Review: Reading C. S. Lewis

9780190221348Wesley A. Kort is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Duke University. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Chicago and has received numerous awards, honors, and distinctions throughout his academic career. Kort is the author of the well-received C. S. Lewis Then and Now (Oxford, 2004), where he sought to rehabilitate Lewis to demonstrate the continuing value and relevance of his work today. Most recently, in Reading C. S. Lewis: A Commentary (Oxford, 2015), Kort has delivered yet another excellent volume into the hands of Lewis enthusiasts everywhere. It is here that Kort offers an exciting investigation into some of Lewis’s major works, providing a fresh literary and academic evaluation that has set a new standard for C. S. Lewis studies.

Reading C. S. Lewis begins with an introduction that positions the reader to recognize the cultural milieu of Lewis’s day. Kort does the reader a service by bringing attention to the backdrop of the story before directing the reader towards the material that comprises the remainder of the book—which is organized around three structural components that constitute the framework of Lewis’s project (ix).

First, Kort seeks to independently comment on four of Lewis’s well-known works: Surprised by Joy (1955), The Problem of Pain (1940), The Screwtape Letters (1942), and Mere Christianity (1952). For Kort, these four books display Lewis’s assumptions concerning “basic and important moral and religious matters [that] are and have been generally agreed upon by reasonable people” (109). This is the preliminary structural component of the larger framework mentioned above—Lewis’s philosophical and moral theory. The commentary on each of these works is consistent and helpful throughout, and he often provides insight that would be unknown by the average reader with little exposure to Lewis (myself included).

Second, Kort guides the reader through the next major structural component, namely, Lewis’s cultural critique of modernity. Kort again provides commentary on four of Lewis’s well-known works: Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943), The Abolition of Man (1944), and The Hideous Strength (1945). For Kort, the critique of modernity expressed in these texts “is sharply focused, well informed, consistent, and both theoretically and practically defended” (189). The reader will likely agree with Kort’s assessment at this point. I was personally intrigued by this section considering Lewis’s interaction within the academy and the cultural shift that was taking place therein. However, I anticipated more interaction by Kort regarding Lewis’s adoration for Dante and his influence on Lewis’s work—especially that of the Space Trilogy.

Third, Kort turns attention to the final structural component of Lewis’s project as he comments on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe (1950) and Prince Caspian (1951), The Four Loves (1960), and The Magician’s Nephew (1955) and The Last Battle (1956). Kort explains, “the third component, applied principals, relates to his distinction between principles and their embodiments and, second, to his [Lewis’s] constructive application of moral and doctrinal principals to delineate a worldview that he sees as preferable to its modern, particularly nonreligious, alternatives” (viii). The reader will find the observations that Kort details here both helpful and insightful. I personally found Kort’s discussion on charity within The Four Loves (233-235) to be of great practical significant, and it was full of witty and quotable content.

Reading C. S. Lewis by Wesley A. Kort is a brilliant book by a scholar well-acquainted with Lewis’s life and works. Kort was both fair and generous in his assessment, and the organization of the book was planned well for the interested reader. Some readers, especially those who are more familiar with Lewis’s work, will likely be disappointed in the limited scope of Lewis’s corpus presented here. Moreover, I was personally disappointed by the use of endnotes over footnotes. There is some truly outstanding material lingering in the endnotes of this book and it would have been more readily available for the reader at the bottom of the page. Nevertheless, despite these foreseen issues, it is clear that Kort has provided a commendable volume that is certain to be enjoyed by C. S. Lewis fans everywhere. I recommend it with enthusiasm!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Proverbs

9780801030970Tremper Longman III is no stranger to the world of Old Testament wisdom literature. Longman has already authored a number of excellent, top-tier commentaries within this genre, including The Book of Ecclesiastes (1997) and Song of Songs (2001) in the acclaimed New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, as well as the present volume on Proverb (2006; paperback edition 2015) and the volume on Job (2012) in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series, for which he also serves as editor.

The commentary begins with a sizable introduction (66 pages) to orient the reader in the right direction. I have always been an enthusiast of introductions in commentaries and Longman seems to always provide excellent start points. Longman tackles the traditional introductory matters with sophistication, including title, canonicity, place in canon, authorship and date, social setting, text, genre, literary style, structure, ancient Near Eastern background, theology of proverbs, and much more. The discussion surrounding the authorship and date of the book is outstanding and informative, and Longman’s keen awareness of the connection between Proverbs and other ancient Near Eastern proverbs will be eye-opening for the unfamiliar reader.

The commentary proper divides Proverbs into five major parts: (1) Extended Discourses on Wisdom (1:1-9:18), (2) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection I (10:1-22:16), (3) Sayings of the Wise (22:17-24:34), (4) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection II (25:1-29:27), and (5) Sayings of Agur and King Lemuel and Poem of the Virtuous Woman (30:1-31:31). Each chapter of the commentary begins with Longman’s translation of the text and includes a number of helpful explanatory notes. As each chapter unfolds, the reader is guided between interpretation and theological implication, thus serving to build the readers understanding and application of the text. Longman concludes the commentary with a 28-page topical study of Proverbs, including several important themes found threaded throughout the book.

Longman displays a unique familiarity with the Book of Proverbs. His interpretive insights and theological suggestions are exceptionally useful for readers of all backgrounds, and his interaction with other commentators is unparalleled. Moreover, Longman provides plenty of contact with other ancient Near Eastern proverbs—exposure that is beneficial to the reader lacking such previous knowledge. Still, I think one of the most exciting features of the commentary is the topical appendix material. It appropriately addresses the lack of a clear overarching structure within the book and allows the readers to study the Proverbs thematically. Each topic within this section begins with a list of passages addressing the subject, followed by a brief discussion that seeks to synthesize the given topic across Proverbs holistically. Of course, lengthier discussions on each passage can be found in the commentary proper, but this is an indispensable addition to the commentary that the pastor and teacher should covet for years to come.

The Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms: Proverb by Tremper Longman III is easily one of the best single-volume commentaries on Proverbs available. It presents everything needed in a commentary of this size and executes the task with precision. It is readable, informative, and practically useful for readers of all interests and backgrounds. It will benefit both the seasoned and novice reader, and continue to do so for years to come. If you are looking for a commentary that is both engaging and edifying, and one that won’t elude value for such reading, this is a commentary full of riches that you will not want to overlook in the process. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Women’s Bible Commentary

066423707XThe Women’s Bible Commentary has continued to provide a unique opportunity for students of the Bible to observe the hermeneutical outcome of feminist scholarship for over two decades. It has brought together some the best feminist scholars in the field, which has resulted in a timely and lasting volume that has demonstrated itself as beneficial for a many. The present twentieth anniversary edition features a number of brand new or thoroughly revised essays that reflect newer thinking in feminist interpretation and hermeneutics. The scope of this volume is comprehensive and its significance is evident, regardless of an individual’s gender or theological persuasion. It covers every book of the Old Testament and the New, as well as the Old Testament Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books.

The book opens with two important essays to position the reader with the understanding needed to discover value in the volume. The reader will find Carol A Newson’s essay on women as biblical interpreters prior to the twentieth century well-written and intriguing given the task of the present volume. As the reader enters into the commentary proper, he or she will find traditional introductory material for each book, comments on various passages in each book, and a number of brief excursuses on female figures (such as Eve, Ruth, Rahab, etc.) and their interpreters. Each chapter helpfully concludes with a bibliography to orient the reader properly for further study.

The commentary and treatment of the text therein was met with a variegated presentation of its usefulness. Some of the books are handled more judiciously than others, and some of the essays are certainly more useful than others. Moreover, there was little consistency throughout by way of interaction with opposing positions. Not that this negates the value of the resource, but I find interaction more helpful than blanket assertions, and I assume other readers do as well. Also, given the nature and focus of the volume itself, the conservative evangelical reader should anticipate disagreement. But, again, this should not negate the value of the resource. In fact, if anything, it should ultimately encourage the value of the resource as the reader should seek to interact with and dialog alongside the material and arguments that it seeks to present.

The Women’s Bible Commentary is a unique resource. It provides readers of all theological persuasion and backgrounds an opportunity to interact with and observe the best that the feminist movement has to offer by way of biblical scholarship. The volume itself is helpful in many respects, but it will also provide serious concern for some readers. Regardless, it provides a hermeneutical perspective unavailable in other resources on the market, and I am more than happy to have it on my bookshelf and look forward to consulting it often. It brings much to the table for discussion and comes highly recommended for any serious student of the Bible seeking to engage the world around them.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Ruth (ZECOT)

9780310282983.jpg_2Daniel I. Block is a household name in the field of Old Testament studies. He is the Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College where he has served for over a decade, and is author, co-author, and/or editor of numerous books, including the two-volume commentary on The Book of Ezekiel in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, Deuteronomy in the NIV Application Commentary series, Judges & Ruth in the New American Commentary series, and much more. Most recently, functioning as the general editor of the series and the author of this volume on Ruth, Block has produced a captivating analysis into the theological corners of one of the most important narratives of the Hebrew Bible.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament: Ruth opens with an up-to-date selected bibliography of some the most important works related to the book of Ruth, as well as Block’s own translation of the Hebrew text. Block’s translation is exceptional. It was easy-to-read, faithful to the text, and true to the narratival genre as a whole. Following the translation, the reader will encounter a firmly situated introduction that addresses standard introductory matters, such as date, authorship, the providence of composition, major theological themes, style, structure, etc. The commentary proper is organized under six sections that guide the reader through the text: (1) The Main Idea of the Passage, (2) Literary Context, (3) Translation and Exegetical Outline, (4) Structure and Literary Form, (5) Explanation of the Text, (6) Canonical and Practical Significance. This format is extremely helpful in that it allows the reader to narrow in on the details of the text with a broader sense of the passage and book at large.

The high points of this commentary are overflowing. As mentioned above, the format and structure of the book is intentionally sensitive to the task of the end user. This means that the pastor and/or teacher will be more than pleased with the content and organization of the book as they seek to preach or teach through this important story. Block helpfully recognizes the importance of the narrative genre and does an excellent job bringing this feature to the surface throughout. For example, the outline of the book (p. 58) has been presented thematically as a type of narrative drama, and thus Block labels the sections and subsections accordingly (i.e. Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, etc.). Moreover, Block has also included a dramatized reading of the narrative to be used within an ecclesiastical setting, and thus mimic the original hearing of the story (p. 263). This narratival emphasis alone warrants a home for this volume on your bookshelf. I also found Block’s interaction with the text to be consistently helpful in recognizing the larger picture and significance of the book as a whole. Finally, it is worth mentioning, unlike the New Testament volumes in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, this Old Testament volume include Hebrew and English in the presentation of the diagramed text. This is especially useful for those that know the original language, but those do may not will still find great benefit.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament: Ruth by Daniel I. Block is, in many ways, representative of how a commentary should be executed if the end goal is to be the faithful proclamation of a biblical narrative. Block has intentionally brought together helpful features that are rarely found between a single binding, and has thus done an outstanding job guiding the reader on both a macro and micro level. Moreover, his consistent narratival emphasis allows the reader to remain focused on the broader picture being painted throughout the story, as well as the main theological themes therein. While the commentary is certainly detailed in exegetical riches, I am confident that even those with little or no understanding of the biblical languages will be able to use this volume with tremendous benefit. If you are preparing to preach or teach through the book of Ruth, or simply interested in a detailed investigation into this important biblical story, this will be a volume that you cannot afford to be without.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Hebrews

0664221181Luke Timothy Johnson (Ph.D., Yale University) is R. W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Chandler School of Theology, Emory University. Johnson is a notable scholar whose research concerns have been the literary, moral, and religious dimensions of the New Testament, including the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts of early Christianity, Luke-Acts, the Pastoral Letters, and the Letter of James. Johnson is also the author of numerous books, many of which, nowadays, are still widely used in academic and ecclesiastical settings around the world—the present volume on Hebrews being one of those contributions.

Hebrews: A Commentary is firmly positioned as one of the most notable volumes within the acclaimed New Testament Library (NTL) series. The commentary begins with a 60-page introduction that is well-worth the price of the volume. Johnson, of course, tackles all the introductory matters with precision. Johnson dates the composition of the book between AD 50-70 and provides a rather convincing case for the authorship by the hand of Apollo—although Johnson concludes the anonymity of the author being the only known reality. Moreover, Johnson provides an excellent discussion about the use of the book of Hebrews within Christian tradition and rightly concludes that it was the usefulness/ truthfulness of its content, rather than apostolic authorship, that resulted in its widespread acceptance.

The commentary proper is likewise excellent throughout and judiciously presented. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Johnson provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I have continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Johnson does not disappoint. He is meticulous and careful in his translation and presents the evidence and and textual issues well. In fact, compared to the other volumes that I have interacted with in the series I think Johnson has been the most helpful in this section. Second, Johnson has presented a good case for LXX priority in Hebrews and does an excellent job presenting that reality throughout. Third, while Hebrews is certainly rich with Christological significance on the surface, Johnson does a tremendous job bringing this reality to bare at almost every corner of the document.

There are no shortages in sight when it comes to the task of choosing a commentary on the book of Hebrews. Still, only the most inexperienced of readers would assume that all such commentaries are made equal—or even close to equal. While I don’t see Johnson coming off of my bookshelf before Lane (WBC) or Ellingworth (NICGT), or even Bruce (NICNT), I did find the volume extremely helpful and I am happy to have it in my library. Johnson is continually careful in his presentation of the text, and his explanation and interaction with the major themes of Hebrews and the LXX are indispensable. If you are in the market for a well-written work by a well-known and notable scholarly voice, Hebrews: A Commentary by Luke Timothy Johnson will not bring disappointment. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: The Gospel of St. John

9780830829453This second installment in the highly anticipated The Lightfoot Legacy Set—The Gospel of St. John: A Newly Discovered Commentary—brings together previously unpublished and important Lightfoot material on the Fourth Gospel. This is an exciting and refreshing moment in history for Johannine scholars and Lightfoot enthusiasts alike.

Similar to the previous volume, the commentary opens with a brief recounting of the story behind the discovery and an editors’ introduction to the person of Lightfoot as a biblical commentator. If the reader is unfamiliar with Lightfoot, which would be hard to believe, this is an appropriate starting point. The commentary itself covers John 1-12, and includes various topical excursuses and appendices.

The competency of Lightfoot’s understanding of the original languages is astounding, and his ability to quickly draw upon and interact with textual information is simply ahead of his time. Moreover, the comprehensive scope of his literary understanding and interaction therein is amazing. For example, as he interacts with John 8:5, Lightfoot makes mention of a possible Qur’anic parallel, and also makes mention of Mohammed’s utilization of the Apocryphal Gospels (p. 172).

The introduction and two appendices (Appendix A & B) that address the authenticity and genuineness of the Fourth Gospel should prove to be worth the price of the book alone. When one considers the historical landscape of biblical scholarship in the 19th century, specifically concerning the Gospel of John, Lightfoot’s proclamation was quite unique. Remember, this was prior to the discovery of P52 and the various challenges that important finding had upon biblical scholarship.

Furthermore, as testimony of the usefulness of Lightfoot for today, the editors have included an essay by Martin Hengel (originally presented at Durham University in 1989, titled, Bishop Lightfoot and the Tübingen School on the Gospel of John and the Second Century) as “Appendix C: Lightfoot and German Scholarship on John’s Gospel.” It is here that Hengel concludes in light of the historical milieu, “Joseph Barber Lightfoot, historian and theologian, Christian and bishop, can still become our tutor today” (p. 358).

The Gospel of St. John: A Newly Discovered Commentary is an exciting window into the mind of one of the most brilliant biblical commentators of the past two centuries. Readers of all backgrounds and interests will benefit greatly from the wisdom and judicious historical and exegetical care of J. B. Lightfoot. This was true for his previously published work, and evidently, it remains true for these newly discovered ones as well. This is an important publication that I would not want to be without, and thus it comes highly recommended.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Mark (NCCS)

27131107Kim Huat Tan is Academic Dean and Chen Su Lan Professor of New Testament at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Tan has a Ph.D. from the University of London and is the author of The Zion Tradition and the aims of Jesus (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Most recently, Tan has contributed and excellent volume on the Second Gospel in the acclaimed New Covenant Commentary series, Mark: A New Covenant Commentary.

Mark: A New Covenant Commentary is an exegetically informed exposition that provides much to embraced. It is important to recognize that Tan is in no way looking to overturn the many valuable commentaries now available on the Gospel of Mark. In fact, he states this explicitly in the preface (p. xi). Nevertheless, Tan has delivered an exceptional and unique contribution that is sure to be enjoyed by many. First, this volume is well-informed with much of the contemporary trends within Markan scholarship. However, Tan has removed the scholarly jargon and targeted an audience that would benefit most from the summation of such material. Second, as with the previous volumes in the series, this volume looks to display the interconnectedness of the Gospel of Mark and the Hebrew Scriptures. Those familiar with the success and usefulness of the other volumes will applauded the level of detail Tan provides. Third, and possibly the most important reason for those already boasting a larger collection of commentaries on the Gospel of Mark, this volume brings with it a fresh and important set of Asian insights (p. xi).

The commentary itself is excellent and the reader is sure to utilize it often. It is well-written and appropriately oriented for the targeted audience, and Tan has certainly done the reader a service throughout. Moreover, the reader is likely to appreciate the plethora, and I mean a plethora of excursus material scattered around the commentary. Much more than the previous volumes that I have seen. These excursus sections include topics such as the famous textual variant in Mark 1:41, Mark and Josephus on John the Baptist, Mark and the hour of crucifixion, and much, much more. Also, similar to the other volumes in the series, Tan has provided a number of “Fusing the Horizons” sections on topics such as marriage, social inequality, and wealth, as well as a fascinating, and yet, practically helpful discussion on the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Lastly, the commentary concludes with a short section on the theology of the Gospel of Mark, including Markan themes of Christology, the Kingdom of God, and Discipleship.

Like previous volumes in the New Covenant Commentary series, Mark: A New Covenant Commentary by Kim Huat Tan is destined for useful acquisition into the hands of the busy pastor and student. Tan is clear and thoughtful throughout, and his familiarity with Markan scholarship, both old and new is evident. Still, even for those of us who own an overabundance of commentaries on the Second Gospel, Tan has provided a pair of fresh and unique non-western lenses that will benefit all. In short, if you are looking for a well-documented and up-to-date engagement with the Gospel of Mark, one that provides a unique perspective with clear and accessible language, this present volume is a perfect addition to your growing library. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: 1 & 2 Chronicles

9780825425592Eugene H. Merrill is a seasoned scholar, well-situated for the task of writing an exegetical commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. Merrill is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of numerous books, including Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament, and The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (with Mark E. Rooker and Michael A. Grisanti). Merrill has also previously authored another smaller and less technical commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles for the Lamplighter series published by Zondervan. However little comparison can, and should, be made between the present volume and the previous.

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles opens with a sizable (almost the size of a small monograph at approximately 70 pages) introduction to the corpus of the Chronicler. Merrill discusses the typical introductory matters, such as the historical and cultural setting, authorship, genre, canonical placement, etc. Merrill also tackles issues such as the structure and sources of the book, textual criticism of the book, the theology of Chronicles, and provides the reader with an annotated list of major studies on Chronicles in recent years. This introductory section is a must read for anyone thinking about journeying through the text of 1 & 2 Chronicles. Merrill is thorough and careful in his treatment and provides the reader with a wealth of useful information that is helpful in positioning the reader for the road ahead.

The commentary itself is well-written and well-formatted. Each section begins with a translation of the designated pericope. The credit page states that the translation is the author’s own, but the translation provided is the NIV 2011. It would have been nice to have an original translation by Merrill, but the NIV 2011 works quite well. Following the translation is a “Text-Critical Notations” section that list various textual variants found in the designated section. For the most part, this section follows closely with that found in the BHS apparatus, but the technical jargon and apparatus sigla are easier to read. In some cases, additional comments are provided to discuss the variants. Lastly, there is an “Exegesis and Exposition” section which provides both exegetical and expositional comments of the text in a verse-by-verse format.

It is clear that Merrill is well-acquainted with the text and issues surrounding 1 & 2 Chronicles. His comments are consistently clear, helpful, and well documented. Throughout the commentary, there are also a number of subject-driven excursus sections, and various charts and sections dedicated to theological discourse (i.e. the theology of the rise of David, the theology of Solomonic reign, etc.). These sections are appropriately placed and the reader will appreciate the content therein. Still, as part of the growing Kregel Exegetical Library series, the commentary shines most brightly in the judicious presentation of Merrill’s exegesis. Merrill has produced a fine volume that is rich with exegetical insights. It will certainly be one of the first, if not the first resource to leave my shelf when working in 1 & 2 Chronicles.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: John: A Commentary

John-2015Marianne Meye Thompson (PhD, Duke University) is George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Theology where she has been on the faculty for over three decades. Thompson is the author of several books, including, 1–3 John (IVP New Testament Commentary, InterVarsity Press, 2011), A Commentary on Colossians and Philemon (The Two Horizons Commentary, Eerdmans, 2005), The God of the Gospel of John (Eerdmans, 2001), The Promise of the Father (Westminster John Knox, 2000), and co-author of Introducing the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2001). She has also published numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals with specific emphasis on Johannine literature. Most recently, Thompson released her much-anticipated commentary on the Fourth Gospel in the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series.

John: A Commentary begins with a substantial bibliography of up-to-date commentaries, monographs, and essays related to the Gospel of John. At 24 pages, a quick glance of the bibliography displays a well-researched commentary, and the content therein embodies the reality of this information well. Still, Thompson is clear that her efforts are not primarily about interaction with the scholarship of the Fourth Gospel. Instead, she seeks to present an understanding of the text within a narrative framework, as she traces and explores the holistic understanding of the ministry and significance of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. This unique approach to the Gospel of John makes this commentary both accessible and useful to the specialist and nonspecialist alike. Thompson has effectively guided the reader through the depths of the narrative without losing sight of the cultural context and scholarly concerns required for a top-tier commentary in a growing market.

The introduction to the commentary is filled with helpful information for the trained and untrained reader. Some readers will likely just skim over this section or skip it altogether. However, this approach is not recommended. Thompson has an excellent and stimulating discussion on the relation of the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels. For Thompson, the Fourth Gospel is to be understood as an ancient historical biography, and thus the author maintains the complete liberty to expand and correct the material for his purpose (p. 8). Consequently, Thompson acknowledges that John did not intend to write a history about Jesus that would be “understood by all,” but rather understood by John (p. 13). This is thought, according to Thompson, to explain the divergence of the Fourth Gospel from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Thompson’s arguments are convincing, but the reader will need to be the judge of such claims.

Thompson has done excellent work illuminating John’s understanding of Jesus, but there are a few likely concerns the reader will encounter. For the sake of space here, I will list only two. First, despite the almost universal internal and external attestation of Johannine authorship being attributed to John, the son of Zebedee, Thompson views the traditional understanding of the authorship of the Gospel as unlikely. Her reasons are explained and the case is well made, but she still doesn’t give a clear answer to the question of authorship. Second, the reader may be stunned to see some of the textual decisions that Thompson makes in her translation of the Gospel. For example, Thompson finds “the only son (huios)” to be the most natural reading of John 1:18. This reading is certainly possible, but the most difficult reading of “the only God (theos)” has both early and important attestation. In fact, it is almost universally understood that theos is the correct reading of the text, and huios was the result of later scribal assimilation to other passages in the Gospel (John 3:16, 18).

John: A Commentary by Marianne Meye Thompson is an up-to-date commentary on one of the most important and influential biblical books in the New Testament. Thompson approaches the author of the Gospel on his terms and guides the reader through the depths of the narrative. The reader will find Thompson’s reading of the text fresh and inviting. The introduction is a worthy starting point for readers of all background and expertise. Her exegesis is sometimes prematurely saturated with theological bias, sometimes making theological statements about the text that directly oppose even a mere reading of the text itself (e.g. John 6:44). Her textual decisions are also sometimes interesting, but the reader should find her conversation on such decisions as an added benefit to their library. Nonetheless, despite the pros and cons, this is a much-anticipated commentary by a seasoned and experienced Johannine scholar. It is true that in some cases the anticipation has outshined the publication, but this is certainly not one of those cases. If you are looking for an up-to-date commentary on the Gospel of John, this volume by Marianne Meye Thompson should be at the top of your wishlist.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”