The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic

John Shelby Spong


John Shelby Spong contends in The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic 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 structured 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. Spong’s intriguing study seeks 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. (Modified from Amazon Kindle review)


Below are the chapters we will consider this coming week.


Wednesday, February 6

Part 2 The Book of Signs: Mythological Characters Wrapped Inside History


Chapter 8 The Mother of Jesus: Introduction to the Book of Signs

Chapter 9 Nicodemus: What It Means to Be Born of the Spirit

Chapter 10 The Samaritan Woman by the Well: A New Dimension of the Jesus Experience

Chapter 11 The Gentile Official’s Son: The Meaning of God and Faith

Chapter 12 The Man Crippled for Thirty-Eight Years

Chapter 13 Andrew and Philip: The Red Sea and Manna

Chapter 14 The Brothers of Jesus: A Debate on Origins

Chapter 15 The Man Born Blind: The Split from Judaism Is Complete

Chapter 16 Lazarus: Breaking the Final Barrier


Wednesday, February 13

Part 3 The Farewell Discourses and the High Priestly Prayer


Chapter 17 Peter and the Commandment to Love

Chapter 18 Not Atonement, but Glory! John Clarifies Jesus’ Death

Chapter 19 The Analogy of the Vine: God is Indwelling, Not External

Chapter 20 The Prayer of Jesus: Gethsemane Transformed