The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mysticby John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong, bestselling author and popular proponent of a modern, scholarly and authentic Christianity, argues that this last gospel to be written was misinterpreted by the framers of the fourth-century creeds to be a literal account of the life of Jesus when in fact it is a literary, interpretive retelling of the events in Jesus' life through the medium
John Shelby Spong, bestselling author and popular proponent of a modern, scholarly and authentic Christianity, argues that this last gospel to be written was misinterpreted by the framers of the fourth-century creeds to be a literal account of the life of Jesus when in fact it is a literary, interpretive retelling of the events in Jesus' life through the medium of fictional characters, from Nicodemus and Lazarus to the "Beloved Disciple." The Fourth Gospel was designed first to place Jesus into the context of the Jewish scriptures, then to place him into the worship patterns of the synagogue and finally to allow him to be viewed through the lens of a popular form of first-century Jewish mysticism.
The result of this intriguing study is not only to recapture the original message of this gospel, but also to provide us today with a radical new dimension to the claim that in the humanity of Jesus the reality of God has been met and engaged.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author
John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000, has been a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at more than 500 other universities all over the world. His books, which have sold well over a million copies, include Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy; The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic; Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World; Eternal Life: A New Vision; Jesus for the Non-Religious, The Sins of Scripture, Resurrection: Myth or Reality?; Why Christianity Must Change or Die; and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He writes a weekly column on the web that reaches thousands of people all over the world. To join his online audience, go to www.JohnShelbySpong.com. He lives with his wife, Christine, in New Jersey.
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I have read several works by the author, and this one continues to give insight into the authentic Christianity that the author has been advocating for decades now. The form of Christianity espoused in this book, like in many other works by this author, maybe hard to swallow for some, but to me, it rings true. I was a little apprehensive about the content because of the title, but I'm glad I decided to add this book to my collection. It was a fast read for me, and like his other books, mind-blowing in its revelations. It actually made me want to go back and read the Gospel of John again, now being able to see the story of Jesus in a brand new light.
In this book (probably Bishop Spong's last), we see a challenging interpretation of the fourth gospel (according to john). The author claims that the primary characters in the gospel are invented to tell a story, to illustrate the meaning of the life of Jesus. That concept is a challenge to literalists, and confounding to non-Christians. This book, by one of my favorite authors, gave me a new understanding of an important book in the Bible. I recommend reading both. Quote worth remembering: "One cannot know the essence of love until one can love another - not because another deserves love, but because another simply is.
I'm a big fan of Bishop Spong, and hesitate to criticize the work of such an icon, but in the Nook edition I found two curious errors: Near the beginning is a reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls found near Nag Hammadi on the Dead Sea (I skipped over this assuming it represented a simple digitizing issue of the sort we see when publishers contract with somebody in Baluchistan), then near the end is another reference to the Gospel of Thomas claimed to be part of the Dead Sea Scrolls! Nag Hammadi is in Egypt, nowhere near the Dead Sea. And the Gospel of Thomas was actually part of the Nag Hammadi Library, not the Dead Sea Scrolls. I'm flabbergasted.