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The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel: An Introduction to John Paperback – April 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080060427X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800604271
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"John's gospel invites readers into a dialog that can last a lifetime. In this engaging introduction, Paul Anderson explores some of the most important aspects of the Fourth Gospel. By asking questions of its theology, historical character, and literary quality, he offers a welcome treatment of the gospel that helps contemporary readers encounter it in a multidimensional way." --Craig Koester, Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota

From the Inside Flap

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, as scholars seek to unravel its mysteries through the application of different historical and literary-critical methods. Paul N. Anderson offers the student an innovative and accessible survey of the historical, literary, and theological "riddles" that continue to preoccupy John's readers. Lucid and generous in its use of sidebars, diagrams, questions for reflection, and annotated bibliography, The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel will guide the beginning or advanced student in their encounter with John.

More About the Author

Having been raised in Colombia, Ecuador, and Dominican Republic, where my father worked in cultural affairs, I've always welcomed alternative ways to look at things. When reflecting on the Gospel of John's theological tensions, I've wondered how they came to be the way they are presented. When thinking about historical Jesus studies, I've questioned why they have programmatically omitted the one Gospel that claims direct contact with Jesus (John, that is). When looking at conflict in the world today, I've imagined what it would be like to take problem-solving seriously, in non-violent and discerning ways.

My writings reflect these types of interests, and I welcome input from all sides. All truth is liberating, and any discipline that furthers our inquiry into the truth can be serviceable in its being sought.

I have served in pastoral ministry among Friends and have taught at George Fox University since 1989 (other than teaching one year at Yale Divinity School, 1998-1999). My calling is to pursue the truth, and in that quest I am deeply indebted to fellow pilgrims along the way. Thank you for joining me in that quest!

Here are a few published essays: https://georgefox.academia.edu/PaulAnderson

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dubious Disciple on April 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Paul Anderson has done it again. John's Gospel holds a special fascination for me, and this is simply good scholarship. The book is laid out like a college text, with chapter endings presenting "questions to consider" and "terms to understand." It's clearly meant for the classroom. It's divided into three parts:

1. Outlining the Johannine Riddles. Anderson presents, in tabular form, the theological, historical, and literary riddles that are spread throughout the Gospel.
2. Addressing the Johannine Riddles. Who wrote the Fourth Gospel, when, how, and why? Multiple theories are presented, emphasizing origin and character.
3. Interpreting the Johannine Riddles. Anderson takes a stab at answering John's conundrums, and calls for a "fourth quest for Jesus" with special consideration for the historical realism of John's Gospel.

If you're familiar with Anderson's work, you may be tempted to skip certain sections, as much has been covered before, but the emphasis on tension and prepared contradictions--what Paul labels John's "riddles"--forces you to reexamine familiar texts within a directed theme. Anderson drills into us the dialectical thinking of John. The Fourth Gospel appears to make a point of presenting both sides of every theology. Jesus is both the most human and the most divine in this gospel. He is judge, but he judges not. He is equal to the Father but subjective to the Father. He fulfills all prophesies yet promises a future eschatology. Perhaps most frustrating of all to me as a scholar of Johannine writings, John's esoteric, spiritual passages encourage non-literal interpretation, but are liberally peppered with verifiable historical accuracies. These tensions are frustrating but intentional, purposefully forcing us to examine all sides.

My conclusion: This is an important, well-organized book whose careful research demands consideration.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first part of the book is the most interesting. The author gives a precise and extensive view of all the tensions recorded in John's Gospel. Beginners to more advanced students or laypersons will benefit from the analyses.

Finding a solution to cohere the historical, theological and literary contradictions is much more perilous. Anderson's standpoint is clear and controversial. He claims that tensions as a factor of multiple sources falls short in terms of evidence. For him John is essentially a one man's cognitive crisis delivering his message to various audiences. He considers the author to have been a brilliant ecclesiastical writer followed by a less brilliant ecclesiastical refactor.

Anderson's explanations are in my mind the feeble part of the book. I consider that John is a hybrid composition, for reasons that can't be developed here. But readers will gain considerable and clear information from the first part that discloses all the difficulties a learned scholar encounters in John.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn HERR OSF on October 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author expresses an outstanding study and framework of the Gospel of St. John. He writes with an entriguing style of "on the one hand..." and then "on the other hand..." that makes the reader appreciate the truly complex Gospel of St. John.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. Zoellner on December 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel is probably the longest introduction to anything that I have ever read, unless you consider actual intro-level textbooks on topics like the field of sociology or history to be introductions. As this is really Paul N. Anderson's introduction to the theories and theology about the gospel, it is more of a pleasingly short and compact textbook. As he clearly intends it for use in something like a college course on the Gospel of John, I shall review it as such.

The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel is a meticulously organized, even repetitive scholarly work, complete with text book-like review questions and key terms at the end of each chapter. There are bullet points for everything; I could literally teach a class on this book with no prep time. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a source on this topic, because it has summaries of prior works on the topic, and references to relevant materials. However, I'm not entirely convinced Anderson quite has his theology down right; he seems to insist that the gospel could either be saying Jesus was god, or human, not that he was both, completely, according to the gospel.

Aside from being, as I mentioned, fairly repetitive from the perspective of a less studious reader, this is a very readable book, complete with a brief glossary of potentially difficult terms. Anyone could read it, if self-study were desired. I'm not sure if I agree with all of the assumptions within the content, but there is plenty of emphasis on alternative perspectives and finding your own interpretation, that I have no objection to the overall effect.
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