Author of the Month

Gnosticsm & the Proclamation of Christianity with special reference to John's Gospel

By Donald M. Hancock FRCS Ed


Welcome, Leila, to a great Gospel and a 1st class commentary by John Marsh. I read Marsh for the first time after you told me about it. Congrats to your teacher for this choice.

Being 'a child of your times' [1] you will approach this tough A level assignment with many questions and arguments, so go on asking and arguing. You are a good arguer, as some of us know to our cost!

Try to work out the answers by thinking through the problem, and reading to collect the facts, and discussing the question with other people to see if they have any further ideas which may help you get a better answer. Remember the best arguments are heard when quiet but persistent methodical reasoning is used as the corner stone of debate. Try and put forward clear reasons for whatever point you are making. Don't let any one steam you up! At all costs keep your temper and make sure your sweet enquiring nature is evident to everybody.

I know that you enjoy a fight but keep this part of your nature for the hockey field. Never, never allow things to turn into wrangling, shouting and horrid clash of unreasoned opinions. You do not want the debate to turn into squabbling or falling out. [2] It does not need to if you keep cool with a clear demonstration of your reasons. If your school has a Debating Society, you should join it - now. You are good at this sort of thing and if you make the most of your opportunities you will excel at it.

There is one kind of question you should try to avoid. This is the leading question, which is worded in such a way that the answer hoped for will be reached in trying to deal with it. This is the sort of question which any decent scientist will do his utmost to avoid as it leads to flawed work and a biased answer.

With this type of leading question, the answer you want as often as not determines the answer you get even though this answer is not true. So it is really best to avoid this type of question. Some barristers and most reporters from the less reputable tabloids are experts in biased questions during hot pursuit of their victims. Barristers are not allowed to get away with this when examining defendants in court.

In any masterpiece (and St. John's Gospel is a masterpiece), one will find many difficulties and many questions, but try to find them in the right places. It is such a waste of effort to look for them in the wrong places. Marsh's commentary will help you to find the right places. Your teachers and your classmates can also be a great help if approached with respect.

'Only connect.' [3] was Forster's advice. It is of course hard work but keep at it and it will be very rewarding, not so much for A levels, which you will pass well - I am sure -- but for enlarging your mind and getting those brain cells better linked up. Now's the time to cash in on making connections which the young brain finds easy. It will not always be easy, believe me, struggling as I am not to lose them too fast!

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  1. No longer a child, I know, so please accept my apologies. This phrase comes from a book - the name of which escapes me. It is applied to people of all ages.
  2. There is a real danger in getting into bitter argument. This is particularly well shown in the remarks of Job's 'miserable' comforters: Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz in chapters 18, 20 and 22. The two speeches of Bildad and Zophar are among the nastiest in the book. These two men, who appeared to be overwhelmed with compassion when they first visited Job, are now intent on cruelly heaping more grief upon him - just to defend their (flawed) theological views that God always prospers the good while bringing disaster, such as Job's, in this life on the bad. Eliphaz fills his speech with heartless personal attacks on Job's behaviour, which have no truth in them. Job refutes each one in his closing speech (chapters 29-31).
  3. E.M. Forster in "A Room with a View". This is a great novel. Have you read it?

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