This is the third in a series of the rolling review for James McGrath’s, The Only True God. (Here and here). Further, Michael at Ecco Homo has posted his final review, which sparked a conversation with the author of the book. (Here, here, and here. Michael also posted something concerning 1st Corinthians in light of McGrath’s book.)
I have only read Michael’s post on Paul ‘s monotheism, as I didn’t want to cloud my judgment during the review. To be honest, I attempted to read Michael’s review, but I found something in his, about the end of the book, which made my view of the entire book change. That’s not fair to an honest review, in my opinion – basing it (even subconsciously) on someone else’s thoughts and reactions.
I want to start off this review with the negative – I still do not like the Endnotes, but I here that the author addressed this issue with Michael. Further, the chapter on John’s monotheism was entirely too short. It was, what’s the word, copernicium. It was weighty, you might say.
I remember reading once, that John was the most Jewish Gospel of them all, and indeed, McGrath highlights the ‘Jewishness’ of it in such a way as to make me understand the rabbi more. In the chapter entitled, ‘Monotheism and the Gospel of John‘, McGrath tackles the Prologue (including an extensive look at the textual variant in John 1.18), equality with God, the ‘I AM’ passages, and Thomas’ confession. It is this chapter which is I believe is the cross section with McGrath’s hypostasis and what we may accept as something similar to orthodox Christianity.
The author sees John’s Jesus as something more than the exalted agent of Paul’s monotheism, but as the embodiment of the Name of God (p63). The author does a fair treatment of Philo’s use of Logos and connects it to John’s (although I would contend for a different origin of Logos). He refuses to allow his ideas to be abandoned, often times reminding the reader that he has already covered them.
One of the refreshing things about this book is that it assume, unless I am missing something, that the early Christian community was monolithic on the idea of monotheism – although one might disagree as to the understanding of monotheism. In the conclusion to this chapter, the author asserts that he is attempting two things – not to dispute later developments, but to ‘clarify what issues did in fact provoke controversy’ (p68).
In the following chapter, Monotheism and Worship in the Book of Revelation, he tackles the idea of, well, monotheism and worship in the book of Revelation. Personally, I would have rather seen time devoted to the catholic Epistle (Hebrews, Petrine) than Revelation, especially since it is so controversial. Because of this, I find it difficult to give an honest review of this chapter. For me, much of Revelation is steeped in prophetic language which may distort various doctrines; however, he does carry his previous themes quite well, adding to it the angelology of not only the book, but the culture of the time.