At this point, I think I’ve commented on every volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series:
- James (ZECNT)
- Ephesians (ZECNT)
- Matthew (ZECNT)
- Galatians (ZECNT)
- Colossians/Philemon (ZECNT)
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians (ZECNT)
- Luke (ZECNT)
- Acts (ZECNT)
Except of course for the two most recent volumes on 1, 2, 3 John and Mark. I’ll get to Mark later on down the road, but today we’ll look at the volume on John’s letters. This contribution comes from Karen Jobes, who is the Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton College and Graduate School. In addition to this volume, she has also written commentaries on Esther (NIVAC) and 1 Peter (BECNT).
To get a feel for the general flow of this commentary series, you should read this post as well as my review of James (linked above). Jobes volume sticks to the standard form, only altering it slightly because of the books she is commenting upon. She provides an introduction to the 3 letters as a whole before starting into the commentary on 1 John. Then, she offers specific short introductions to 2 John before its commentary, and then the same for 3 John. Then she offers a section summarizing the theology of John’s letters as a whole.
In her preface (13-14), Jobes gives 4 distinctives of her particular work on John’s letters:
- It works under the assumption that the author of these letters was either the same as the Fourth Gospel, or a close associate
- It understands the metaphors, images, and theology in the letters by using the Gospel of John as an interpretive framework
- It does not assume an extended compositional history for John’s Gospel and so does not lean on sources whose interpretations rely on those reconstructions
- It does not attempt to reconstruct a specific heresy behind 1 John, but assumes the truths in the letter could speak to a variety of issues
Jobes’ introduction to the letters as a whole is short, and is followed by a briefer orientation to 1 John specifically before the commentary proper. Along the way, Jobes delves into the following In-Depth sidebars:
- Messiah or Christ? (on 1 John 1:1-4)
- The Johannine Dualistic Framework (on 1 John 1:5-10)
- “Truth” in John’s Letters (on 1 John 1:5-10)
- Being of God in John’s Letters (on 1 John 2:15-17)
- The “World” in John’s Letters (on 1 John 2:15-17)
- “Love” in John’s Letters (on 1 John 4:7-16)
- How the Johannine Comma Happened (on 1 John 5:4-13)
- What We Know (on 1 John 5:14-21)
- Which Gaius? (on 3 John 1-4)
- What Was the Problem with Diotrephes? (on 3 John 9-11)
As you can see, many of the flashpoints are covered. In addition to all this, I found Jobes’ Theology in Application sections helpful because they often wrestle with the tension between being loving to others and calling out false beliefs. She notes frequently that although we see these activities to be in tension, there doesn’t seem to be the same issue for John. For some reason, I hadn’t really thought of it this way before, but John talks quite a bit about love and is very adamant of having right beliefs about who God is and what he had done. Though Jobes does not go into extensive detail on the actual practical outworkings, she makes a compelling case in several places that pointing out false beliefs is not antithetical to loving one another. Certainly one could go about it in an un-loving way, but the activity itself should stem from care about the beliefs and soul of the other person and a concern for their understanding of God. Jobes uses the Theology in Application sections to provide brief helpful theological scaffolding for doing this.
While this not the only commentary out there on 1 John, the layout in which it is presented and the wisdom that Jobes offers makes it a good one to consider for your library. If you are teaching or preaching through the book, you’ll benefit from the way this commentary series introduces each section of the text. The comments themselves provide enough explanation to be helpful but not exhaustive for most pastors, and the Theology in Application sections offer instructive direction for moving into concrete exhortations. I would probably situate it between Colin Kruse (PNTC) and Robert Yarbrough (BECNT) and would make those my three go-to volumes on these particular New Testament books (though I hope to eventually add I. Howard Marshall’s volume in the NICNT series). Jobes is a bit more substantial than Kruse but not as extensive as Yarbrough (or other technical commentary series). This volume has the added advantage of the practical focal point, which isn’t necessarily absent from volumes in the PNTC and BECNT series, but isn’t designed to be a specific feature in the outline of the commentary. If you’d like that balance of material in a single volume, you should consider picking this up!
Karen Jobes, 1, 2, & 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the NT). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, February 2014. 368 pp. Hardcover, $34.99.
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!