Review: 1, 2, and 3 John (SGBC)

34650040The Story of God Bible Commentary is an exciting and practical series that seeks to explain the Bible in light of the grand story of the biblical narrative. The editors and contributors for this series are top-tier scholars and pastors with seasoned insight and experience into the world of biblical interpretation and proclamation—making this series both a useful and attractive addition to the pastor’s library.

One of the most recent additions to the series is 1, 2, & 3 John by Constantine R. Campbell. Campbell is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Campbell is a capable New Testament scholar and an influential thinker in the arena of Biblical Greek. Though The Story of God Bible Commentary is by no means an academic work, Campbell’s background is well situated for the focus on this series.

The commentary opens with a sizable introduction compared to other volumes in the series (20 pages for 1 John alone). Campbell comments on some of the major themes of the Johannine epistles (love, the centrality of Christ, sin and forgiveness, truth, and fellowship with God), authorship (Campbell affirms traditional author as John the Apostle), situation, similarities of 1 John to John’s Gospel, etc. Campbell treats both 2 and 3 John with similar yet separate, smaller introductions. While the series itself is somewhat characteristic of lackluster introductions, Campbell breaks the trend and offers readers a stellar orientation to 1, 2, & 3 John.

As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustration to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

Where Campbell shines, surprisingly, is in the application of the Johannine epistles. Readers who are familiar with Campbell might expect him to deliver results in the EXPLAIN section, and, to be honest, he does such extremely well. Campbell does an excellent job of keeping the story of God in view while navigating the Johannine epistles. That said, readers will be pleasantly surprised at how natural Campbell was able to move from exegesis to application here. It was both consistently meaningful and dependably appropriate for the contemporary audience. Readers may be slightly disappointed in the lack of attention spent on 2 and 3 John, but quality of Campbell’s interaction easily overshadows any possible shortcomings.

The Story of God Bible Commentary: 1, 2, & 3 John by Constantine R. Campbell is a magnificent contribution that offers a cohesive presentation of one of the most theologically overlooked of the New Testament epistles. Not only is he well-informed and easy to read, but Campbell is surprisingly keen on matters of practical application. This is a must have if you are studying the Johannine epistles and should be one of the first application commentaries off the shelf for the foreseeable future.

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