Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recommended Discussion on Spong's "The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic"

The word of the day is,
Theologaster: a petty or shallow theologian.
Rob Bowman over at the Parchment and Pen blog takes the old theologaster (Spong) down in a review of  retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong's book,  "The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic." Bowman exposes the lack of research Bishop Spong actually put into his book as well as highlighting Spong's main points as he takes the bishop to the woodshed.
"Spong claims, both in the book and in an article on Huffington Post promoting the book, that The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic is the result of an “intensive five-year-long study” of the Gospel of John and of Johannine scholarship. “I have now read almost every recognized major commentary on John’s gospel that is available in English from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries” (Fourth Gospel, 8). Unfortunately, it doesn’t show. Spong has left himself some wiggle room by using the qualifier “recognized,” which is probably code for 'non-evangelical.' Spong’s nine-page bibliography at the end of his book does not include a single conservative or evangelical commentary on John and only one monograph on John by an evangelical (Craig Evans’s Word and Glory, an academic study on John’s Prologue). The only other work by a conservative author listed in the bibliography is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, attributed to Richard 'Bruckman,' which is a reflection of just how little attention Bauckham’s excellent study received. Neither Evans nor Bauckham is actually cited in the book..."

"The main points that Spong seeks to make in his book are as follows:
The Fourth Gospel was not written by the apostle John or any of the disciples.
It was produced by at least three different authors over a period of perhaps thirty years.
Jesus probably said not even one word attributed to him in the Gospel.
Jesus did none of the miracles narrated in the Gospel.
Many of the figures appearing in the Gospel never existed.
The Gospel contains many indications that it was not meant to be taken literally.
The message of the Gospel is not that God became incarnate for our salvation but that human beings can experience personal transformation and a sense of mystical oneness with God (i.e., with being itself).
The orthodox creedal doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity depend in large measure on misreading John by taking the Gospel’s statements literally."

One comment sums it up better than I could,
"If Spong and his fellow Jesus Seminar folks like Marcus Borg are right, then they've constructed a faith that is essentially meaningless! Their God and 'faith' is merely an option at best and requires nothing from us!"
Read the rest at


  1. Anonymous5:27 PM

    This is rare - however, when it comes to your views about Borg and Spong I find I have to agree with you 100%.

    1. Things that strike at the foundation of our faith hmmm?