Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel

Article excerpt

The Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel. By Craig R. Koester. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2008. xiv + 245 pp. $21.00 (paper).

This volume attempts to answer three questions relating to the Gospel of John: (1) Who is the God about whom Jesus speaks? (2) Who does the Gospel of John say that Jesus is? and (3) How does that Gospel understand Ufe, death, sin, and faith? To read the Gospel of John this way is to read it theologically. Craig R. Koester has drawn on both current studies and a broad range of historical insights, but has put his own mark upon the material in significant and helpful ways for the modern reader.

Koester takes several dimensions of the message of the Gospel of John and integrates them into a coherent whole. He begins by noting that the Gospel presupposes, first, only one true God, who gives life to those who believe, and who raises the dead; and second, that Jesus is a human being, who dies by crucifixion. For the original recipients of the Gospel these were key counterpoints to a polytheistic Roman Empire, which also killed Jesus.

Koester then considers the theological issues for which the Gospel must erect a position. People may agree that God can bestow life, but can Jesus do the same - especially if it is done on the Sabbath (5:17-18)? Again, Jesus may be human, but can he (at the same time) claim to be the Messiah or Son of God? We may agree that Jesus died by crucifixion, but what does his death mean, and what does it accomplish?

Third, Koester considers the broader implications of the Gospel. For example, those who follow Jesus will not "walk in darkness but will have the light of Ufe" (8:12), but what does this mean in terms of any specific lifestyle? Koester invites a perusal of the whole Gospel for its references to light and darkness as a way to address that question. "Working with the Gospel as a whole," he notes, "will also shape the way we consider the identity of God, the human condition, the work of the Spirit, and the life of faith" (p. 24).

Following these introductory comments in chapter 1, Koester offers seven other chapters on a variety of theological topics found in this Gospel: "God"; "The World and Its People"; "Jesus"; "Crucifixión and Resurrection"; "The Spirit"; "Faith, Present and Future"; and "Discipleship in Community and World. …

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