Carson or Kostenberger on John’s Gospel?

Looking at my commentaries on John’s Gospel, I realize that I’m woefully lacking.  I’ve used Carson’s before, here and there, but never Kostenberger’s.

At any rate, on, I did find this interesting review of Kostenberger’s commentary on John:

Kostenberger is one of the premier Evangelical scholars today on the gospel of John. I would say if you purchase only one exegetical commentary on John, this “may” be the best one to get because it summarizes the best of what has previously been accomplished in conservative commentaries on John. Having said that, this is also its weakness. I am surprised that Kostenberger’s extensive work on John’s gospel has not generated much in the way of fresh (or better yet refreshingly different) perspectives on the gospel. By this, I don’t mean novel interpretations. By way of comparison, both Morris and Carson have very different perspectives and emphases on John’s gospel that are equally very helpful. If you have those 2 commentaries, Kostenberger adds very little that is new and would not be worth the extra purchase. Also, I was hoping for a little more depth on certain passages that he seemed to gloss over or rush through. 

Furthermore, there is a slightly disturbing aspect to Kostenberger that I should point out. I have found that he parrot’s Carson’s comments almost to the point of repeating him verbatim at times. I realize plagiarism is a serious charge and it seems like an editor should have picked up on this. In either case, I have used these commentaries side by side for nearly 4 years now (preaching through the gospel) and I have found this to be consistently the case, passage after passage. In some ways, that is a compliment to Carson, because his commentary is still the most insightful of all Evangelical commentaries on John. read more… (bold added)

Carson seems to be the one to beat here, “because his commentary is still the most insightful of all Evangelical commentaries on John,” while Kostenberger’s strength is that “it summarizes the best of what has previously been accomplished in conservative commentaries on John.”

Any thoughts?

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22 Responses to Carson or Kostenberger on John’s Gospel?

  1. Mike says:

    I have discovered this to be the case when I have utilized the two side-by-side. I too share the reviewer’s surprise that we don’t see as much original work in Kostenberger as we might expect. Carson is still my favorite on John.

  2. TC,
    They are very very close, not just in quality, but also in content. You will not miss too much in one that’s not in the other. They are definitely #1 and #2 for exegesis and exposition on John. I prefer Carson, but just barely. Kostenberger does cite more previous sources and has a bit more theological reflection. I would say Carson is a bit clearer when arguing his exegetical points. Because of the series, Carson transliterates but Kostenberger has in text citations (two things I hate).

    My preference may be sentimental seeing as Carson’s John was the first commentary I ever read straight through after my first year of Greek in undergrad. Listening to his lectures online and reading his commentaries in those years were what really taught me how to do exegesis, so that might make me a little bias.

    • T.C. R says:


      I hoping that given the 14-yr gap that things wouldn’t be so close, thus favoring Kostenberger. But this is hardly the case.

  3. Nick Norelli says:

    I’d suggest going with Carson’s commentary and then getting Köstenberger’s A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters. But to be honest, I’m finding J. Ramsey Michael’s recent NICNT volume to be holding its own against either of these guys. If you want two commentaries on John then get Carson and Michaels.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Raymond Brown 🙂

  5. T.C. R says:

    Nick, thanks for this. I like the sound of your Kostenberger’s Theology with Carson, but Michaels is quite tempting, given its recent nature.


    Ah, to each his own. 😉

  6. kenny chmiel says:

    Used Both in seminary, I found myself preferring Carson. I really like Beasley-murray’s
    work best though.

  7. T.C. R says:

    Just perused the sample pages of Michaels’ at WTS – going with Michaels for now, Carson later.

  8. Matthew Crowe says:

    I agree with the reviewer. Carson is more exegetical and while Koestenberger exegetes too, he seems to focus more on what others have said. I haven’t looked at Michaels but I *really* want Brown’s volumes. We all have a little Catholic in us 😉

  9. Nick Norelli says:

    T. C.: Good choice!

    Matthew: I really want them too! Brown and Beasley-Murray are the only major commentaries on John that I don’t have yet.

  10. Gary Zimmerli says:

    T.C., you might be interested in adding to Carson and Kostenberger easily, by going to and trying out their IVP commentaries. I used their commentary on John extensively in teaching my adult class a few short years ago, and thought it was very good. And it’s free online. I don’t remember who the author of the John commentary was now, and it appears they’re going out of print as hardcovers but coming back as paperbacks; but anyway, at this point they don’t have his name on the website because the John commentary is no longer available in hardcover. But anyway, go to Biblegateway and take a look at it; you might really like it.

  11. Clifford Kvidahl says:

    I am surprised none has mentioned the two-volume work from Craig Keener. It is an excellent resource, with a wealth of background material.


  12. TC,

    I like J. Ramsey Michaels NICNT “John” very much also!

  13. T.C. R says:


    Thanks for that resource. But I like to hold a book in my hands. 🙂


    Yes, I read a review of Keener’s but thought I wouldn’t go there just yet. I’ve always heard good things about his 2vols.

    Fr. Robert,

    I’ll soon get a chance too. 😀

  14. Nick Norelli says:

    Clifford: I certainly thought to mention Keener but it’s really a different animal altogether. For background information it’s second to none, but it seemed to me that T. C. was looking for something more exegetical.

  15. Adam says:

    I am late to the party here, but I’ve been using Kostenberger’s commentary for 7 years now and Carson is referenced on nearly every page. Searching Carson’s name in a Google books search turns up 370 pages. That’s over half the commentary. While I really like his commentary a lot, the more I use it the more I realize it is a footnote to Carson. I can’t think of an instance of where he takes issue with Carson either.

  16. Pingback: Sweeping plagiarism under the rug « The Patrologist

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