Quick Book Review: The Gospel of John and Christian Origins

gospeljohnoriginsTitle: The Gospel of John and Christian Origins

Author: John Ashton

Bibliographic info: 208 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon.

With thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy.

The author of this fine volume, John Ashton, has written a couple of studies on the fourth Gospel, including Understanding the Fourth Gospel (Oxford University Press, 1991; 2nd ed. 2007) and Studying John: Approaches to the Fourth Gospel (Oxford University Press, 1998).

The chapters in this book are:

  1. Moses
    Excursus I: The Gospel Genre
  2. Consciousness of Genre
  3. Chief Priests and Pharisees
  4. The Essenes
    Excurcus II: The Johannine Community
  5. The Situation of the Gospel
  6. The Apocalyptic Background
    Excursus III: The Changing Gospel
  7. The Mission of the Prophet
    Excursus IV: The Prologue: God’s Plan for Humankind
  8. Human or Divine?
  9. The Johannine Christ

In this book Ashton emphasizes how the fourth Gospel’s accentuates revelation of the now glorified Christ and that, in fact, “the Gospel represents a deliberate decision to supplant Moses and to replace him with Jesus, thereby substituting one revelation, and indeed one religion, for another.”

The four excursuses set out to show that “the Gospels are not to be thought of simply as Lives of Christ”“that the Gospel of John was not written as a continuous composition over a short stretch of time but went through at least two editions”, “that it was composed by a member of a particular community for the benefit of his fellow members”, and that “the main theme of the Prologue is not creation (as is generally assumed), but God’s plan for humankind.”

I particularly liked the fifth chapter in which Ashton approaches the Gospel of John from a historical perspective, examining the circumstances surrounding the Gospel’s composition and the Johannine community. The seventh and eight chapters deal with John’s adaptation of Jewish traditions, specifically in regards of Jesus fulfilling the prediction of a Moses-like prophet (ch. 7) and the Jewish traditions of Wisdom and the Son of Man (ch. 8). The final chapter sums it all up by comparing John to the Synoptics. Johannine scholarship is one of the areas of NT studies that I am least familiar with, but this was definitely a useful book that helped shed some light on the Gospel’s making and meaning.

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