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?
You can read more of Spong’s own commentary on his book at the Huffington Post. Or better yet, read The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic (HarperOne, 2013) and then tell us what you think.
Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Former President Jimmy Carter is featured in an interview over at Huffington Post, occasioned by his new book NIV Lessons From Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter. As you may remember, President Carter has for many years taught a Sunday School class at his church in Plains, Georgia, and this book brings his observations and reflections together with the Bible text. (Yet another tactic for marketing additional copies of the best-selling book of all time, as Timothy Beal has noted in The Rise and Fall of the Bible, but that’s a topic for another time.)
I’ve always appreciated Jimmy Carter’s honesty and forthrightness, and he offers some thoughtful responses to what have now sadly become common questions about the Bible- did God write it? How can you read Genesis and believe in science? What about women, and gays, and exclusivist faith?
There are many verses in the Bible that you could interpret very rigidly and that makes you ultimately into a fundamentalist. When you think you are better than anybody else — that you are closer to God than other people, and therefore they are inferior to you and subhuman — that leads to conflict and hatred and dissonance among people when we should be working for peace.
It’s well worth a look.