This essay offers the first close reading of Karl Marx’s early (1835) essay on the Gospel of John. Coming out of the wealth of material of the early Marx, it shows a brilliant young man engaging with and coming up against difficulties with a biblical text (John 15). Careful attention to Marx’s essay shows him struggling with two tensions. The first tension concerns two different models of salvation, either a mediatory one (Roman Catholic) or a dialectical one (Protestant). The essay begins with the former and ends with the latter, although it does not resolve the tension. The second tension is between the formal requirements of catechism and the poetic flights of the biblical text: Marx seeks to answer in light of the former but is drawn into the very different formal features of the latter. Apart from indicating the importance of contradiction itself in Marx’s later work, the article closes by considering the inevitability of encountering contradictions when engaging closely with a biblical text.