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Friday, October 18, 2019

"John's Letters: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching" (Herbert W. Bateman IV and Aaron C. Peer)

TITLE: John's Letters: An exegetical guide for preaching and teaching (Big Greek Idea)
AUTHOR: Herbert W. Bateman IV and Aaron C. Peer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2018, (448 pages).

Every English Bible translation is in itself an interpretation. Unless one is trained to read the Scriptures in their original language and context, it would be difficult to fully comprehend the Bible merely by using English. The next best thing would be to get closer to the original by learning or gaining more insights from a Greek perspective. This book is one such channel of insight. The "Big Greek Idea Series" is a collection of guides specifically for pastors, professors, and seminary students trying to bridge the gap between the ancient Greek and the modern English culture. This volume focuses on the letters of John; namely the Johannine letters (aka 1, 2, 3 John). The authors suggest this book be used in three ways.: 1) as a grammatical commentary; 2) as an interlinear; and 3) as inspiration for exegetical nuggets.

There are many features in this book. It combines exegesis with thought-for-thought analysis. There is careful unpacking of "transitional and structural markers" to help us keep track of any big ideas within it. There are detailed grammatical explanations that could be too technical for some of us. Getting a grammatical refresher before reading this book would be ideal to ensure seamless reading. Those who are in a rush would benefit from the underlined clauses and words accompanied by explanations. The authors help us pay attention to the syntax. By detailing the grammatical, syntactical, and semantic functions, readers get to do both exegesis as well as hermeneutics and to link them together. The Introduction provides a summary of some of the grammatical terms to be used. It is essential to read this before plunging into the rest of the book. This is the grammatical heavy-lifting that would bring dividends when approaching the rest of the book.

Bateman and Peer breaks the letters into sections: First John (15 sections); Second John (4 sections); and Third John (5 sections). Each section shares a common framework as follows:

  • Big Greek Idea to highlight the key point of the passage;
  • Structural Overview to help us establish the exegetical anchors;
  • An Outline to show us the orientation of the passage;
  • Clausal outline to show us the exegetical work;
  • Explanation of the syntax;
  • Various "syntactical," "lexical," "grammatical," and "semantical" nuggets. 

Toward the end of the book, the authors provide their own "interpretive translation" that essentially puts together their best exegesis of the three letters of John. It is a refreshing read and brings to life the epistles of John.

My Thoughts
This book is aimed at a moderate to advanced level of Bible commentary and exegesis. Current students of Greek would find it most beneficial as it not only refreshes their grammar, it essentially doubles up as a exegetical answer key to the three letters of John. Students with a linguistic background would find this book a breeze. For past students of Greek, it would take some effort to refresh themselves with the basics of the dependent and independent clauses; conjunctions; relative pronouns; participles; figures of speech; etc.

For the general reader, one of the most powerful insights come from the various nuggets that are highlighted with a shaded background. It is amazing how God's Truth could be unlocked through diligent grammatical analysis and exegetical exercises. I would even venture to say that the nuggets alone are worth the price of the book. There is also a greater appreciation of the uniqueness of John's letters. It should also work as a reference for Bible studies.

For pastors and preachers, (and also teachers of Greek); this book is a gift to help pay more attention to the syntax. For anyone wanting to use this book as a reference, two things would make for maximum benefit and speedy digestion: First, revise one's Greek grammar. Second, be familiar with the overall structure of exegesis.

Herbert W. Bateman IV has taught Greek language and exegesis for over twenty years. He is also founder and president of Cyber-Center for Biblical Studies. He holds a PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary.

Aaron C. Peer is lead pastor of Charter Oak Church in Churubusco, Indiana. He has also taught Greek and New Testament at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Kregel Academic without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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