Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 22:1 (Fall 2004) p. 105
John’s Gospel and the History of Biblical Interpretation, by Sean P. Kealy. 2 vols. Mellen Biblical Press Series, vols. 60 a-b. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2002. Pp. iv + 971.
Over the centuries, John’s Gospel has generated a truly astonishing amount of scholarship. In an admirable, ambitious project, the present two-volume work sets out to chronicle the history of interpreting John’s Gospel by providing a chronological listing of authors and works annotated by succinct, survey-style commentary. The author, Professor of Scripture at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has previously published works on the history of interpretation of the Gospels of Matthew (1997) and Mark (1982). The first volume of the present work traces the history of scholarship on John’s Gospel up to the nineteenth century; the second volume covers the twentieth century and closes with a discussion of new paradigms and approaches.
At the outset of his study, Kealy cites Markus Bockmuehl’s recent plaintive remark that New Testament scholarship has all too frequently neglected the history of interpretation, resembling cappuccino with “all froth and no coffee.” As an antidote for Johannine scholarship, Kealy offers his work. According to Kealy, while the Gospel has remained the same, the questions asked in particular time periods have varied. The scope of this review does not permit a detailed critique and interaction though it should be noted that the depth of Kealy’s coverage varies from interpreter to interpreter, and there is little effort to provide a larger, integrative treatment throughout. While criticisms could be lodged at many levels, those interested in the study of John’s Gospel owe Kealy a considerable debt of gratitude for his labor of love. For our present purposes, it will suffice to summarize briefly Kealy’s classification of various stages in the history of interpreting John’s Gospel in the last century and to interact with his concluding assessment of the past, present, and future of Johannine studies.
According to Kealy, the twentieth century is best described as the “century of hermeneutics” and evidences several stages of interpreting John’s Gospel: the classical stage (1900–1930); source criticism (1930–1960); the new critical approach (1968–1978); and the pluralistic stage (1979-present). The center of gravity in Johannine studies has moved from Germany (1900–1915) to Britain (1916–1945), the Continent (1945–1980), and North America. Kealy concludes his study by referring to his own article, “Paralysis by Analysis,” noting that Johannine studies have moved from viewing the Gospel as a personal eyewitness account to an anonymous reflection of a community’s life, loves, and h...
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