. We, the disciples of Jesus, are called to enter into this relationship and to become ‘one’ all together as the Father and the Son are one (John 17). The final testament of Jesus is that the disciples love one another as he loves them. ‘They will know that you are my disciples by the love you have for one another’.”

As Karl Barth would say, “high Christology” jumps out of every page here.

Samples:

* “If God were your father, you would love me, since I have my origin in God and have come from him.”

•  “In truth I tell you, before Abraham ever was, I am.”

•  “Whoever refuses honour to the Son refuses honour to the Father who sent him.”

Having read this gospel an uncountable number of times (was it Chesterton who said something about reading words 999 times before something new hits you from them?) I was struck by these:

(Jesus to the man he healed who’d been ill for 38 years): “Now that you are well again, do no sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.” Huh?

“I will certainly not reject anyone who comes to me” (universalists like this one).

If you’re not familiar with the NJB translation, you’ll find a few little quirky word-usages (well, I did anyway). Like: “It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them.” “They again wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded their clutches.”

Now, I’m talking about a devotional reading of John. If you want to move from heart to head and do a serious study of this Gospel, Google Raymond Brown (generally considered by mainline biblical scholars to be the 20th century’s leading Johannine expert). Then do the same with E. P. Sanders.

Devour these before you read Spong or the Jesus Seminar people on John.

The price tag of $17.95 for this little booklet is a bit “over the top”, I reckon. (No wonder people are deserting retail bookshops and buying more books online).

Rowland Croucher

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