Dr. Schneiders' text served as a great inspiration for a Sunday homily a few weeks ago. My initial observations concerned the sound scholarship and very readable style of her book. I then remarked how at times her words "got under my skin." The comments about "chauvinistic men" seemed unnecessary. I thought, perhaps, she should just "get over it." After all she dedicated the book to two men! However, as my thoughts continued I expressed my gratitude that she did not just get over it. Christians need the prophetic voice! And, the prophetic word that Sandra Schneiders offers far surpasses a few comments about the male species.
Sometimes a text, ritual or symbol can become so familiar that one fails to see anything new. Drawing on the best of traditional scholarship and employing the insights of feminist criticism the author graciously brings the reader to "see things again for the first time."
Part One of the book introduces the reader to the world of John's gospel. This part of the text serves as a solid introduction to modern historical-critical scholarship and the biblical text. While the author suggests the more advanced scholar might skip this section and move directly into Part Two, the ease with which one can move through the first section suggests otherwise. Dr. Schneiders provides both a context and solid foundation for the remaining work.
In the second part of the book the author carefully explores themes of discipleship, symbolism, commitment and community to achieve her goal of weaving into one theology and spirituality. Academic integrity, not compromise, effectively engages the human spirit in search of meaning, purpose and hope within the Johannine text. Familiar stories breath new life! The many personalities of the gospel come to full expression. The feminist perspective of the author throws fresh light on the themes and characters challenging the reader to pause and consider the new possibilities on a level more profound than cognitive comprehension.
For Sandra Schneiders, the book represents a coming together of many years of work. As noted in the introduction, the text is the compilation of articles written as early as 1978 and over the span of twenty years. The author updated the material and arranges the compilation with solid direction. If there is any weakness to be identified the weakness arises from the book's being a compilation. At times the basic methodology is repeated as if it were an introduction. While this allows a student or discussion group participant to take up the text at almost any point, it can prove distracting when reading from cover to cover.
In the revised edition the author incorporates a Study Guide prepared by John Wronski, S.J. The guide can prove useful for classroom or adult faith formation. Dr. Schneiders' feminist reexamination of the authorship of the gospel should inaugurate some interesting discussion—professional and informal. The extensive bibliography serves as a testament to the outstanding scholarship and serves as an excellent source for other scholars.
That a book has a second edition within four years says enough about the quality and value of a text. The book should be read by anyone with a serious interest in the Gospel of John. The book needs to be read by those who fear a prophetic voice, those who only what to see what they have already seen. Gospel faith demands an attentive hearing and a vision searching for the new possibilities of God's reign.