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 55, 2007

STEPHEN VOORWINDE, Jesus’ Emotions in the Fourth Gospel: Human or Divine? (Library of New Testament Studies 284; London: T&T Clark, 2005). Pp. xiii + 344. £70.00.

This book, a revision of a doctoral thesis for the Australian College of Theology, is a careful and thorough study of a neglected topic. Defining an “emotion” is not an easy task from the point of view either of New Testament lexicography or of modern psychology. In Voorwinde’s view, the emotions attributed to Jesus in John are zeal, love, joy, anger, distress, weeping. John’s Gospel is chosen for study because of its distinctiveness in literary-geographical structure, in the distribution of references to Jesus’ emotions, and in the frequency of references to emotions of God and their overlap with those of Jesus. For Voorwinde, study of Jesus’ emotions provides a new approach to the Christological issue of the humanity or divinity of Jesus; and the topic needs to be explored from a covenantal perspective.

After the introductory and methodological considerations of chapter 1, Voorwinde treats John’s religious setting in chapter 2, mainly on the basis of Old and New Testament material with brief attention to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Testament Apocrypha. Chapter 3 maps the occurrence of references to the emotions of Jesus within the structure of John and includes discussion of Pentateuchal themes in John. In chapters 4–7 the author then examines the emotions of Jesus in more detail as they occur in the narrative sequence of John. Zeal for the temple appears early (2:17) in the Book of Signs. All the other emotions of Jesus mentioned by John appear at the end of the Book of Signs in the Lazarus episode (chapter 11). Two of these emotions appear again in the transitional chapter 12 and at the beginning of the Farewell Discourse section (chapters 13–17): distress (12:27; 13:21) and love (13:1, 34). Only the positive emotions of love and joy occur in chapters 14–21: love (for the obedient disciple, 14:21; for the Father, 14:31; for Jesus’ friends, 15:9–13; and specifically for the Beloved Disciple, 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) and joy (15:11; 17:13). This examination is conducted with due attention to Old Testament background (especially where quotations occur) and to textual and linguistic issues, and with detailed consideration of the broader and narrower context in John.

Voorwinde concludes that in John all the emotions of Jesus “have both human and divine dimensions,” with the possible exception of weeping (11:35, perhaps purely human) (268–69). Moreover, “Jesus is presented in strongly covenantal terms that permeate the Gospel from beginning to end … Jesus answers to both the role of covenant Lord and of covenant sacrifice” (269). At the beginning and end of the book, Bultmann and Käsemann are taken as prime representatives of views of Jesus as human only or divine only. However, it is “the Logos,” “the Revealer,” who “appears” (erscheint, an “epiphany” term) (Bultmann, cited in 7 and in part 269). Conversely, “the consistent presentation of Jesus as God walking on the face of the earth” is just one of six “marks of Johannine eschatology” (Käsemann, cited in part 9, 269). It is acknowledged by Voorwinde that “covenant” terminology is not used by John (65, 101, 108 n. 5) nor in some of the Old Testament passages regarded as background to John (37–38). Initially, a covenant “perspective” or “framework” external to the text provides a mode of interpretation for the emotions of Jesus. But increasingly this covenant concept is viewed as internal to the text.

The gist of the book could have been presented more succinctly with less recapitulation of the argument and less quotation of secondary sources. But the author always makes clear what he is doing, and the secondary sources are useful for an unfamiliar topic. There are indexes of modern authors and ancient writings (mainly biblical) and a bibliography. Although there is no index of topics, ten appendixes listing terms of emotion in sections of the Bible, the Apocrypha and the Dead Sea Scrolls provide a statistical basis for the argument of the book. This is a valuable treatment of the theological significance of the emotions of Jesus in their context in the Gospel of John. That value is not undermined, even if one does not regard a covenant perspective as essential. And the contrast between human and divine in the portrayal of Jesus may stand even without the support of Bultmann and Käsemann.

Review by
Darryl W. Palmer
Centre for Classics and Archaeology
The University of Melbourne VIC 3010