The Parable of Joy: Reflections on the Wisdom of the Book of John. By Michael Card. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995. Pp. 259. Cloth, $19.99.
Especially after reviewing the emasculated “Inclusive” Oxford variant of the NRSV and the loose and racy Message, I find musician Card’s book reverent, artistic, and accurate.
His work is a fresh translation of John’s Gospel with helpful notes and short story-like sections scattered through the text.
Mr. Card chose C. S. Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham (so beautifully portrayed as a boy in the film “Shadowlands”) to write the foreword. He writes (from Ireland): “The real excitement in studying John with the insight that this book provides is that as we achieve a closer feeling of being there and then, we also achieve a closer feeling of Him being here and now” (p. xiii).
The historically researched (and unSunday-school-pink-and-blue-bathrobe-school-of-biblical pictures) black and white art by Keith Mueller is a real addition to the book.
The translation is modern but close to the original text, even using Jesus’ words “Amen, amen” rather than “Truly, truly,” etc. Card’s version of John 5:24 clearly presents the Gospel of grace: “AMEN, AMEN, I say to you, the person who hears My word and believes the One who sent Me has life eternal and does not come into judgment, but has moved out of death into life” (p. 68). This reviewer appreciates the reverential capitals of pronouns for Deity (albeit considered “religiously incorrect” in many quarters).
The note on the adulterous woman passage (John 7:53-8:11) is surprisingly good in light of the translator’s apparent acceptance of the usual line that it’s not in the right place: “In the brief span of eleven verses we have a crystalline picture of the forgiving love of Jesus. When we come to the end of the story, we feel as if we have read an entire book about the love of God” (p. 104). I would like to add that this “crystalline picture” is in over 1,000 Greek manuscripts right here in John (majority of manuscripts).
In the section retelling chapter 6, Mr. Card—who goes to Christ Community Church (Presbyterian) in Franklin, Tennessee—sounds as if he believes in transubstantiation, a Roman Catholic dogma that has always horrified the Reformed, and certainly standard Evangelicals: “The bread is alive, Jesus tells them. It is His own flesh. Jesus’ scandalous words reach our ears, having been filtered down through two thousand years of church history. But these first hearers belonged to a community that observed some of the most strict dietary laws the world has ever seen. They did not even eat pork! Now Jesus, this One they had hoped for as a king, was talking about cannibalism!
“If ever an explanation was called for from Jesus is it now. A few words might have calmed them down and help them understand His horrific statement. This was a time to choose His words with the utmost care.
“And Jesus did. He selected words designed to have the most explosive effect. Not only are the people told that they must eat His flesh, He then goes on to say they must also drink His blood! To the few who might have been holding out hope for a metaphorical interpretation, Jesus says, ‘My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink,’” (italics added).
Perhaps noting the context—a Jewish synagogue (v 59) before there was a Church or holy communion, and noting v 63 would have clarified things: “The flesh does not count for anything. The words I speak to you are Spirit and Life” (pp. 86-87, Card’s translation, italics added). Sounds like a metaphor to me!
This book is worth getting, or at least reading. The translation is good, the historical notes are generally helpful, the tone is one of faith, and the format is attractive.
Arthur L. Farstad
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society