Significant Textual Mines

The Gospel of John: A Commentary, by Rudolf Bultmann (Westminster, 1971, 744 pp., $15), and The Gospel According to John (xii–xxi), by Raymond E. Brown (Doubleday, 1970, 670 pp., $8), are reviewed by James M. Boice, pastor, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What is longer than the German edition of Rudolf Bultmann’s monumental commentary on John (Das Evangelium des Johannes, 563 pages)? Answer: the English edition! Well, that’s one answer anyway. Another answer is: the second volume of Raymond E. Brown’s painstaking commentary on John for the Anchor Bible series (670 pages, total 1,208) which now completes that commentary. (A third volume, on the Epistles of John, is still expected from his pen.)

Other writers might fill commentaries of this length with a lot of verbiage, but this is not true of Brown and Bultmann. These texts are a mine of information. Between them they offer the English reader what is probably the most comprehensive survey of scholarly insight into the text and content of the Fourth Gospel ever available, plus consistently original contributions toward understanding that book.

Bultmann’s work is the more original, though it contains all the weaknesses (as well as the strengths) of the Bultmannian approach to New Testament criticism. Bultmann’s strengths are well known. Few will be unimpressed by his thoroughness in this volume (seventy-one pages on the prologue alone) and his mastery of exegetical and philological detail. The careful student will appreciate his attempts to explain why the word logos is dropped after the prologue, the difference between “panta” and “pas” in the opening verses, and so on.

However, the same student might also be distressed by Bultmann’s ...

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