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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 54, 2006

FRANCIS J. MOLONEY, The Gospel of John: Text and Context Biblical Interpretation Series 72. (Leiden: Brill, 2005). Pp 389. €115.00.

Francis Moloney has been a prolific contributor to scholarly journals and written numerous books primarily focused on the Fourth Gospel. This beautifully presented hard-backed volume brings together a number of his articles and chapters that could otherwise be unavailable to many. Most of these studies are from his recent writings—with some that were due for publication later in 2005—and, as Moloney notes, they reflect his “mature reflection upon this most fascinating Gospel text.” The title expresses his underlying principle in approaching biblical studies, “text without context is pretext.” Some minor editorial changes have been made, but basically these studies reproduce the original publications. The works are arranged in two sections, namely, Part 1: History and Theology; and Part 2: Exegetical Studies, and a Conclusion.

Topics in Part 1, with the dates of their original publication, are as follows: The Gospel of John and Evangelisation (2003); “The Jews” in the Fourth Gospel: Another Perspective (2002); The Fourth Gospel and the Jesus of History (2000); The Johannine Son of Man Revisited (2005); Telling God’s Story: The Fourth Gospel (2002); The Gospel of John: The Legacy of Raymond E. Brown and Beyond (2005); Where does one Look? Reflections on Some Recent Johannine Scholarship (2000).

Topics in Part 2, with the dates of their original publication, are as follows: The Function of Prolepsis for the Interpretation of John 6 (1997); Narrative and Discourse at the Feast of Tabernacles: John 7:1–8:59 (2002); Can Everyone Be Wrong? A Reading of John 11:1–12:8 (2003); The Gospel of John: A Story of Two Paracletes (1998); The Function of John 13–17 Within the Johannine Narrative (1998); To Make God Known: A Reading of John 17:1–26 (1997); John 18:15–27: A Johannine View of the Church (2005). The Conclusion is entitled, The Gospel of John as Scripture (2005).

The topics listed in the first section address key issues raised in recent Johannine scholarship and provide an occasion for Moloney to engage critically and creatively with other scholars on these issues, such as the purpose of the Gospel, the identity of “the Jews,” the value of the fourth Gospel in seeking historical information about the life of Jesus. Apart from the primary arguments in the text, the footnotes provide a wealth of documentation and scope for further research.

In reading Part 2, I found myself wondering why these seven studies were chosen from the wealth of possible exegetical articles written by Moloney over his more than thirty year career. The selection, I believe, was guided by the hermeneutical principle stated in the introduction, “John is the best interpreter of John.” These seven studies all show the value of narrative criticism and a close reading of the text that allows this text to establish its own theological vision and to provide its own hermeneutical rules for interpretation. Each passage has features that are particularly troubling for the interpreter such as: Is the discourse in John 6 Eucharistic? Is the Gospel anti-Semitic in its treatment of “the Jews,” particularly in John 8? Does any character in the narrative come to perfect Johannine faith? Can John 13–17 be read as a theological and narrative unity? The studies in this volume display the value of skillful narrative criticism used alongside traditional historical criticism where both the literary and historical contexts are taken seriously.

The concluding chapter offers both a conclusion to this work as a whole, while opening up a path of further discussion. Moloney raises the issue of the author’s intention and concludes that the way that the Gospel uses the Old Testament indicates that this author is self-consciously presenting his own writing as Scripture. More will follow on this, I am sure.

In summary, this book provides a valuable resource for biblical scholars, particularly those working in Johannine studies. It is hoped that a paperback edition will soon follow making this volume available to individuals.

Review by
Mary Coloe
Australian Catholic University
P.O. Box 456
Virginia QLD 4014, Australia