Written That You May Believe
John's Gospel Uncovered
by Fran DeChant
To begin Sandra Schneiders' exhaustive study and interpretation
of the fourth Gospel, Written That You May Believe, is to get started
on a search for hidden treasure. But be warned, the reader is required
to bring to the quest an expeditionary supply of energy, patience
and the resolve to explore new ground.
The expectation that one will view familiar scenery of the Johannine
landscape comes with the caveat that it ought to be done with unbiased
eyes, or at least as free of preconception as can be managed!
The 21 chapters of the Gospel of John have been fertile furrows
plowed, replowed and endlessly examined by generations of scriptural
exegetes. Tantalizing clues as to the true authorship of the Gospel
and the central mystery of the identity of the Beloved Disciple
keep them coming back. Sandra Schneiders proposes a feminist interpretation
in which literary construction of the Gospel as a whole, along
with details of narrative, are held up to a more inclusive examination.
At stake is the unusual prominence of strong woman figures throughout
the Gospel, culminating in Mary Magdalene as first
witness to the Resurrection, first missionary of the Good News
The first five chapters of Written That You May Believe exact
some concentration on the part of the reader, as Schneiders validates
her exegetical method. But beyond these,
her text is replete with eye-opening proposals and spiritually
enriching gems of discovery. The disciples of John, displayed washing
one another's feet, give a new sense of egalitarian and inclusive
community. One sees the scriptural man born blind, with his simple,
unclouded belief, in contrast with the uncomprehending Nicodemus,
who represents the accepted sophistication of the "teachers
of Israel." Most powerful is the presentation of the Samaritan
woman, the woman at the well with whom Jesus has such an astonishing
encounter. Tantalizing is the proposition that this woman, accomplished
theologian in her own right, could have been the author of the
Woven into these characterizations, extending through studies
of the text of the Fourth Gospel, is Sandra Schneiders' stated
objective, that those who fully engage will come away with clarified
and greatly enriched belief in the Jesus who is central to all.
And they will know this Jesus as present and as glorified, as the
inspired author of the Johannine Gospel knows Him.