Don’t get taken in by fads

I’m reading Andreas Köstenberger’s commentary on John, and I found the statement I’ll quote in a moment fascinating. Before I quote Köstenberger, let me set the stage. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century it was fashionable for scholars to view the Gospel of John as the product of a community, circle, or Johannine school. In his commentary, Raymond Brown described a hypothetical 5 stage process of redaction that the Gospel went through. J. L. Martyn also wrote a famous book called History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. This way of reading the Gospel reflects the judgment that the Gospel of John reflects as much of the “history of the Johannine community”—what happened to the Christians connected to John—as it does the history of Jesus’ earthly life. Köstenberger relates this anecdote:

“In a stunning ‘confession,’ Robert Kysar, at a recent session of the Johannine literature section convened under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature, has chronicled the rise and fall of the Martyn/Brown-style ‘Johannine Community’ hypothesis and expressed personal regret for ever having endorsed it.” (Köstenberger, John, 3).

If it’s faddish to look at a naked emperor and go on and on about his beautiful clothes, don’t get taken in by the fad. If it’s faddish to look at a Gospel that claims to be about Jesus and go on and on about what happened to the Christian community in the 50–70 years after Jesus died, don’t get taken in by the fad. The emperor is naked, and one day there will be regret.

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  1. I ordered my copy two days ago and am impatiently waiting to devour it.
    Good observation!


  2. Jim,

    I am preparing a sermon from John’s Gospel, and I was reading the same introductory statements in Dr. Kostenberger’s commentary the same day you posted this entry. I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Kostenberger’s devout approach to these issues, and I appreciate your insights about the matter. In evangelical scholarship (and kitsch), fad often equals bad. Thanks for the good word.

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