Review: The Fourfold Gospel

26266705The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a similarly exciting, and yet abbreviated exploration of Watson’s previous tome, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013). According to Watson, “The present attempt at a theological reading focuses throughout on the texts within that boundary [previously established in Gospel Writing] and on the theological questions they put to their interpreter, both individually and in their relation to one another” (p. viii). Much of this groundwork is established and revisited in the Prolegomena section that opens the book. It is here that the reader becomes thoroughly equipped for the fascinating journey ahead.

The Fourfold Gospel is divided into two major sections. The initial section seeks to establish each of the four Gospel accounts within the portrait of Jesus offered by the author. These turn out to be perspectives that are not only different in nature, but also complementary. Watson’s care and attentiveness to the overall framework of each Gospel is admirable, and without losing focus of the whole, Watson is able to seamlessly equip readers with the proper lenses needed to observe the major convergences discussed in the second section. It is here that Watson applauds the formative work of Eusebius’ Canon Tables in the establishment of a fourfold Gospel book and further delineates his thesis by examining the shared narrative across all four Gospels.

Overall, I found Watson’s work to be extremely beneficial and informative for reading and understanding the canonical gospels. I appreciated the unified approach that Watson embodied as he wrestled with their similarities and differences, as well as the challenges that have been created by a “gospel harmonies” reading of the narratives. As Watson rightly notes, “gospel harmonies created far more problems than they solved. It seems that the fourfold gospel is not intended to provide a singular “life of Jesus” in which each incident and saying is assigned to its original historical context. Its relation to reality is more complex—and more interesting—than that” (p. 88). This observation alone helps reconcile more internal problems than most other attempts traditionally seen combined, and this is only one of many nuggets to be unearthed in this study.

The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a significant contribution to the ongoing exploration of contemporary Gospel Studies. It is a welcome companion, and, in many ways an extended appendix to Watson’s previous book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. Watson has invited the reader into a world that had been plagued by the displeasure of recurring academic dust and has effectively breathed within it a newfound sense of vibrancy and life. Watson’s undeniable expertise and his ability to communicate to a broad readership had already position this book for success, even prior to its publication. However, what was previously expected now looks petty compared to what Watson actually delivered. The Fourfold Gospel is a book that you will want to read, and do so more than once. 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: Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity

173611Paul Barnett (Ph.D., London University) is recognized by many in the field of New Testament studies as one of the most respected historical scholars on the origins of Christianity. As well as being an Emeritus Faculty member of Moore Theological College, Barnett is currently a fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and a teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Barnett has authored numerous books, including a number of commentaries and monographs related to the various aspects of New Testament studies.

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times has been long acknowledged as a quintessential classic at the top of Barnett’s lengthy literary corpus. Barnett guides the reader through the complexities of the Hellenistic backdrop that characterized much of the culture during the ministry of Jesus—from the incarnation to the resurrection—and the development of the New Testament Church. The approach is both comprehensive and readable, and Barnett firmly roots his research in primary source material. This affords the reader a better grasp of the New Testament from within its historical context, and thus, allows for a better recognition of the significance of the early Jesus movement within the first century world.

The scope of this volume is quite impressive. Not only is the reader exposed to the historical landscape of the New Testament, but Barnett has likewise interwoven detailed interaction with contemporary critical scholarship concerning the Historical Jesus and other related issues. It is here that Barnett does well in demonstrating the historical shortcomings of the critical attempt to construct a chasm between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Moreover, the reader will certainly appreciate the emphasis Barnett places on the Christological motivation that underlined the missionary effort of the early Christian community, as well as the imperative nature of a bodily resurrection in early Christian worship. This is by any measure a breath of fresh air brought to a table that is far too often plagued with canonical discontinuity and confusion, and for this readers everywhere should rejoice!

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett is an invaluable resource that should be read and re-read by anyone interested in the origins of early Christianity. Barnett is judicious and clear as usual, and his treatment therein is nothing short of comprehensive. Barnett leaves the eager reader with nearly no stones left to turn. This is a volume that should be consulted by many and done so often, both in the church and in the academy. 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.

Reveiw: Mark (NTL)

1246889M. Eugene Boring is I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. Boring is an accomplished New Testament scholar and the author of numerous books, including, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (WJK, 2012), Revelation: A commentary for Teaching and Preaching (WJK, 2011), The People’s New Testament Commentary (with Fred B. Craddock; WJK, 2010), The Continuing Voice of Jesus: Christian Prophecy and the Gospel Tradition (WJK, 1991), as well as Mark (WJK, 2006) and I & II Thessalonians (WJK, 2015) from the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series—the former of which being the focus of the present review.

Mark: A Commentary opens with a fairly healthy bibliography and introduction to orient the reader towards the intended direction. Boring covers all the standard introductory matters the reader would expect (i.e. authorship, date, provenance, purpose, genre, text and transmission, etc.), however, most of the technical details have been delegated to the footnotes, resulting in a much briefer introduction than some would expect. The organization of the commentary will be familiar for those acquainted with the New Testament Library series. Boring includes within each section the translation and translation notes, and the commentary proper, which tends to begin with an examination of the unit before the translation and then the verse or multiple verse-units.

Boring’s approach to the Gospel of Mark as a whole is quite unique. For Boring, the Second Gospel is primarily shaped by the creative storytelling of the Evangelist rather than history. In other words, for Boring, the author of Mark is far more concerned with presenting a portrait of Jesus that will resonate with his community than recounting the life events of a historical figure. Thus, a chasm exists between the Markan and Historical Jesus. Of course, the keen reader will recognize that some level of such characterized presentation of Jesus is inevitable for the Gospel writers, indeed for any New Testament writer, but such does not necessarily require a divorce from the Jesus of history. Still, despite the reluctance that some may have to his approach, it is clear that there is much insight to be gained if sifted with the appropriate balance.

The reader will appreciate the attention to detail offered in this volume. Boring has clearly done his homework and does the reader a service by allocating much of the technical details to the bottom of the page. Indeed, Boring properly utilizes the footnotes throughout the volume, and the attentive reader will do well in mining such riches. The translation notes are also full of important information. Interestingly, however, Boring follows the reading of Codex Bezae in 1:41, explaining, “Most MSS read . . . ‘having compassion’ and the reading is followed by most English translations . . . Most commentators, however, regard . . . ‘having become angry’ as original” (p. 70). This is simply not the case, as even his preceding statement attests. The former reading is found in virtually all English translations, critical editions of the Greek New Testament, and extant manuscript support for the Second Gospel.

M. Eugene Boring is a respected New Testament scholar who has consistently provided well-researched and well-written academic work for a broad ranging audience. Mark: A Commentary is no different. Boring offers a unique approach to the conversation that is certain to complement other Mark commentaries on the market. Moreover, the translation and translation notes Boring has provided are indispensable for any serious study of the Second Gospel, and his bibliography is thorough as always. In sum, if you are looking for a commentary on the Gospel of Mark that is both readable and informative, this is a volume you will enjoy and use often. Still, as has been briefly noted above, the emphasis that is taken therein may be cause enough for some readers to reconsider.  

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: 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus

9780825442841There have been literally thousands of volumes written on the subject of the Historical Jesus over the past two centuries. The reader can find anything from multi-volume scholarly monographs and encyclopedias to popular level introductions. Still, there have also been few resources that have presented the Historical Jesus material in the same helpful manner as that found in the present volume by C. Marvin Pate

40 Questions About the Historical Jesus is divided into four major sections: (1) Background Questions About the “Historical” Jesus, (2) Questions About Jesus’ Birth and Childhood, (3) Questions About Jesus’ Life and Teaching, and (4) Questions About Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. Each of these major sections is comprised of two subdivisions and roughly ten questions relating to the life and ministry of Jesus.

The selection of questions and overall organization of the book is oriented to introduce the reader to a variety of topics related to Historical Jesus studies. Throughout the book, the reader will discover a number of helpfully curated charts and diagrams, and each of the chapters closes with a handful of reflection questions for further pondering. The interaction within each chapter is fair and balanced, and Pate does well in presenting the broader landscape of Historical Jesus studies to readers with all levels of topical exposure.

The comprehensive scope of this volume is incredible. Pate was very ambitious in his selection of material and the reader will benefit greatly therein. Pate’s work is consistently documented and footnoted throughout, and the inclusion of the select bibliography and source indexes will make this a useful volume for future reference. Still, the bibliography that is provided is quite scant in comparison to the interaction throughout. A good addition would have been a designated bibliography at the end of each chapter.

If you are looking for a helpful and unique resource that will reach across the breadth of Historical Jesus studies, 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate is a volume that cannot be ignored. It is up-to-date and engaging, and the questions therein usher the reader through an ongoing conversation of vital importance. This book was a joy to read and I look forward to consulting it often. 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: Jesus and the Gospels

6380917Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey by Craig Blomberg has long been praised as one of the best resources available for a serious, well-rounded study of the subject. The first edition was highly acclaimed and received a Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. This second edition builds on the success of the prior edition by bringing updated and additional material on sociology and social-scientific criticism, literary criticism, the Gospel of John, the apocryphal and Gnostic Gospels, and issues related to the historicity of the Gospels. The footnotes and bibliography have also been substantially updated to reflect the most recent scholarship, debate, critical methods, as well as the ongoing quest of the historical Jesus.

Jesus and the Gospels is divided into five major sections: (1) Historical Background for Studying the Gospels, (2) Critical Methods for Studying the Gospels, (3) Introduction to the Four Gospels, (4) A Survey of the Life of Christ, and (5) Historical and Theological Syntheses. The reader is certain to appreciate Blomberg’s overall organization as it builds a foundation for the study therein. Section one guides the reader through the political, religious, and socioeconomic background of the Gospels. Blomberg is consistently helpful in this regard and has provided a number of charts and tables throughout to help the reader better grasp the timeline of events and material presented. Section two introduces the reader to historical and literary criticism of the Gospels. This is an excellent introduction for the reader to wrestle with the issues surrounding the Synoptic Problem, Markan Priority, Q-Hypothesis, Redaction Criticism, the formation of the canon, narrative criticism, etc. This section is fairly brief, but comprises some of the best material in the book—especially by way of introduction.

Section three begins the examination of the Four Gospel and provides the reader with the typical introductory material, such as authorship, structure, date, theology, etc. Section four delineates a survey of the life of Jesus. This section starts with an excellent treatment of the issues surrounding the quest for the historical Jesus and subsequently guides the reader through the life of Christ in the gospel narrative. Apart from referencing specific passages in the Gospels, Blomberg has also included the section numbers from the widely used Synopsis of the Four Gospels by Kurt Aland—making it helpful for the reader to cross-reference within the Synoptics and beyond. This section comprises the majority of the book and for good reason. Section five rounds out the investigation with a healthy discussion concerning the trustworthiness of the Gospels—a subject that Blomberg had published on between the first and second editions of this work—and the theology of Jesus found in the Gospels.

Even seven years after the second edition of Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels there is still good reason to praise this volume as one of the best resources available on the subject. The reader will consistently be helped by Blomberg’s keen ability to introduce and guide them through some of the murkiest of Gospel waters. This is a book that should be read cover-to-cover, but it is also an extremely useful reference work. The latter is seen most clearly in the abundance of helpful graphs, charts, and tables that are littered throughout, as well as the curated bibliographies that conclude each chapter for further study. Moreover, because of the unique accessibility of this volume, this is also a book that I foresee being useful for laity, and possibly even the basis for an Adult Education or Sunday school course.

If you are looking for an introduction to the Gospels and/or a survey of the life of Christ, I can’t think of a better place to look than Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels. Blomberg will provide you with seasoned guidance and deliver the information that you need to know to better grasp the scholarly conversations and issues that surround the Gospels and Jesus, and thus 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: 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: Jesus and the Remains of His Day

707054_1_ftcJesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans is a captivating collection of up-to-date essays on a number of archaeological discoveries related to the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In this book, Evans helpfully exposes the misuse of archaeology in relation to claims about Jesus and early Christianity, and rightly seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of archaeology within the discipline of biblical studies. Evans is an accomplished scholar and his work here is consistently well-documented and easy to read—the latter being one of the most surprising aspects of the book given the typical flavor of similar works.

Jesus and the Remains of His Day begins with an excellent discussion surrounding some of the most recent archaeological work at Bethsaida and Magdala. The reader will find the discussion both engaging and enlightening, and it sets the stage well for how the book will function throughout. For example, speaking of Peter’s hometown of Bethsaida, Evans writes, “The heights of Bethsaida rests on a rocky ridge of volcanic basalt . . . Indeed, the original name of Bethsaida may have been Zer (“rocks”) . . . Simon the disciple of Jesus was named the “Rock,” for Jesus planned to build his new community on rock” (p. 13-14). It is here that Evans guides the reader through the archaeological discoveries, detailing and engaging with various sources and opinions, only to eventually land within a sphere of immediate application—something the reader is able to recognize and remember from the ministry of Jesus.

As the book unfolds and each essay independently testifies to the world of the New Testament, the reader is continually confronted with a host of relevant material insight and application as mentioned above. While it would be beyond the scope of the present review to detail everything that I found to be helpful in the book, there are a few essays that I found especially interesting, and thus, will be worth mentioning here. First, in chapter 3, Evans provides a compelling and up-to-date engagement with the ossuary that has been attributed to Caiaphas, the High Priest during the time of Jesus. The evidence points to the authenticity of such claims, and the implications of such prove to be colossal. It is also here that Evans discusses the historicity of Pontius Pilate and Simon of Cyrene, both verifiable through recent archaeological discoveries. Second, in chapters 6-8, Evans provides fascinating insight into the practice of crucifixion, burial, and specifically the execution of Jesus. All three chapters, accompanied by chapter 9, are well-worth the price of the book alone.

It is hard to put into words the usefulness of this volume. As one familiar with the work of Craig A. Evans I thought that this volume would be worth the read. But, admittedly, and I assume like many readers, the world of archaeology is unfortunately a bit foreign and characterized as somewhat dry and unhelpful. I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading this volume, and it was difficult to set down. In fact, the above review doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but I trust the usefulness of this volume is transparent. If you are in the market for an up-to-date engagement with the archaeological work being done in the Middle East, specifically in relation to the world of the New Testament and the person of Jesus of Nazareth, then Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans is a must read. 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: A Theology of Mark’s Gospel

26263482David E. Garland needs no introduction. He is Dean and Holder of The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran Delancey Chair of the Dean and Professor of Christian Scriptures at George W. Truett Seminary Baylor University. Garland is the author of numerous books and articles, including numerous highly acclaimed commentaries, and the New Testament editor of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.  Most recently, Garland has produced this landmark volume on the theology of the Second Gospel as part of Zondervan’s Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series.

A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God is the fourth volume in the projected eight-volume BTNT series. Like the other volumes in the series, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel seeks to (1) survey recent scholarship and the state of research, (2) provide a treatment of relevant introductory issues, (3) present a thematic commentary that follows the overall flow of the narrative, (4) discuss important individual themes, and (5) interact with the relationship between the gospel of Mark and the rest of the New Testament and the Bible.

A Theology of Mark’s Gospel opens and Garland immediately orients the reader for the study ahead. Having written two successful commentaries on the Gospel of Mark already, Garland is well-positioned to survey the recent trends of Markan scholarship, and provides a helpful starting point and framework for the less familiar reader. Following the brief orientation, Garland carries the conversation forward and tackles traditional introductory issues such as authorship, provenance and date, audience, etc. Each of these topics are treated with judicious detail and thoroughly documented throughout.

After the introductory material is set as a foundation, Garland guides the reader through the Gospel of Mark and provides a literary reading of the narrative. Garland is extremely helpful here and shows that he is well-acquainted with the Second Gospel. The remainder of the volume seeks to address various theological themes and topics within the Gospel of Mark. The highpoints are numerous, but there are several that would suffice the purchase price of the volume alone. Three such examples would be Garland’s examination of the Christological titles, Mark’s eschatology, and a lengthy discussion on discipleship and missions.

I have been a fan of the BTNT series since the initial volume was released in 2009. Not only does the BTNT series bridge a much-needed gap on the bookshelf by providing a thorough investigation of a given book through the lenses of biblical theology, but the series is intentionally designed for easy reference and usability. It is within this marriage between scholarship and usability that Garland has provided the reader a volume that is sure to shine brightly in an ever-growing market of Markan material. Each topic is well-documented and discussed, the chapters open with a thoroughly distilled bibliography, and everything addressed in the volume is easily discoverable within the detailed table of contents.

 A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God by David E. Garland offers the reader and up-to-date and in-depth discussion of the Second Gospel. From the introductory orientation to the detailed dialogue of the disputed passages at the close of the Gospel, and the various theological themes in between, Garland has provided a superb volume that is sure to be received with open arms by many. While it would be difficult to pick a favorite volume from within the BTNT series, if pressed, Garland would be at the top of the list. It will be off my bookshelf with much frequency.

 

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.”