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Two New Books by Jörg Frey

February 13, 2019

One of the most productive NT scholars today is Professor Jörg Frey (University of Zurich), and so it is very good news to have a couple of his major works now available in English.

A major focus for Frey over many years now is the Gospel of John, and one of the new books is a revised and expanded version of his invited Shaffer Lectures in the Yale Divinity School (January 2018):  Theology and History in the Fourth Gospel:  Tradition and Narration (Baylor University Press, 2018), the publisher’s online catalog entry here.  Frey’s title makes an allusion to the influential book by J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel (rev ed., 1979).  Engaging that book and also the recent quest for “John, Jesus, and History,” Frey questions whether the scholarly desire to bring together the Jesus of history and his Johannine depiction is “historically and theologically appropriate to the Fourth Gospel or whether it possibly underestimates its [GJohn] theological and interpretive intentions.”

Frey focuses on how the author of the GJohn “utilizes and reshapes the traditions available to him, and how he justifies his approach.”  Frey judges, “The results will differ from our image of a ‘historically truthful’ author and give reason to rethink our views of factuality and fictionality, of ‘truth’ in historical and theological terms.”  I have to admit that I find Frey’s emphasis congenial, as it seems to me congruent with the thrust of my essay, “Remembering and Revelation: The Historic and Glorified Jesus in the Gospel of John,” in Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children: Christology and Community in Early Judaism and Christianity. Essays in Honor of Larry W. Hurtado and Alan F. Segal, ed. David B. Capes et al. (Waco, TX: Baylor Univesity Press, 2007), 195-213.  All who are seriously interested in the remarkable text, the Gospel of John, should now study Frey’s new book.

The second volume is an English translation of Frey’s commentary on the Epistle of Jude and 2 Peter:  The Letter of Jude and the Second Letter of Peter:  A Theological Commentary (Baylor University Press, 2018), the publisher’s online catalog entry here.  At 518 pages, it is now one of the most detailed discussions of these two small NT writings.  In keeping with the approach of the German-language series in which the commentary originally appeared, Frey considers, not only all the historical, literary, and philological issues that one hopes for, but also the theological themes of each writing.  Frey argues that these two writings give us windows on developments in early Christianity in the late first and early second century CE.




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  1. WordPress Reader permalink

    Dear Dr. Hurtado:

    On the general topic of historicity and John, is there a general introduction that you would recommend to non-specialist readers? Thank you for your work in maintaining this blog.

    • Unfortunately, I don’t know a general-reader book that addresses your question. It’s one of all-too-many matters in the scholarly study of the NT that doesn’t get conveyed in general-reader format. But Frey’s book is actually accessible to any serious reader, and you don’t have to be a trained scholar to follow his analysis.

  2. James L. permalink

    Would GJohn’s presentation of Jesus as “word” or “Logos” (Gk), suggest a pre-existence to Jesus?

    • Well, James, the opening words of John directly convey the idea of “pre-existence”.

  3. Griffin permalink

    Has tentative recognition of a possible ahistorical aspect to GJohn, inspired a similar questioning of the other gospels?

    • The Gospel of John is, as readers of the texts will know, distinctive in the programmatic way that it reads back into the story of Jesus the vocabulary and insights of “post-Easter” circles. The Synoptic Gospels don’t do that so overtly and programmatically. ~But both John and the Synoptics also insist that the figure in question, Jesus, has a real human history and they refer to it.

  4. Jim Kelhoffer permalink

    Dear Larry,

    Thanks much for the well deserved accolade to Jörg’s books. In a future post, you may wish to mention that last year Baylor University Press also published a translation of his anthology The Glory of the Crucified One : Christology and Theology in the Gospel of John. Is the appearance of three translated works – each of them substantial volumes – in the same year a “first” in our guild? Perhaps. At the Denver SBL meeting, Baylor threw quite a party celebrating those accomplishments.

    Every good wish, Jim


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