Published in 1965 as volume 14 of Abignon’s “Bible Guides” series (edited, I note, by William Barclay and F.F. Bruce), E. Earle Ellis’ The World of St. John is a concise, crisply written, insightful work that explores the contextual issues surrounding John’s gospel in addition to providing a helpful summary of the contents of the gospel. Currently out of print, used copies of the book may still be bought through Amazon and other used book sites.
It’s a short but impressive work that reveals what made Dr. Ellis the esteemed New Testament scholar that he was. I was personally moved to look into whether or not Dr. Ellis had written anything on John because (a) I’m preparing for a sermon series through the gospel, (b) Dr. Ellis passed away earlier this year, and (c) I deeply regret that I never studied under him while a student at Southwestern Seminary (where he taught). Dr. Ellis was a congenial man who I spoke to a few times while passing him in the hallways of Southwestern, but my knowledge of him has come mainly from others as well as from my (admittedly limited) reading of his work.
Ellis gives a thoughtful and judicious consideration of the issues surrounding Johannine authorship, the purpose of the book, and the author’s interactions with Jewish and Greek thought. Ellis views the gospel as having been written to a church comprised of Jewish and Gentile Christians. Furthermore, he sees the gospel as a response to an overemphasis on eschatology by some in the early church (to the detriment of a proper understanding of Christ’s presence in the church) as well as to an overemphasis on the institutionalization of the church (to the detriment of a proper understanding of the believer’s own relationship with Jesus Christ). Along the way, he fleshes out his thesis with interesting and helpful insights into the book itself. Furthermore, he offers a helpful outline of the gospel.
If you, like me, are of the opinion that we should not resign ourselves to those works that just happen to still be in print or that just happen to be on the shelves of Lifeway, then you’ll see the merit of considering works like this. I know nothing of the rest of the series, but I would think it would be quite helpful as well.