Saturday, December 22, 2007


Review: Meeting the Saviour: the Glory of Jesus in the Gospel of John by Derek Tidball (Bible Reading Fellowship 2007).

Here's a delightful, warm, devotional book which takes us on a journey through the Fourth Gospel. The theme is 'glory' - a strange idea for moderns, but common in the Old and New Testaments to describe God's being 'worthy of honour, esteem, worship'.

In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus' 'glory' is only associated with the Transfiguration, but in John his glory is 'manifested' time and time again.

Derek Tidball is a British Evangelical, currently principal of the London School of Theology. Here he offers us 26 devotional chapters on various stories in John. His scholarship is unquestioned, and he writes too as a pastor. Being Evangelical he has a 'high christology': 'Jesus was God's agent in bringing into being all that there is in our universe... There is no corner in the universe that does not have its origin in Jesus... The highest, widest and deepest are his creation... the DNA helix, the quasars and quarks were designed and produced by him...' That's in chapter one: so we know what we're in for in the rest of the series...

Jesus was truly human: he 'did not shoot down to earth as if he were some celestial politician arriving at the scene of a tragedy for a brief photo opportunity.'

A good way to get a feel for a writer's approach is to go first to the back and study the bibliography: it's probably a naughty habit, but I find it enlightening. Just about all of Tidball's quotes are from 'evangelical' authors: the broadest, theologically, being William Barclay and William Temple (both brilliant scholars and writers, in my view). How about this from Archbishop Temple (in the story of Jesus turning water into wine): 'The modest water saw its God and blushed.'

I loved the chapter on Jesus and the woman at the well. 'Here was a woman who was longing to be loved... she was probably a stigmatized woman in her village... but we shouldn't assume it was her fault.'
When an evangelical scholar writes pastorally like that (many don't) I want to read more.

Get someone to buy it for you, and spend a slow month walking prayerfully through it: these homilies will feed both your soul and your mind.

Finally a well-known quote, again from Temple: 'It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear, and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it; I can't. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live like that. Jesus could do it; I can't. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like that. And if the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life like that.'

Review copy from Ridley Melbourne Bookshop -

Rowland Croucher

December 2007

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