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Reading John: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles.

Talbert's commentary maintains the special focus that keeps this series from just rehashing the more thorough classic commentaries. It is an original, very close reading of the final form of the Gospel and Letters of John for their religious content, in light both of ancient Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian writings, and of present-day pastoral concerns. T. is not afraid to argue minority positions (e.g., that the Letters were written either before or during the Gospel's composition).

The structure of the commentary follows T.'s relative dating. Section 1 treats the Johannine epistles, beginning with 2, 3 John and the prologue of 1 John, then the remaining units of 1 John. Section 2 elucidates sections of the Fourth Gospel. A fine Appendix argues not for Gnostic but Hellenistic Jewish antecedents to the Johannine descending-ascending redeemer figure.

A major theme in T.'s commentary on the Gospel is how the divine presence, first in Jesus, then in the Spirit-filled Johannine community, supercedes traditional worship: "Temple sacrifices (2:13-3:21), or purification rituals (3:22-4:3), or Temple worship on Gerazim or in Jerusalem (4:4-54), or the water rituals that promise healing of the body (chap. 5), or Passover (chap. 6), or Tabernacles (chaps. 7-9), or Dedication (chaps. 10-11)" (177-78).

This is a commendable work of mature scholarship, unobtrusively applying T.'s expertise in Greco-Roman and Hellenistic Jewish settings, as well as in parallelism and chiasmus. T. aims at a broad audience, he writes clearly, with frequent recapitulations and summaries. Still, this is not "an easy read," because T. packs so much into each paragraph, reads the Greek text with such close grammatical detail, so frequently parenthesizes transliterations or lists of ancient parallels. Though written with pastoral concern, this commentary reminds me most of Bultmann's densely original commentary.
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Author:Kurz, William S.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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