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Friday, June 12, 2015

"1, 2, 3 John" (Karen H. Jobes)

TITLE: 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
AUTHOR: Karen H. Jobes
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (368 pages).

This is the ninth volume in the "Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament" series (ZECNT) from Zondervan. The earlier versions cover the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the book of Acts, the Pauline epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, Philemon, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and the letter to James. What makes this series useful are the:
  • More extensive Greek exegesis which is particularly helpful for those who have studied Greek
  • Helpful main ideas with each pericope
  • Graphical layouts and tables
  • Contextual connections throughout
  • Exegeting and explanation of the texts
  • Application Ideas
Most unique of all is the reminder throughout that exegesis must come before interpretation. This makes the commentary a very helpful reminder in itself to avoid putting the cart of interpretation/application before the horse of understanding what the text says originally. In this volume, Karen H Jobes, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College helps us to exegete and understand the Greek texts and apply them to practical living. On the one hand, pastors and teachers would like to have a more in-depth treatment of the Bible. There are some commentaries that seem more ready to comment and talk rather than to wait and ponder over the meaning of the text, to let the text speak for itself.  This is no easy task. 

Thankfully, with Jobes's experience, expertise, and enthusiasm, we have this volume that looks at the three letters of John in a non-redactional way. It is less of the reading into the text and more of reading out of what the text is saying. She notes that the three letters need to be read in conjunction with the gospel of John. After listing the various existentialist and evangelical approaches, Jobes settles on an approach that lets the gospel of John and the letters inform each other. Rather than to limit the polemics in John to forms of Gnosticism or Christological heresies, Jobes prefer to expand it to a "variety of false beliefs." This allows one to have a broader picture of the challenges and the relevance of 1, 2, 3 John today.

The epistles of John are particularly important because it stresses the importance of knowing God. Jesus is relevant today as well as tomorrow. In Jesus, we have a cornerstone that will stand the test of time. In a world of conflicting ideologies and pluralistic philosophies, the letters form a spiritual anchor for faith. There are major themes emphasized like our attitude toward sin, love as the glue of interpersonal relationships, and other non-polemical views like shepherding believers, and arguing for a correction to what faith in Jesus means. Jobes compares the gospel and the letters frequently, showing us of a common authorship as well as major themes that are repeated. Not only that, the letters project a certain circular or spiral movement, where themes are never forgotten as John moves from one point to another. It is not a step-wise flow of sequential thought but a series of repetition to ensure that readers get the key points. That makes outlining the letters quite a challenging one. The big idea is essentially knowing God via the Word incarnated; knowing God via symbols and metaphors; knowing what God delights and what God hates; knowing the interconnection between knowing and loving; knowing God in relationships; knowing God through right teachings; knowing God through the expression of love for one another; knowing God as God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Each carefully selected passage opens with a "Literary Context" that introduces the location and contexts of the text. It is then followed by a "Main Idea" to declare to the reader where the commentator is at. The "Translation" portion itself is worth the price of the book as Jobes diligently structures the texts according to literary patterns, chiastic arrangements, and key words. The Explanation of the Text offers lots of fodder for thought and analysis. Readers are encouraged to engage the author as much as possible by asking why certain Greek words in that passage were selected in the first place. Reading it reminds me of my Greek teacher who had helped me move the texts from exegesis to devotion. Other highlights include the "In Depth" boxes that offer supplementary material and the "Theology in Application" which is one of my favourites. This commentary is the best one I have found on the epistles of John. It has the scholarship depth and the theological faithfulness. It is readable and practical. I would strongly recommend this as the key commentary to use for any preaching and teaching of the epistles of John.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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