Book review: John

by R. Alan Culpepper


Three hundred seventy six small-print pages about the life and legends of St. John the Apostle. Culpepper is one of the foremost authorities on Johannine writings, and I’m a Culpepper fan, but this was overkill.

My current project is a story about the making of John’s Gospel, and naturally, John the Apostle is a primary character. For this, Culpepper’s book proved to be an exhausting resource. Oops, I meant exhaustive. Must have been a Freudian slip.

I had to give the book a strong rating for its research; there is simply nothing like it out there. You’ll learn stories about John in the Bible, a discussion of his possible identity as the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel, the evidence of Johannine thinking in the epistles of John, how the Gospel of John gained acceptance in the church (walking first through Gnostic strands of Christianity), various other extra-canonical Christian writings portraying John as a hero, legends about John written by more than twenty church fathers, how he became an icon in art and literature, all leading to current-day opinions by Bible scholars. Whew.

Buy it as a reference book.

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