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Fall 1992 · Vol. 21 No. 2 · pp. 79–81 

Book Review

The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary

D. Edmond Hiebert. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1991. 371 pages.

Reviewed by Rueben Baerg

Dr. D. Edmond Hiebert, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California, has given us another fine treatment of expositional and exegetical studies in the Epistles of John.

Hiebert, author of more than a dozen books, stands tall among evangelical academicians. In an earlier work, Dr. Hiebert did a quality study of The Non-Pauline Epistles and Revelation (Moody Press, 1962) which included an “Introduction to the Epistles of John.” In the present work on the epistles of John, Hiebert essentially uses the earlier material {80}, except that source material of later dates has been incorporated into textual data and annotated footnotes. Slight changes of word order and content occur. He now airs the current trend in New Testament studies and offers correctives in light of his evangelical understanding of the Scriptures.

The critical question about authorship of the three epistles is dealt with in all fairness and incisiveness. Historical references to John’s contemporaries, Papias and Irenaeus, add considerable weight to the Johannine authorship of the three epistles.

As Hiebert points out, “The contents of 2 and 3 John convey a strong impression that they are the product of the same pen" (p. 277). Again, “the close resemblance in structure style, phraseology, and tone of thought” (p. 278) argue for the same authorship. Having carefully analyzed the historical and internal evidences for the Johannine authorship, the author affirms what J. B. Westcott declared almost a century ago, that “the internal evidence amply confirms the general tenor of external authority.”

As in all his exegetical-expositional works, Hiebert presents a clear, logical, and analytical outline of each epistle, a teaching and learning device he has developed with great skill over the many years of professional instruction. The outlines are lucid and useful. Dr. Hiebert masterfully “divides the Word of truth” into its natural divisions, reading out of the text what the inspired writer put into it. His methodology of analysis is not “dry” nor forced, but lends itself to flexibility of mind and style, a method which this reviewer feels ought to be encouraged and cultivated by teachers and preachers. Those who object to the use of detailed outlines might just as well build a house without first having a blueprint of minute detail! I know of no better method of sermon preparation than the guidelines which Hiebert presents in these studies.

Now for some details. “If we continue to walk in the light as He is in the light, we continue to have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, continues to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, literal translation from the Greek). “The corrective conduct,” says Hiebert, to what John says about “the denial of the sinfulness of sin” (vv. 6-7) is the believer’s “walk in the light.” And if he so walks, there will be a twofold result. “We have fellowship with one another.” Here Hiebert indicates what some understand this phrase suggests to them, namely, the believer’s fellowship with God (p. 62). However, “the pronoun (allelon) occurs seven times in 1 and 2 John, and in each of these places it clearly expresses human relationship” (p. 62). The author says, “It is more natural to understand the reciprocal pronoun as indicating fellow believers” (p. 62). This interpretation, likewise, corroborates the exegetical significance of the plural form of “one another.” If it were singular, it would mean “with {81} the other one,” but in its plural form it clearly refers to fellowship with others, with fellow believers. Other excellent treatments come at 1 John 2:1-2; 3:9-10; and 5:12-13.

While “the quoted English text is that of the familiar King James Version,. . . the interpretation is based directly on the Greek” (p. vii). Might this study not have been enhanced if the author had consistently used a more recent and accurate translation of the New Testament text?

For whom is this exegetical study written? From this reviewer’s perspective, preachers, teachers, and Christian workers involved in teaching will greatly benefit from an attentive study of this volume. It will profit the diligent student with the rewards of sound doctrine, able scholarship, and depth of biblical truth. Undoubtedly, such applicational values will result in an enrichment in “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NASB).

Rueben Baerg
Professor/Pastor (retired)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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