Review: Johannine Theology

9780830840564Paul A. Rainbow is Professor of New Testament at Sioux Falls Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Rainbow has a M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a Th.M. from Harvard Divinity School, and a D.Phil. from Oxford University. Rainbow is a distinguished and published Biblical scholar, having written and/or contributed to several books, journals, and other publications during his nearly three decades at Sioux Falls Seminary. Still, his most recent publication, Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse (IVP Academic, 2014) remains at the top of his academic accomplishments—and for good reason.

Johannine Theology opens with an excellent introduction on Johannine literature and the task of constructing a biblical theology of the Johannine corpus. Rainbow does the reader a great service by surveying the landscape of methodology when it comes to biblical theology, and firmly positions his present endeavor organized around personal entities—namely the relation among the divine persons and the world made up of its various constituents (p. 28). This Trinitarian approach to the Johannine corpus is both unique and helpful in the overall analysis of Johannine theology. The latter portion of the introduction is dedicated to typical preliminary matters, such as date, authorship, etc. Among other things, Rainbow’s discussion concerning Johannine authorship of the corpus, ultimately concluding that it was John the son of Zebedee, will be a clear high point for most readers.

Following the introduction, Rainbow beings Johannine Theology with the person of God the Father (ch. 2), the world-system (ch. 3), and God’s self-revelation in the Son (chs. 4-5). The reader will be confronted with a number of excellent and thoroughly investigated subsections within each chapter, and the high points are many. Furthermore, Rainbow explores the Johannine understanding of the Spirit-Paraclete (ch. 6), the believers united to the risen Christ (chs. 7-8), and believers relationship to one another (ch. 9) and to the world (ch. 10). Again, each section has a number of subsections, and Rainbow does a wonderful job guiding the reader across the entirety of the Johannine corpus as he surveys each. Each chapter is well-written and meticulously documented, and Rainbow presents himself as one well-acquainted with the literature at hand.

The work that has been done on the Johannine corpus is numerous. In fact, as Rainbow rightly acknowledges, it is nearly impossible to have read everything that has been written about the canonical works attributed to John. As one with a longstanding interest in the Johannine corpus in general and Johannine theology in particular, I found Rainbow’s treatment and organization very helpful. I was especially interested in, and even excited about, the chapter (ch. 3) devoted to the Johannine understanding of the world and its usage across the corpus. Rainbow helpfully positions the conversation as having a deep-seated dependence on the Hebrew Bible and the Judaic tradition, and his survey of such was helpful. However, I was surprised that there wasn’t more discussion dedicated to eschatology, but it in no way detracted from the usefulness of the book as a whole. Lastly, I always appreciate a good index, especially in a book like Johannine Theology, and I found the threefold index (authors, subjects, and principal scripture passages) at the conclusion of the book to be intentionally curated for future reference.

To the writing of Johannine theology there appears to be no end in sight. Of course, this is far from a negative reality. Both new insight and understanding of perspectives are imperative to the life of the conversation, especially when it comes to something as difficult to understand as the Johannine corpus. Nevertheless, Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse by Paul A. Rainbow demonstrates itself to be a remarkable resource, and one that lends to the conversation in ways unlike many of its predecessors. Rainbow is both exegetically and theologically sensitive in his treatment of the Johannine literature, and his insights are carefully guided by a keen historical and hermeneutical awareness. In other words, Rainbow is consistently resilient in all the right places. If you are looking for a well-executed engagement with Johannine theology then Johannine Theology: The Gospel, the Epistles and the Apocalypse should be one of the top resources on your list. It comes highly recommended!


I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.      

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