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The Gospel of John – a theological commentary, by David F Ford 

'No one who is seriously interested in John’s Gospel can fail to benefit from this book, which is both theologically stimulating and spiritually enriching'


Ford Gospel of JohnThe Gospel of John – a theological commentary
By David F Ford
Baker Academic
ISBN: 9781540964083
Reviewed by John Matthews

In this superb commentary Ford emphasises that John is ‘a gospel of abundance’, indicated by things like the vast quantity of wine created at Cana, the twelve baskets of food left over after the feeding of the five thousand, and the huge number of fish caught after the resurrection. He shows how John uses common words both in their ordinary sense and with deeper meanings – what he calls ‘the deep plain sense’ – to convey the profound meaning of Jesus’ teaching.
Ford does not spend much time on questions like the authorship and date of the gospel. He believes that the Beloved Disciple, which he does not seek to identify, is the authority behind it, and that it was written around 80CE, probably some decades after the Gospel of Mark. (This implies a date for Mark earlier than is usual amongst scholars). He thinks that the author was familiar with the synoptic gospels and that it can be illuminating to ask why and how he includes, interprets, alters or omits synoptic passages. He also draws attention to what he sees as the many links with Old Testament passages and the emphasis on the Holy Spirit in this gospel.
To Ford ‘the greatest challenge of the Gospel of John is to trust the love of Jesus and to respond in love’ (21), and his main goal as ‘to relate the Gospel to life now – thinking, imagining, praying, living in community, and loving’ (13n6). He says ‘because Jesus is risen and present...the event of reading about Jesus can also be the event of meeting him, one to one. What this means is that you yourself are in his presence, loved by him...and invited... into an abundance of meaning, life and love. My chief desire is to help you accept that invitation' (24).
The text of the NRSV is printed, with the words of the gospel in bold print in the commentary, where a chapter is devoted to each chapter of the gospel (except chapter one, which has two). Each begins with an introduction, before detailed comments are made, section by section. Some of which are in italics, presumably to draw attention them. The comments are complemented by ‘sidebars’, as Ford, somewhat oddly, calls them; longer quotations of poetry and prose from a diverse selection of writers, in shaded boxes within the body of the text, and add value to it. 
The book is a well produced hardback of 500 pages, including an extensive bibliography and indices of scripture references, authors and subjects. Sadly, from a Baptist perspective, no mention is made of George Beasley-Murray’s commentary on the gospel.
Commentaries are usually dipped into, not read from cover to cover, but I would recommend reading the Introduction, which outlines Ford’s approach, and the Epilogue, which recounts how he came to write the book, before consulting individual parts.
No one who is seriously interested in John’s Gospel can fail to benefit from this book, which is both theologically stimulating and spiritually enriching.

John Matthews is a retired Baptist minister living in Rushden, Northants

Baptist Times, 26/08/2022
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