Why is the Gospel of John different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke? Many scholars have suggested that John felt more free than the other evangelists to massage the facts in the service of his theological goals and to put embellishments into the mouth of Jesus. Such freedom supposedly accounts for the discourses in John, for Jesus’ way of speaking in John, and for (at least) the time, place, and manner of various incidents. Analytic philosopher Lydia McGrew refutes these claims, arguing in detail that John never invents material and that he is robustly reliable and honestly historical.
The Eye of the Beholder: The Gospel of John as Historical Reportage is unique in several respects:
– It delves in more detail than previous works do into the meaning of common scholarly phrases like “Johannine idiom” and applies careful distinctions to defend the recognizable historicity of Jesus’ spoken words in John.
– It focuses especially on arguments that have impressed some prominent evangelical scholars, thus refuting the unspoken assumption that if a scholar dubbed “conservative” is moved by an argument against full Gospel historicity, it must be strong.
– It argues positively for the historicity of John’s Gospel using evidences that are not commonly discussed in the 21st century, including undesigned coincidences, unexplained allusions, and the unified personality of Jesus.
– While the body of the book will be congenial to many who accept Richard Bauckham’s “elder John” theory of authorship, The Eye of the Beholder features a lengthy appendix on that question, including original arguments for authorship by the son of Zebedee.
Meticulously argued and engagingly written, The Eye of the Beholder contains a wealth of material that will be helpful to seminarians, pastors, and laymen interested in the reliability of the Gospel of John.
McGrew makes a strong case for what she calls “historical reportage” as a means of reading and understanding John’s Gospel as a reliable and trustworthy account of the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus. McGrew’s opponents dare not dismiss this set of arguments.
Stanley E. Porter
President, Dean, and Professor of New Testament
Roy A. Hope Chair in Christian Worldview
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Lydia McGrew shows how strong a case can be mounted for the entire Gospel as “historical reportage” when one does not begin with certain commonly asserted but unproven and implausible scholarly hypotheses about John’s composition.
Craig L. Blomberg
Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
Author of The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
The idea that the Gospel of John represents both profound theology and genuine history isn’t fashionable today, but McGrew demonstrates, with a battery of arguments and incisive reasoning, that the entirety of the Fourth Gospel is faithful to history. John as an eyewitness reports accurately what Jesus said and did.
Thomas R. Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Associate Dean The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Lydia McGrew deals a fatal blow to the widespread claims that John rearranged or presented material with little regard for historical accuracy in order to serve merely theological or symbolic purposes. The Eye of the Beholder is extensively and meticulously researched and yet written with such precision that the weight of evidence and the logic of McGrew’s argument is unmistakably clear. All who are interested in John’s Gospel—students, teachers, scholars, Bible readers, pastors—can and should take up and read this important work. Highly recommended!
Alan J. Thompson
Head of New Testament department, Sydney Missionary and Bible College, Croydon, Australia
Author of The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
and Luke (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)
Giants such as Westcott, Lightfoot, Sanday, and Zahn and more modern scholars such as Leon Morris and Donald Carson have done their best to argue for John’s reliability. Yet no one has approached the task of defending the historical truthfulness of John’s Gospel with such vigor and clarity as does Lydia McGrew in this book.
William C. Weinrich
Professor of Patristics Studies Concordia Theological Seminary
Author of John 1:1–7:1 (Concordia Commentary Series)
Lydia McGrew builds a robust case for seeing the Fourth Gospel as a self-standing apostolic memory of Jesus and his ministry, worthy of full consideration alongside the Synoptics as a lens through which to view more clearly the Jesus of history as well as the Christ of faith. In this philosophic critique of Gospel a historicity, the author forces critical scholars to doubt their doubts as well as default alternatives to traditional views. A worthy contribution to the field.
Paul N. Anderson
Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies, George Fox University
Founding Member, John, Jesus, and History Project (Society of Biblical Literature)
Author of The Fourth Gospel and The Quest for Jesus and
Jesus in Johannine Perspective: A Fourth Quest for Jesus (forthcoming)
Theologians, ministers, and lay persons since the dawn of the New Testament era have seen the same Jesus portrayed in all four Gospels, his words faithfully recorded in each of them. This common-sense view of the Gospels (for those who hold to divine inspiration) has been brought into question lately by New Testament scholars who say they’ve found a different Jesus in John. In this book, however, Lydia McGrew takes an even closer, more careful look at the evidence and reasoning and finds good reason to retain not just a more natural reading of Scripture, and not just practical ministry flowing from it, but even our trust in God as he chooses to reveal himself in the Gospels.
Senior Editor at The Stream
Author of Too Good to be False
There is a widely adopted tendency among New Testament scholars, even conservative perhaps inadvertently, in weakening one’s confidence in their historical accuracy and intent. What is befuddling is that there is an alternative approach that not only fails to exhibit this result, it also provides strong epistemic support that raises one’s confidence in Gospel historicity. In Lydia McGrew’s The Eye of the Beholder, we are presented with a clear exposition and painstaking critique of all the major aspects of the former viewpoint along with a rigorous, detailed, persuasive case for the latter. What is also impressive and so desperately needed is McGrew’s focus on the Gospel of John. McGrew is a heavyweight Christian intellectual who knows her way around an argument. Her book is a tour de force that repays careful study and demands a point-by-point response equal to its rigor. What a great book!
J. P. Moreland
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and
co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to Substance Dualism