Mary L. COLOE, Dwelling in the Household of God: Johannine Ecclesiology and Spirituality. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2006. pp 226. $26.96 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-5988-5.
Reviewed by Kelle LYNCH-BALDWIN, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467.

Dwelling in the Household of God is a clear, methodical presentation of the theory of the “household of God” as the replacement of the Temple and locus of identity for the fledgling Johannine community. Coloe meticulously demonstrates that throughout the Fourth Gospel, the narrative is laden with allusions to household dynamics and structures which support the evangelist’s efforts of presenting the gospel message through parmoiasis, (double-vision or two realities). These allusion often require a “second-reading” of the text with an eye alert for their presence which not only situate the events in a socio-historical context, they build upon one another much like the bricks of a house to erect an ecclesiological framework unique to the Johannine account.

Beginning with the rudimentary concepts of the roles of the persons of the household such as witness, friend (in general and friend to the bridegroom), mother, son, and children Coloe’s careful research slowly and carefully reveals the theological symbolism that the relationship of persons in the “household” conveyed to the original audience as they sought to develop a communal identity. These relational nuances are often missed or mistakenly (and anachronistically) assumed by the contemporary reader; a point that adds to the importance of this work. However, the argument does not cease with this accomplishment. Dwelling in the Household of God proceeds to bring to light in a similar fashion the significance of activities (welcoming, anointing, dwelling) of the household as well as the understanding of living and dying for the household community. Through this process, the text uncovers a perspective on Johannine ecclesiology that is deeply spiritual yet profoundly experiential and practical.

The weakness of the text is not so much with the book itself as with the marketing or presentation. This is the second work of Johannine scholarship by Mary Coloe, the first being, God Dwells With Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. Indeed, Coloe herself states that “[t]his book began where my last book ended […])” (200) a fact that is evident throughout the text. Although she makes a valiant effort to explicate intertexual references and major correlations between the two books, the reader who is unfamiliar with the earlier text enters this reading at a distinct disadvantage. A recommendation to the publisher would be to package these works as a two-volume set.

Dwelling in the Household of God is well-written and solidly researched. Drawing equally from classical and contemporary Johannine scholarship the book not only successfully demonstrates the proposed Johannine ecclesiological theory, it would also serve well as a commentary on the selected pericopes. The contributions it makes to ecclesiology and Johannine studies are both unique and provocative. Coloe has done an immeasurable service through her “second reading” and serves as an inspiration for others to do the same.

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