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SIGNS OF SALVATION – THE THEME OF CREATION IN JOHN’S GOSPEL – ANTHONY M. MOORE

Canon Anthony Moore (currently Vice Dean of Lichfield Cathedral) has worked in a number of parishes in Lancashire and London and academic institutions, including the College of the Resurrection Mirfield and St Catherine’s College in Cambridge. In this book – an edited version of his PhD thesis – Canon Moore argues that the hapax legomenon (unique word) contained in John 20:15 when Mary Magdalene identifies Jesus as “the gardener” (ὁ κηπουρός {ho kipouros}) is deeply significant. This is not, as Moore argues, a random term but part of a much deeper ursatz (underlying narrative) in which the writer of the Gospel of John points towards the Creation Narrative(s) of the book of Genesis and Jesus’ role in that Creation through the use of lexical and conceptual ambiguity. In so doing Canon Moore is revisiting a theme common in Patristic writing, but discounted more recently by the pre-eminent Johannine scholar Raymond E. Brown, who prefers a more ‘literal’ interpretation of Mary Magdalene’s first encounter with the Risen Lord. It takes a certain amount of daring to disagree with any aspect of Brown’s interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, but Anthony Moore does so very effectively and in so doing suggests an alternative (additional?) interpretation not only of John 20, but of the Gospel in its entirety.

In the first chapter Moore examines various questions surrounding the Fourth Gospel, including authorship, composition, sitz im leben and (original) readership before surveying the critical literature (prior to Brown) which sought to link the Fourth Gospel, Jesus as ‘artificer’ of Creation (to use an Augustinian term) and the Genesis Creation Narrative(s). In the second Chapter Moore discusses the hapax legomenon in greater depth and examines the use of similar words in the Greek text of the Septuagint and New Testament and the Hebrew text of the Hebrew Scriptures providing extremely useful tables of both Greek and Hebrew words. In the third chapter Moore looks at ‘Creation Indicators’ – verbs which, he argues, point towards the theme of Creation, and in the fourth chapter, he draws together the material previously explored in a masterly synthesis. In this chapter Moore also suggests that there are seven ‘signs of Creation’ in the Fourth Gospel (the wedding at Cana; the healing of the official’s son, the lame man and the blind man; the feeding of the multitude; Jesus walking on water and the raising of Lazarus), further demonstrating the strength of his contention that the Gospel of John firmly links the Lord to the Creation Narrative(s) of Genesis.

This is a wonderful book and although it might well seem initially daunting with tables of Greek and Hebrew words and the use of exotic biblical terms, everything is well explained and no assumption is made that the reader will automatically be able to decipher the Greek and Hebrew scripts. For those of us who want to articulate a Theology of Creation from a Franciscan viewpoint it is of great value and interest and Canon Moore is to be thanked for suggesting that we might legitimately revisit the Patristic interpretations of these passages of the Fourth Gospel.

Joseph Emmanuel SSF