Köstenberger, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, has produced an excellent volume on the Gospel of John. Like the other volumes in this series this one combines scholarship with readability in an easily accessible format which will prove useful to both pastors and students. Köstenberger is well qualified to write the present volume, having already produced a textbook on the Fourth Gospel aimed at undergraduates (Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002]).
The Gospel of John is perhaps the most widely read of all four canonical Gospels, but is not as easy to understand as one might think. An illustration frequently quoted (and attributed to several different people) compares the work with its heavy use of symbolism and imagery to a pool shallow enough for a child to wade in but deep enough for an elephant to swim in. The basic truths of the Fourth Gospel are clear and easy to understand, but it has a depth and complexity that can require years of study and contemplation to fathom. For this reason Köstenberger provides a useful and engaging guide to the complexities of the Fourth Gospel. Many technical items are relegated to footnotes, though this does not mean that no Greek appears in the main text of the commentary.
Not surprisingly Köstenberger interacts frequently with other recent commentaries on John, including works by evangelicals like Craig Keener, G. R. Beasley-Murray, and Gary Burge. This does not mean that major works from other traditions are ignored, however, as one will find frequent citations from Raymond Brown, Frank Moloney, and Rudolf Bultmann. Nevertheless Köstenberger stands firmly in the tradition of evangelical commentators on the Fourth Gospel like Leon Morris and D. A. Carson. In the author’s preface Köstenberger acknowledges Carson as his mentor.
Some of the sections in the commentary seem rather brief in view of the fact that the passages have generated extensive discussion and debate. For example, the section on “The Empty Tomb” (20:1–10) receives slightly less than six pages, and that includes the translation. One suspects, however, that the brevity is more the result of the publisher’s insistence on a single volume rather than the author’s lack of something to say. Also it is only fair to note that the result of limits on the length of the discussion produces a commentary that is both reasonable in length and in some cases (the discussion of 15:1–17 is a good example) a model of conciseness which covers the essential points well.
The up-to-date bibliography is a welcome addition to the volume. It is easy to recommend this commentary highly. It belongs on the bookshelf of every pastor and teacher interested in preaching or teaching from the Gospel of John.
About the Contributors
A DTS faculty member for over forty years, Dr. Harris has worked extensively on the Gospel of John, and now collaborates with faculty from other departments teaching courses on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, science fiction, and the intersection of theology and technology. His wife is a native of Germany, and he worked closely with the German Bible Society (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft) as lead editor of the New English Translation— Novum Testamentum Graece New Testament. Since 1995, Dr. Harris has served as Project Director and Managing Editor of The NET Bible (New English Translation), the first modern Bible translation to be published freely on the internet (netbible.org) and now published in print by Thomas Nelson Bibles. He has served as both translator and General Editor for The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament: SBL Edition, and General Editor and NT translator for the Lexham English Bible (LEB). Dr. Harris serves on the board of directors of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM.org), and as an ordained minister, he has served in various churches as pastor of single adults, elder, adult Sunday school teacher, and small group leader.