Men and Women in the Church

A Third Way?

Debates about how men and women should function in the church have not gone away. Some (often called Complementarians) think the Bible clearly defines roles for each, and some (often called Egalitarians) think the Bible clearly gives freedom for all. Back and forth they go, often doing excellent studies of biblical texts and their background. Yet often we just lob verses across an ecclesiastical no-man’s land.

Is there another way? A way to move beyond this impasse? A way that is more, can I say, “Christian”?

There might be. Perhaps we can agree on something that can help us all move forward.

Take what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, for example. It’s a well-known verse often referenced in these discussions. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This comes in the middle of a letter that is about making sure Gentiles are treated as full members in the body of Christ, not as second-class Christians. Law shouldn’t divide us, Paul says. Rather grace should unite us.

The practical implication is that we should be working toward helping each other flourish in Christ as much as possible—regardless of whether we are Jew, Gentile, slave, free, men, women, young, old, rich, poor. Our aim is that all experience freedom in Christ (Gal 5:1-12) and life in the Spirit (Gal 5:13-26) to the fullest.

My point is this: regardless of our views on the roles of women in the church, at the very least Paul is asking us all to do more. Complementarians and Egalitarians can both do more to make sure women (and other groups) thrive in the grace of Christ.

Paul’s passionate argument in Galatians calls on all of us to seriously ask questions such as, “How can we all proactively do more? What can we do to make sure that the women in our congregation are growing in Christ, learning more of his grace, growing in their love for God and others? Are there practical changes we can implement that will aid and encourage all groups (but especially those who may be sidelined, because that is Paul’s point) to more fully use their gifts for the building up of the body of Christ? How can we make sure the talents, experiences, and opinions of women are appreciated, that their dignity as people in the image of Christ is affirmed? In this context, how can we look to the interests of others first rather than our own (Phil 2:3-4)?”

Of course, one of the best ways to get answers to these questions is to ask women and others, and listen to them.

Even if we don’t change our views on men and women in the church, Paul says we should seek practical ways to de-emphasize law and emphasize freedom in Christ.

Is that something we could all agree to do? How would you do it?

People image by Yvette W from Pixabay.

St. Louis Botanical Garden image by Andrew T. Le Peau.

Lent and Fasting

As series editor for the Through Old Testament Eyes commentaries, I’m excited that the newest volume on Matthew (releasing in March 2024) is from my good friend and first-rate scholar David Capes. To give you just a taste, here is a brief excerpt that is apt for the beginning of Lent.

Matthew 4:2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. Jesus fasted for forty days and nights, perhaps in imitation of Moses who remained on Mt. Sinai forty days and forty nights without bread and water (Dt 9:9; cf. Ex 24:18). We have seen already how often Matthew finds the correspondence between Moses and Jesus. Whether on the mount of temptation or Mount Sinai, both men were preparing for the next phase of their remarkable missions.

Fasting, of course, is part of Israel’s discipline before God. Jesus affirms it in the lives of his own disciples . . . . Throughout the Old Testament, fasting appears to come at various times for various purposes: (1) to mark seasons of joy (Zec 8:18–19); (2) to express deep mourning (Ne 1:4); (3) to ask for a safe journey (Ezr 8:21); (4) to demonstrate humility (Ps 69:10); (5) to seek answers (Da 9:3); (6) to accompany repentance (Joel 2:12). There are others too, but these represent some of the many faces of fasting. Scholars note that fasting seems to be on the rise with and after the exile. By the time of Jesus, fasting appears as a regular feature of Jewish piety for the Pharisees and the followers of John (cf. Did 8.1; Tertullian, On Fasting 16; Tacitus, Hist 5.4.3). But fasting, in and of itself, may not have any rewards if it is not done in the right way for the right reason.

According to the prophet Isaiah, fasting without a life of repentance, a life turned Godward, leads to nothing (Isa 58:2–5). But fasting that addresses injustice and meets the needs of the poor brings healing and help in time of need (58:6–9). Proper fasting, the Scripture says, results in your light breaking forth like the dawn and God’s glory standing watch over your rear guard. Perhaps Jesus fasts after his baptism—after this turning point in his life—inspired by the words of Isaiah 58. If he had meditated on the prophet’s teaching, he leaves his wilderness experience expecting the Lord to guide him and satisfy his body and bones in these parched places.*

David B. Capes, Matthew Through Old Testament Eyes (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2024), p. 76.

Dragons in the Bible

Dragons in the Bible? I can think of that red dragon in Revelation 12. But are there others?

In the outstanding Bible Project podcast series Chaos Dragons, Tim Mackie and Jon Collins explore the theme of monsters that surprisingly permeates the Bible from the first book to the last.

Chaos dragons are a common image in ancient near eastern literature, and the Bible writers take this and give it several twists for their own purposes. Such dragons often threaten humanity and the whole order God has created. They are associated with the disorder of the sea especially (see my blog here on that) but also of the wilderness. The Hebrew Bible uses a collection of related words (nahash, tanin, leviathan) to express this idea.

We remember leviathan from the book of Job which is in the sea (Job 41:1-4). Rahab is another such creature (Job 26:12; Is 27:1; 51:9). But we even find a reference on day five of creation—the “great sea creatures” (NIV, NASB) or “giant sea monsters” (CEV, NRSV) which translate tanin. Psalms 104 and 148 also use this word.

A connected image is the serpent itself from Genesis 3, seeking to undo the good order that God has created by deceiving the man and the woman. People can even take on dragonlike qualities. Pharoah is portrayed with these sorts of images in Ezekiel 29:3-4 (“great monster,” tanin). Even the scaly armor of Goliath (1 Sam 17:5) evokes this picture. Nebuchadnezzar is also described as a serpent or monster that swallows Israel (Jer 51:34). As the podcast series progresses, we hear the warning that if we are not careful, any of us can take on the role of a chaos creature.

As Mackie and Collins discuss in their friendly style, these symbols represent a constellation of ideas which consider how dark forces of chaos are not the rival of God but the rival of God’s creation. Episode 1 gives an overview of the theme throughout the Bible (as does their brief video). The other episodes go into more detail about these various instances and many others.

As we move into the New Testament, the theme of crushing the snake underfoot first found in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15) is tied more explicitly to dark spiritual forces. In Luke 10:17-19 Jesus associates the disciples’ power over demons with the authority he has given them to tread on snakes.  Likewise in Romans 16:20 Paul tells his readers that he looks forward to when God will “crush Satan under your feet.”

This worthwhile podcast series will add a valuable layer of depth and appreciation for an important theme that ties the story of the Bible together.

Why Are Bible Translations So Different?

How should gender language be handle in Bibles? Are some translations liberal and others conservative? Is it okay that I like some versions and not others? Why are Bible translations often so different? Which ones are most accurate? Isn’t a literal translation always the best?

Reading and studying the Bible has been a revered practice for centuries. Yet often we take for granted that it is there, not realizing the complex and fascinating process involved in making it available. Mark Strauss, who has been involved in many translation projects, pulls back the veil on all this in 40 Questions About Bible Translation, a book that models clarity and good sense. His volume is packed with so much helpful information that it is hard to summarize.

Translation begins with finding the oldest and best ancient manuscripts from earlier centuries. While most scholars agree, even in this a minority don’t, and that can lead to differences.

Then, besides knowing Greek and Hebrew, translators must know ancient cultures and how they used language and figures of speech. Consider, for example, how translations sometimes render phrases in ordinary language and sometimes don’t:

♦ “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth” meaning “he brings good news” (2 Samuel 18:25 ESV/NET)
♦ “Putting everything under his feet” meaning “under his authority” (Psalm 8:6 NASB/TLB)
♦ “I send My messenger before your face” meaning “ahead of you” (Mark 1:2 NKJV/NIV)
♦ “Having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity” meaning “after her marriage” (Luke 2:36-37 KJV/NASB)
♦ “His father . . . ran and fell on his neck” meaning “he hugged him” (Luke 15:20 ASV/CEB)

Strauss offers many such examples throughout the book to help us understand how Bible translators go about their important work.

Another reason for many of these differences in Bibles is the philosophy of translation. All “versions agree on two fundamental goals of translation, accuracy and readability” (p. 22). But it is nearly impossible to do both 100%. So some translations will aim primarily at accuracy (preserving the original language as much as possible), and others primarily at readability (making it understandable to current readers), while a third group tries to find a happy medium between the two.

We might think that word-for-word translation would be the best option, but often it is not. A literal word-for-word translation of Romans 7:23 would read, “I see but another law of members in me.” Yet no translation reads like this. If readers are confused, then the meaning is not communicated accurately. All versions, therefore, mix a word-for-word approach with readability to some degree or another. As a result, no translation is or can be literal.

Another challenge translators face is that a single Greek or Hebrew word can have multiple meanings. To illustrate, Strauss considers some meanings of the one English word board (see pp. 85-86):

A flat piece of wood (n.)—“Saw that board in half.”
A control panel (n.)—“Check the circuit board.”
A leadership team (n.)—“The board voted on new officers.”
Various flat surfaces (n.)—“skateboard,” “surfboard,” “blackboard”
Daily meals (n.)—“Does that include room and board?”
To get on a vehicle (v.)—“It’s time to board the plane.”

So a judgment call (that is, an interpretation) is always made on which meaning is intended for a particular Greek or Hebrew word, usually based on context.

While the differences in Bible versions can be confusing, it’s important to remember the advantages. It means we have a variety of translations well suited for different purposes–some for public reading, some for study, and others for devotional reading. In addition, if we come across phrases like “holy kiss,” “with . . . a double heart,” “make their ears heavy”—we may be left a bit befuddled. By comparing different translations, we can sometimes get a better sense of the range of meanings in a text. 40 Questions charts dozens of translations along a continuum to show how they each wrestle with the balance of accuracy and readability in different ways.

Space doesn’t allow me to mention all the interesting factors that go into translation which Strauss explains with such finesse. Just a few of the other topics he addresses include:

♦ The strengths and weaknesses of different translation philosophies
♦ How different ancient copies of Bible books help in translation
♦ Why there have been so many different translations over the centuries
♦ What has happened with gender language in the Bible over the last thirty years

Given how much is packed into this volume, it is now the basic go-to resource for what’s behind Bible translations.

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. My opinions are my own.

Image: Peachknee on Pixabay

How to Understand Revelation (2)

How do we interpret the Bible correctly? One key is to understand the genre (type of literature) a particular book or part of a book is written in. We know poetry uses images and parables are fictional. So we don’t interpret either genre literally.

One of the most difficult Biblical genres for modern readers to understand is that of apocalyptic literature. It’s difficult because almost no one uses this genre anymore. The following excerpt from Mark Through Old Testament Eyes (pp. 233-34) offers some help.

Apocalyptic literature is a genre that typically uses prophecies and visions to describe end times or other major cataclysmic events on the world scene that have religious significance.* Common themes include hope for the future in dire times, persevering faith in the midst of suffering, and coming judgment along with the victory of God. Such literature is not necessarily about the end of all human history or of the space-time universe. Often it concerns other critical episodes where God acts in history. . . .

Such literature is also characterized by vivid—what some would consider wild—imagery and dramatic metaphor. Dragons and other fantastic beasts, for example, often make prominent appearances. The purpose of such imagery is to break us out of our limited, human perspective that mere propositions and direct, literal speech cannot achieve. By touching our emotions and imaginations, these writings move us to see God and his work in the world in fuller, deeper ways. The prophets do not want us to get lost in intellectual analysis of the details of their visions but to be profoundly transformed by the overall effect that their writings create. They want to touch the heart, not just the mind.

Daniel and Revelation are the two most prominent examples of this kind of literature in the Bible. Other Old Testament books also have some apocalyptic sections or characteristics, like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Joel, as do a number of noncanonical books like Enoch and Baruch. . . .

Old Testament writers, for example, used the image of the earth or heavens shaking when God provided a victory for his people (Jdg 5:5; 2 Sa 22:8; Ps 46:6; 77:18). In none of these cases were there actual earthquakes nor did the earth melt, which we know to be the case since we are all still here. Were the prophets somehow mistaken? Was the Bible wrong? Only if we mistake the genre they were writing in.

The prophets also used this imagery of a shaking earth to describe God bringing judgment on his own people (Isa 2:19-21; 24:19-20; Jer 4:23- 24; Joel 3:16). When judgment came, it was likewise not accompanied by earthquakes but by Babylonian armies or those of other regional powers. . . .

The images of the earth or heavens shaking was used by the prophets to emphasize the magnitude of God’s action, the immensity of the change and destruction that was being described. We might call the assassination of a major world figure an “earth-shattering event.” But we do not mean the planet broke in pieces. Neither did Old Testament writers.

This is the literary and religious tradition that Jesus operates in when he answers the disciples’ questions about the destruction of the temple in Mark 13. And these are the Old Testament eyes through which the disciples would have seen his answers as well.**

As I said in the last post, the goal of reading the Bible is not to interpret it literally. The goal is to interpret it correctly. Understanding the type of literature we are reading is a great place to begin.

*For a fuller discussion see T. J. Johnson, “Apocalypticism, Apocalyptic Literature,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, eds. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 36-43.
**Two excellent books introducing prophetic, poetic and apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament are D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002) and Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015), the latter being somewhat more advanced.

Image by JL G from Pixabay

How to Understand Revelation

Recently I was with friends for a relaxed visit. In the course of our wide-ranging conversations, the topic of what God has in store for humanity came up.

I mentioned that I took comfort that the book of Revelation says (in 21:1) that there will be no more sea. Why? Because it doesn’t mean that oceans will dry up. Rather because in the Bible the sea is often considered the source of chaos, disorder, and evil, Revelation is saying there will be no more evil. Indeed, just a few verses later Revelation (in 21:4) interprets itself by referencing Isaiah 25:8 to make this exact point:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

My friends were somewhat surprised at this. They thought the text said what it meant. No more oceans.

Where did I get this idea about the sea?

Regarding Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus, in the boat with the frightened disciples calms the sea, I wrote in Mark Through Old Testament Eyes (p. 101):

The sea is often the place associated with evil and chaos in the Jewish mind. Apocalyptic literature is especially full of these resonances. In Isaiah 27:1 we read, “In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword—Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling ser¬pent; he will slay the monster of the sea.” And Daniel 7:2-3 says, “Daniel said: ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea’ ” (see also Ps 89:9-10).

The book of Revelation picks up this very image in chapter 13 in which a blasphemous evil beast emerges from the sea to oppose God and his people. Later Babylon’s judgment is symbolized by a millstone thrown into the sea (Rev 18:21), appropriately sending evil back into the source of the forces of chaos.

One reason Jonah encourages his shipmates to throw him into the sea is that Jonah knows the sea, being a source of chaos and evil, is the appropriate place of judgment for someone like him who has disobeyed God.

Other places in the gospel of Mark show this same understanding of the sea. It is where the demon-infested pigs rush (Mk 5:13), and it is where those who cause little ones to stumble are sent (Mk 9:24).

Part of the problem my friends had was a failure to see the category of writing the Old Testament prophets were using and how that affected their use of language–as well as when those in the New Testament borrowed their language. The prophets intentionally used the genre of apocalyptic literature which meant using dramatic symbols to make dramatic points.

Why is that important to know? Because the goal of reading the Bible is not to interpret it literally. The goal is to interpret it correctly.

Next post: How to read the genre of apocalyptic literature in Scripture, and what we should keep in mind to interpret it correctly.

Image by Joe from Pixabay

Revelation Through Old Testament Eyes

Revelation is perhaps the most fascinating and least understood book in the whole Bible. There are more flawed interpretations than warts on a frog, bumps on a log, fleas on a dog, clichés in a blog, or rants from a demagogue.

When Hitler and Mussolini threatened the world, people thought Revelation predicted it. They were wrong. When the Middle East oil crisis hit in the 1970s and then Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait in the 1990s, people thought those were in Revelation. They were wrong. This list goes on, and they were wrong.

Part of the problem is we jump right to detailed interpretation. Where will the battle of Armageddon be fought? What nations will be involved? And most to the point, when will it happen? We are consumed by curiosity about the future and end up depressed about all the terrible things we think will happen.

But we can overcome these wrong-headed approaches—by starting where the author of Revelation started. This New Testament writer was saturated with the Old Testament. In fact, Revelation is thicker with Old Testament images, motifs, metaphors, symbols, and literary patterns than any other New Testament book. If we don’t know and understand the Old Testament, the book of Revelation will forever be a mystery.

That’s why, as series editor, I was so pleased when Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman III agreed to write a volume on this enigmatic New Testament book for the Through Old Testament Eyes commentaries. Focusing our attention on this background roots us solidly so we don’t fly off into wild speculations.

Longman offers important verse-by-verse coverage, yet one of his emphases I especially appreciate is how key Old Testament books shape Revelation—Daniel, Psalms, and Ezekiel.

And consider Exodus. Why all those plagues in Revelation? They bring to mind those of Exodus whose story of rescue dominates the Old Testament. That redemption comes to completion in Revelation.

The last half of Exodus focuses on the tabernacle, the precursor to Solomon’s Temple and to the heavenly Temple which comes down at the end of Revelation. This signifies God’s presence and rule over the whole earth.

All this allows us to clear away pointless conjectures and see what the book is really about. Which is, as Tremper puts it so clearly:

Despite present trouble, God is in control, and he will have the final victory. God wins in the end even though his people at the present live in a toxic culture and are marginalized and even persecuted. This leads to a secondary theme. Hope that leads to perseverance. Starting in the letters to the seven churches but continuing through the visions, the author’s purpose is to engender hope in the hearts of his Christian readers so that they will have the resolve to withstand the turbulent present. (p. 14)

Unlike the way we often read Revelation, I find this truly encouraging.

Do We Need the Cross to Be Forgiven?

A Lenten Reflection

Why would God need the cross to forgive us? Isn’t he powerful and merciful enough that he could just have declared us forgiven and reconciled? Why would Jesus have to die?

This is a point Muslims sometimes make. In fact, they say the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 backs their claim. The father (clearly a stand-in for God) did not die. We have no cross, no incarnation, no Son of God, no savior, no resurrection. In fact, the father doesn’t even pronounce forgiveness. The father simply wills their reconciliation and demonstrates that by restoring the son’s standing through clothing him in the best robe (which would be the father’s best robe) and putting the family signet ring on his finger.

No, they say, Jesus is clearly a good Muslim who affirms Muslim teaching. Christians, they say, have perverted his message.

This challenge was key in driving Kenneth Bailey deeply into this famous story. The result was his book, The Cross and the Prodigal. As he notes there, he found, to the contrary, that the cross, that sacrifice is profoundly embedded in this parable.

Long the father suffers. Devastated by the abrupt and painful rupture with his son, daily he waits, looking in the distance, hoping to see his son return, his son whom he misses dearly.

When he does spot him, the father sacrifices his dignity by running to meet his son. Nothing is more sacred to a Middle Eastern patriarch than his honor. Such men of his age and stature do not run in excitement like school boys. They float. They move with slow decorum, befitting their place in the community.

In addition, for such a man to run would require him to gather up his robes so he could move quickly and easily. This would shame him even more by exposing his legs in public. This may seem a minor point to those of us who do not live in honor-shame cultures. But for the father it was a very costly act.

The children of the town, “amazed at seeing this respected village elder shaming himself publicly,” would no doubt race after the man to see what the to-do was all about. Others would follow, including his servants who are present to receive instructions from the father regarding his son. In this way, openly for all to see, the father covers the son’s shame and humiliation, and takes it all on himself (p. 67).

Further, he acts as his own intermediary. Mediators are common in such cultures. Two people who are at odds do not confront each other directly lest one loose face. The father took this risk of rejection. Indeed, having been the grievously injured party, custom would require that the father wait and aloofly receive his groveling son—which is exactly what the son expects. The father again sets aside his honor for the prospect of joyful reconciliation.

I already mentioned the robe and the ring, costly gifts in themselves. The father also sponsors a lavish feast for the whole community. The son, you see, has not only alienated himself from the whole family but from everyone who knew of his despicable behavior—and in a small, tightly-woven village, everyone would know. They would all have felt shamed by the son. If the patriarch of their community is dishonored, they are all dishonored. The father must publicly demonstrate the son’s restored standing (restored honor) so others will do the same out of respect for the father.

During Lent, as through the whole year, we marvel at the God who surrendered his honor and his wealth to make forgiveness and reconciliation possible for we who wandered off.

Forgiveness comes with a cost. Our forgiveness comes with the cross.

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

Christmas in a Minor Key

Maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of Christmas music is in a minor key. Even many of our favorites.

  • What Child Is This?
  • O Come, O Come Immanuel
  • I Wonder as I Wander
  • Mary Did You Know

Every key has its own distinct color and mood. But since Christmas is a joyful time of year, we would think it calls for a solid, all-is-right-with-the-world major key, which it often does. Then why do so many carols make use of the sometimes mournful or uncertain tones of a minor key? Even something as cheery as “Carol of the Bells” is minor!

We can understand it for “O Come, O Come Immanuel” which focuses on the centuries that the people of Israel waited for a Messiah to come and rescue them from the oppression of other nations. A minor key can also convey a sense of mystery, which the story of God becoming human certainly contains.

But why does “We Three Kings” mix the minor-like Aeolian key with a chorus that is major? Is it to give the carol a Middle Eastern flavor in light of the magi coming from the east? Perhaps.

The text of this carol by John Henry Hopkins Jr. may also give us a clue. The five tightly constructed standard five verses include an introductory and closing verse. The three verses in the middle are each devoted to one of the three gifts, each in the voice of a different wise man.

“Gold I bring to crown him again,” declares this first. This verse is appropriately upbeat, noting how gold is associated with kingship and, in this case, a king whose reign will last forever.

The second gift, frankincense, is burned in worship, giving a pungent odor that reminds us both of God’s presence and of our prayers rising to God. As the second wise man says:

Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God on high.

It’s when we get to myrrh that the minor key truly comes in to play. This spice was commonly used when burying the dead, including Jesus’ burial (John 19:39). Thus:

. . . its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Here we find the reason a minor key is sometimes employed. Christmas carols often point out that the Incarnation is a necessary prelude to the cross. “I Wonder As I Wander,” for example, explicitly opens with the question of why the Savior was born only to die.

The last verse of “We Three Kings” doesn’t stop at the cross, however. It completes the story by looking forward to the resurrection even as it summarizes the previous three:

Glorious now behold him arise;
King [gold] and God [frankincense] and sacrifice [myrrh].

We rightly celebrate the joy of Christmas and the promise brought by the Prince of Peace. Yet it is a story that is deeply human as well as deeply divine, mixing both sorrow and joy. The mixture makes the joy much more than a superficial happiness, but something that is deep and lasting.

John Through Old Testament Eyes

The Old Testament presents true Judaism as tenaciously monotheistic. No god compares to the One God who is in a category by himself. In fact, the gods of other nations are actually no gods at all. Worship of them is absolutely forbidden.

Then how could the Jews who first followed Jesus believe he was the divine Son of the Father, and still defend the monotheism that is so strongly proclaimed in the Old Testament? That was the challenge John took up in his gospel.

Karen Jobes keys in on this central question in John Through Old Testament Eyes, the second in a set I am the series editor for—the Through Old Testament Eyes New Testament Commentaries. One way John presents Jesus as divine is by using Old Testament metaphors, images, and symbols that are said to be characteristic of God (such as judge, king, and shepherd). But John does not collapse the divine Father and Son, suggesting these are simply two names for the same person. After all, he (and Jesus) say clearly that the Son was sent by the Father.

How then does John maintain his monotheism? One way, as Jobes writes, is by redefining what monotheism means—as the unity of the divine Father and the Son. They are, for example, one in will and one in glory.

This is not the only question Jobes addresses. She ably covers the entire gospel, its structure, and various themes. All the while she emphasizes the richness of Old Testament background, motifs, and literary patterns that illuminate the fourth gospel.

Personally, I have found this approach most rewarding. When puzzling through difficult passages in the New Testament, I often find that the Old Testament roots of those sections provide the “aha” moments that resolve the mystery.

The gospel of John is often the first encounter that people have with the Bible. As a college student, like so many others, Karen Jobes was transformed by it. That love for the book is wonderfully married with the skills of a seasoned scholar, resulting in this readable and enlightening book.