Saturday, January 10, 2015

Johannine Theology: the Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse - Paul A. Rainbow


Who can find a finer resource on the writings of John?

Johannine Theology: the Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse
Author: Paul A. Rainbow
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpbooks.com)
Pages: 496

I hope that I am not the only one who can look forward to reading a nearly 500 page book on theology. Why would anyone enjoy such an undertaking? Well, for one, you don’t find this level of scholarship and exposition in the average pulpit and in best-selling titles.

It’s what I treasure most in Johannine Theology by Paul A. Rainbow. For example, his thoughts on John 6 alone, where Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, make reading the book worthwhile. I recall a Catholic friend telling me that a priest had done a study on this section, which might help me to better understand the passage. Though I declined the opportunity to hear the message, I doubt these words refer to receiving communion.  

Rainbow provides an excellent overview of this section of Scripture, which I believe gets at the real meaning. In summary, he states, “To eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, then, is to believe in him, specifically as the divine sent one who will give his flesh and blood for the life of the world” (218). As indicated by the context, to eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood is synonymous with having faith in Him.

What causes my heart to rejoice is not in finding an interpretation that reinforces my own belief, but in discovering exposition that gets at the heart of what Jesus meant. Readers consistently get sound exegesis like this throughout the book. I can’t imagine a finer volume that is equally as comprehensive and readable.

Perhaps the biggest possible stumbling block is Rainbow’s assumption that the apostle John is the author of the gospel and the three epistles that bear his name, and Revelation, or the Apocalypse as Rainbow prefers to call it. Some scholars do not accept this premise of John being the sole author of each of these works. In defense of the author, he provides an overview of the debate and analysis.

Regardless, Rainbow remarkably demonstrates the interconnectedness that he finds between each of these works. Even if one does not accept his premise, there is much that one can learn from his doctrinal analysis and summaries.

Fittingly, for one reviewing the writings of the apostle who includes love as one of his themes, Rainbow organizes his analysis in terms of relationships. He writes in the Introduction (chap. 1), “Accordingly, the following chapters will explore Johannine thought by concentrating on God the Father (chap. 2), the world-system (chap. 3), God’s self-revelation in the Son (chaps. 4-5), the Spirit-Paraclete (6), the believer united to the risen Christ (chaps. 7-8), and believers in relation to one another (chap. 9) and to the world (chap. 10)” (32).  There is much here about God and the interrelatedness of the members in the Trinity for those wanting to know more about God’s character.


Indexes of principal scripture passages, authors and subjects are included in the back of the book, which makes this a useful reference. It’s a phenomenal read but serves best as a resource.
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