"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 10, Number 2, February 2007
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;
Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
I will show partiality to no one. Nor will I flatter any man.”
“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”
Earl of Kent
Shakespeare’s King Lear
Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34
[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org]
America’s Terminal Crisis of the Spirit?
Nineteenth century British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) is credited with saying, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” (Cited from The Biblical Evangelist 38:1, p. 15)
Is there a more dead-on description of an apparent majority of Americans today--characterized by the anti-war party in the Democrat-controlled Congress? To many, perhaps most, peace at almost any price--as long as it requires no sacrifice, self-denial or personal inconvenience--is the greatest good for the greatest number--or at least for ME. This is a perspective that at times is hard to distinguish from cowardice.
This is the fruit of the indulgent “I’m entitled’ philosophy that first became widespread as the baby-boomers began reaching college age (and draft-eligibility) around 1964, was fed throughout the Vietnam War era by the media and the philosophy of rebellion and anarchy fostered by institutions of higher “learning,” and now yields its full harvest as the boomers assume broad control of the reins of society and its diverse institutions. Having grown up with almost unlimited indulgence by parents who didn’t want their children “to do without like I had to during the depression,” these who history will likely describe as “The Worst Generation” have developed the notion that society “owes them”--whatever they want, whenever they want it, with no obligations, no duties, no responsibilities in return. The epitaph of the boomer generation will surely be, to quote the words of Solomon, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10a) And in retrospect, the boomer generation will look back with regret and sigh, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done, . . . everything was meaningless and chasing after wind.” (2:11)
How very much in contrast does the present viewpoint differ from that verbalized in John Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20, 1961, just before the boomers “came of age”: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” (quoted from “To the Best of My Ability”: the American Presidents, edited by James M. McPherson [New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000], p. 431).
Yes, I have no doubt that these were not words of Kennedy’s own composing--likely they were written by Ted Sorenson, Kennedy’s usual ghost-author and speech writer; the point at issue is the perspective expressed by these words--one which the great majority of Americans were then in agreement with,-- regardless of who actually composed them. Such a commitment resonated in harmony with the attitude of most Americans then alive.
Further, it is indeed true that Kennedy failed to follow through on this pledge when he first had opportunity to so and thereby show the world that he meant business. I speak of the Bay of Pigs fiasco in April 1961, when Kennedy utterly failed to pay the price, bear the burden, meet the hardship, support the friend (Cuban nationals seeking to overthrow dictator Castro) and oppose the foe in the name of liberty. Promised American military support was at the last minute completely withheld when it could have made a decisive difference. The result--thousands of Cubans seeking to free their country from Castro’s tyranny were either slaughtered on the beaches or captured and tortured in the prisons.
And greatly emboldened by Kennedy’s--and America’s--demonstrated lack of will, the Russians scarcely more than a year later begin installing long-range missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba, resulting in the famous “Cuban Missile Crisis” of October 1962 during which we came within a hair’s breadth of all-out nuclear war. A show of weakness and lack of resolve in 1961--a public demonstration that the pledge of January 20, 1961 was just so much political rhetoric--invited the aggressor to attempt yet further aggression. And so it always is and will be in this world which is in actuality “governed by the aggressive use of force” as Limbaugh has rightly observed.
Fast forward to today. The greatest encouragement to the jihadists, talibani, al- qaedans, and other America-haters to continue their violent assaults on us and our freedoms is to show--as the rhetoric-spewing heirs of Neville Chamberlain in Congress and media have continually done for many months--that though we do have more than sufficient material, technology and manpower to defeat the terrorists, we do not have the will or the resolve or the commitment to the task at hand. This communicates most effectively the invitation to the terrorists, “Keep fighting because you can and will defeat us; we lack the requisite character to resist you.”
Recently, I visited an old-growth cypress swamp near Charleston, South Carolina. Massive bald cypress trees, as much as a thousand years old, five feet or more thick and reaching 80, 90, perhaps 100 feet into the sky were commonplace on every hand. They had weathered 1,000 years of winds and rains, of floods and hurricanes, and every extreme of climate that a millennium could bring. And in spite of the worst that Hurricane Hugo could do in 1989 by ripping the tops out of many of the trees and toppling not a few of those nearby, those that remained appeared prosperous and strong. But a closer examination revealed the truth that more than a few were victims of heart rot--the inner wood, laid down hundreds of years ago and that had supported the top for centuries--was largely, even in some cases nearly entirely rotted away, and the externally massive trunks were in reality just hollow shells, a foot or less thick, concealing an empty heart. From the hollow base, it was possible to look all the way up through the middle of the tree to the sky above. Though to all external appearances these venerable giants seem ready to endure another thousand years of whatever may come, but fatal heart rot is foreshadowing their approaching end. When the next major crisis comes, they will topple with a colossal crash into the swamp, never to rise again.
One truth that history demonstrates with regularity is that great civilizations are almost never conquered from without; they collapse from moral and spiritual rot from within. And they do so when they have all the outward signs of prosperity--a veneer of well-being that conceals the fatal heart-rot beneath. But their collapse occurs in a moment, and their fall is great, momentous, and permanent.
More from Wiersbe on Worship
“We worship God because He is worthy and not because we as worshippers get something out of it. If we look upon worship only as a means of getting something from God, rather than giving something to God, then we make God our servant instead of our Lord, and the elements of worship become a cheap formula for self-gratification. . . . Worshipping God with a wrong motive can be as deadening as worshipping the wrong God with a sincere motive.”
Warren Wiersbe, Real Worship
(Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 1986), p. 29
“Christians should think the way God thinks and not the way the world thinks. The believer’s mind ought to be so saturated with divine truth that it can determine the divine perspective on every question, issue, or decision. A renewed mind is a mind alert to the world’s false philosophies and Satan’s subtle strategy. A renewed mind directs the believer to offer intelligent worship to the Lord. ‘All Christian worship,’ says Dr. John Stott, ‘public and private, should be an intelligent response to God’s self-revelation in his words and works recorded in the Scripture.’ “
Ibid., p. 33
“There are ‘religious hypochondriacs’ who are so wrapped up in the techniques of spiritual living that they become unbalanced and unspiritual. ‘Those Christians whose chief concern is their own spiritual condition,’ wrote Washington Gladden, ‘are a very poor sort of Christians. A self-conscious holiness is a contradiction in terms.’ “
Ibid., p. 35
“[M]ost Christians want to be spectators. Most Christians are content to attend church, give their money, and allow a professional staff to ‘lead in worship’ and provide religious entertainment Sunday by Sunday. . . .Many professed believers are so taken up with ‘famous Christians’ that their dedication to them almost becomes cultic. . . . They often follow the latest fads without asking where these fads originated or on what Biblical principles they are founded.”
Ibid., pp. 36, 37
“Knowing and worshipping the Creator is a sure antidote to pessimism and a cynical approach to life.”
Ibid., p. 54
“ ‘The atonement is the crucial doctrine of the faith,’ wrote Leon Morris. ‘Unless we are right here it matters little, or so it seems to me, what we are like elsewhere.’ “
Ibid., p. 56
“Believers today try every remedy possible in dealing with their sufferings and sacrifices. Perhaps it is time we tried worship. . . . The purpose of worship is not that we might escape suffering, or merely endure it. The purpose of worship is that we might glorify God by enlisting our suffering and using it creatively. . . . A crisis does not make a man; it shows what a man is made of. The character of a man or woman of God is built day by day, in the worship-and-serve experiences of life. Then when the crisis comes, we find ourselves spiritually prepared; and suffering can marvelously become an act of true worship.”
Ibid., p. 73
Genesis 22:8, 14
Casting Light on the English from the Hebrew
At Genesis 22:8 & 14 - the Hebrew word (Strongs #7200) means “to see.” Why
Is it translated "provide"? And in the KJV it is also translated "see" in v.14?
Dear B. N.
Let me give you the “short version” followed by a more in depth analysis of this word and passage in question (or, as one friend said of me, if you ask me the time, I’ll tell you how the watch is made).
By rendering this Hebrew word by “provide” in v. 8, the KJV (as with a number of other Reformation and post-Reformation era versions) is following the lead of the Latin Vulgate translation of Jerome. (In truth, every single page of the KJV--OT, Apocrypha and NT--, shows the direct influence of Jerome’s 4th century Latin translation, the officially adopted “infallible” version of the Roman Catholic Church, a fact that KJV-only radicals wish would go away). So the variation in rendering in the KJV of this one Hebrew word is in imitation of the practice of the Latin Vulgate. Which is not to say the Vulgate, the KJV, et al. therefore got it wrong; I merely note who or what influenced the KJV here.
And, by the way, the KJV English of v. 8, namely “God will provide himself a lamb” is sometimes explained to mean "God will provide Himself as the lamb," the passage then being taken as a prophecy of the crucifixion. The Hebrew DOES NOT allow this interpretation. Literally, the Hebrew is "God will see for himself a lamb," etc. The Hebrew idiom is apparently paralleled in Genesis 41:33, and I Sam. 16:1, 17, and means, roughly speaking--"to look around and
thereby obtain or get." (That the offering of Isaac is a true OT “type” of Christ, particularly of the crucifixion, I have no doubt; but being a “type” is a far different thing from being a “prophecy” as the previously-mentioned improper interpretation tries to make it).
Now, in more detail--
The Hebrew word in question is “ra’ah”, a very common Hebrew verb, occurring many hundreds of times in the Old Testament. It in fact occurs five times in Genesis 22 alone--vv. 4, 8, 13, 14 (twice). The KJV renders these “and saw” (v. 4); “will provide” (v. 8);”jireh” [apparently misprinted in the 1611 edition as “ijreh”], with an explanatory marginal note on “Jehovah-jireh,” namely, “That is, The LORD will see, or, provide” (v. 14a); and “it shall be seen” (v. 14b).
In v. 4, the form of the Hebrew verb in the Masoretic text is “vayyar’ “ (accent on final syllable in all Hebrew verb forms mentioned in this letter)--what might be called a “vav-preterite” (also known as “vav-consecutive”) form of the qal or simple stem of the verb, literally rendered, “And he saw.”
In v. 8, the form is “yir’eh”--the Hebrew “imperfect” (used for the future, subjunctive and other ideas), literally, “he shall see.”
In v. 13, again we have “vayyar’ “ as in v. 4, “and he saw.”
The first occurrence in v. 14 is the same form as that in v. 8, namely “yir’eh” though here it is part of the phrase “Yahweh yir’eh,” not a proper name as the KJV (almost uniquely among Reformation and post-Reformation era English versions) renders it, i.e., “Jehovah Jireh,” but a sentence, “Yahweh will see.” (And, incidentally, all “J”s in proper names in the OT are correctly pronounced as “Y”s--Yericho, Yeroboam, Yehoshua, etc., not “J”s as in Jack and Jill. Likewise, all “Ch”s in proper names in the OT have the “hard” sound as in “Christ,” never the sound of “ch” as is “chalk” or “cheese”).
The second occurrence of the verb “ra’ah” in v. 14 is in the form, “yera’eh” a niphal (passive) imperfect, namely, “it (or, he) shall be seen,” at least according to the vowels supplied by the medieval Masoretic scholars (who added them to the consonants-only text before them, in accordance with the traditional rabbinic understanding of the words). As far as the consonants alone go, this word could in fact be read as “yir’eh, ”he shall see” as in v. 8 and the first occurrence in v. 14, and that is in fact how it was understood in two ancient versions, as will be noted. In reverse, the consonants of “yir’eh” in the first part of v. 14 could be read as a niphal imperfect, resulting in the meaning, “(Yahweh) will be seen,” an interpretation favored by some commentators.
How these five occurrences of “ra’ah” are translated in ancient and modern versions sheds some light on how the KJV’s variations came about. We will deal with these in chronological order.
Again the literal Masoretic Hebrew for reference: “and he saw/ he will see/ and he saw/ he will see/ it will be seen.”
The Pre-Christian Greek Septuagint (LXX), made from a consonants-only Hebrew manuscript, consistently uses the same verb throughout (that is, aorist or future forms of orao), rendered literally into English, v. 4, “he saw”; v. 8, “he will see”; v. 13, “he saw”; v. 14, “(the Lord) saw” ; “(the Lord) was seen.” Twice in v. 14, the LXX departs from the imperfect (future) tense of the Hebrew for a past tense (presupposing a qal perfect form “ra’ah” the first time and a niphal perfect “nir’eh” the second?). And interestingly enough, with the fifth occurrence of the verb at the end of v. 14, rather than Yahweh (“the Lord”) being the modifier of “mountain,” that is, “the mountain of the LORD,” as accented in the Masoretic text, “Lord” is understood as the subject of the verb, thereby declaring that “the Lord was seen in the (or, that) mountain.”
The Peshitta Syriac, which in the Torah dates to the first century A. D. (and therefore also used a consonants-only Hebrew text), is remarkably similar in translation to the Jewish Targum Onkelos (on which, see below), except where that Targum paraphrases or expands the text. Consistently rending the Hebrew “ra’ah” with various forms of “chaza’ “, the standard Syriac word for “to see,” the Peshitta translates as follows: v. 4, “and he saw”; v. 8, “(God) will see”; v. 13, “and he saw”; v. 14, “(the Lord) will see”; “(the Lord) will see.” (Lamsa’s supposed English translation of the Peshitta is typically inaccurate, missing the mark in four out of the five occurrences of “ra’ah”).
Only in the final occurrence of “ra’ah” does the Peshitta depart from the Masoretic text, understanding that verb to be active (“he” i.e., the Lord [the subject is expressed], “will see”) rather than passive (“he/ it will be seen”) as the Masoretic Hebrew text is pointed. The Peshitta here agrees in this regard with Jerome’s later Latin rendering (see below).
And although it is true that one standard Syriac lexicon (J. Payne Smith’s A Compendious Syriac Dictionary) does give “provide” as one meaning of “chaza’ “ --and in fact cites Genesis 22:8 as its one and only example--, I strongly suspect that this is merely the lexicographer’s retro-fitting of the verb with the translation found in the Vulgate, since no other examples of this usage are noted, and a lexicon of the related Rabbinic Aramaic dialects lists no such usage. Therefore, I let the literal rendering stand.
This standard Jewish rendering of the Torah, dating in its present form to perhaps the second century A.D. literally translates the Hebrew in vv. 4, 13 (“and he saw” both times), but paraphrases in v. 8: “(before the LORD the lamb) is revealed,” using a circumlocution and changing the active verb to passive to avoid the anthropomorphic statement that God saw something. In v. 14, this Targum greatly expands and explains the text (we translate the whole verse): “And Abraham worshipped and prayed there in that place. He said, ‘Here before the LORD the generations will be worshipping.’ Therefore it will be said as this day, ‘In this mountain Abraham worshipped before God.’ “ It seems that the rabbis have been playing with the text to avoid any anthropomorphism, rendering in the Targum the two occurrences of “ra’ah” in v. 14, as though they were actually the similar-appearing word yare’ (“to fear”). To achieve this, first, the word “to call” is taken in its specialized sense of “to invoke, call upon” (which lies behind the paraphrase “And he worshipped and prayed”); next, the word “name” (Hebrew “shem,” pronounced here like “shame”) is read as though it were “sham” “(rhymes with “mom”), meaning “there” and the preposition “ba” (“in”) is substituted for the definite article of “the place.” The Hebrew phrase “Yahweh yir’eh” is read as though it were “they will fear Yahweh,” which leads to the rendering “they will worship Yahweh,” with some necessary insertions to smooth out the sense. In the final phrase, “Abraham” is added to make the subject of the verb explicit, “ra’ah” is again interpreted as though it were “yare’”, and Yahweh becomes the object of this now active and past tense verb.
In all this reworking of the text, the rabbis are playing with the interpretation of the text to fit their theological suppositions and strong anti-anthropomorphism. Because of the highly paraphrastic nature of the Targum here, and its free alteration of the Hebrew in translation and interpretation, the Targum provides little help in establishing the true text or interpretation of this passage, though it does show how far the rabbis were willing to go to make the Bible conform to their theology (and yet in all this, they did not dare alter the actual Hebrew text, however freely they might play with its interpretation). The Jerusalem Targum expands the text even more, and follows a different interpretation; it need not detain us here.
The Latin Vulgate in Genesis 22 employs forms (including a compound) of videre, “to see” to render “ra’ah” throughout--v. 4, vidit, literally, “he saw”; v. 8, providebit, “he will see beforehand”; v. 13, viditque, “and he saw”; v. 14, videt, “(the Lord) sees”; and videbit, “(the Lord) will see.” It is immediately obvious that the KJV’s “provide” in v. 8 is a direct borrowing from the Vulgate’s (i.e. Jerome’s) rendering. Providere means literally, “to see before hand,” then by extension, "anticipate in advance," or "make provision for on the basis of foreseen need." (Cf. Cassell's Latin-English Dictionary). From this we get our word "providence."
Note also that in v. 14, the first occurrence of “ra’ah” is understood as a present tense, perhaps the participle “ro’eh,” having the same consonants as the form behind the LXX’s “he saw,” but with the vowels understood differently (and remember that Jerome translated from an unpointed Hebrew text, but in consultation with both rabbis and the LXX). The final occurrence of “ra’ah” is read by Jerome as a future active form, which as noted above is one way the consonants alone can be read. He too, like the LXX, understands “the Lord” to be the subject of this verb, “the Lord will see,” rather than “the Lord will be seen” or “it will be seen.”
This brings us to English versions (and the fact that the KJV is formally a revision of the Bishops Bible  in consultation with numerous other English and foreign versions, guarantees that the KJV will frequently betray the influence from those earlier versions. I have no access to Wycliffe’s two versions made from the Vulgate, though it is highly probable he closely follows the Vulgate, his regular practice. English versions I was able to consult include Tyndale’s translation (1530), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), the Bishops’ Bible (1568), and the Douay OT (1609), along with the KJV (1611 exact reprint). Among foreign versions, I consulted Luther’s German Bibles of 1534 and 1545, the Reina Spanish version of 1569 and its first revision, the Reina-Valera (1602; these two editions are identical in our verses), and Calvin’s Latin version. All these foreign versions were examined in facsimile editions except Calvin.
In v. 4, all the English versions from Tyndale to the KJV have “saw”, and the German, Spanish and Calvin have the equivalent.
In v. 8, all the English versions, following the lead of the Latin Vulgate’s providebit (lit. he will foresee), have ‘will provide” with the Spanish giving the equivalent. Calvin has prospiciet, “he sees ahead, foresees.” Luther in his 1534 loosely paraphrases the text, “God will show me, my son, the sheep,” etc. The 1545 is decidedly more literal: “God will choose for himself a sheep,” etc.
In v. 13, Tyndale and the Great Bible have “looked about” while the Geneva, Bishops’ and KJV have “looked” (and equivalently, the Spanish); the Douay has “saw,” the German and Calvin having the equivalent.
At v. 14, “Yahweh-yir’eh” is rendered literally “the Lord will see” by Tyndale, the Great Bible, the Bishops’ Bible and the equivalent in Calvin’s Latin and also the Spanish (the Douay adds a possessive pronoun: “our Lord will see). In the margin, the Spanish has provera (“will foresee, provide”). Luther has “the Lord sees,” using different verbs in the two editions. The Geneva and the KJV (which is here necessarily following the Geneva, since no other versions concur) have a proper name “Jehovah-Jireh,” with both having identical marginal notes, explaining that this means “The Lord will see, or, provide.”
For the final clause in v. 14, Tyndale, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, the Spanish, Luther’s 1545, and Calvin’s Latin, read “In the mount, the Lord will see,” (Douay is the same, except it reads “Our Lord”). I can’t quite comprehend Luther’s 1534 on one matter, so leave it aside here. The KJV stands alone in reading “in the mount of the Lord, it will be seen,” making “Lord” descriptive of the mount, rather than the subject of the final verb, inserting a vague pronoun without antecedent--“it”--and also in reading the verb as a passive instead of an active.
I trust this is sufficient to answer your question.
The Gospel According to John by D. A. Carson. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991. 715 pp., hardback.
D. A. Carson, long a professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is among the most prolific of contemporary Evangelical Christian writers, creating a rapidly growing mass of publications of a consistently high quality. And this present volume is no exception. His earlier extensive commentary on Matthew in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, is equally meritorious, if not more so.
One marked characteristic of Carson’s writings is the demonstration of a manifestly thorough acquaintance with virtually anything and everything of relevance or significance in the secondary literature--books, articles, Festschriften, even of the most obscure and esoteric sort. And yet this strength is at once Carson’s biggest “weakness”--he gives too much attention to articles and writers whose opinions are so frequently demonstrated to be unsound, ill-considered, warped or otherwise unworthy of serious consideration. In this commentary, Carson far more frequently quotes, references, and notes opinions and views of liberals, neo-orthodox and other and sundry heterodox writers than he does of conservative scholars and commentators. Repeatedly, when Carson notes that “most commentators think, . . .” (noting some anti-orthodox view) he means most liberal commentators, and the uninformed neophyte reader may well erroneously assume that this inclusive term also covers conservative commentators which indeed it does not. After coming across in the text for the tenth or fifteenth time Carson pointing out the grave defects in the interpretation of Bultmann or Beasley-Murray or Brown or Kaeseman, I threw up my hands and said, “If these guys are so far wrong so frequently”--and they certainly were--“why give them so much attention, or any at all?!” Perhaps Carson is driven by a compulsion to inter-act and refute the claims of these heresy-mongers in order to defuse their arguments in the eyes of students and others under their influence. There is some merit in such an enterprise. I trust however that Carson has no delusions that he will actually succeed in persuading such false teachers and writers of the error of their views.
For all that, Carson’s own views are thoroughly orthodox and conservative--he argues for a first century date of the Gospel (circa 85 A. D.), the traditional identification of the otherwise unnamed author as John the son of Zebedee, the unity of authorship, without a body of subsequent revisers and editors, and the inerrancy of Scripture, the full Deity of Christ, the reality of miracles and predictive prophecy, and the rest. He also argues that John was aware of the Synoptics--certainly at least Mark and probably Luke--and wrote with them in mind (by way of contrast conservative commentator Leon Morris in his The Gospel according to John in the NICNT [Eerdmans, 1971] series takes the opposing view, namely that John wrote with no knowledge of the Synoptics. Carson’s view is the more persuasive).
Analysis of textual variants is not one of Carson’s strengths and he fails to thoroughly and correctly present or analyze the evidence on more than one occasion (pp. 152, 157, etc.). He several times misunderstands the proper force of the Greek aorist (namely, simple occurrence, rather than completed action as Carson asserts--see pp. 519, 520, for example; Morris errs regarding the aorist, too, and repeatedly [pp. 262, 365, 728, etc.]). Carson surprisingly (p. 155) allows that “Messiah” is a Hebrew word, instead of, as it is in reality, an Aramaic word, which he also allows for (the Hebrew form is “Mashiach”; a surprising number of scholars make the mistake of saying “Messiah” is a Hebrew word, including Morris, [p. 134 of his commentary], which to me is inexplicable). Nor does he give sufficient attention to ancient versions of John, or to the illumination that ancient Jewish literature can cast on the interpretation of the text (all of Carson’s references to Jewish literature seem to be from secondary sources, rather than such gleaned from his own reading of primary sources). When Psalm 22 comes under discussion (e.g., p. 612), it seems that Carson opts for the idea that Psalm 22 was composed with reference to some event in David’s life, and is applied only by way of accommodation to events in the life of Jesus, rather that as a strictly prophetic prophecy of them; here I think Carson wholly in error. Carson strongly rejects “Gordon’s Calvary” and the adjoining “Garden Tomb” as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection, opting instead for the traditional (and I think indefensible) “Church of the Holy Sepulchre” site. And naturally, there are scattered interpretations here and there from which I dissent (as is to be expected from any commentary). Stylistically, Carson works to death the term “unpack” in the sense of “explain, expound, unfold” the meaning of a text. On the other hand, in his too-brief discussion of monogenes (traditionally mistranslated “only-begotten” but in reality meaning “unique, one-of-a-kind,” and by extension “dear, precious” in some contexts), Carson is correct (see on 1:14, p. 128); in truth, Carson’s view, expressed also in his The King James Version Debate (Baker, 1979; p. 92), early on influenced in part my investigation and thinking in regard to this word when I read that book in 1979. And Carson rightly dismisses John 15:26, 27 as contextually irrelevant to the ages’ old dispute between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church over “the procession of the Holy Spirit” (the filioque controversy that precipitated the split in 1054 A. D.)
Carson’s strength then is in surveying the current literature regarding the interpretation of John, and in stating what the text does mean. He does not present much in the way of gleanings from conservative commentators, and in spite of occasional flashes of spiritual warmth, there is, however, little of application here to aid the preacher or teacher preparing sermons.
In sum, Carson’s commentary on John takes its place along side that by Leon Morris as probably, all things considered, the two best conservative technical commentaries on John in English written in recent decades. They will be consulted with profit, though they are not all that one would desire or need.
Some quotes from The Gospel According to John by D. A. Carson--
“It is remarkable that everywhere Mary [the mother of Jesus] appears during the course of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus is at pains to establish distance between them.” (p. 171)
“It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.” (p. 385; quoting Roy Clements)
“If self-righteousness sometimes snuffs out genuine compassion, it must also be admitted, with shame, that social activism, even that which meets real needs, sometimes masks a spirit that knows nothing of worship and adoration.” (p. 429)
“Doubtless when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet he included the feet of Judas Iscariot. It this proves anything beyond the unfathomable love and forbearance of the Master, it is that no rite, even if performed by Jesus himself, ensures spiritual cleansing.” (p. 466)
“Orthodoxy without principal obedience to this characteristic command of the new covenant [i.e. love one another] is merely so much humbug.” (p. 485)
“The world is a society of rebels, and therefore finds it hard to tolerate those who are in joyful allegiance to the king to whom all loyalty is due. . . .Those who preach Jesus’ gospel and live in progressive conformity to his own life and teaching will attract the same antagonism that he did.” (p. 525)
“The rejection of Jesus’ words (15: 22) and works (15:24) is thus the rejection of the clearest light, the fullest revelation, and therefore it incurs the most central, deep-stained guilt.” (p. 526)
“Because of this theme of the finality of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the church has always been rightly suspicious of claims of still further definitive revelation that is binding on the consciences of all Christians.” (p. 539)
“Although the unity [i.e. of believers] envisaged in this chapter [John 17] is not institutional, this purpose clause at the end of v. 21 shows beyond possibility of doubt that the unity is meant to be observable. It is not achieved by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator, but by common adherence to the apostolic gospel, by love that is joyfully self-sacrificing, by undaunted commitment to the shared goals of the mission with which Jesus’ followers have been charged, by self-conscious dependence on God himself for life and fruitfulness.” (p. 568)