Every serious student of the Bible loves a good commentary. No matter how many years you’ve been a Christian, how many times you’ve read through the Bible, how many Sunday School classes you’ve attended or taught, there are still numerous passages that we all need help understanding. That’s where a good commentary comes in. A good commentary will take a passage and help us, the student, understand the historical, literary, and cultural background in order to enable us to accurately understand what the text of Scripture is saying in that passage, all while implementing solid hermeneutics and taking into consideration biblical, historical, and systematic theology.
While good commentaries abound for the trained pastor who is able to delve into the intricate arguments of this or that Greek Word or 17 reasons why Paul did or did not write this letter, the options are much more limited for the untrained layperson wanting to study their Bible and better understand it.
A New Commentary
With that in mind, Dr. William Cook, professor of New Testament at SBTS, has written a clear, readable, accessible commentary on the Gospel of John with the layperson in mind: John: Jesus Christ is God. Published in Christian Focus’s “Focus on the Bible” commentary series, the volume is a very readable, concise commentary that would help any student of the Bible. Here’s what Cook says in the preface:
“I have written this commentary for the non-specialist, including those who are only beginning their study of the Fourth Gospel. I have sought to make my exposition straightforward and unencumbered by technical issues that can bog down one’s initial study of the Gospel. As I wrote I kept in mind the layperson, the ministerial student, or even a pastor that wants a clear explanation of the biblical text” (7).
What follows in this commentary, then, is a breakdown of John’s Gospel into 36 sections and 297 pages. Each section discussed is covered by around 6-8 pages, which is very readable and accessible for pretty much everyone. When you compare that to, say, Carson’s commentary on John (widely regarded as the most comprehensive commentary on the Epistle), which is 700 pages and spends anywhere between 20-40 pages per section, you can see how Cook has sought to provide a very readable and accessible volume here. That is not to say that one of these is better than the other. The point is that they are writing to two different audiences, and with two different purposes.
If you are wanting to get into the deep, exegetical nuances of every word and phrase or explore the different historical and contemporary opinions on various passages, pick up Carson’s commentary. It is excellent.
But if you are looking for a easy-to-read, clear, concise, to-the-point commentary on the book of John, this new one by William Cook is an excellent one for you.
You can be assured that in this commentary Dr. Cook is going to stay true to the text and give you a clear, biblical understanding of every passage in John’s Gospel. Will you agree with every single position that Dr. Cook holds? I highly doubt it. But thus is the nature of commentaries. You will be hard pressed to ever find a single volume like that. But for what it is and what it intends to be, this new commentary on John is an excellent one.
Have you ever wanted to learn more about John’s Gospel, but didn’t know where to start? Or have you ever picked up a commentary on John, only to discover that you didn’t understand half of what the person was saying? If either of those describe you, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of this book! The description of the commentary series is: “Readable, Reliable, Relevant.” That is definitely an accurate summary of this book.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Christian Focus Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.