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New Resource of Johannine Studies

May 18, 2019

Serving as an assessor of a book-proposal for Oxford University Press brought me the rewards of several recent volumes, one of them:  The Oxford Handbook of Johannine Studies, eds. Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. De Boer (OUP, 2018).  The publisher’s online catalog entry here.

The table of contents shows wide coverage of topics and a constellation of recognized scholars:

1: Introduction, Judith M. Lieu and Martinus C. de Boer
2: The Text of the Gospel and Letters of John, H. A. G. Houghton
3: Literary Sources of the Gospel and Letters of John, Michael Labahn
4: John and Other Gospels, Harold W. Attridge
5: The Story of the Johannine Community and its Literature, Martinus C. de Boer
6: The Beloved Disciple, the Evangelist, and the Authorship of the Gospel of John, Tom Thatcher
7: Archaeology and History in the Fourth Gospel, Urban C. Von Wahlde
8: The Jews of the Fourth Gospel, Adele Reinhartz
9: The Johannine Literature in a Greek Context, Gitte Buch-Hansen
10: The Johannine Literature and Contemporary Jewish Literature, Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer
11: The Johannine Literature and the Gnostics, Alastair H. B. Logan
12: The Fourth Gospel as Narrative and Drama, Jo-Ann A. Brant
13: Ideological Readings of the Fourth Gospel, Warren Carter
14: Gender and the Fourth Gospel, Colleen Conway
15: Social-Scientific Readings of the Gospel and Letters of John, Philip S. Esler
16: Symbolism and Signs in the Fourth Gospel, Dorothy A. Lee
17: Dualism and the World in the Gospel and Lettters of John, Jörg Frey
18: Eschatology and Time in the Gospel of John, Ruben Zimmermann
19: The Person of Jesus in the Gospel of John, Udo Schnelle
20: The Purpose of the Ministry and Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John, Jean Zumstein
21: Faith, Life, and the Spirit in the Gospel of John, Catrin H. Williams
22: Ethics in Community in the Gospel and Letters of John, Jan van der Watt
23: Temple, Festivals, and Scripture in the Gospel of John, Bruce G. Schuchard
24: The Johannine Literature and the Canon, Judith M. Lieu
25: Johannine Commentaries in the Early Church, William Lamb

Regrettably, the price of this handsome volume (£95) will make it prohibitive for many, and likely that the purchasers will mainly be libraries.  When will such publishers learn to price their books within the reach of the many who would like to own them?


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  1. Ryan permalink

    I’d love to get a look at the inside breakdown of their costing. How do they arrive at these prices?

    In my experiences, most of the contributors receive little to nil compensation, and increasingly the publishing houses do not offer real copy-editing services either. Yes, they do have to pay someone to prepare the proofs, but after that what else is going into that price? The physical printing is something that most people could appreciate as having cost, but that doesn’t explain the high price of the ebook.

    My fear is this: recently I was talking with a friend who is a custom kitchen designer. She had previously worked for the kitchen department of a local hardware store but had recently taken a new job at a more upscale boutique kitchen company. She was surprised to find that her new firm ordered their cabinets from the exact same supplier as the hardware store did, with the big difference that while the hardware store added only a 25% mark up, her new firm added 75%! When she asked about such a steep markup, it was explained to her that they cater to a wealthier, more upscale clientèle, and so having a higher price was integral to maintaining their reputation as a premiere firm.
    So my fear is that the same thing is happening. Prestige publishers like OUP, Brill, etc.,: are they artificially inflating the prices in order to preserve their high class reputation? Is scholarship therefore suffering for the sake of their style?

    • There are a number of factors that go into how much it costs to produce a given book. Also, to price books for wider sales requires a distribution and marketing setup, and some publishers don’t seem to interested in this.

  2. Robert Woods permalink

    The prohibitive costs of Christian scholarship for the average person is reaching the point of “disgraceful.”
    Many educated Christians are hindered in their search for knowledge of spiritual truths because of the cost of reliable material to study.

    I found out very quickly much good scholarship in the field of Patristics is very costly. New translations are are out of reach financially to many Christians because they can only be found in larger expensive studies. This situation was very puzzling to me as a nonacademic of modest means until someone in an email gave me part of the answer. In response to my query about the cost of buying new Patristic translations Seumas Macdonald (aka The Patrologist) said,

    “Translation neither pays money to the translator (very rarely is it financially worthwhile to retranslate such a text), but neither does it pay in the standard academic currency of prestige – articles and books get ‘points’ for academics, translation is seen as unimportant.”

    All I can do is sigh and look for scholars who are more generous in sharing their knowledge.

    Robert Woods

    • Scholars don’t set the price of books. Publishers do this. Scholars have little choice, especially in certain kinds of works. Some, such as original-language texts of early church fathers will have a smaller circle of purchasers, and so unavoidably will cost more. But other books may well have a larger readership, and could be priced more accessibly.

  3. Dr John Pryor permalink

    Thank you for these words – it is indeed disappointing that such an important wrk is out of reach for folk like me: retired, residing away from any academic library, and with a keen interest the John, ever since my own doctoral work years ago. I simply cannot afford nearly $Aus200 for such a work.

  4. Erich von Abele permalink

    The Oxford University Press “Overview” should include the Index, so that potential buyers can better know for what they are paying such a steep price.

  5. Stephen Walch permalink

    “When will such publishers learn to price their books within the reach of the many who would like to own them?”

    It appears that publishers such as Brill and Oxford/Cambridge UP don’t realise how many more readers they would have if they made things cheaper! I’m grateful you’ve published using Eerdmans for many a year, who price things at normal-people prices.

  6. Tim Ellison permalink

    What a coincidence! I was about to google Johanine scholars and your email arrived. That is a hefty price for sure. I am currently a bit obsessed with the prologue of the 4th gospel. Any recommendations? Thanks for your blog Tim.

    • Publications on the GJohn “prologue” are legion. Start with some commentaries.

  7. Donald Jacobs permalink

    Professor Hurtado, a quick search of the blog indicates you’ve described particular collections of colleagues as a “galaxy” nine times, beginning in 2015, but this is the first time you have used “constellation” in this sense.

  8. I notice that there is a Kindle version available, but even that is £61.75, which seems like a huge amount for an ebook. I understand that such books are expensive, both to write and to print, but the latter doesn’t apply to an ebook and I am forced to wonder whether making it expensive and thus only selling a few really is more cost-effective/profitable than selling it at a cheaper price and selling a lot more copies.

    It would also be nice (especially for those of us who are not specialists and may be interested in only a few of the topics covered) if the ebook was divided up and individual chapters made available at a reasonable cost.

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