Tag Archives: Sunday School

Study Resources for John

For those using the CLP Sunday School materials, our next quarter will be devoted to the study of the Gospel according to John. This is a theologically-rich Gospel! If you take time to dig into some study resources, your time in John may be even more rewarding.

Our first task in understanding Scripture well, of course, is to “simply” prayerfully read and re-read the sacred text. I say “simply” because good reading is hard work! We could mangle metaphors and say that you read what you sow. For some generally-applicable reading tips, see my post on “Study Resources for Hebrews.”

One way to get more out of your reading is to try to outline the text. This can be as easy as writing a headline for each chapter, or as detailed as you wish. Here is the outline that I started creating for John one of the last times we studied from it in Sunday School: John – Outline of Gospel. It is incomplete, but covers most of the material we’ll be studying this time around. Perhaps it will help you see more of how John has organized his thoughts, and perhaps you can finish it. Notice how I am attempting to use key verses and key themes to help me see John’s purposes and patterns in writing.

Two book resources that are accessible for all:

  • Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Context, by Andreas Köstenberger. Don’t let the long title scare you. This is a very readable book! My wife pulled it from my shelf recently for use during her devotional reading, and commented how she liked it. It is written by an expert on John (I’ll be recommending several more books by Köstenberger), but it is very accessible, and full of charts, lists, and pictures. Perhaps my favorite feature of the book is its concordance of John’s Gospel, which records its key theological and literary terms (light, love, believe, etc.). The great thing about this concordance, besides the fact that it only covers John and thus is super-readable, is that it organizes related terms together. So, for example, all the various words dealing with light and darkness are grouped together thematically, so you can quickly scan for John’s key themes. And Greek words are even distinguished for those of us who want to trace John’s thought on that level.
  • John (NIV Application Commentary), by Gary Burge. Köstenberger‘s book won’t answer your detailed verse-by-verse questions, as my wife also found during her devotional reading. So you may want a true commentary, such as this one by Burge. This one does not expect you to know any Greek, and it emphasizes both understanding and applying the text, so it is ideal for most Sunday School teachers.

Moderately technical commentaries:

  • John (Pillar NT Commentary), by D. A. Carson. This is the classic evangelical commentary on John. In fact, it is the highest-rated commentary on bestcommentaries.com out of all commentaries on all books of the Bible! It is indeed good. That said, I can’t honestly say it is my favorite Bible commentary. Besides its undeniable high quality, several other factors help explain its high ranking: (a) It filled a gap in evangelical scholarship at the time, claiming unoccupied space by taking the best from Leon Morris’ earlier classic commentary and adding updated scholarship, (b) bestcommentaries.com has wonderfully comprehensive listings, but their rankings are quite dated, (c) the author Carson has become a super-star scholar within some Calvinistic circles.
  • John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT), by Andreas Köstenberger. I do not own this one, but reviews I’ve read suggest it is similar to Carson’s. Some prefer it over Carson because it summarizes scholarship that has come out since his volume (including Carson); others think Carson is still superior, just as some still prefer the old Morris! My thoughts? If you are looking to buy just one well-rounded volume to summarize recent scholarship, I’d choose this one.
  • John (New International Commentary on the NT), by J. Ramsey Michaels. I do not own this one, either, but list it here because (a) it is even newer than Köstenberger, (b) Carson gives it “pride of place” in his most recent commentary survey, and (c) it is reported to be a contrasting work to those above, drawing on a different balance of historical commentaries and including the author’s own insights. I hear it is weak on historical background and strong on the literary study of the text itself. (If you want a commentary with lots of historical background and ancient literary parallels, see Craig Keener’s two-volume work, which has enough Greco-Roman citations to assemble your own Roman legion. It has lots of information you won’t need, although I’ve found you can scan until you get to the relevant data. This shouldn’t be a first choice for most readers, however.)

Additional helps:

What other resources would you suggest for studying John? Share them in the comments below. May God bless your study of the Scriptures!


Disclaimer: I am part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy anything using the links above, I will earn pennies. Thank you!


Save page

Study Resources for Kings and Chronicles

Those of us who are using the Christian Light Publications Sunday School booklets will be studying excerpts from the OT books of Kings and Chronicles during September and October. (You can purchase an e-book teachers’ guide here.)

How can you best prepare to be a contributing class member or teacher as you study these books?

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200Photo Credit: MatthewDGarrett via Compfight cc

First, nothing beats prayerfully reading and re-reading Scripture itself. See here for Bible reading tips that are sure to increase your understanding.

That said, don’t imagine the “just me and Jesus” approach to Bible interpretation is best! Carefully reading what other Bible students have discovered about Scripture can bring amazing payoffs! (See here for “Why I Use Commentaries” and other study resources.)

So here are some resources I would consider for studying Kings and Chronicles. A good commentary or two will be helpful:

Kings:

  • 1 & 2 Kings (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series) Buy on Amazon Iain Provan’s commentary on 1 and 2 Kings. This is an obvious choice—many reviewers agree it is the single best commentary on Kings, it is designed for ordinary Bible students, the author believes that Kings is historically trustworthy, and it is even cheap. (I own this one but have not used it much yet.)
  • You will also find Dale Ralph Davis’s expository commentaries (1 Kings, 2 Kings) both theologically insightful and entertaining. (I own five of Davis’s commentaries and have enjoyed using the ones on 1 and 2 Samuel.)
  • For more Kings commentaries, see my OT Detailed Lists.

Chronicles:

Books on the history of the nation of Israel might also be helpful. (Note that these span much or all of Israel’s biblical history, not just the time of Kings and Chronicles.) Here are some history books I would consider:

Many online resources are also available, but I have not reviewed many for usefulness. (While I use online Bibles and concordances regularly, I usually stick to print or e-books for commentaries and other resources. Often these have been edited and tested more carefully.) However, here are two online resources from basically reputable sources—a tiny hint of much more you might find:

What other resources would you suggest? Share your favorite resources in the comments below. Thank you!


Save page

Study Resources for Hebrews

Those of us who use the Christian Light Publications Sunday School materials will be studying Hebrews for the next three months (June, July, August). I thought I should post a few suggested study helps for this book.

I have never taught the book of Hebrews, but here are some resources I would want to use if I did. First, however, let me remind you that the very best thing you can do to understand any book of the Bible better is to prayerfully read it over and over. Some of the best preachers have said they aim to read a book 50 times before beginning a preaching series on it! If you want to understand as deeply as you are capable of understanding, here are more reading tips for those 50 (or 25?) times through Hebrews:

  • Read it straight through, in one sitting.
  • Try reading aloud.
  • Try listening to an audio Bible.
  • Read it in multiple translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, etc.).
  • Imagine you are part of the original audience for the letter, or that you are the human author. What can you learn about the needs or concerns of each?
  • After several times through, choose a theme/word that intrigues you and listen for it the whole way through as you read.
  • Look for patterns of thought in the book (Jesus is better than X; warning against falling from faith; etc), divide the book into sections (chapters divisions aren’t always in the right spot) and give a simple heading to each section.
  • After more readings, begin using study helps (below); use them to test your insights and to help you see new things as you read.
  • Tell a family member or friend what you are discovering as you read Hebrews; the telling will help you organize and summarize your observations, leading to new insights.

Commentaries

For most Sunday School teachers I would recommend George Guthrie’s commentary in the NIV Application Commentary series. This series is usually very readable and includes helpful suggestions for applications (implications!) of the text for today. Guthrie’s volume is one of the best in the series, for he is known for his extensive study of the literary structure (outline) of Hebrews—a book that is harder to outline than many, given its sermon-style delivery. (Isn’t it hard to find an outline in a lot of sermons today, too?) I have found Guthrie’s commentary helpful.

Some other helpful commentaries:

I have O’Brien and have found him helpful. (He draws on Guthrie’s insights and many others.) Lane’s commentary is a modern classic, though I haven’t seen it. Cockerill and Schreiner are new and promising.

Debates over Calvinism and Arminianism commonly arise while interpreting Hebrews. Calvinist commentators include Guthrie, O’Brien and Schreiner. Arminian (and/or Wesleyan, which is related) commentators include Lane and Cockerill. In case you’re wondering, I prefer the Arminian reading, despite the fact that I don’t yet own one of those Arminian Hebrews commentaries!

For in-depth help with the question of falling from faith, I recommend Kept by the Power of God, by I. Howard Marshall. (I own this book and have read parts of it.)

If I had more time and experience teaching Hebrews, I’d want to also recommend some online resources and more practical teaching helps. But I’m certain the above resources are some of the best available for those who want to study Hebrews carefully.

What else would you suggest? Share resources in the comments below.


Save page