William Loader. Jesus in John’s Gospel: Structure and Issues in Johannine Christology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017. pp. 532. $45.00 pb ISBN: 978-0-8028-7511-2. Reviewed by Dolores L. CHRISTIE, Shaker Heights, OH 44122.


Lovers of John’s gospel will welcome this new book. While a stretch for the biblical neophyte, it is a rich compendium culminating in what the backcover calls “a lifetime of work on the Gospel of John.” There is an extensive (over twenty-five pages!) bibliography covering Bultmann and Brown to Schnakenberg and Sinovia. Added to the “usual suspects” are a few feminist scholars. The work is exquisitely complex and thorough. The author does not simply grab great bites of the text and move on. He nibbles gently, chewing each piece as one might a delicate dinner.

Loader combs meticulously through the extensive corpus of John, sometimes dismissing the conclusions of the well-known authors, but always giving them due respect. He tackles the issues of gnostic implications, dualism, double-entendre, Son of man, judgement, the “I am” sayings, irony--that is to say, most of the usual themes one finds in the gospel. As might be expected in a thorough study of John, Loader begins with a deferential nod to Rudolf Bultmann.

The book’s major assertion is that Jesus the Christ is the definitive revealer and envoy of the Father. Loader rejects the possible gnostic interpretation of this identifier in favor of a deep incarnational understanding of the Christ event. The recurring message is a realized eschatology: that Jesus is not the bearer of some future message of salvation but rather the literal incarnation of the message of God’s love. The “signs” (John’s take on miracles) point to the palpable Christ and a relationship through him to the Father both here and now and in the future. The death of Jesus is not THE saving event. Rather it is part of the timeline of the experience and mission of the Word. The gift of salvation is not found in a sacrificial event (the death) but in the personal encounter and invitation to relationship that Jesus embodies. Salvation is a person, offering a growing and fertile intimacy (cf. 1 John.) The gospel emphasizes the strong link between Father and Son as well as that of Jesus to the community of believers and them to one another.

Loader notes that the gospel author successfully navigates the gospel’s Sitz im Leben--a context with believers of diverse philosophies and backgrounds (as Raymond Brown has noted) He neatly joins the themes of Torah with the person of Jesus. In contrast to Matthew, John portrays Jesus not as interpreting Torah but supplanting it. Jesus is light, life, and truth--the one Logos.

Loader certainly knows his way through the scholarly highways of the gospel, but the work seems to me to be a trip down a more personal byroad--perhaps reflecting his own religious experience. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Sometimes the prose soars; sometimes the density and length of the analysis bog the reader down. Scholars of the fourth gospel will be happy to wade in the swamp. The extensive references by subject, person, and text provide a valuable asset to serious students of the gospel.

If I were to find any fault; I might press the author to exploit more thoroughly connections to the Johannine epistles, which illustrate the author’s point. Likewise, he might have explored the witness of the beloved disciple as the paradigmatic and multi-functional figure who, I suggest, provides evidence for Loader’s conclusions. I urge him to do so in his next book, which I will look forward to reading.