Some New Works on the Fourth Gospel (Gupta)

In the past six months or so we have seen the publication of several interesting and noteworthy works on John. Here are some of my brief comments.

csfgCharacter Studies in the Fourth Gospel (ed. Hunt, Tolmie, and Zimmerman; Eerdmans). This is a massive, exhaustive study of all the people (named and unnamed!) who appear in John’s Gospel. The contributors are a veritable who’s who of Johannine studies including Catrin Williams, Paul Anderson, Mary Coloe, Harry Attridge, Marianne Meye Thomspon, Gail O’Day, Adele Reinhartz, Jan van der Watt and many more. And of course the esteemed Chris Skinner has penned a couple of chapters as well. At 721 pages, the work is rather encyclopedic, but very insightful and inspires the reader of Scripture to pay attention to even the “bit characters” in the fourth gospel. Highly recommended!

zecntjohnJohn (Edward W. Klink III; ZECNT; Zondervan). Fourth Gospel scholarship benefits from many outstanding commentaries (e.g., Thompson, Moody Smith, Brown, Keener, Lincoln, Moloney, O’Day). Klink’s massive 900+ page work is a nice contribution nonetheless. The Zondervan Exegetical series has a number of helpful features, including diagramming of passages, brief “Main Idea” notes, thorough interaction with the Greek text, and passage-level “application” sections. Klink’s volume draws out the strengths of the series. I was impressed with how Klink weaves into the detailed analysis his own theological insights, even if briefly. He also has a very good grasp of the secondary literature overall, though one can see reliance on a number of traditional works such as Barrett, John Calvin, Don Carson, Leon Morris, and Ridderbos. As far as analysis of the Greek text, I noticed close work with Wallace.

I do think Klink’s work is commendable (I expect I will consult it on all kinds of nitty-gritty questions), but I have one quibble with his book. He has chosen to use androcentral language in his translations, preferring “man” or “he/him” in places where one would expect a gender neutral term. For example, re: John 3:5, Klink offers “unless a man is born from water and spirit” where the text reads εαν μη τις γεννηθη εξ θδατος και πνευματος. Klink does this not infrequently (see p206 on 3:18). I am surprised because the NET and the NIV2011 both chose to prefer gender neutral language in cases where the reference is to anyone regardless of gender (and thus it should not be a conservative litmus test). I take this matter very seriously so this would prevent me from using this as a textbook.

Clark Soles.jpgReading John for Dear Life: A Spiritual Walk with the Fourth Gospel (Jaime Clark-Soles; WJK). This is not an academic book, but a Bible study for laypeople. It is written in an accessible and attractive writing style, but also chock full of insight. If someone from church were to ask me what they might read for Bible study, I would offer this immediately. I find that so much Bible study material out there is utter rubbish – so glad to have some trustworthy, learned-but-engaging materials to recommend. Thanks Jaime!



10 thoughts on “Some New Works on the Fourth Gospel (Gupta)

  1. Thanks for mentioning the commentary, Nijay. I do wonder if the litmus test regarding gender translation is more yours than mine, however. I used “person” throughout my commentary for that very reason, and specifically translated anthropos as “humanity” in 2:25, the context just preceding the Nicodemus scene. How about in 2:10 where anthropos is used and I translate it as “everyone?” Or in 7:23 where it is used and I use “person?” Or in 12:43 where it is used and I use “humanity?” In short, I used “man” in just a couple places when the context seemed to align, like in ch. 3 when Jesus is dealing with a male, or in 3:27, when a specific “man” from 1:6 is in view. Certainly in 5:34 I could have been more neutral in the translation, but my comments are entirely neutral on that verse. I also make clear the neutrality of the term in 19:5, where a specific “man” is view. I think it is less “frequent” than you think. I also think there is some warrant for allowing the historical context (a conversation between two males) or textual allusions, to give just two example, to have a say in the translation of gender-based terms. If at least some authorial intention counts, my intentions were not to be androcentric, and I think the commentary as a whole, translation and explanation, shows that clearly.

    1. Thanks for the clarification, Mickey. I did personally notice that you did not always translate with male-preference, and yes you do not “comment” in a male-oriented fashion, but I think we can both admit that translation matters. I am not trying to make you feel bad, but I do think your downplaying some of your choices (as with 5:34) may be because you are a man. Perhaps you see those one or two occasions as benign, but they are not.

      As for 3:27, if Jesus wanted to give this generic saying with reference to a man, he would have said “man.” But my bigger concern is with 3:3, where Jesus is very clearly speaking generically.

      I am sorry if I offended you with some of my comments – loose words on my part. But you clearly deviate from what I think is common wisdom amongst contemporary translators (including conservative ones like NET) that you ought to be as inclusive as possible and as the text reflects. Even the HCSB says “someone” at 3:5! For my part, this is a serious problem, even if it should have been discussed at the editing level.

      Please hear that I commend your work overall – I just wanted to underscore that I was unhappy with some translation choices that were androcentric (and IMO without justification).

      1. Also, I am going back through your commentary, and this is not an isolated incident (though I believe you did not do this intentionally). See your translation of 5:44; 9:31, 11:9; 14:23. Look for example at 11:25

        εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή· ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ κἂν ἀποθάνῃ ζήσεται

        You translate it as “even if he dies” – notice, Jesus here is talking to a WOMAN! (Martha).

        Again, I know you are not wanting to be androcentric, but I just can’t see how you can justify this translation unless you lean towards translating with a male-oriented perspective. Please let me know if I am missing something here. I consider you a friend, and I don’t want to engage in slander – just concerned about your translation process and choices in such instances.

  2. I understand what you are saying, Nijay, but to be clear I was not writing a translation, I was writing a commentary. And I knew full well that my English expressions of the text of John were sitting beside the Greek, followed by fuller explanations. If I was giving a formal translation of John 3:3 without my own interpretive explanations, that is, without setting it in context of a particular dialogue between two males, I might not have taken the liberty I did. And by the way, even if what Jesus said in 3:3 can be interpreted generically, in my interpretation it was (also, or even primarily) quite specific in its response to one person. In the end, I think what in a couple places you labeled as translation choices on my part (and androcentric ones!), were in my view interpretation choices based upon historical and literary context. But that might be a discussion for another blog post, my friend….

    1. We can leave it for now, but to be clear (1) you do it not infrequently (see 5:44; 9:31, 11:9; 14:23 from my quick look again), and (2) I am very surprised you disassociate the translation from the commentary -why translate it at all in the ZECNT? How can you claim to be writing an “exegetical” commentary and then say “I was not writing a translation”? Might you be communicating to your pastoral audience that translations and the exegetical process do not connect? Again, why include a translation, then?

      Blessings, Mickey

  3. I think the referent of “he” in 11:25 is not a woman but Lazarus! Fair enough, it is a statement that should be understood in a generic and gender-neutral manner as well. But in the context, the discussion is surrounding a man, Lazarus, her brother. Is that not also an issue of interpretation?

    Not sure what you mean in 5:44, for I do not see it there, but in 9:31 the reference is to a particular man – Jesus. 11:9 is translated as gender neutral (“person”). And while 14:23 could have been more consistently gender-neutral to the end of the verse, and not just in the beginning, I (assume) I wanted to give the emphasis to the singular, especially in the context of a conversation with Judas, a man.

    None of this is to deny the problems with androcentric translations, or to assume my maleness is not an influencer in my interpretation. I am just not convinced it is as blatant, or in light of the historical context and the genre of a commentary as serious, of an offense as it is made out to be.

  4. Nijay, it is nice to see how protective you are of your students’ feelings. Ideological censorship based on translation-philosophy litmus tests are a bit of a surprise though.

  5. Nijay,
    I always find your reviews informative and insightful and for that I’m very grateful. However, picking on translation-philosophy was a bit odd for me.

    But that aside, you and Mickey are workers in the same field and many are benefiting from your labors of love; so be encouraged.

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