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


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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com


Mary L. Coloe and Tom Thatcher, editors. John, Qumran, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Sixty Years of Discovery and Debate. Early Judaism and Its Literature 32. Atlanta: SBL, 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 and 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 from the SBL

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 from Amazon.com

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 Amazon.com

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. - Online information on this book from the publisher's website -- or -- Order this book through Amazon.com

"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 Amazon.com

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.

Download the Book Announcement Flyer (pdf file) -- or -- Order Thatcher's book through Amazon.com


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This website is sponsored by the Steering Committee of the John-Jesus-History Group.

For questions about the John-Jesus-History Group, please contact the Co-chair of the Steering Committee:
Prof. Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University, tom.thatcher--at--ccuniversity.edu

For comments about this website, please contact Felix Just, SJ, fjust--at--calprov.org

This page was last updated on November 18, 2011
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