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The Gospel and Letters of John: Interpreting Biblical Texts Series
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2000
R. Alan Culpepper is most noted for his ground breaking literary study of John's Gospel, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. This new work is not a verse by verse commentary, but rather an overview of the Gospel and letters of John. It is very good on the Gospel of John, but sketchy on the Johannine letters (only one chapter out of ten). His introductory material concerning the author and situation of the Gospel is a bit one-sided with little or no imput from any evangelical perspective, but it does introduce some of the problems associated with these issues. Chapter four, "The Gospel as Literature" with its theory of anagnoriseis or recognition scenes, is an excellent chapter when it comes to understanding the flow of this Gospel. Graphs and maps and sidebars seem to be the "in" feature of many new commentaries, sometimes overwhelming the actual commentary itself. Culpepper's sidebars are very judicious and actually very helpful.From a literary perspective this is certainly one of the best introductory commentaries overviewing John's Gospel around (again, the section on the Johannine letters is perhaps too brief).
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2004
Culpepper's treatment of the Fourth Gospel is remarkable. His ability to concentrate on the issues that matter, ignoring rabbit trails, and his command of the familiarity with the Johannine materials is evident.
Much like a commentary, Culpepper begins his work with issues of authorship, history, community, theology and literature that are all very well done. These are all tied together in the main body of his work that interprets the gospel and shows its intricate composition. All the main themes - sin as unbelief, death as exaltation, identity of Jesus as Christological (and overriding) issue - are developed and commented on superbly.
As another reviewer noted, the chapter covering the Johannine epsitles seemed a bit of an afterthought and are tied so closely to the gospel that they lose their distinctiveness and message. Nonetheless, these are exposited adequately as well.
If the book had ended there it would have been very satisfying, but Culpepper instead sought to add an addendum to the book, evaluating John's (that is, the gospel's) use as a document of faith. This, of course, makes sense, but his review of the issues is too brief to really justify such a section; it seems as if the book has ended and he is starting another avenue of discussion.
Furthermore, his conclusions seem very tenuous. He examines the theological and historical challenges that the gospel faced in the past and then outlines three areas of what he calls ethical challenges.
First is the issue of Anti-Semitism (or Anti-Judaism) the gospel promotes. His discussion here is worthwhile, but seems to have a hard time dinstingiushing between anti-semitism and anti-judaism (as D. Moody Smith does in his theology of the gospel of john). This issue, ultimately, is tied to the issue of exclusivity below.
Second is the issue of whether the gospel gives a voice to the oppressed and marginal in society. This is also a worthy topic but not one which should dominate the acceptance of the gospel. The issue seems far-removed from the gospel itself and more germane to NT scholarship in general.
Finally is the issue of its exclusivism in light of the pluralism found in modern western culture. This topic, more than any other, is poorly addressed. Culpepper seems to allow the climate of society to control the agenda for the gospel rather than vice versa. Not that this is an inappropriate issue to wrestle over, but it seems that two important observations are over-looked.
1) If we can celebrate the blessings of diversity in pluralism (of which there are many) we should also be aware of its dangers. An unchecked, all-embracing pluralism is just as dangerous as an unchecked, choking exclusivity. While the issue of exclusivity is one that does need questioning and struggling over, we must not take as self-evident the axiom that pluralism is all flowers and butterflies. If we must abrogate our reading of John in view of society today, ultimately John may force us to abrogate our life in society or it fails have any authority whatsoever as a part of the canon of the churches' scripture.
2) John, as the rest of the NT, was written in a pluralistic society vastly similar to our own. Early Christians were accused of athiesm, not because they confessed Jesus as Lord, but because they would not confess Ceasar as Lord, along with the whole pantheon of Hellenistic dieties (and principles). And yet Christianity thrived. Of course, the reality is more difficult than such a reductionistic summary, but it is a mistake to think that our value of pluralism is any greater or more noble than that of the ancient world (from which we borrowed it).
So, then, overall Culpepper's work on the gospel is very well-done, insightful and lucid. His coverage of the letters seems somewhat truncated and standing in the shadow of the gospel but still solid. His evaluation of the gospel's religious value, though, is both too short and too pointed to garner much help from. A mixed bag in the end.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2007
I thoroughly recommend this title to anyone who wants to seriously study John's gospel and letters - and also to people who simply want to extend their knowledge of the scriptures for the purposes of deepening their relationship with the protagonist of this gospel. This highly readable book provides up to date scholarly information on the text: but it also provides indepth discussion of each section of the gospel in a way that would be very useful for personal reflection and prayer. There are many books on John, but I think this is one of the better ones.
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Culpepper's book stimulates curiosity and intrigue into the Gospel of John even while he answers questions and synthesizes evidence--leaving you with many of your previous questions answered satisfactorily, but with many other questions now floating in your mind; I suppose that is the paradox that surrounds all passages of the Bible, however. This book is not a commentary, but it does comment on much of the material. This book is not a survey, but it does cover the beginning to the end in comparatively short space (305 pages). This book is somewhere in between, written in easy-to-follow prose, highlighting key details without getting technical in the Greek or in textual variant issues, etc. However, unless one is extremely familiar with the Gospel of John already, it would be wise to read the chapter in the Bible before reading from this book. (That may be obvious, but to others it might not be--Culpepper does not include enough of the text in his own work for the reader to know precisely what he is talking about without having a Bible opened nearby in space, or recently in time.)

(Series Thesis: The series is meant to serve as a resource, alongside other resources such as commentaries and specialized studies, to aid students in the exciting and often risky venture of interpreting biblical texts; the authors offer their own understanding of the issues and texts, but are more concerned about guiding the reader than engaging in debates with other scholars.)

Book thesis: I hope this book...will launch them on a lifelong love affair with the Gospel and that it will be for [the reader] a constant source of intellectual fascination and spiritual direction.

Although the book thesis is rather informal (it is the personality of a professor coming through), I believe that Culpepper does achieve what he sets out to do. I, personally, have been stimulated to further study this Gospel in depth and understand it deeper. It has been said before that the Gospel of John is a puddle for a child to wade in and a pool for an elephant to swim in (I do not recall the source). Culpepper reveals this through and through--revealing the essential point of the Gospel quickly enough, but casting the anchor down and showing just how deep the message goes. Culpepper deals with the essential critical issues apart from his treatment of the text itself: issues of authorship, community, and canonization. He reveals themes that are present throughout the writing. He shows plot developments and contrasts between pericopes. And although as one reviewer has noted, the final chapter seems to undermine much of what Culpepper has established throughout the book, the chapter should be seen as a point for further contemplation and wrestling with true, contemporary issues--those who would disagree with Culpepper's arguments in the final chapter (and I would, mostly) must deal with the issues within the scope of the writings of John. Disagreement can be healthy as long as it spurs the parties on to further study and discovery, and I believe that is precisely what Culpepper does from start to finish.

Some brief treatment is also given to the letters of John, and Culpepper's insight here is helpful albeit not extensive.

Ultimately, I believe that this book is an helpful addition to anyone's library. To those who would like to pursue studying the Gospel of John more, this is a phenomenal starting place and will allow the reader to glean things they probably would not have otherwise. For those who have spent in-depth time in the Gospel already, this will be a welcome read as it will quite quickly put the entirety of the Gospel in view and tie together themes that were fragmented prior.
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on February 13, 2014
I chose this rating because the book explain well and with good information the passages of the gospel of John, I like the way the author arranged the information in tables and his simple language. I recommend this book as a good tool for those who teach the bible.
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on July 3, 2011
This is the first work of R. Alan Culpepper that I have studied. It reflects all the modern scholarship on John. It was particularly helpful in its analysis of literary theory and its relevance to study of the Gospel.
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on August 12, 2013
Love it and I still use it! Great book on Johannine theology providing both insight and a cogent perspective on Johannine theology and the components of its structure.
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on October 27, 2013
Very informative, deeply spiritual!
Enjoyed every aspect.
Will bring you closer to God prefer the the kindle version as I can bring the library everywhere.
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on January 23, 2014
The book is an interesting read. I really enjoyed reading the book and found the information very useful in life today.
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on August 12, 2015
Wonderful reading. I thought I knew the gospel. Came away with a greater understanding of these wonderful writings.
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