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Insights into John

09 December 2016

Paula Gooder finds some gems in this reflective book

The Gospel of John, the Gospel of Relationship
Jean Vanier
DLT £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9



THIS book is the (corrected) text of a series of videos based on St John’s Gospel which were filmed in 2010. There are 14 chapters, each of which focuses on a selected passage from the Gospel. The passages chosen contain most of the best-known and -loved of John’s stories (with a few intriguing exceptions, such as the woman caught in adultery from John 8). Each chapter takes the form of a reflection woven around the passage in hand.

In reading the book, it is helpful to remember that it is the script of a series of videos on the Gospel. It reads like this, and makes much more sense of the way in which the material has been chosen and ordered. Jean Vanier himself is clear that this is not a stand-alone book, but needs to be read alongside other more complete books on the Gospel, such as his own 2004 book Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John (DLT, 2004).

So, that taken into account, this is an attractive, light, but well-written series of reflections, which are particularly good when applied to the experiences of the L’Arche community. Contained in these short chapters are a good number of gems, which emerge out of deep reflection on the way in which John’s Gospel speaks into and enriches our everyday lives. Their value lies not just in the insights themselves, but in the way in which Vanier models an engaged, reflective, and spiritual reading of the text.

This is not the only book on John’s Gospel that many readers of the Church Times will ever need, but it very much deserves a place alongside others. It is well worth both reading and returning to for the depth of its reflections.

This process would have been made much easier if the verse numbers of the passages explored had been included in each of the chapter titles; but this is a minor quibble about a beautifully written, rich, and satisfying book.


Dr Paula Gooder is a writer and lecturer in biblical studies, and is Canon Theologian of Birmingham Cathedral.

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