Excerpts from Yung Suk Kim, Truth, Testimony, and Transformation: A New Reading of the I am sayings of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (Cascade, 2014)
When Jesus says in the Fourth Gospel, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," does he mean that Christianity is the only true religion, or did he mean something else? As we know, Jesus did not found a new religion nor did he pave a new way to salvation or truth. Rather, Jesus worked for God, by showing the way of God, testifying to the truth, and engaging in the work of liberation. Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, like Moses, is sent by God to liberate people from darkness. Unlike today's triumphant Christianity, the Johannine community was a small, marginalized, expelled community that struggled because of their faith. It will be very interesting to see how this struggling community was transformed into a loving community, following the model of Jesus.
I wrote this book out of my hope that the Fourth Gospel and John 14:6, in particular, could be the scripture of engagement, embodiment, and empowerment for Christian readers. I hope this book will help the reader rethink the role of the Logos or the "I am" sayings in the Fourth Gospel. In a pluralistic society, the focus of the gospel shifts from conversion or theological doctrine to the empowerment of people. I dream that this book will contribute to theological education in that the "I am" sayings of the Fourth Gospel give a voice of inclusivism rather than exclusivism, solidarity rather than marginalization, and liberation rather than oppression. In the pluralistic life contexts of America today, the theology that accepts others as friends is very important; it engages others on the basis of God's love and justice. With a focus on the language of embodiment and empowerment, theological education can be more inclusive to others and help students to reorient their attention to the present life in the world.
ReviewThis book would be worth reading just for the critical interrogation of numerous cherished assumptions in Johannine interpretation. . . . Kim challenges them all but, in addition, offers a constructive theological interpretation that sets Jesus squarely in his own historical Jewish context; attends to the nuanced ways the text transforms the reader; and commissions the reader to live abundantly in a globally, radically, inclusive way."
--Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University
For many who turn away from the Gospel of John because of its exclusivism, this deceptively slim volume can be, as its title hints, transformational. Plunging directly to the 'I am' sayings, Kim sketches a new way to truth and life, by reading John metaphorically and historically in a Jewish context and showing how the meaning of the 'I am' sayings changes when they are read functionally, as descriptions of Jesus' work. The result is a serious challenge to traditional views of Johannine theology.
--R. Alan Culpepper, Mercer University
In his capacity to synthesize critical theory and to apply the results to the biblical text, Yung Suk Kim has few peers among contemporary New Testament scholars. Kim deploys the most challenging philosophical frameworks with facility, and communicates the results simply and clearly, keeping his focus on the real-life struggles of Christian readers in a pluralistic context.
--Laurence Welborn, Fordham University
Yung Suk Kim's TRUTH, TESTIMONY, AND TRANSFORMATION strikes a delicate balance between genuine piety and rigorous biblical scholarship, according to the conventions of the academic discipline. Such faithful, accessible exposition makes the Fourth Gospel sayings much more useful as an instrument for empowering devotion rather than as a 'tool of empire.' This work is lyrical in its tone and liberative in its scope.