Paul Anderson, The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011).

Reviewed by Jim West Part One contains the following: Part One: Outlining the Johannine Riddles 1. An Overview of the Fourth Gospel 9 Outlining John’s Narrative / 9 Distinctive Features of the Fourth Gospel / 12 The Central Structure of the Fourth Gospel / 18 Conclusion / 23 2. The Theological Riddles of the Fourth Gospel 25 Jesus Christ: Human or Divine? / 26 The Father-Son Relationship: Equal or Subordinate? / 27 Does the Son Judge: Yes or No? / 29 The Holy Spirit: Proceeding from the Father or the Son? / 30 The Signs of Jesus: If Embellished, Why Existentialized? / 31 Eschatology in John: Present or Future? / 32 The Saving/Revealing Work of Christ: Universal or Particular? / 34 Salvation and the Believer: Determinism or Free Will? / 35 Dualism in John: Prescriptive or Reflective? / 36 John and Judaism: Anti-Semitic or Pro-Jewish? / 38 Sacraments in John: Embellished or Deconstructive? / 39 The Church in John: Petrified or Dynamic? / 41 Conclusion / 42 3. The Historical Riddles of the Fourth Gospel 45 John’s Narrative: Historical or Theological? / 46 The Source of John’s Tradition: An Eyewitness or Not? / 48 John and the Synoptics: Distinctive Introductions and Conclusions / 50 John and the Synoptics: Differences and Similarities in Order and Chronology / 51 John and the Synoptics: Differences of Materials Included / 53 John and the Synoptics: Differences in Detail and Theological Emphasis / 54 John and the Synoptics: Distinctive Presentations of Jesus’ Ministry / 56

John and the Synoptics: Distinctive Presentations of Jesus’ Teachings and Intentions / 58 John and the Synoptics: Distinctive Presentations of Jesus’ Miracles / 59 The Origin of the Johannine Signs: A Religion of History or the History of Religions? / 60 Cross-Cultural Elements in John: A Diachronicity of Situation? / 62 Johannine Narrative: Rooted in History or the Historical Johannine Situation? / 63 Conclusion / 65 4. The Literary Riddles of the Fourth Gospel 67 The Johannine Prologue: An Original Introduction or a Later Add-On? / 67 The Johannine Epilogue: A Fresh Start or a Second Ending? / 69 John 7:53—8:11: A Text Caught in Adultery (and Other Textual Indiscretions) / 70 Reflecting on the Future? Odd Progressions and Contextual Perplexities in John / 72 Play It Again, Sam (But in a Different Key): Repetitions and Variations in John’s Narrative / 74 The Johannine Gospel, Epistles, and Apocalypse: Close Relations or Distant Cousins? / 76 Intratraditional and Intertraditional Dialogue in John: Reflective or Corrective? / 78 The Johannine Collection of Materials: Leftover Fragments or a Seamless Robe? / 80 Comprehension and Miscomprehension in John: They Just Don’t Get It . . . Do You? / 82 Scripture Fulfillment in John: Implicit or Explicit? / 83 The Purpose of the Fourth Gospel: Apologetic or Pastoral? / 85 The Beloved Disciple: A Dead Author or a Literary Device? / 87 Conclusion / 89 Summation of Part One / 91 I realize that this is a lengthier than usual offering of a book’s contents but since Anderson’s work is so intentionally ‘introductory’ (in the best sense of the word) it seems

that potential readers may be very interested in exactly how Anderson will work out his thesis. Anderson informs his readers of his purpose in the first part as follows- Only after the theological, historical, and literary riddles of the Fourth Gospel are outlined can they be engaged, addressed, and interpreted meaningfully. So, that is the goal of Part One (p. 8). A glance above let’s those same readers know exactly which riddles with which A. is concerned. Some of the riddles are briefly described and others in more depth- all depending on the complexity of the problem. At this point review readers may well think that I’m simply describing contents and not really interacting with the tome. But that’s not the case. Indeed, I have found Anderson’s description of the riddles of John to be fair and insightful and accurate. Until, that is, he comes to the prayer of John 17 concerning which he notes The priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 is the least original chapter in the entire Gospel of John. Put otherwise, many of its themes are also found in other parts of the Gospel; in that sense, it offers a fitting overview of some of John’s leading themes and concerns (p. 19). While what Anderson asserts is possible, it is just as likely that John 17 was the source of the themes found distributed throughout John rather than a collection of those themes in one place. Indeed, Jesus at prayer is trans-gospel in nature. All of the gospels of the New Testament portray Jesus as a man of prayer. If John had something like a prayer of Jesus at his disposal it makes perfect sense for him to utilize the themes he finds in that prayer in other places. So Anderson may be right about John 17. But there is another explanation that seems, to me, better. Anderson offers readers the opportunity, at the end of each section, to reflect on issues which have been touched upon in it. So, for instance, on p. 24 at the end of Chapter 1, he writes Questions to Consider 1. How do the distinctive signs in John further its purpose as described in John 20:31? Along with several others. And he also points out key terms and phrases in the chapter which readers will need to understand. So, for example Terms to Understand

• Book of Glory • Book of Signs • chiastic structure This feature of the volume is quite useful for those utilizing it as a course textbook (which would be something that individuals teaching a course on John would definitely want to seriously consider). Anderson’s procedure, then, is by now self evident. But is it effective? Does it cohere? Is it faithful to the Gospel? Those are, it seems, the central, and critical questions readers will need to keep in mind as they make their way along the path Anderson prepares. As he works his way through the theological riddles of John, Anderson plainly explains the issues and even the most difficult theological concepts are explicated simply. Anderson here shows himself to be a very gifted and insightful exegete. See the table of contents above for the particular theological riddles he handles. I’d like to offer just one example: his discussion of the ‘signs’ of JesusBox 2.5: The Tensive Presentation of Jesus’ Signs in John On one hand, Jesus’ signs lead people to believe in him (2:11, 23; 4:53; 6:2, 14; 11:15, 45, 48; 12:11; 20:30-31), and John includes what is arguably the greatest of Jesus’ miracles—the raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:1-45). -- Further, the performing of signs seems to confirm that Jesus has been sent from God (3:2; 7:31; 9:16; 10:41-42). On the other hand, -- Dependence on signs is rebuked (4:48; 6:26), and belief without having seen Jesus’ signs is considered “blessed” (20:29). -- Those presented as desiring a sign before believing are presented as non-believing in John (2:18; 6:30), and some refuse to believe despite Jesus’ signs (12:37) (p. 32). A. discusses these differences and allows the reader to consider their implications. Anderson doesn’t decide for the reader- he sets out the evidence and describes the facts and the reader is free to reach his own conclusion. Of the signs he notes

Again, John’s theological presentation of Jesus and his ministry is distinctive. In contrast to the Synoptic wonder attestations following Jesus’ stilling the storm, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Matt. 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25), the disciples in John 6:15-21 simply receive him into the boat and arrive directly at the shore (p. 32). The highlight, though, of this section is Anderson’s treatment of this age old questionEschatology in John: Present or Future? Here’s one of his many sane and sage observations: Rudolf Bultmann envisioned the final editor to have introduced futuristic themes to the Evangelist’s present emphases, which Robert Kysar calls “the spoiler view.” Then again, John’s futuristic themes may have been earlier, with later material showing the fulfillment of what had been predicted earlier. Kysar calls this “the preserver view.”2 Either way, movement within John’s tradition is one way modern scholars have tried to make sense of these tensions. Then again, were first-century Jewish and Christian thinkers always consistent in their eschatological views? The writings of Paul, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jewish apocalyptic literature reveal conflations of the “already” and the “not yet,” so John’s juxtapositions of these themes might be closer to the norm when compared to contemporary writings rather than an exception (p. 34). That’s the sort of thing Anderson does throughout the section and, again, he does it simply excellently. (I might add, his go at the question of John’s supposed anti-semitism is worth the price of admission). Anderson then turns in his treatment to the historical riddles in the Gospel (see Table of Contents above). He confronts the issue straight off, writing This brings us head-on into the first of the Johannine historical riddles—whether John’s narrative is theological or historical. Of course, these are not mutually exclusive categories; an explicitly theological detail (such as the name of the pool, “Siloam,” meaning “sent,” 9:7)6 may indeed rest on an empirical fact. And, just because a detail is not theologically slanted, this does not confirm its historicity. The chapter attempts to describe this very serious issue. A. approaches his task by comparing John to the Synoptics and notes their similarities and differences. He concludes While the historical riddles of the Fourth Gospel can largely be explained on the basis that the Evangelist either makes use of an independent tradition or has an individuated perspective on the meaning of Jesus’ ministry, one of these points being true does not eliminate the other. Much of John corroborates the presentation of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, but much of it also challenges such presentations (p. 65).

Of course he says a bit more, but what he says is, in essence, completely correct. The final chapter of this major section discusses literary riddles in the Gospel. As I don’t wish to extend this review to an unnatural length, I’ll let readers go to that chapter on their own. Concluding this section of the review I’ll just note that Anderson does a very fine job dealing with introductory, theological and historical questions and in setting the boundaries of the discussion to unfold. Will he do as well at addressing these issues (the function of Part Two)? We shall see in our next installment.

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