Table of Contents of Latest Issue
Index of All Issues
Index of Book Reviews
Instructions for Contributors
Subscribe to
Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 52, 2004

Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the Gospel of John. Edited by F. J. Moloney. (New York: Doubleday, 2003). Pp. Xxvi+356. $US30.00.

Amongst the unfinished business of Raymond E. Brown when he died suddenly in 1998, an unfinished manuscript on the Gospel of John was found. After thirty or so years of scholarship and writing he was revisiting his expansive two-volume Anchor Bible commentary published in 1966/1970. Francis J. Moloney undertook the task of bringing the manuscript to publication posthumously, at the request of Brown’s colleagues. The present work is the edited version of that manuscript, in the end only addressing the issues in the Introduction to the 1966 commentary (pp. XXI–CXLVI).

Moloney is clear from the outset that his task is editorial rather than compositional, clearly differentiating his comments from Brown’s work. In the main these comments serve the purposes of elucidating Brown’s cryptic footnotes, expanding the ideas where significant contributions have been made since 1997, and updating the bibliographies with works published since Brown’s death. In addition, from his own area of scholarship Moloney provides a lengthy excursus on Narrative Criticism at the end of the first chapter, another excursus on the “Theories of Johannine Community History,” and adds a concluding speculative chapter on the direction that the “new” commentary might have taken given the developments of biblical scholarship in the past thirty plus years and Brown’s nuanced comments with respect to narrative analysis.

Readers familiar with Brown’s earlier work will recognise the Introduction’s headings in the chapter names. Again, he begins with an overview of Johannine studies and then continues with a detailed analysis on the “unity and composition” of this Gospel. Here, Brown takes account of newer work in the proposed three-stage historical development of the Gospel, as opposed to a five-stage development in the 1966 commentary. Brown then considers the relationship of this Gospel to the Synoptics, and the value of this Gospel in terms of reconstructing Jesus’ historical ministry. The analysis of possible influences on the Gospel is detailed, as is Brown’s investigation of suggested purposes for this Gospel. From that position he discusses authorship, place and time of final writing. Aspects of Johannine theology treated include ecclesiology, sacramentalism, eschatology, Christology (including “Son of Man”), and wisdom motifs. Brown’s outline of the Gospel ends with the “Book of Signs” (John 1:19–12:50). Moloney completes the outline “on the basis of Brown’s 1970 second volume of John” (p. 307 footnote).

This monograph provides an outstanding, comprehensive investigation of the areas covered. Brown details the contribution of scholarship over the past century and then in most cases gives his opinion, clearly indicating when this is speculative. The reader is left with great respect for the importance of this contribution to the study of the Fourth Gospel, but nonetheless aware that this is not the final word. Perhaps, as Moloney proposes, the commentary that would have been written might have been substantially different to the earlier version, and indeed might have precipitated a rethinking of the introductory issues. The detailed bibliographies, at the end of chapters and in the introduction point the scholar of John in many directions.

Two aspects of recent Johannine scholarship, namely feminist and social-science critiques are obvious in their absence. Moloney does list some items in the bibliography under the “Role of Women in John” (p. 270), but this is not a heading in the text of Chapter Seven. That aside, this monograph will be an invaluable asset for all students of the Gospel of John, experienced and beginner, alike.

Review by
Catherine McCahill
Melbourne College of Divinity
Melbourne VIC, Australia