Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (2): JOHN

I said in my first post in this series that I am not primarily interested in writing commentary lists for would-be scholars.  The audience I have in mind are pastors and Bible teachers who are concerned about what these books mean and how their meaning can be brought to bear on contemporary living.  The question I am concerned to answer is, “How will these people be most helped?” For this reason some will not agree with my recommendations.  Most Christians cannot afford to purchase more than a few commentaries upon any book of Scripture they wish to study.  Therefore, an expensive commentary, while desirable, would need to be essential, in the true sense of the word, to make it high on my list.  

I should also say that the lists wil be colored somewhat (though not too much) by my premillennial and “Sovereigntist” theology (I believe God’s sovereign decision is always prior to man’s decision, but I am not a Dortian Calvinist).

The numbering is fairly subjective, but if a book makes the list it is recommended.   As stated previously, commentaries are mostly identified by author and series:

The Best Commentaries on John’s Gospel:

1. Leon Morris – NICNT

The best work on this Gospel.  His decisions are well based and theologically rounded-off, with lots to think upon.

2. Andreas Kostenberger – BECNT

A recent addition which shows great familiarity with recent discussions but presented in a remarkably pithy style.

3. R.C.H. Lenski

Marvelously full-orbed work, always with Divine inspiration in mind.  A model of commentary writing.  Huge, yet never a waste of time.  Some Lutheran blemishes, but a mine for preachers.

4. D.A. Carson – Pillar

Carson has the knack of sounding sensible all the time.  A better format would really help this book.

5. H.N. Ridderbos

Self-styled “Theological Commentary,” but a fine exposition.  Communicates the ‘weight’ of the text, though not enough on the Prologue.

6. William Hendriksen – NT Commentary

A preacher’s commentary.  It is a proclamation.  Rigidly Reformed.  Sometimes overly so, but edifying.

7. Frederic Godet

Goes his own way at times, but always backed by exegesis and theology.  A fruitful thinker.

8. Brooke Foss Westcott

Famous 19th century classic.  Conservative while painstaking.  A little difficult to use.

9. John Calvin

Calvin is always worth consulting.

10. F.F. Bruce

Short, clear, terse comments which invariably aid the reader, even if he has already read larger works.


Other noteworthy works are those by Milne (edged out by Bruce), Laney (a little thin), Keener (too crammed) and Barrett (great exegesis but liberal).  One would also be helped by Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel. Though not essential I would rate Matthew Henry high in the Gospels, and George Hutcheson’s work devout and solid.  Beasley-Murray (WBC) and Lincoln (BNTC) would be good if they could be trusted not to stray into liberal territory quite frequently.

Next time, Romans.

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