This is one of those resources I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I was prepping to teach a Wednesday night series on the Gospel of John and I just had to have Keener on my team. I have grown to appreciate Craig Keener’s work on Bible backgrounds as well as his book Paul, Women and Wives and his 4 volume set of commentaries on Acts that is so large and thorough each volume comes with a CD just for all the references! He is known for being thorough and his commentary on John lives up to his reputation.
Keener’s commentary sets out to be a commentary that provides as much historical background material as possible. He believes that is where his unique contribution to the study of John is found. He deals with John as a finished product and is less interested in speculating on previous forms and traditions, instead focusing on the narrative in its final form. He believes that these two components (historical background and its narrative/literary form) get us closer to hearing the text as its original readers/hearers would have understood it. While not a perfect science this is certainly a helpful approach. The commentary is not an attempt to be conservative or liberal (taking sides on the spectrum of previous interpreters). It is an attempt to be historical.
Keener starts off with a discussion of genre and ancient biography that is worth the price of the book. His work on John vs the synoptics and the reliance on oral tradition is equally helpful. He believes that the Gospel of John provides an accurate and reliable account of what Jesus said and did. Keener believes the apostle John is the original source of this material but believes it is likely that someone (or more than one person) had a hand in collecting and editing the material to get it to its final form. Keener spends more time on authorship than many commentaries spend on an entire introduction! This brings up the point that Keener’s strength is also his weakness. There are times you have to pinpoint the section you most need to read because there is just too much there to sit down and read everything. That is a good problem to have! His introduction to John is over 330 pages in the first volume!
One of the things that I found most helpful in this commentary is not just his connection with the Greco-Roman world (which is fascinating in and of itself) but Keener’s eye toward Judaism, which is key to understanding John’s Gospel. This truly puts Jesus’ teaching in context especially in John’s Gospel where you have various Jewish backdrops for much of the narrative (temple, wedding, meals, and festivals like Passover and Tabernacles). These background pieces are beyond thorough and extremely helpful. Again, Keener wants the reader to be able to get closer to their world to hear as they heard (as much as that is possible).
Although Keener takes a lot of effort to not push an agenda toward being progressive or conservative you can still define where his conclusions tend to land and he tends to be on the more conservative side…accepting John as the author, believing these events are historical, etc. That will make this commentary much more appealing to many of you than other commentaries on John.
Logos functionality is pretty standard on this commentary. Verses referenced in the text are linked to rollover boxes that popup on a mouse rollover so you don’t even have to click the verse to go elsewhere to read it. If you do click the scripture reference it will take you to the verse in your default translation where you can read it in context in English & Greek/Hebrew. You can just roll your mouse over a reference and read the verse on the page.
Dates in the text are marked with a small flag that give you a link to the Logos timeline,
When clicked takes you to the timeline screen to put the date in historical context…
Reference numbers also work on a rollover feature where putting the mouse over the citation number gives you the full reference.
All-in-all this is a fantastic commentary and is half the price in logos of the print version. If you are interested in purchasing it, you can find it here for less than half the cost of the print version.