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Theological Interpretation of the Gospel of John

In my ongoing studies in the gospel of John and my attempts to devote some time to theological interpretation, I have run across a few superb theological engagements with John’s Gospel. The most recent, and perhaps most accessible work on the topic that I’ve seen is Craig Koester’s new book, The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel. This is one of the most comprehensive and synthetic theological readings of John’s Gospel I’ve yet to come across. In fact, the next time I teach on the Gospel of John I may very well use it as my textbook.

On the doctrine of God in John there are two recent works that are particularly helpful, the first is Marianne Meye Thompson’s God in the Gospel of John which is perhaps the most comprehensive and helpful book on the topic. Central to her argument is that readings of John’s Gospel that merely taut it as “Christocentric” are missing the book’s overarchingly theocentric nature, and the fact that the point of John is not simply to articulate a Christology, but rather a doctrine of God that is determined by the person of Jesus Christ.

Andreas Köstenberger and Scott Swain also examine the doctrine of God, but take a more overtly theological perspective in their attempt to explore what, if anything, John’s Gospel may have to say about the Trinity. Their book, Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity in John’s Gospel is perhaps the best book examining the nascent trinitarianism of the Fourth Gospel that has been written. It engages thoroughly with the question of Jewish monotheism of the second temple period, and offers a trinitarian reading of John which is neither anachronistic nor minimalistic. 

The last book I would mention is the recent collection edited by Richard Bauckham and Carl Mosser, The Gospel of John and Christian Theology. This book contains some of the best theological essays dealing with all aspects of the Fourth Gospel that I have encountered. All of these books serve as helpful examples of theological exegesis and offer great vistas on the study of John’s Gospel.


  1. poserorprophet wrote:

    I’m currently reading John and Empire: Initial Explorations by Warren Carter. It’s damn good, and an important challenge (dare I say corrective?) to those who have tended to focus upon John as a supposedly overly theological document. Thought I would bring the book to your attention… I’d be curious to hear how this empire-critical reading of John might inform other theological readings.

    Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    What do you mean by “theological” here, Dan? Do you mean theological as opposed to political or something like that? Because that’s not what I intended to imply about these works, though that may be true for Koestenberger to some extent I suppose.

    Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  3. poserorprophet wrote:

    No, I wasn’t talking about the approach that you specifically take to Jn. I was thinking about the way in which NT scholarship, in general, tends to take Jn as a text that is more religious than historical, and more theological/spiritual than political (and, having read some other things by Koestenberger, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him perpetuating this false dichotomy).

    Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Yeah those dichotomies are nowhere more pronounced than in Johannine scholarship. Fortunately the tide seems to have significantly turned in that regard.

    Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
  5. Bobby Grow wrote:

    What do you all mean by political/historical vs. religious/theological/spiritual?

    I’ve always read the Gospel of John as one piece of the unfolding salvation history that it is.

    Is the “religious” being referred to here in line with the “liberal” (Bultmann) need to demythologize . . . i.e. akin to speaking about the Jesus of faith (religious) vs. the Jesus of history (political)? Or are you guys being more Yoderian than that? At least with your “political” language.

    Just confused . . .

    Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 2:11 am | Permalink
  6. Roger Flyer wrote:

    For a completely different perspective (I assume), check out Jean Vanier’s ‘Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John’

    Monday, February 2, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink
  7. Sparky wrote:

    I recently read a book by Lance Byron Richey, Roman Imperial Ideology and the Gospel of John ( Catholic Bible Association of America, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 43, 2007)
    that has given me an entirely new way to look at and understand John. It looks at John in light of the dominant cultural matrix in the first century (particularly of Asia Minor, Roman Idology). Richey argues that John is arguing that the savior of the world (and other such ways of describing Caesar) belong not to Caesar, but to Jesus Christ. This is then a pastorial way of teaching his community the truths about Jesus, and helping them to argue against the prevailing dominant cultural matrix of their day. Interesting and informative read.

    Monday, February 2, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

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