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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 65, 2017

FRANCIS J. MOLONEY, Johannine Studies 1975–2017 (WUNT 372; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017).
Pp. xvi + 660. Hardback. €189.00.

This impressive volume traces the Johannine writings of Francis J. Moloney from 1975 to the present. Twenty-eight chapters are presented under three headings: The Johannine World, Johannine Theology and The Johannine Text. Most of the material has already been published in various journals or as a chapter in an edited book; to these are added six previously unpublished esays, which this review will address.

“From History, into Narrative, and Beyond” functions as the introduction to the collection. This essay offers a biographical sketch of biblical methodologies in the later part of the twentieth century. M.’s own academic journey exemplifies the shifts in biblical criticism. This would be a helpful start to a student beginning Johannine studies. “God, Eschatology, and This-World Ethics in the Gospel of John” offers a new and important approach to the question of Johannine ethics. Earlier scholarship either denied or ignored the possibility of Johannine ethics. Recent German scholarship (Michael Labahn, Ruben Zimmermann, Fredrik Wagener) has challenged this view and M. continues this challenge with an emphasis on the multi-dimensional relationships insisted on in this Gospel. The realised eschatology of John does not deny the existential reality of disciples living and acting now in this world.

“The use of χάρις in John 1:14, 16–7: A Key to the Johannine Narrative” corrects the dominance of the Pauline translation of χάρις as “grace” in favour of its meaning as “gift.” To avoid any sense of supersessionism or replacement, M. offers the following translation, “and from his fullness we have all received, a gift upon a gift (v. 16). For the Law was given through Moses; the gift that is the truth came through Jesus Christ (v. 17)” (300).

“The First days of Jesus and the Role of the Disciples: A Study of John 1:19–51,” offers an interpretation of the disciples in the light of the Prologue, to argue that at this initial stage of the narrative, the disciples “…fall short of Johannine expectations” (311). No matter the professions of faith made by the disciples in these first days, they do not measure up to the fullness of the Prologue’s revelation. Inside this chapter lies a significant discussion of he “days” found across 1:19–2:11. M., rightly, in my opinion, looks to the Jewish Celebration of the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) as the liturgical background providing both the structure, and theology of these verses. “‘He loved them to the end’: Eucharist in the Gospel of John”: this essay was a paper delivered in 2016 at a Eucharistic congress in the Philippines and supplements his textual study of John 6, which was the first of his Johannine publications in 1975. This is a powerful study of John 13 where Eucharistic living is given greater prominence than Eucharist as a cultic act. The gift of love is at the centre of the disciples’ misunderstanding, denial, and betrayal, and M. concludes: “the Eucharist is centered on Jesus’ loving self-gift on the Cross … Christians are summoned to imitate that self-gift (13:14, 34). Eucharist for John was not primarily a cultic act; it was above all a distinctive feature of Christian life” (449).

The final essay not previously published is “‘That all may be one’: The Theme of Unity in John 17.” In this essay M. argues against the dominant reading of John 17 either as Jesus’ priestly prayer or its being taken over by the Ecumenical movement as if unity is its singular focus. M.’s reading of John 17 situates it in its context just before Jesus’ departure to the Father and his final teaching to his disciples about their future mission. Only the loving union of the disciples in their communion with Jesus and the Father will continue to make known the God that Jesus came to reveal. Christian unity is an essential praxis for the greater goal of mission.

As a former student who has closely followed the writings of M. this volume is a helpful collection of most of his published Johannine essays. The additional chapters fill out his opus of work so that almost every chapter of the Gospel is covered in a style that is not possible in a commentary. This will be a valuable investment for libraries and an important addition to any Johannine collection.

Review by
Yarra Theological Union