7 Questions on John in the NIVAC Commentary Series
Gary Burge (Ph.D., King’s College, Aberdeen University, Scotland) is the Visiting Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary. He joined the seminary faculty in the fall of 2017 after completing 25 years as professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His interests center on the gospels (particularly the Gospel of John), the historical Jesus, and the contextual and cultural background of the first century Judea as a framework for interpretation. He has also taught graduate seminars on the integration of psychology and theology as well as the integration of theology and the politics of the Middle East.
Dr. Burge is ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and churches. For over 15 years while at Wheaton he was on the teaching staff of Willow Creek Community Church (S. Barrington, IL). He also leads faculty development workshops at colleges and seminaries based on his 2015 book, Mapping Your Academic Career.
He is also deeply invested in the Middle East and its churches from Iraq to Egypt and travels there annually. He has organized pastors’ conferences, taught at seminaries, and been a frequent conference speaker in the Middle East. He is often called on to interpret the Israel-Palestine conflict at American churches and denominational settings.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on John?
My interest in Johannine studies began with my Phd dissertation, The Anointed Community, which I completed with I. Howard Marshall in Aberdeen, Scotland. But my interest continued from there with Interpreting the Gospel of John, a textbook that is used widely by seminaries introducing students to the writings of John.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
This is a commentary that is designed for pastors who are thinking through a text for the upcoming sermon. Many (most?) commentaries are so often “deep in the weeds” exegetically that many pastors tell me that they find little help in distilling the essential ideas of the text. The entire NIV Application series was written with exactly this need in mind. Therefore the student or pastor can read this commentary, find a summary of all the essential academic issues, and then — best of all — find ways to distill the text into teachable items. The series sells extremely well even after over ten years for this very reason. Pastors use it. And return to it again and again.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of John?
The uniqueness of the commentary is found in how it makes three steps in its writing: (1) The basic exegesis of the text representing current scholarship; (2) Bridging the context so that we distill the main ideas that can be lifted into the 21st century; (3) Application — where as authors we try to show how we might apply these timeless themes to a preaching/teaching setting. Very few other commentaries do all three.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
I have always had a fondness for the farewell discourse (Jn 13:31 – 17) when Jesus is in the upper room. Not only do we find here some of the most memorable sayings of Jesus, but we also find texts that have served the theology of the church for centuries.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
John’s Gospel is simply inspiring. Just ask any large group of adults what their favorite “quotes” from Jesus happen to be and 9 out of 10 will come from John. The gospel is deceptively simple and yet it has proven to be the most profound study of Jesus’ life ever. People return to John again and again for the rest of their lives.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on John?
I think that for sheer exegetical heft, Craig Keener’s commentary is absolutely essential reading. This is followed closely by Brown’s older two volume work. But if a teacher/pastor owned Keener, Brown and a more practical guide like this volume, they’d be all set for preaching on this gospel.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I am presently writing a commentary on Galatians for Kregel and then I’ll begin one for Cambridge on Colossians/Philemon. I am also finishing up a volume for IVP called The New Testament in Seven Sentences. It is a digest of the essential teachings of the NT in seven chapters or themes. This little book of 140 pages could easily be a series in church where we bring laity to the “next level” in their understanding of the scriptures.
Get Dr. Burge’s John commentary
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- Get Gary Burge’s commentary on John on Amazon