A Short Review of ‘John Through Old Testament Eyes’ by Karen Jobes

N.B. This is a review of the book and its merits. However, I believe the NT to be quite clear that women are not to be instructors of men in Church related matters like the interpretation of Scripture, doctrine, and the like. This has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with obedience to God and His established creation order (1 Tim. 2:11-14). As one would expect, a lot of female scholars are cited in this work. I sometimes choose to look at commentaries from female authors although not as authorities. I realize even saying such things will raise hackles, but I could not review the commentary without this note.

Review of Karen H. Jobes, John Through Old Testament Eyes: A Background and Application Commentary, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2021, 374 pages, softcover.

This is the second volume in a series of “Background and Application” commentaries edited by Andrew Le Peau. I reviewed Le Peau’s own Mark Through Old Testament Eyes previously. The aim of this series is to try to put the reader in the situation of the writers of the NT, who were OT people. That is to say, they did not have a NT to consult and learn from. Their Scripture was our Old Testament.

I think the aim is of interest, highlighting as it does the intertextual connections of the NT books with the OT. I am though, not terribly convinced that this can be done by scholars whose customary way of reading the Bible is through the lens of the NT. For example, both in the present volume and the previous entry one runs into expectations based upon the witness of the Law and the Prophets which are then said to be altered in some way by the teachings of Jesus and His death and resurrection. While this happened in certain circumstances, I think the alterations we are told to accept on this basis are often more influenced by present eschatological trends and not by what the text of the NT is demanding from us. On page 311 of John Through Old Testament Eyes the author informs us that “the fourth gospel is known for its realized eschatology.” Although I understand it, personally I stand in doubt of that assertion (e.g. Jn. 5:27-29; 6:39-44; 7:36; 14:2-3; 18:36). I question whether much of what is grouped under realized eschatology is actually eschatology at all, but that will have to wait for another day.

The author, Karen Jobes, is a highly competent NT scholar who has written some well received commentaries, as well as co-authored a fine Invitation to the Septuagint. She brings her considerable acumen to the Gospel of John and has produced a fine work.

Several things are of note in this commentary: the helpful background information, personal anecdotes which lead in to helpful discussions of passages, a liberal sprinkling of informative Greek studies to support exegesis, and brief attention-drawing references to NT scholarship which never feels like name-dropping. And she manages this in clear prose. For that reason, this book has a lot to offer as a mid-level study of John.

That said, I was disappointed at times with the lack of depth in some of the discussions. For example, when John the Baptist replies to a question about whether he is Elijah, he very pointedly responds with a firm “No” (Jn. 1:21). This begs for elucidation, especially from an OT perspective, but Jobes is silent on John’s reply (42). When commenting on Jesus’ “sign” of raising up the temple of His body on the third day (Jn. 2:18-22) she claims that “Jesus is the final and ultimate temple of humankind” (72); a notion that crosses OT expectations and is not legitimately derived from the chapter, but is rather a result of reading the NT back into the OT. In fact she quotes Richard Hays’ belief that the OT must be reinterpreted in light of Jesus (73). As another example, the supposed hermeneutical import of John 2 is noted, but that of Peter’s query about the future of the beloved disciple in John 21 is missed (308-309). If hermeneutical cues are being brought out of the text instead of read into it this would likely be the other way round. Finally, are we really to see sacramental associations in John 6:25-59 (133)?

For my money I do not think this work succeeds in looking at John “through OT eyes” any better than its predecessor. But it is not to be dismissed on that count. This will not be the first volume I will turn to when I study John’s Gospel. Neither does it make it into my top ten recommendations on the Gospel. Still, I will consult it. There is enough useful comment throughout to make it worth ones while to spend time in it.

4 thoughts on “A Short Review of ‘John Through Old Testament Eyes’ by Karen Jobes”

  1. Paul, why would you say at the end of your review that you will consult the commentary but at the beginning of the review you say “I believe the NT to be quite clear that women are not to be instructors of men in Church related matters like the interpretation of Scripture”? Wouldn’t your convictions dictate that you not consult the commentary?

    1. Fair question. It’s because I do not believe Dr Jobes should be teaching men in Church and Seminary settings. However, you make a good point. Am i making her a teacher if I choose to read her book? I’ll ponder that one. Maybe I will dispense with the book and revise my remarks?

      1. Upon reflection I believe I can consult a woman commentator so long as I do not go there as a source of authority. I have included that note above.

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