Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Johannine Monograph Series: An Interview with Paul Anderson

Paul N. Anderson
Paul N. Anderson, Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University, along with R. Alan Culpepper, Dean of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, have spearheaded a unique and important series for students of Johannine literature, The Johannine Monograph Series, Wipf & Stock.

I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Paul Anderson about this important series. Without further ado, on to the interview.

1. How did the Johannine Monograph Series (JMS) come about?

 Thanks, Matthew, for asking. The field of Johannine studies is a broad and extensive field, and as we do our work using various methodologies in international settings, having access to “the classics of the field” is vital for first-rate scholarship to continue. And, even monographs of monumental significance go out of print or are sometimes hard to come by, so I asked Alan Culpepper if he would join me in championing a Johannine Monograph Series that would seek to get some of the most important Johannine works back into print. We also have chosen to introduce each book with a foreword, situating its place and impact within the larger field of study, so those essays not only serve the volume being introduced, but they also provide something of a Forschungsbericht (research report) as state-of-the-art updates on the field of Johannine studies. Formative in my thinking here was the superb “Lives of Jesus” Series edited by Leander Keck in the 1970s, published by Fortress. And, of course we’re delighted that Wipf & Stock has agreed to sponsor the series and to keep things in print! We could not have found a more serviceable and innovative publisher.

2. Discuss the purpose and vision of the series.

Right; here’s our vision statement, featured in the front matter of each of our volumes: The vision of The Johannine Monograph Series is to make available in printed, accessible form a selection of the most influential books on the Johannine writings in the modern era for the benefit of scholars and students alike. The volumes in this series include reprints of classic English-language texts, revised editions of significant books, and translations of important international works for English-speaking audiences. A succinct foreword by one of the editors situates each book in terms of its role within the history of Johannine scholarship, suggesting also its continuing value in the field. This series is founded upon the conviction that scholarship is diminished when it forgets its own history and loses touch with the scintillating analyses and proposals that have shaped the course of Johannine studies. It is our hope, therefore, that the continuing availability of these important works will help to keep the cutting-edge scholarship of this and coming generations of scholars engaged with the classic works of Johannine scholarship while they also chart new directions for the future of the discipline.

3. What are the criteria for a volume to be considered in the JMS?

Our criteria are fluid; we want to be sure that some of the most important Johannine works continue to be maintained in print, especially ones that continue to inform the best of Johannine studies. Such factors as whether a book is out of print and whether we can also secure the rights to publish the work also play roles in how things develop, of course. For non-English works, the capacity for translation is a factor, and for works deserving a revised edition, we’re happy to also consider such possibilities. Michael Theobald’s Herrenworte im Johannesevangelium is an example of the former, and David Wead’s Literary Devices in John’s Gospel is an example of the latter.

4. Was it a slam-dunk in choosing Rudolf Bultmann’s The Gospel of John: A Commentary, to be the first release in JMS?

Well, Bultmann’s monograph came onto the horizon after we’d already decided to try to get Moody Smith’s Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel back into print. After we began working on it, though, things came together with the German publisher, the American publisher, and the translators so that it made sense to feature it as Volume 1, with Smith’s analysis of Bultmann’s commentary on John being Volume 2 in our series. An amazing one-two punch! And, Käsemann’s A Testament of Jesus will be Volume 4, with Richard Cassidy’s John’s Gospel in New Perspective having come out just last month as Volume 3.

5. In the Foreword (i-xxviii), you state that Bultmann’s commentary “is arguably the most important New Testament monograph in the 20th century, perhaps second only to The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer” (i). What aspect(s) of Bultmann’s John remain influential in scholarship? 

Yes, that’s an audacious claim, but here’s my judgment. First of all, I think it is arguable that Rudolf Bultmann was the leading New Testament scholar of the 20th century; the exegetical, scientific, theological, and existential quality of his work really remains unsurpassed in terms of its mastery and its reach. And, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, especially when combined with his Theology of the New Testament (featuring a major section on John in the second volume—note the excellent volume on Bultmann’s NT theology just out by Longenecker and Parsons, eds.) and his related New Testament works, is clearly his most technical, exegetical, and interdisciplinarily innovative work. Just look at the footnotes! In my earlier analyses of John’s Christology, tradition, and potential contribution to Jesus studies, Bultmann’s role is undoubtedly central to scholarly approaches to all of those larger issues, and in that sense, it extends beyond Johannine studies to History-of-Religions Criticism, the history of early Christianity, Jesus studies (or the dearth thereof), biblical theology, gospel relations, and source and redaction criticism. Bultmann even contributed to new literary theories in seeing the Beloved Disciple as a rhetorical device connecting Hellenistic Christianity with its “mother,” Jewish Christianity. As Haenchen quipped, Bultmann’s work has been like a giant oak tree in Johannine studies, denying the growth of alternative approaches under its shade. Then again, in my own analysis of Bultmann’s theory (in addition to the 12 K-word forward to his commentary, see especially my new introduction and epilogue in the third printing of The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, Eugene: Cascade Books, 2010), I have tested all of his source-critical criteria referenced throughout his entire volume using John 6 as a case study, and the evidence for alien sources underlying John 6 is completely lacking. It is even non-indicative, although we do indeed have a narrator. However, the contributions of the final editor seem (with Brown, here) to be augmentative and conservative rather than theologically intrusive. I do see that person (with Bultmann; I call him a “compiler”) as plausibly the author of the Johannine Epistles, and I concur with Bultmann that John’s narrative is not dependent on the Synoptics. It has its own story to tell, which in some ways sets the record straight over and against the Markan renderings. So, in considering the impact of Bultmann’s work on source-critical, redaction-critical, history-of-religions-critical, and theological-exegetical New Testament scholarship in recent decades, his commentary on John stands out as preeminent in the 20th century—among those who have agreed with him as well as among those who have not. I reside, of course, in both camps.

6. What other volumes can readers expect to see from JMS?

 As mentioned, Moody Smith’s Composition and Order of the Fourth Gospel is in process, and it should be out in a couple of months or so; Richard Cassidy’s John’s Gospel in New Perspective just came out last month, and it includes a new essay on slavery in the Roman era as well as my analysis of six or seven crises in the Johannine situation, of which the Roman-Johannine dialectic is a highly significant one. Other works that are “on deck” include: The Prophet-King by Wayne Meeks, Bread from Heaven by Peder Borgen, and several other books, including the two books mentioned above by Wead and Theobald and the controversial monograph by Käsemann. If anyone has a suggestion of other books to include in the series, do let me know. Our purpose is to make available on a continuing basis some of the best and most significant of Johannine monographs in service to scholars and students alike, and we are greatly appreciative of the high place of prominence that Wipf & Stock has given this new, innovative series. And, thanks, Matthew, for the interest and for the ways you are furthering the good work of biblical studies through your website and other endeavors! It’s a high privilege indeed to be working together in furthering the good work.

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