Best Gospel of John Resources

Today (about ten minutes ago), I just finished my lectures for two graduate courses I am teaching this summer on the Gospel of John. I wanted to share my favor 4G resources. Please know that I can’t offer all the books that are good, so I have to be selective. I apologize if your favorite did not make the list. Feel free to weigh in in the comments!

Best Technical Commentaries on 4G

1. Raymond Brown – John (Anchor) – this is one of the finest detailed commentaries and I made good use of it, though I am not a fan of the Anchor format for such long multi-volume commentaries.

2. Craig Keener – The Gospel of John (Hendrickson) – wow! Keener knows the ancient parallel/background/contextual literature forwards and backwards, but, more useful for my purposes, he has his finger on the pulse of the important theological questions.

[Honorable mention should be given to Bultmann – I liked some things he wrote about revelation and Christology, but overall I found his commentary difficult to read because of his obsession with source-critical and form-critical issues. I also think C.K. Barrett’s commentary is good, but, again, like Brown, the format of the commentary was prohibitive]

Best Mid-level Commentaries

1. D.A. Carson  – The Gospel According to John (Pillar) – always careful, theologically-astute, and one of the best in the Pillar series.

2. Andrew Lincoln – The Gospel According to Saint John (Black’s). First of all, let me say that I LOVE that they retain “Saint John” – its so British. Anyway, this has been one of my go-to commentaries. He has a literary-driven style that is also sensitive to theological matters. The text is not bogged down by superficial details. Every word counts and it is well worth getting.

3. D. Moody Smith – John (Abingdon) – Smith is the reigning Johannine expert and for good reason. So much wisdom packed into a relatively small space.

Best Basic Commentary

1. Gary Burge  – John (NIV Application, Zondervan) Sometimes scholars sell short the NIV series as inappropriate as textbooks for seminary courses as they are not perceived to be “rigorous” – I think Burge could easily prove this facile assumption wrong. Burge’s commentary has much depth and argues a number of points in detail and very persuasively. Also, his eye for theology and application is focused, in accordance with the series. It is a good model of research in service of exposition, theological interpretation, and contemporary application.

2. R. Alan Culpepper  – The Gospel and Letters of John (IBT, Abingdon). This book is a survey of the Johannine Literature as a whole, but contains a mini-commentary on John. He obviously provides a narrative-driven reading of John, but so incisive and draws out the symbolism rewardingly.

Best Lay-level Commentary

1. Richard Burridge – John (Daily Bible Commentary, Hendrickson). This series is relatively unknown, meant for laypeople. Most authors in the series are not well-known Biblical studies scholars. However, when I heard that Burridge wrote one volume, I simply HAD to pick it up. Who cares what the series is!? It’s Burridge…on John! I was not disappointed! It has been such a blessing in my study. He points out a number of things (in a short space of 2oo pages) not found in other commentaries.

Best Book on Johannine Theology

1. Craig Koester – The Word of Life (Eerdmans). Koester wrote a book before on Johannine symbolism, but this theology of John looks at the big picture of how John “works” theologically. I really hope Koester writes a commentary someday. This is a fantastic read.

2. Andreas Koestenberger – A Theology of John’s Gospel (Zondervan). In 600+ pages, K. treats almost every issue imaginable…and then some! I am not normally blown away by K’s work, but this is a very good reference resource.

3. S. Schneiders – Written That You May Believe (Herder & Herder). This is not exactly a theology book, but it is about the spirituality and theological interpretation of John. I had many random theological inklings about John, and when I came across Schneiders work, things really started to come together. If I could go back (a few months), I would assign this as required reading.

4. D. Moody Smith – The Theology of the Gospel of John (Cambridge) – an excellent and eminent short theology, dealing with most of the key issues.

Best Work on Johannine Ethics

1. Jan van der Watt – he has a chapter on Johannine ethics in the book Identity, Ethics, and Ethos in the New Testament (de Gruyter)

2. Richard Burridge – has a chapter on Johannine “inclusive” ethics in Imitating Jesus – good overall discussion on John, though I thought Burridge’s work on Paul was weak.

Best Textbooks on John

1. Ruth Edwards – Discovering John (SPCK) – a concise, easy-to-read overview of John and very basic introduction to interpretation, background, and themes.

2. Jan van der Watt – Introduction to the Johannine Gospel and Letters (T. & T. Clark) – van der Watt is the man when it comes to Gospel of John. His introduction covers the background and relationship between the Gospel and letters. This is the fruit of a career of study and well worth getting (I have it on LOGOS).

3. Paul N. Anderson, Riddles of the Fourth Gospel (Fortress) – this is an academic, “critical” introduction to John, not for the newbie, but for the advanced seminary student wanting to dig into the scholarship and heavy issues in John. A “must-read” – I use this as a required book here at SPU.

4. A. Koestenberger, Encountering John (Baker) – I am a huge fan of this series of textbooks- there are books on Romans, John, and NT/OT as well. For undergrads, this would be quite good.

Scholars who have made their mark on Johannine Studies

Though I have not commended their works above, there are a number of other Johannine experts worth reading. Here are my favs

1. Marianne Meye Thompson

2. Tom Thatcher

3. Richard Bauckham

4. Mary Coloe

5. Gail R. O’Day

6. Robert Kysar

7. Adele Reinhartz

8. Ben Witherington III

18 thoughts on “Best Gospel of John Resources

  1. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wondering, so I’ll go ahead and ask: any thoughts about J. Ramsey Michaels’s new NICNT volume? I’m sure it came out too late for much of your preparation, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  2. James – that’s a good question. I did read the commentary and, to be honest, I was a bit surprised that D.A. Carson gave it such admiration in his recent RBL review. I found JRM’s commentary to be solid and reliable, but workmanlike, and not very “theological.” He did not do very many big picture statements or conclusions, as far as I could see. It is helpful in terms of getting at “state-of-the-issue” questions, but I was not “blown away” by it. Compare that to Fee’s Philippians contribution in the same series and it hardly seems to BE part of the same series. I would recommend consulting HRM for literary, historical, or “what does this word mean” questions. I defer to the wisdom of Lincoln, Carson, and Keener on wider theological issues

  3. Which is the best commentary for preachers to own? I don’t mind the technical but I also don’t want to get bogged down too much either.

  4. I’m glad to see someone give a proper nod to the NIVAC, Though obviously some volumes are better than others, Burge’s contribution I have used with great benefit.

  5. I was surprised that Francis Moloney’s Sacra Pagina commentary didn’t make the cut, or even an honorable mention. In my judgment, he (like Lincoln) manages to handle the many different angles of interpretation rather deftly, while maintaining a high degree of readability. Thoughts?

  6. I am a fan of some of the works in the NIVAC series (especially in the OT – 1&2 Samuel; Daniel). I wish Block’s volume on Deuteronomy would hurry up and come out!

    I know you couldn’t list every commentary but where would you rank Kostenberger’s commentary in your breakdown? Mid-level? I enjoyed it the last time I taught through John, but I’ve heard others (who have obviously read more than me) say that he seems to be a synthesis of some of the other major works (i.e. Carson). Any thoughts?

  7. I like Kostenberger’s Theology volume, but his Baker commentary was just so-so for me – nothing really overwhelming. I do like that he emphasizes the Christological model of Sonship (over Shaliach or Wisdom Christology).

    I would say, yes, mid-level. I would choose Carson over Kostenberger for a seminary course. (Actually, Lincoln would be my first choice).

    I am desperately waiting for Bauckham (NIGTC), but that is some years off still, I presume.

  8. Hi Nijay,

    I am wondering what you think of Rodney Whitacre’s commentary on John’s Gospel in the IVPNTC Commentary series. It is larger than most commentaries in that series, but that is no indication of quality necessarily.

  9. Nice call on including Raymond Brown. Personally I’d add Brown’s Community of the Beloved Disciple to the list.

  10. Though not an “official” NT scholar, Leslie Newbigen wrote a beautiful book on John, The Light has Come, that is full of rich insights.

    Hoskyns and Davey’s commentary remains one of my favorites as well.

    I’m sorry, but Brown was just not quite what I found useful most of the time.

    Carson, on the other hand, has done really fine work; he seems to solve problems just by reading the text seriously and closely and paying attention to context in a way that some don’t.

  11. Uhm, how can you refer to “Scholars who have made their mark on Johannine Studies” and not mention J. Louis Martyn???

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