John - Jesus - History

A program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature

Recently Published and Forthcoming Books
related to topics involving
the Fourth Gospel and the Historical Jesus

Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom Thatcher, eds. John, Jesus, and History, Volume 1: Critical Appraisals of Critical Views. SBL Symposium Series. Atlanta: SBL, 2007.

The essays in this book, reflecting the ongoing deliberations of an international group of Johannine and Jesus scholars, critically assess two primary assumptions of the prevalent view: the de-historicization of John and the de-Johannification of Jesus.  In addition to offering state-of-the-art reviews of Johannine studies and Jesus studies, this volume draws together an emerging consensus that sees the Gospel of John as an autonomous tradition with its own perspective, in dialogue with other traditions. Through this challenging of critical and traditional assumptions alike, new approaches to John’s age-old riddles emerge, and the ground is cleared for new and creative ways forward. - Order this volume through

Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom Thatcher, eds. John, Jesus, and History, Volume 2: Aspects of Historicity in the Fourth Gospel. Early Christianity and Its Literature. Atlanta: SBL, 2009.

This groundbreaking volume draws together an international group of leading biblical scholars to consider one of the most controversial religious topics in the modern era: Is the Gospel of John the most theological and distinctive among the four canonical Gospels historical or not? If not, why does John alone among the Gospels claim eyewitness connections to Jesus? If so, why is so much of John's material unique to John? Using various methodologies and addressing key historical issues in John, these essays advance the critical inquiry into Gospel historiography and John's place within it, leading to an impressive consensus and convergences along the way. - Order this volume through

Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom Thatcher, eds. John, Jesus, and History, Volume 3: Glimpses of Jesus through the Johannine Lens. Early Christianity and Its Literature. Atlanta: SBL, 2016.

A critical analysis of the historicity of the Gospel of John. Since it began in 2002, the John, Jesus, and History Project has assessed critically the modern disparaging of John's historicity and has found this bias wanting. In this third volume, an international group of experts demonstrate over two dozen ways in which John contributes to an enhanced historical understanding of Jesus and his ministry. - Order this volume through

Mary L. Coloe and Tom Thatcher, eds. John, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Sixty Years of Discovery and Debate. SBL: Early Judaism and Its Literature. Atlanta: SBL; Leiden: Brill, 2011.

The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a Palestinian form of Second Temple Judaism in which the seeds of Johannine Christianity may have first sprouted. Although many texts from the Judean Desert are now widely available, the Scrolls have had little part in discussions of the Johannine literature over the past several decades. The essays in this book, ranging from focused studies of key passages in the Fourth Gospel to its broader social world, consider the past and potential impact of the Scrolls on Johannine studies in the context of a growing interest in the historical roots of the Johannine tradition and the origins and nature of the Johannine community and its relationship to mainstream Judaism. Future scholarship will be interested in connections between the Gospel of John and the Scrolls and also in Qumran Judaism and Johannine Christianity as parallel religious movements. The contributors are Mary L. Coloe, Tom Thatcher, Eileen Schuller, Paul N. Anderson, John Ashton, George J. Brooke, Brian J. Capper, Hannah K. Harrington, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, and James H. Charlesworth. - Order this book through

R. Alan Culpepper and Paul N. Anderson, eds. Communities in Dispute: Current Scholarship on the Johannine Epistles. SBL: Early Christianity and Its Literature. Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014.

In this state-of-the-art collection of essays on the Johannine Epistles, such issues as the relation between the Johannine Epistles and the Gospel of John are addressed. Raymond E. Brown’s view of the history of the Johannine situation is is evaluated and constructively engaged—yielding compelling alternative proposals. Authors include R. Alan Culpepper, Urban C. von Wahlde, Paul N. Anderson, Judith M. Lieu, Peter Rhea Jones, Andreas J. Köstenberger, Gary M. Burge, Craig R. Koester, Jan G. van der Watt, William R. G. Loader, and David K. Rensberger. - Order this book through

Paul N. Anderson. From Crisis to Christ: A Contextual Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: Abingdon, 2014.

In this contextual introduction to the New Testament, Paul N. Anderson employs “second criticality” as a means of putting into play the most plausible of critical and traditional approaches to issues, featuring also a Bi-Optic Hypothesis. In this engaging text, Anderson shows the Johannine tradition to be a worthy resource for understanding the Jesus of history as well as the Christ of faith, alongside the Synoptics. In the light of nearly sixty crises and contexts, the texts of the New Testament are illuminated meaningfully for present-day readers. - Order this book through

Rudolf Bultmann. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Johannine Monograph Series 1. Translated by G. R. Beasley-Murray, R. W. N. Hoare, and J. K. Riches, 1971; foreword by Paul N. Anderson. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014.

As the first volume in the Johannine Monograph Series edited by Paul Anderson and Alan Culpepper, The Gospel of John: A Commentary by Rudolf Bultmann well deserves this pride of place. Indeed, this provocative commentary is arguably the most important New Testament monograph in the twentieth century, perhaps second only to The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer. While Bultmann’s composition theory has become less than compelling in the views of recent scholars, the extensive foreword by Paul N. Anderson suggests the continuing value of Bultmann’s contribution regarding John’s literary, historical, and theological riddles. - Order this book through

Richard Horsley and Tom Thatcher. John, Jesus, and the Renewal of Israel. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013.

This book show the impact of Jesus’ ministry as presented in the Gospel of John in the light of pressures inflicted by the Roman Empire in the first century C.E. From a deeply Jewish perspective, the canonical Gospels—including the Gospel of John—show how Jesus of Nazareth sought to contribute to the renewal of Israel within such a complex and tumultuous context. - Order this book through

Tom Thatcher and Catrin Williams, eds. Engaging with C. H. Dodd on the Gospel of John: Sixty Years of Tradition and Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Celebrating the historical contributions of Dodd’s two magna opera fifty and sixty years later, this impressive collection by an international selection of leading Johannine scholars explores the historical contribution of the Gospel of John as well as its historical provenance. Authors include Tom Thatcher, R. Alan Culpepper, Craig R. Koester, Jan van der Watt, Gilbert van Belle, David R. M. Godecharle, Catrin H. Williams, Jaime Clark-Soles, Urban C. von Wahlde, Helen Mardaga, Paul N. Anderson, John Ashton, Wendy E. S. North, Michael Theobald, and John Painter. - Order this book through

Paul N. Anderson. The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2011.

The Fourth Gospel has played an important role in the course of Christian theology and remains one of the most cherished writings of the New Testament. It is also one of the most controversial and deeply enigmatic works, as scholars seek to unravel its mysteries through the application of different historical- and literary-critical methods. This text offers scholars and students alike an innovative and accessible survey of the historical, literary, and theological “riddles” that continue to fascinate John's readers. Distinctive among introductions to John, this book features a chapter on the Jesus of history as informed by the Gospel of John. - Order this book through

Paul N. Anderson. The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in the Light of John 6. Third edition, with a New Introduction, Outlines, and Epilogue. Cascade Books, 2010.

John’s portrayal of Jesus is one of the most fascinating and provocative in the New Testament. It presents him as both human and divine, and this tension has been a prolific source of debate and disagreement within Christianity and beyond. The purpose of this work is to explore the origins and character of the unity and disunity of John’s Christology. - Order this book through

Tom Thatcher. Greater than Caesar: Christology and Empire in the Fourth Gospel. Fortress Press, 2009.

Recent scholarship has shown that the peculiar history of a particular community of believers gave the Fourth Gospel its distinctive shape. Now Tom Thatcher argues that we must take account not just of tensions arising within the synagogue or between factions of believers in Christ but also attend to the Johannine portrayal of figures representing Roman rule in order to understand the Gospel's origin and message. Greater than Caesar examines the Fourth Gospel's characterizations of Jesus' opponents and its depictions of Jesus' authority and power in his confrontations with agents of imperial power, including Pilate and Jewish authorities. Thatcher argues that the Gospel is a thorough repudiation of the Roman Empire's claims on human allegiance. The one who speaks from the "dying machine" of the cross shows that he is in fact "greater than Caesar." - Order this book through

D. Moody Smith. The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions: Judaism and Jesus, the Gospels and Scripture. University of South Carolina Press, 2008.

This multidimensional volume from the leading American scholar of Johannine studies brings together D. Moody Smith's germinal works from the past two decades along with some original articles published here for the first time. The resulting collection augments current understanding of the Gospel of John with fresh insights and research and points the way toward opportunities for new inquiry.

The collection is structured around four focal issues that define contemporary studies of John. In the first section, Smith places the book within its Jewish milieu, attempting to account for the tension between the work's seeming anti-Jewishness and its familiarity with Jewish life and thought. Next Smith engages the relationship between John and the historical figure of Jesus, especially the extent to which John's representation of Jesus reflects knowledge of independent traditions as well as the self-consciousness of his own community. The third section examines John's account against the Synoptic Gospels, assessing the evidence of John's access to an independent record of the passion and the possibility that John adopted the gospel genre from Mark. Finally, Smith explores how the Gospels, and especially that of John, evolved into scripture and how they have come to be interpreted in conjunction with one another. - Order this book through

Tom Thatcher, ed. What We Have Heard from the Beginning: The Past, Present and Future of Johannine Studies. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007.

The past fifty years have seen powerful shifts in the methods and objectives of Biblical Studies. The study of the Johannine Literature, in particular, has seen a proliferation of new approaches, as well as innovative exegetical and theological conclusions. This volume surveys the emerging landscape from the perspective of scholars who have shaped the field. Written in a conversational and reflective tone, the articles offer an excellent overview of major issues in the study of the Fourth Gospel and 1-2-3 John. - Order this book through

"What Thatcher has produced is a unique composite of two disparate genres: the history of research and the professional memoir. The result is a book that is both deeply informative and utterly fascinating." - Wayne Meeks, Yale University

"What We Have Heard recognizes that biblical scholarship is done by real people, whose interests and perspectives change over time. It is not an abstract discipline." - Craig Koester, Luther Seminary

Paul N. Anderson. The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus. New York: T&T Clark, 2006.

Paul Anderson's new book grows directly out of the John, Jesus, and History project, and it also provides something of a basis on which other work may build. Part II was presented at the 2002 sessions under the title, "Why This Study Is Needed, and Why It Is Needed Now," assessing strengths and weaknesses of six planks in each of the two primary platforms being analyzed: the dehistoricization of John and the deJohannification of Jesus. It then poses a new synthesis of John's distinctive relations to each of the Synoptic traditions, especially making innovative suggestions regarding the Johannine tradition's relations to the Markan and Lukan traditions. Combined with a modest two-edition theory of composition, this theory of Johannine-Synoptic Interfluentiality is sure to make a contribution to the larger interests of tradition-history analyses.

Part IV poses a nuanced assessment of which aspects of the Synoptic tradition are superior historically to John's and which aspects of the Johannine tradition are superior to Synoptic presentations. Eight considerations are proposed for each, and eight additional aspects of multiple attestation in all four Gospels are presented in "bi-optic" perspective. Parts I and V provide reviews of significant trends in Johannine and Jesus studies, and they present Anderson's larger set of views involving the "dialogical autonomy" of the Fourth Gospel, including its literary, historical, and theological implications. Just as the dialectical character of John's distinctive Christology evoked some of the major controversies of the Patristic era, the dialogical character of John's presentation of Jesus has produced some of the most enduring impasses in the Modern era. While a conjunctive approach to theology provided a way forward many centuries ago for theology, it has yet to be comprehensively applied to John's historical and literary conundrums. This study attempts to do so. - Order this book through

Tom Thatcher. Why John Wrote a Gospel: Jesus--Memory--History. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005.

Thatcher’s book applies recent theories of social memory and literacy to answer the question, Why did John write a gospel? While past studies have answered this question in terms of the Fourth Gospel’s major theological themes, this volume reflects on the reasons why John might have thought that a written book about Jesus would be a particularly useful way of addressing community experiences.

Parts 1 and 2 discuss the social functions of writing in the ancient world and analyze passages in the Fourth Gospel that reveal John’s thinking about memory and tradition, concluding that John most likely wrote a gospel not only to preserve data about Jesus but also to exploit ancient attitudes toward written texts. Despite the fact that John believed the Church’s memory of Jesus was guided and preserved by the Spirit, a written gospel would add rhetorical weight and prestige to his claims about Christ.

Part 3 explores the historical context of the Fourth Gospel in order to determine why John might have found a written gospel useful. Thatcher applies models of dogmatic, mystical, and counter-memory to argue that John was likely locked in a debate with the Anti-Christs mentioned in 1-2-3 John, a group that rejected John’s interpretation of the Jesus tradition in light of their own experience of the Paraclete.

Part 4 discusses the most substantial differences between living social memories and written history books to outline reasons why a written gospel would be particularly useful to John and his disciples in their debates with the Anti-Christs. The final chapter extends the implications of the study to several related issues, including a review of the Developmental Approach to the Fourth Gospel’s composition and the potential value of the Fourth Gospel as a source for the Historical Jesus.

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For questions about the John-Jesus-History Group, please contact the Co-chair of the Steering Committee:
Prof. Paul Anderson, George Fox University,

For comments about this website, please contact Felix Just, SJ,

This page was last updated on November 30, 2017
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