cover image The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic

The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic

John Shelby Spong. HarperOne, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-201130-5

If he's written it once, Spong (The Sins of Scripture), like many Biblical scholars, has written dozens of times: do not take the Bible literally. He is adamant that readers must not take the Gospel of John as history. Spong, the high-profile former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, stands on solid scholarship with these ideas: the Gospel of John was written over decades by several authors; Jesus did not speak the words ascribed to him in the book of John; none of the miracles happened; most of the book's charac-ters, the Marys and Nicodemus and Thomas, are just that -- literary characters, not literal men and women. More important than the negatives to the profoundly persuasive author is the unburnished pos-itive: divorced from latter-day fictions, John is one powerful gospel. To prove its base in Jewish mys-ticism, Spong paces through the signs, the farewell discourses, the passion narrative, and resurrection stories. The Fourth Gospel, Spong argues, calls on the faithful to believe that Jesus achieved "the mys-tical oneness with the God who is the source of life...." (June)