After five years of study and writing, retired Episcopal Bishop John Spong has published a new book that argues that the Gospel of John signals in several ways that its author did not intend it to be read as a literal account of Jesus’ life and teachings.
Spong summarizes his conclusions by suggesting:
- John is a composite of writings from at least three writers, none of whom were John Zebedee or any other of Jesus’ disciples.
- Jesus probably didn’t say the things that are attributed to him in the gospel.
- Probably none of Jesus’ “signs” ever actually happened.
- Many of the characters in the book were invented by the author.
- The book itself ridicules literal interpretations.
- The author exaggerates details to signal that we are not dealing with literal reporting.
Clearly (and not unsurprisingly), this is a very different way of reading the Gospel of John than has been customary. What might change in our understanding of Jesus, the Gospel process, and the life of the church?