Review of ‘John the Beloved’ by DelHousaye

DelHousaye has spent a great length of time studying and reading about John, but has chosen a very limited aim for a very short book: “How did the Son of Thunder become the Apostle of Love? Answering that question is the goal of this book”.

That’s OK, except that with only the thinnest and most circumstantial of evidence, most of based on ‘this is what people were like back then’, DelHousaye paints the picture of a hot-tempered, self-absorbed, selfish xenophobe who turns into the ‘apostle of love’ largely through Christ’s example, and to a lesser degree through his words. 

Unfortunately the evidence – especially for the hot-tempered part – just isn’t there. There is no scholarly consensus, for example, on what James and John being dubbed ‘sons of thunder’ really means – certainly not to any detailed extent. But DelHousaye gives that as his principal evidence that John had a temper problem, described as “Another great flaw” in his character. The only Biblical evidence offered is Luke 9:54 when along with his brother they asked Jesus whether he wanted them to call down fire on their opponents. That may speak to vengefulness or a rush to judgement, but ASKING Jesus whether to call down fire is the opposite of having a bad temper.

That’s the pattern of this short book: scanty evidence as foundation stones for firmly-held views about John, even including two stories that the author admits might be apocryphal, but which he then unashamedly presents as concrete evidence of a loving nature of John’s that extended well into his old age. 

On the up side, there’s a reasonable amount of interesting background on the definites and the possibles of John’s life, and DelHousaye ironically does a good job of saying when he’s not sure about something. The problem is only that the entire book’s purpose rests on the certainty of those things he admits are far from certain.

Useful for research purposes (which is what I mainly wanted it for), but I’d largely ignore the assessment of the apostle himself. 

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