Paul Rainbow’s Johannine Theology – Book Notice (Gupta)

The Fourth Gospel has always been one of my favorite NT texts and I have taught more exegesis courses on John than any other book. When it comes to studying Johannine theology, I have relied on the work of Moody Smith and Craig Koester. Paul Rainbow just released a study of all the Johannine literature: Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse (IVP, 2014). In ten chapters he covers these areas: introduction, revelation of God (the Father), the world, God’s self-revelation in Christ’s person, God’s self-revelation in Christ’s work, the revelation of the Father in the Son by the Spirit-Paraclete, the believer and the Triune God (2 chapters), disciples of Christ in community, and the community of Christ’s disciples in the world.

Here are some of my quick thoughts based on just an hour or two in the book:

(1) Scot McKnight, one of the endorsers, is right to call it encyclopedic – the footnotes are pretty exhaustive and Rainbow has proven deep knowledge and engagement with the literature.

(2) Love – any Johannine theology worth a penny has to engage with the love-ethic of this corpus. Rainbow does this more than adequately.

(3) epistemology and faith/belief – again, a good Johannine theology must deal with the concern for seeing/belief/faith/knowledge in this literature. Rainbow has a major section on this in “Coming to Christ” (ch. 7), but I felt that the global epistemology of John was not worked out – shattering human patterns of thought and refurbishing new ones (I get this from Koester, Bauckham, Kasemann). I wanted more. Perhaps I wanted more of a philosophical discussion (Rainbow has clearly studied Bultmann closely), but his address of this seemed more topical.

(4) The cross – obviously Rainbow will have scattered comments on the crucifixion throughout the book, and he does. It appears most in the soteriology section (“work of Christ”), but I was hoping it would be linked to epistemology. Anyway, this is partly just how Rainbow decided to organize the book, and I can respect that, but I think he missed an important opportunity to clarify how the cross (the lifting up of the Light) blinds the world and overturns their system of perception.

Overall, I want to affirm that I liked what I read – it is well organized in general and the prose is very easy to understand. Rainbow knows the newer literature as well as the older scholarship. This is a great volume to have and I will certainly have it at-the-ready when I teach on Johannine theology in the future.

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