Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: I AM…Exploring the I AM sayings of John’s Gospel

The author, Dr. Iain D. Campbell, is from Scotland. But where is lives is not as important as who he is. Dr. Campbell is a pastor and as a good preacher, his small book harmonizes the theological and practical in a seamless way. In the introduction, the premise of the book is clear: The seven ‘I AM’ sayings of the gospel of John are unique to the other gospels and therefore are worthy of exclusive study.  So just like a good sermon, Campbell provides an introduction, seven chapters and a brief conclusion. In my opinion, this is 122 pages of pure delight.

Each chapter begins with a brief historical sketch of the particular ‘I AM’ saying. Understanding the context is crucial to interpretation and in a winsome way the Scottish preacher diligently transports the reader back to the ministry of Jesus through the eyes of the apostle John. The most excellent example of this is found in chapter two, Jesus the Light. The author states,
“The other feature of the Feast of Tabernacles, as it was celebrated in Jesus’ time, was the lighting of particular lamps in the temple; four great lamps were lit every evening, so that the temple was ablaze with light. At the close of the feast, one lamp was left unlit, symbolizing, in the thinking of the Jewish people, that full salvation had not yet come…..therefore, it is significant that, as the Feast closes….Jesus should say ‘I am the light of the world’”(p. 28).
Then after drawing out the meaning, Campbell spends the rest of the chapter unpacking the depth of the sayings of Jesus with the use of engaging illustrations and pointed application.

One of the stand-out features of the book is the ability of Dr. Campbell to be holistically gospel-focused. At the end of each chapter is a written version of an altar call, which makes this book evangelistic and edifying, all at the same time. This focus was so apparent that I remember thinking, “How often we challenge an unbeliever to read the gospel of John in order to find and know Jesus. This book should be given and used as an evangelistic companion to the gospel of John!”

It is normative to be critical at some point during a book review. I gladly admit it was difficult for me to find much to criticize, though Campbell’s connection of the divine number “7” to the number of Johannine ‘I AM’ sayings is suspect (p. 107). To his credit, the author does not simply gloss over his claim, he does offer some defense, yet I still find it lacking and obviously the uniqueness of Jesus does not stand or fall on the innovative use of the divine “7”.

To conclude, I emphatically endorse this book. Pastors should have it for its value as a commentary, small group leaders should integrate it bi-annually and new Christians should build their devotional library around it. 

**I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as well as EP Books.

1 comment:

  1. Clint,

    This is one of those books you'd do well to read once per year. Thanks so much for being a part of the blog tour.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews