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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 to humankind.

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 Fourth Gospel.

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.


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