Nineteen-hundred years ago, someone called the Beloved Disciple told stories about Jesus and his days on earth. These stories had been told for decades when someone took the stories and wrote them down, turning them from oral tradition into the book we know as the Gospel of John. Scholars have long concentrated on the content of this Fourth Gospel, analyzing how it differs from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and wondering how the different Gospels relate to the Jesus of history. Tom Thatcher builds on all of this previous scholarship in this book, focusing on how stories and written texts operate to reflect and to create memory within groups of people. He uncovers how early Christians strove to remember Jesus in the decades after Jesus' ministry and how Christians came into conflict with one another about which memories were best. With this interest in the social memory of early Christians, Thatcher provides original insights into the Gospel of John and provides new answers to old questions.
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Tom Thatcher is Professor of New Testament at Cincinnati Christian University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has taught for many years.From Publishers Weekly:
If the ancient audience of the gospel of John was 80 percent illiterate, why did John write a gospel? Why didn't the author of this collection of narrative remembrances of Jesus simply allow those recollections to continue to circulate orally? Drawing on Maurice Halbwachs's social memory theory as well as folklore theory, Thatcher, who teaches at Cincinnati Christian University, answers these and other questions in his tedious exploration of the composition history of the gospel of John. Thatcher argues the gospel operates as a "spiritual community experience" rather than as a personal recall. Consequently, the gospel functions not as a repository of memories of the disciples' experience of Jesus, but as a rhetorical device to preserve the community's memory of conflict with the world around it and its spiritual response to those conflicts. Thatcher concludes John is an apologetic treatise that shows more interest in the "historical Jesus" than the Synoptic Gospels do. Although accompanied by pictures and charts designed to appeal to students, Thatcher's book requires familiarity with gospel studies and social scientific scholarship to be useful to anyone other than insiders in the biblical studies guild.
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