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. There’s 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 John’s 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 author’s 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 John’s 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? It’s 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 passage’s 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 Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.