Michael J. BUCKLEY. What Do You Seek? The Questions of Jesus as Challenge and Promise. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016. Pp. xii + 146. $18.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-8028-7395-8. Reviewed by James T. CROSS, Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL 33574.


            Among the questions asked by the Jesus of the Gospels, is there a deeper purpose than the literal interrogative? Celebrated Jesuit priest and theologian Michael J. Buckley answers affirmatively in What Do You Seek? The Questions of Jesus as Challenge and Promise. This book contains 14 chapters, each of which focuses upon one of the many questions asked by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Buckley claims that Jesus’ questions “do not indoctrinate or urge” but instead “reach into a person and disclose what is already there” (Buckley 5). This reach is a challenge, and the sought after disclosure is promising, hence the book’s subtitle.

            Although the first question that Buckley explores—which he uses as his book’s title—is also Jesus’ first question in the Fourth Gospel, Buckley does not thereafter study questions as given sequentially in John. For example, Buckley’s focal question in Chapter 2 is one given in John 13, and Buckley’s third question is one located in John 9. It is not clear why he proceeds so, but it does reflect his lack of attention to what the Evangelist might be teaching via the structure of the Gospel. When Buckley asserts that it “is better to see these questions as constituting…not a single developing narrative, but more a field of force,” his supportive reference is not a Johannine scholar, but is rather, oddly, a biographer (Buckley 11-12).

            Indeed, since only four biblical scholars are cited a total of 13 times in the entire book, it is apparent that Buckley is more interested in sharing how he personally is challenged and enlightened by the 14 questions he has selected. That is not necessarily a weakness, as long as the reader recognizes the possibility of encountering erroneous eisegesis. One example of the latter is his limitation of John’s Cana wedding narrative (John 2:1-12) to its implications for ministry to the poor (Buckley 69-77). Yet despite his minimal reference to exegetical research, Buckley’s reflections do include moving lessons. An example of this is his Chapter 5 on John 21:15-16, where Buckley concludes that we can be confident about Jesus’ forgiveness because of Jesus’ comprehensive knowledge of each of us (Buckley 57).

For those who desire a longer and researched treatment of Jesus’ questions in John, Douglas Estes’ The Questions of Jesus in John is one of the most recent (2013). Nevertheless, Buckley’s book is promising in its potential to provide spiritual stimulation to catechumens and retreatants, especially if read in tandem with a text such as Raymond E. Brown’s A Retreat With John The Evangelist.