I read this meticulously over three years and loved every single minute of it. Previously, I’ve not been an avid fan of Bible commentaries. You can often find yourself following someone else’s furrow. But after reading Carson’s masterful accompaniment to what is my favourite book of the entire (Protestant) canon of scripture, I’m determined to make it a habit.
I discovered Carson’s work through the excellent Best Commentaries website. If you, like me, are overwhelmed by the choices out there, this is a great place to start. You know you’re in for a treat when you see the rating on there: Carson’s commentary gets a solid 100% rating. He comes pretty close with my own rating below.
It’s not hard to see why. The work is a wonderful balance. Alongside technical information that is as deep as the average pulpit scholar needs to go is a wonderful devotional thread that shows that, for Carson, the text isn’t just a text but a gateway to understanding the God he loves.
This is really important. What we don’t want in a commentary is someone simply in love with the text. That the writer understands why John wrote his masterpiece is vitally important to helping you both as a Gospel and commentary reader to grasp the point of it all. As John himself writes:
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.John 20 v. 31
Carson doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions that John’s gospel throws up. If the beginning of chapter 8 is almost definitely not original, where did it come from and what does it mean for the the rest of the work? Was chapter 21 actually written by John? In fact, was any of it written by the apostle at all?
All these and many more are covered comprehensively by Carson. For each, he provides an overview of the range of scholaraly opinion, insights into the original Greek, historical, cultural and social data and the whole thing is written in a really accessible style that only very occasionally wanders off into areas of scholarship where the layman feels a little lost. It’s a masterpiece that any thinking Christian would do well to have read and keep to hand for years to come.