The Story of Jesus According to John
The holy writings of Christianity deserve a place among the great spiritual scriptures of the world. Spiritually minded individuals who read writings of world wisdom traditions will find the Christian scriptures as enlightening as they find other writings. This reader’s companion is intended for spiritually-minded individuals who may wish to approach these scriptures with their own mind.
This reader’s companion is a fresh look at the holy writings of Christianity. I have been at pains to let the documents speak for themselves, and not to speak from a faith perspective. That was my goal and my effort in writing this companion to the holy writings of Christianity.
But every person has their own value structure, and believers have a belief system. I have studied world religions from a cultural/historical perspective, and literary texts in graduate schools for a period of thirteen years, and have acquired tools for textual analysis that are largely objective, and sensitive to storytelling methods. However, I do have a belief system of my own, and it has, no doubt, colored my interpretation of these writings. I am a Swedenborgian minister who is a student of world religions. No commentator can keep their own faith completely out of their textual analysis. But I have tried to be clear when my own belief system enters the commentary, as I do when other denominational beliefs enter the commentary.
As is the case with the great wisdom traditions of the world, there is a power in the Gospels. These works have endured for millennia. And they have done so because humans resonate with the words they find there. We humans are complex beings, and we develop at different rates and to different degrees and in different ways. The complexity of the Gospels meets the complexity of the human soul. I believe, and I have found, that the Gospel of John has something of benefit for my soul at every stage of my development, and each time I come to it. And I fully expect for this to be the case throughout my life, and even into the next one, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me.
There are two sections at the end of this Reader’s Companion. One is for important terms that appear in either John’s Gospel or my commentary. These words are highlighted in red and underlined. To learn more about these words, one would turn to the back of the Reader’s Companion and find the given word in the section called IMPORTANT WORDS AND TERMS. Following that section is another one called FROM SCRIPTURE TO RELIGION: HOW CHURCHES HAVE USED BIBLE VERSES. In this section we look at certain Bible verses that have become important in the history of Christianity. Christianity has taken certain verses from the Bible and made doctrinal statements out of them. These doctrinal statements, in turn, have become beliefs that the various Christian denominations hold. I highlight the Bible verses that I comment on in bold type. In the section of this work on Bible verses, I compare how different Christian denominations have generated beliefs from the given Bible verse. I compare Catholic, Lutheran, Swedenborgian, and at times Evangelical denominations. For instance, early in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” My note on this verse treats Catholic, Lutheran, Swedenborgian, and Evangelical doctrines of the atonement—an important doctrine derived from that Bible verse.
Writing this companion to John’s Gospel has had a marked influence on me. I have grown in the writing of it. I believe that anyone who encounters this Gospel will be transformed, as I have been. This commentary is my encounter with John’s Gospel and the ideas and interpretations that came to my mind. But my reading is not the only way to read John. I invite everyone with an inclination to, to encounter John for themselves, and see what ideas and direction this great work of spirituality gives them. John’s last sentence is also about the fathomless wisdom to be found in the Jesus tradition,
But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (21:25).