J. Ramsey Michaels has provided us with a massive commentary on the Gospel of John in the New International Commentary of the New Testament series. This volume replaced the much-used and much-loved commentary by Leon Morris in that series. I had read good things about this book, and even had a few people say it was their favorite, so I was happy to delve into it for myself. Though I was ultimately convinced that I must give this book a high rating, I did find a few things not in its favor.
The Introduction, in my view, was not up to par for commentaries of this size. In defense of Mr. Michaels, he purposely kept it short and feels that Introductions would be better written after the fact. It almost read like a few reflections he wanted to share when he was finished. Theres not a lot of background either, but he also chose not to go that direction. He feels such background makes better sense in specific passages. The first part of his Introduction on the nature of Johns Gospel was interesting. He commented most on the authorship of the Gospel of John and was sympathetic to the traditional position, but choose to keep it anonymous since the authors name is not mentioned. He almost sees anonymity as a trait of this gospel. He speaks only briefly of truth claims, the relationship of John to the other Gospels, and the structure of Johns Gospel, which I thought was the most lacking in the Introduction. He barely spoke of textual issues, and his section on theological contributions, which was good, was only four pages.
One other issue I had with the volume was that what he called the first tier of commentaries that helped him write his was Bultmann (!), Schnackenburg, Brown, and Barrett. At least Morris, Carson, and Keener were in his second tier. I felt at times that his first tier had too much influence on what he said. On the other hand, I would agree with many others who say that he came up with his own unique, fresh perspective.
You may ask why I would still rate this a five-star commentary considering the issues I have stated I have with it. Why must I? Its the incredible, thoughtful content in the commentary itself. Every passage I interacted with taught me things that I had read nowhere else. Even though there might be a sentence that I disagreed with, in the next paragraph he would tie the passage into the larger context of John, or tie it into some other passage in John, or give some amazing exegetical insight that I found extremely helpful.
All in all, while this may not be my first choice on the Gospel of John, it is one that I will always consult going forward. A book that gets me thinking and opens other side paths in grasping a passages meaning is a winner in my book. I recommend it.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.
This is a massive work (1094 pages) on John, which replaces Leon Morris' work in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series. As I have been doing some study in the Gospel of John, I added it to my library. I must say that after using it, I am not impressed with Michaels work. While he is conservative in the approach to John, I am disappointed in the commentary. I found the following:
*I was surprised that he acts mostly with older scholars (Bultman and Barrett); little with Carson and Keener, and with Kostenberger at all. I was expecting more. To me this dates the work before it came out.
*He is not afraid of controversy; in fact he opens in Gospel with such with his view of the Prelude. Some of this is interesting, but does not outweigh the rest of the work.
He downgrades the idea of John the Apostle being the author. His conclusion is we cannot know who wrote it.
*He has some unusual interpretations. An example of a fanciful connection is found in John 19:30 where he connects Jesus laying his head and giving up the spirit to Matthew 8:20 where Jesus had no place to lay his head (page 964).
*He seems to be brief on theological issues, and does not cover others, like John's use of the Old Testament.
Overall, I found he did not add much to what I found in other works.
I would not recommend this work. To me the cost benefit is not there. The cost is great and for me the benefit are little. In my humble opinion it certainly does not measure up to the work it replaces by Leon Morris. Carson, Keener, Kostenberger, and Beasley-Murray are much better choices.
This volume maintains the balance between readability and scholarship. Those who wish a more thorough Greek study should try the NIGTC entry. The author's depth and and insight into the text are excellent. While it is a large volume, it is not so because of verbosity, but from sheer volume of information.
I love to read commentaries and this is the most readable commentary on John that I have read in a while (maybe since Morris' initial commentary in the series). The author brings you to the depths of John's thoughts and leaves you something to ponder: "the light has come into the world and permeates the darkness." Whether that darkness is found in the lives of those 2000 years ago or our darkness today.
His writing style is easy to read and knowledge of Greek is added value but not needed to get the main idea of the text. His use of other commentaries and academic material is also good. He addresses commentaries that agree with his position as well as those who do not. He also sends you to other commentaries for bibliographies that are more extensive.
I highly recommend this commentary for the student, pastor or someone who wants to feel the heart of John.