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Book Review: a Mystical Portrait of Jesus: New Perspectives on John's Gospel by Demetrius Dumm

by Peter Menkin  
1/18/2009 / Book Reviews

Meaningful book on John's Gospel by a thoughtful man

Here is the beginning of the Chapter "Love Gives All." Just two sentences that say so much: "The story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus is summed up perfectly in the words of John: 'Having Loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end' (13:1). This is a little like being reminded at Christmas time that Jesus will die on the cross. There is a mystery to the life of the man Jesus, part of it for me is that it was so short. We were given only three years of his ministry to look at for wisdom and saving grace. In this book Demetrius Dumm uses the text of John with his comments to help us as a guide through a reading of John.

The author goes through various scenes in John in the first Chapter bringing a studied review with good thoughts on the subject at hand. The author likes the Gospel of John, and he helps the reader through it and thereby instills an appreciation. One could say this is a book that shows and helps teach an appreciation for the scripture. Here's how he calls a scene: "Scene Four (19-25b-27) 'Woman, here is your Son...Here is your Mother' (19:26-27). This starts off a discussion of Mary and the Beloved Disciple in a manner that "transcends their historical significance." Those are Father Demetrius Dumm's words concerning transcending. The writer is a Professor of New Testament at Saint Vincent Seminary, where he has held that position for 50 years. No beginner, he. No stranger, either, in things that are a mystery. The jacket says this is a spiritual study.

The theme is of the story of Jesus as a man of timeless eternity. I suppose most readers know about the Gospel of John, to some extent. Here is a chance to extend one's understanding of the mystical and learn of God's love for us in "...the divine Word experienced (in) the love of God..." As the author writes in his exploration of the Chapter "That They May Be One" using the reference "Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth", that Jesus gave his life and unveils the reality of God's unconditional love for us. "...We are called to live in the presence and warmth of the Father's incredible love to to trust the hidden goodness in life, just as Jesus lives in the Father's bosom and listens to his heartbeat."

This paperback with an intriguing picture of Jesus in color on the cover by Georges Rouault guides the reader through John, the book of the Bible, in a manner that is studied and teaches about reading John in a studied manner. This is an interesting, and even intriguing book.

Jesus came into a world where he was not generally welcomed. There is the journey of the Word from creation, "through the Law and the Prophets and Wisdom writings." Yet, the experience of the Johannine community of the first century showed how difficult it was for him to be accepted by so many of his own people who encountered him.

If the reader is searching for or interested in a meaning in life beyond what worldly wisdom can offer, this is a book that will point in a direction of the divine, in the Christian way. There are many quotes from the Bible, from specifically and only the book of John. It is a good idea to read or to have read John to enjoy and learn from this book. Could one do so without knowing the Biblical John Gospel? Maybe. There are so many quotes from John to lead one through the Gospel.

This is a book about Jesus, and a book about how John presents Jesus. William Countryman is quoted in the book as saying Jesus is the Good Shepherd, "...who protects and nourishes the lives of his sheep by giving his own life for them." There was a mystical appearance of the spirit among the Johannine community, a "mystical appreciation of the divinity of Jesus..." It is the Eucharist that is the third stage (after conversion and baptism) into the mystery of Christ. This is an important theme, that the Eucharist brings us into the mystery of Christ.

After a series of brief remarks in the Chapter titled "Eucharist" the author uses this quote: "[Jesus] cried out, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.'" So again, as throughout the book, Demetrius Dumm uses a subheading to draw us through the arguments and presentations that illuminate this Gospel and further our understanding of the Biblical book of John. An example: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:29)

As is noted in the introduction, the book of John was written "several decades after the Synoptic Gospels" so that Jesus becomes the essential sacramental contact for us. This isn't another book on John. It is an inspiring look at John, and one that leads us through dimensions of the Word. I like how he makes his Chapter Titles intriguing entries to his subject: "Testifying to the Truth" and the simple, yet chilling subhead "So the soldiers...arrested Jesus and bound him" (18:12).

You may need to be ready to read this book, and one thing is to recognize this is a book by a believer who exercises his faith and learning, from years of work, to tell us, "When Jesus asks his Father to sanctify us in the truth, he is praying that we may become one with himself in belonging totally to the Father." For one seeking and desiring the deeper religious life, to be more of a mind in reading the Gospel of John, this is an excellent book of meaning by a thoughtful man.

--Peter Menkin, Mill Valley, CA USA

Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.

Copyright Peter Menkin

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