Current Students

Matt N. Williams

What does “gospel”mean? It is not a word used in common parlance, but it has simple meaning: “good news”. This is the standard term for the Christian message, which is further referred to as “good news for the poor”. But what does this mean? How can a message about Jesus dying for sins to bring people into eternal life have particular relevance for people in poverty? Investigating this question is especially important in relation to the Gospel and Letters of John, New Testament texts whose focus is often seen as ‘spiritual’ and ‘theological’ rather than ‘material’ or ‘practical’. By looking closely at these documents in their historical context and with a concern for poverty shaped by experience in Central Africa, this research will bring to light the socio-economic dimension of this literature. It will show that this neglected area uncovers a materially engaged ethic that is rooted in John’s theology and particularly its use of kinship terminology. The family was, after all, the primary socio-economic unit of society; thus restored relationship to God that is manifest in ‘family’ relationships is profoundly “good news for the poor”.

Supervisory Team: Prof. John Barclay, Theology and Religion (Durham), Dr Jane Heath, Theology and Religion (Durham).

Start Date: October 2016.