Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: The Letters of John

The Letters of John (Pillar New Testament Commentary)The Letters of John by Colin G. Kruse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A responsible and helpful commentary on John’s letters. Our church has been studying through these letters this past year, and this was the main commentary I turned to. Kruse succeeds in tying everything back to the main occasioning incident: the defection of certain teachers whose “advanced progress” was actually proof that they had never grasped the ABC’s. And the Christians still hanging on to the ABC’s are constantly encouraged and assured.

Two strengths of this commentary are its careful inclusion of background texts, and its treatment of the aspect of Greek verbs. For an example of the latter, see Kruse’s remarks on the traditional way of resolving the tension between 1 John 1.5 – 2.2 and 1 John 3.4-10 on page 129. Many have argued that the present tense verbs in chapter 3 denote habitual sinning, which, unlike occasional sinning, is impossible for the true Christian. Kruse writes: “However, the use of the present tense says nothing about the habitual or nonhabitual character of the sinning, but only shows that the author has chosen to depict the sinning as something in progress, rather than as a complete action” (emphasis added).

Another good feature is the many Notes that interrupt the commentary. One of the best is the note on the role of the Holy Spirit in John’s letters. Here’s the final paragraph:

In conclusion, we may say that this survey of the Spirit texts of 1 John indicates that the author has portrayed the role of the Spirit primarily as testimony to the tradition, not as a source of new revelation. In all probability he did this because the secessionists were claiming the Spirit as the source of their new and heretical doctrines concerning Christ. The author, therefore, felt that it was necessary to hold together the word and the Spirit, or, put in other words, he felt that it was necessary to stress the Spirit’s role as witness to the truth of the gospel concerning Jesus as it was proclaimed from the beginning. (155)

The only thing I was left wishing for from this commentary was more insight on applying John’s letters to the church today.

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