Andreas J. Köstenberger. Signs of the Messiah: An Introduction to John’s Gospel. Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2021. 200 pages. $27.99 (hardcover).
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger—Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and Director of the Center for Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—has spent much of his academic career immersed in the Gospel of John. In Signs of the Messiah, based in part on a series of “For the Church” lectures given at MBTS, Köstenberger distills the fruit of his extensive study into a brief and accessible volume, providing an overview of the literary traits and theological teaching of John’s Gospel. In so doing, the book gives a bird’s-eye view of the Gospel while highlighting enough key details to equip the reader to engage in their own in-depth study.
After a brief introduction, the book divides into three parts. Part one begins with a discussion of the authorship of the Gospel, then covers John’s prologue (1:1–18). The bulk of part one focuses on the “Cana Cycle” (chs. 2–4), so called for its bracketed references to Cana in Galilee, the location of two of Jesus’ messianic signs. Part two focuses on the “Festival Cycle” (chs. 5–10). Here Köstenberger discusses the signs and discourses of Jesus during key Jewish festivals over the course of his ministry. Part three starts with the healing of Lazarus, marking the transition from the first half of John’s Gospel (chs. 1–12) to the second half (chs. 13–21). Köstenberger closes out part three with studies of the Farewell Discourse (chs. 13–17) and John’s passion narrative and epilogue (chs. 18–21).
The book is designed as a companion volume to be read alongside the Gospel of John. The chapters are short and easy to read, generally avoiding technical terminology (aside from a few terms that he takes the time to define). The devotional tone of the book makes it ideal for use in personal Bible study, Sunday School classes, or sermon preparation. Yet the book contains no shortage of insights from Köstenberger’s scholarship.
Some of the most fascinating sections include his strong case for Johannine authorship (pp. 10–23), the discussion of John’s aim to supplement and “transpose” the other three Gospel accounts (pp. 34–36, 69–71), and the two sets of contrasts—Nicodemus with the Samaritan woman, and the paralytic with the blind man—representing right and wrong responses to Jesus (pp. 57–59, 108–09). While the book would have benefited from an additional chapter summarizing theological themes, the discussion questions in the back can provide a brief review and points of application to the reader. With a combination of readability, scholarly insight, and pastoral wisdom, Köstenberger’s Signs of the Messiah will prove to be a valuable resource for anyone planning to study or teach on the Gospel of John.
Drake Isabell is a Ph.D. student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.