A Youth Worker’s Commentary on John by Les Christie and David Nystrom helps teen readers understand one of the more complex books of the Bible—the Gospel of John. The authors use down-to-earth language when discussing deep theological principles and obscure historical details. The result is a very understandable, applicable book that almost reads more like a devotional guide than a commentary. This book is Volume 1 of the commentary of John, spanning Chapters 1 through 8 of the gospel.
Each chapter takes one or more consecutive passages and delves into the linguistic, theological, historical, and cultural complexities of each verse or idea. If needed, the writers will cover a topic in depth that more experienced Christians might already understand, but they provide a level of explanation that is helpful to a teenager or someone new to Christianity. For example, the first chapter covers the Greek idea of Logos, the Word, for a few paragraphs, and the first reference to the Jewish leaders includes an overview of the Sanhedrin and its members, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes.
Whatever the subject, Christie and Nystrom clearly and concisely inform readers about it. Text boxes scattered throughout the chapters share anecdotes by the authors, excerpts from other commentaries and study guides, or quotes by Christian authors. In an effort to connect with youth, the authors will sometimes tie a pop culture reference to a theological point or complex issue. This can feel forced, but other times it is effective. In a never-ending effort to describe the Trinity, the book mentions how Tom Hanks played three different characters in the film The Polar Express. Also beyond traditional commentary, many chapters speak directly to a questioning reader who might be a new Christian. They may challenge a reader’s beliefs, address possible doubts, or simply preach the gospel.
At the end of each chapter, Christie and Nystrom include two lists of questions, titled, “Read Between the Lines” and “Welcome to My World.” The first set mostly reviews the text, inviting those discussing the material in a group to offer their own wordings of the text or to share what they know about the topic. These are somewhat basic and repetitive. The “Welcome to My World” questions, on the other hand, offer spiritual and cultural challenges. They turn the conflicts that Bible characters faced onto readers. These questions would be good for private devotions or group discussions.
The commentary uses the 2011 edition of the NIV Bible, which differs in a few places from the 1984 edition. Often the book will refer to the Greek to clarify phrases that have changed from the old edition or that still have footnotes giving an alternate translation.
The introduction provides helpful background about the controversy of the gospel’s authorship, John’s life, and the differences between the Book of John and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). A map of Israel is also included in the front. I highly recommend this resource for teens, young adults, or anyone teaching these two age groups. New Christians will also find it helpful. – Alexandra Mellen, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
This in-depth, readable approach to the Gospel of John—A Youth Worker's Commentary on John—is the first in a new series of commentaries specifically written for youth workers. You’ll find commentary, word studies, personal and historical stories, and discussion questions to help get your students thinking and talking.