Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Fictionalization of John's Gospel Plus Commentary

Lee Harmon's John's Gospel: The Way it Happened is a three part presentation of the gospel story. In the fictionalization portion, Matthew, a young rather discouraged Jewish Christian of 28, refuses to transcribe John's words. John knows his life is coming to an end, and he wants to share his perceptions of Christ. A gentile neighbor, Ruth, agrees to transcribe the words and the fictional portion begins. It follows the structure of the gospel with discussion by the three participants.

The fictional account is interspersed with the selections from the gospel that are being discussed. This is useful. It allows the reader to refer back to the original text without having to read with an open Bible.

The third portion of the book is Lee Harmon's discussion of the theology and history surrounding the work. He has obviously done a great deal of research. Presenting his conclusions as he goes through the gospel story is good in one way, bad in another. It's good because it allows the reader to look into the history and theology at the appropriate point in the gospel. It's not so good because it breaks the train of the fictional narrative.

I enjoyed Harmon's discussions of theology and history. I can't say he convinced me, but it was interesting to read his conclusions. I did not enjoy the fictional portion. As with any attempt at a fictionalization of a text, the writer must stay close to the original. There's very little room to flesh out the characters. I found the characters in this book stereotypical and the dialog stilted.

I recommend this book if you enjoy speculation on what caused John to write the gospel the way he did. The author, who has written a similar book on Revelations, tries to bring the two Bible books together with interesting results. I thoroughly enjoyed those portions of the book without totally agreeing with them. They do give you food for thought. One thing I did find missing was a good bibliography. The author cites some works in an appendix, but that's not the same as giving a complete bibliography to allow the reader to pursue topics that interest him.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.