Review of Paul Anderson, “The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus” -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 06:1 (Sep 2008)
Article: Review of Paul Anderson, “The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus”
Author: Annang Asumang

Review of Paul Anderson, “The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus”1

by Annang Asumang2

Anderson PN 2007. The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 226 pages.

Paul Anderson is Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at the George Fox University, USA. As co-chair of the ‘John, Jesus, and History’ group of the Society of Biblical Literature meetings, he has been involved in the efforts to correct the increasing marginalization of the Gospel of John in scholarly discussions on the life and ministry of the ‘historical’ Jesus. As the subtitle indicates, this book aims to examine critically several of the foundational assumptions that have led to this modern “de-historicization of John and its direct implication: the de-Johannification of Jesus” (p. 2). To some extent, Anderson successfully lays good grounds for questioning some of these assumptions. This is the main strength of the book.

Anderson sets his stall out in the introductory chapter by arguing that there is a widening gap between ‘traditional’ and ‘critical’ scholars in approaches to the historical questions in John’s gospel. The “relegation of John to the canons of Christology and theology” by critical scholars, he argues, has resulted in the state of affairs in which “Synoptic investigations of the Jesus of history can therefore be carried out unencumbered by the idiosyncrasies of John, ‘the maverick gospel’, and the history of John’s material may be ascribed to . . . the theological imagination of the Fourth Evangelist” (p. 2).

This situation is unacceptable to Anderson, since all four evangelists were theologians equally motivated by the same agenda to present the good news of Jesus Christ. However, Anderson warns that his aim is not to generate a ‘critical’ versus ‘traditional’ scholarship conflict but rather to engender an “intentionally synthetic and integrative” (p. 4) approach between the two camps. His point is that there is no need to force a “dichotomous choice between John and the Synoptics” (p. 5).

With this background in mind, Anderson aims the rest of the book at putting the various assumptions underpinning the modernists’ approach to John, which is by far the dominant perspective in Johannine scholarship, under scrutiny. In Part I, he examines the historical background to the marginalization of John’s gospel. He notes that the historicity of John was not questioned until the eighteenth century when comparisons between John a...

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