Friday, April 11, 2014

Why John is Different (Scepter Publishers)

Over the past several years, I have belonged to a Bible Study group that studied the Gospel of John and immediately followed that with the Book of Revelation. We primarily used the Agape Bible Study, which was hit or miss for me. I was looking for a Catholic book on John and/or Revelation that I could read and reference. Fortunately, I finally found the book I was looking for in Why John is Different. Unfortunately, the Bible Study is almost over. Nevertheless, I am still pleased to own this book.

When I requested to review a copy of Why John is Different, I thought I would be getting a book that explains how and why the Gospel of John is different from the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, what I actually got was that and so much more. The author, Fr. Juan Chapa, not only covers John's Gospel in this book; he also addresses John's three Epistles and the Book of Revelation. For those unfamiliar with Fr. Chapa, he is the current director of the Navarre Bible project. The Navarre Bible project is a great Bible series that includes the RSV text, commentaries, and explanations of the text. If you are a serious Catholic Bible student, you'll want that series. That's another review, though.

Why John is Different begins by putting the works of John in their historical context. Fr. Chapa examines the Johannine community; Christianity in the First Century; and the background for John's writings, like conflict with Judaism and the emergence of Gnostic thought. He then dives into the meat of the book, which is broken into three parts - The Fourth Gospel, The Letters, and Revelation. As to be expected, the Gospel receives the most attention in this book with 7 of the 10 chapters devoted to it. The first three chapters discuss authorship and apostolic testimony; similarities and differences between John and the Synoptics; and the overall content and structure of the Gospel.

We then jump into the meaty parts of the book with chapters 4-6. These chapters cover the signs Jesus performed, Jesus' famous discourses, and Jesus' Passion. I particularly enjoyed reading about the Bread of Life discourse. This passage in John 6:26-59 is a hotly debated passage. Oddly enough proponents of Sola Scriptura try and pass this off as Jesus speaking metaphorically. For those of us blessed enough to belong to a rich Tradition of the Catholic Church, it is clear that Jesus is speaking of the Eucharist. Fr. Juan Chapa says, "Jesus shows that he now is food not only as the Word of the Father (the teaching of God) but insofar as his flesh and blood are food for mankind. After recapitulating the previous ideas of the discourse (see 6:48-50); he affirms that he is the Bread and gives himself as Bread to be eaten."

This book is the perfect text for those looking to dive deeper into the writings of St. John. Represented symbolically as the eagle, St. John's writings "soar to the heights of the divinity, just as the eagle soars upward to the sun." With this book, you will understand not only how John's Gospel (and other writings) differ from the Synoptics, but why they have the insight and theology they do. It should be noted, however, that this is not a verse-by-verse explanation of these writings. You will therefore want to pair this book with a trusted Bible commentary, like the Navarre Bible to get the full effect. So if the writings of John have ever puzzled or intimidated you, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and be intimidated no more!

This book was provided to me for free by Scepter Publishers in exchange for an honest review. If you found the review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!