Review: Opening John’s Gospel and Epistles

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Written by Philip W. Comfort and Wendell C. Hawley initially as two separate works, one devoted to the Gospel of John and the other to the Epistles (In Tyndale’s Cornerstone Commentary series), Tyndale as republished the works together, allowing the reader access to Johannine
Theology. They are conservative, but not stodgy or predictable; evangelical, but not light weight. Written to any reader, the commentary covers a wide range of points, including textual criticism as well as the often unspoken canonical history.

The entire work begins with a thorough introduction, not only to the commentary, but to John as well. The authors highlight commonly used words, giving an entry worthy of a lexicon. Each section begins with an Exposition, which summarizes and highlights important points, highlights key words and phrases, and ends with an examination, line by line examination of the passage under scrutiny. They are highly respectful of the text and tradition, but not to the point of merely rehashing what other commentators have said throughout the centuries.

They recognize and speak to current criticism over authorship and initial audience. They arrive at a conservative viewpoint. Their notes are not highly scholarly, forgoing the use of Greek generally, trying to bring, what the title implies, an opening to what of the New Testament’s much debated Gospels. In doing so, they do not diminish the depth and breadth of the Gospel. While engaging the Church Fathers, they don’t take them as the end of the conversation, such as in 19.9-11 where the authors highlight the text over the conclusions drawn by Augustine and Chrysostom. Some of their conclusions are those that I have not been introduced to, such as their explanation of John 14.1-4. While using the NLT for John’s Epistles (which is what the Cornerstone Commentary is based upon), they aren’t hesitant about suggesting a different reading, such as in 1st John 4.20.

This commentary should be made use of in personal studying, no doubt, but so too in group settings. A bibliography is provided for further reading, as is a listing of Greek manuscripts. It is important to study the Gospel of John, for no less reason than it is the single work written to prove the deity of Christ. It is a testament to an early community’s contention that Christ was no mere mortal, prophet or teacher, but that He was the ‘I Am.’ Comfort and Hawley do not disappoint in opening John’s work to this understanding.

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