From the patristic period until today, John’s Gospel has served as a major source for the church’s knowledge, doctrine, and worship of the triune God. Among all New Testament documents, the Fourth Gospel provides not only the most raw material for the doctrine of the Trinity, but also the most highly developed patterns of reflection on this material—particularly patterns that seek to account in some way for the distinct personhood and divinity of Father, Son, and Spirit without compromising the unity of God.
Köstenberger and Swain offer a fresh examination of John’s trinitarian vision. While there have been recent, fine studies on aspects of John’s doctrine of God, it is surprising that none summarizes and synthesizes what John has to say about God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In order to fill this gap, they bridge that divide. They situate John’s trinitarian teaching within the context of Second Temple Jewish monotheism. They examine the Gospel narrative in order to trace the characterization of God as Father, Son, and Spirit, followed by a brief synthesis. They deal more fully with major trinitarian themes in the Fourth Gospel, including its account of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and mission. They discuss the significance of John’s Gospel for the church’s doctrine of the Trinity. They conclude with a brief summary of some practical implications.
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“Jesus did not become God’s Son at the resurrection; he already was God’s Son prior to the crucifixion, and his resurrection and exaltation merely confirmed his status as Son of God.” (Page 40)
“First, John’s Gospel is ‘trinitarian’ in an obvious, non-controversial sense: John presents Father, Son and Spirit as three characters whose identities are bound together in a profound and mutually determining way.” (Page 21)
“Jesus’ inclusion in the identity of God means that God must be conceived in relational terms, uniting God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God thus transcends one-dimensional conceptions of human identity.” (Page 37)
“Importantly, the early Christians did not view Jesus’ resurrection as conferring on him an essentially new status but as confirming the status he already possessed.” (Page 40)
“God never appears in the Fourth Gospel, and the only words he speaks are ‘and I have glorified it, and will glorify it again’ (12:28).1 Hence ‘God is characterized not by what He says or does but by what Jesus, His fully authorized emissary, says about Him.’” (Page 47)
Kostenberger and Swain have written an accessible and practical volume that provides a stimulating overview to both current trinitarian thought and the broader scholarly debates within the field of Joahnnine studies. This work will prove useful for thoughtful pastors, seminary students, and informed laypersons. It fills a lacuna in the field of biblical studies by providing a biblical survey and theological overview of the Trinity as it is presented in the Gospel of John.
—J. Brian Tucker, Bulletin for Biblical Research
In the midst of the Trinity debates in evangelicalism today, Father, Son and Spirit is a welcome contribution that provides a solid biblical-theological study of one of the most important biblical books on the triune nature of the Godhead.
—Philip R. Gons, Themelios
I highly recommend this volume for pastors as well as those interested in more technical debates regarding the Trinity. The conclusions and theological reflections will provide the reader with a solid basis to begin thinking critically about issues such as missions and evangelism. The book will also provide small group leaders and Sunday school teachers with great curriculum ideas.
—Jason Button, Sharper Iron
Andreas J. Köstenberger is professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. He has written several books and articles, including Encountering John, A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters, and Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John.
Scott R. Swain is associate professor of systematic theology and academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando). He is the author of Reformed Catholicity and Trinity, Revelation, and Reading.