The following is an excerpt from Jesus Becoming Jesus, Volume 3: A Theological Interpretation of the Gospel of John: The Book of Glory and the Passion and Resurrection Narratives by Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Cap. (CUA Press, 2022).
In November 2014, while I was in Jerusalem on a sabbatical, I began to write what I thought would be a one-volume systematic theology. After about six weeks of writing, I found myself immersed in Scripture, though I assumed I would swiftly proceed to the patristic, medieval, and contemporary treatments of various Christian doctrines. Although I was enthused by what I was finding in my examination of the Gospels, I became somewhat confused as to how to continue, so I prayed, asking for guidance. I thought the Lord said to me, “Just stay with the Scriptures.” After almost seven years, in attempting to be faithful to the task that I thought the Lord had given me, I have now completed a three-volume work on the Gospels—Jesus Becoming Jesus. In 2018, the first volume, a theological interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels, was published. In 2021, a second volume followed, on the theological interpretation of the Gospel of John, the Prologue, and the Book of Signs. This present volume is a theological interpretation of the Book of Glory and the Passion and Resurrection Narratives within John’s Gospel. During this long undertaking, I have learned a great deal and have come to appreciate Scripture far more than I ever thought I would, for I am by training a historical systematic/doctrinal theologian and not a Scripture scholar. When the labor of thought became arduous and my ability to stick to the writing wavered, particularly when pondering John’s Gospel, I felt, at times, that I may have transgressed the Psalmist’s avowal—“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me” (Ps 131:1). Nonetheless, I resolutely stayed to the task, often calling to mind Sirach’s exhortation: “My son, hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it, grow old doing your task” (Sir 11:20). Having fulfilled it, I am pleased with what I have achieved, hopefully to the glory of Jesus. In addition, I trust that those who read these volumes will also come to a greater knowledge and love of the Scriptures and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they proclaim.
In the remainder of this introduction, I repeat some of what I wrote in both previous volumes; that is, I provide some of the theological and scriptural presuppositions that have governed my theological interpretations of all four Gospels.
Scripture and Theology
I have not attempted to write, neither concerning the Synoptic Gospels nor John’s, a “normal” scriptural commentary. I have written a theological interpretation. As a systematic or doctrinal theologian, I intend to discern the theological and doctrinal content of the Gospels. This means that I do not treat many of the issues that Scripture scholars normally address when writing their scriptural commentaries, such as textual and form criticism, nor do I employ what is known as the historical-critical method. Such would be outside my competence, and more importantly, these methods of scriptural interpretation would not advance what I am attempting to achieve theologically. I believe that the strength of my theological interpretation lies in the fact that I am doing it as a systematic theologian, searching out the doctrinal content of the Gospels. This does not make my book any less scriptural. My aim is to help the reader find in the Synoptic Gospels and in John’s Gospel what is fruitful to know and so to cherish more deeply the doctrinal truth that they contain. As we saw in the first volume on John, and will now see in the second, John’s Gospel is particularly theological in nature, revealing the doctrine of the Incarnation and so Jesus’ true salvific identity as the Father’s Spirit-anointed Son.
As with my previous volumes, I am attempting to apply the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as found in its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum. There, the Council rightly perceives a close unity between the written word that is the New Testament and the oral kerygmatic preaching that gave rise to it, as well as the living magisterial and theological tradition that flows from it (see DV 9 and 11). Scripture, then, must be read within the ever-living apostolic tradition, and it must also continually be interpreted within the light of later magisterial conciliar teaching—the doctrine that flowed from it. Moreover, the living apostolic and magisterial tradition continues to be nurtured on the life-giving source of Scripture itself. Together, Scripture and tradition ever more clearly proclaim, protect, and enhance the church’s understanding of what the Father has revealed through his Word/Son in communion with the Holy Spirit. Per Dei Verbum, “sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church” (DV 10). Because Scripture and the church’s magisterial and theological tradition flourish together, I have attempted throughout my theological interpretation of the Gospels to follow Dei Verbum’s significant interpretive principle:
Sacred theology relies on the written Word of God, taken together with sacred Tradition, as on a permanent foundation. By this Word it is most firmly strengthened and constantly rejuvenated, as it searches out, under the light of the faith, the full truth stored up in the mystery of Christ. Therefore, the “study of the sacred page” should be the very soul of sacred theology.(DV 24)
I have presently, then, endeavored to allow John’s Gospel to be the soul of my theological interpretation, while simultaneously employing the church’s sacred theological tradition to enhance my examination of it. Thus my goal is to provide an interpretation of John’s Gospel that would be genuinely faithful to it, as well as an interpretation that would authentically enrich and accurately illuminate its theological content.