Book Review: Two Commentaries on 1Corinthians

During the same season that I was teaching through the book of Galatians with a small group, I was also working through the book of 1Corinthians with a much larger group. I always find it amazing that, no matter which two or three portions of Scripture I might be studying in-depth at any given moment, the Word always reflects and builds upon itself in the most lively and fascinating ways. During virtually every week of discussion, I would find myself drawing parallels between these two books and finding Paul’s consistency in thought, even when his topic of conversation differed. God’s Word is an amazing, living Word and the farther into it you dive, the more beautiful it becomes. The following are two 1Corinthian commentaries that I found especially helpful during my own preparations:

The NIV Application Commentary: 1Corinthians by Craig L. Blomberg (1995)

1 Corinthians: NIV Application Commentary [NIVAC]   -     By: Craig L. Blomberg
I found Blomberg to be a bit more opinionated than many commentary writers show themselves to be, and while it was refreshing to know precisely where he stood on most issues, it was also occasionally rather off-putting. What publisher wants to marginalize their own market by offending a fair portion of their readership by calling all premillennialists, “most notably, classical dispensationalism,” overly pessimistic defeatists? (380) I certainly wouldn’t characterize myself this way, but I also wouldn’t mind quitting on an author who so blatantly called me such. I also found Blomberg’s support of the “contemporary signs and wonders movement” a bit strange, given his admission that “the contemporary signs and wonders movement seldom exceeds a five percent success rate in attempted healings. So it would seem that its claims to spiritual giftedness are at least exceedingly inflated.” (380) A success rate of less than 5% isn’t even nearing the vicinity of “possibly plausible on an auspiciously good day,” so why would this theologian, dedicated as he is to the sufficient inerrancy of Scripture, give such credence to the charlatans destroying the reputation of Christ in a global scale? And why would Zondervan publish him?

These issues aside, Blomberg certainly did handle the rest of the text well, drawing natural and culturally relevant applications in his “Contemporary Significance” sections. For example, in discussing how Christians must decide to use their spiritual gifts in ministry, he writes:

To be sure, at times God brings blessing and prosperity for short intervals without significant antagonism. On other occasions, he allows seemingly unmitigated hostility, perhaps even for somewhat longer periods of time. But a prolonged lack of results in ministry more often than not suggests that it is time to move on, while prolonged prosperity without any difficulty should make one question if the full-orbed gospel with all its demands is clearly being preached. (483)

While I found Blomberg’s commentary useful at times, I’m also very happy that I could find a balanced interpretation of 1Corinthians through the writings of other authors as well.

The New Testament Commentary: 1Corinthians by Leon Morris (2008)

1 Corinthians: Tyndale New Testament Commentary [TNTC]  -     By: Leon Morris
As with Cole’s TNTC Commentary on Galatians, I was much more keen on the format for this series than I was for The NIV Commentary. While I find that series to be geared more toward the somewhat unlearned (after all, it doesn’t seem that most qualified pastors would need the contemporary applications of a particular passage spelled out for them), TNTC is a bit more raw. While shorter in size, the TNTC does tend to be broader in scope and deeper in meaning. I felt that Morris walked his readers through the text exceptionally well, and I would have no trouble recommending this series over the NIV series. Truthfully, it has nothing to do with any pre-formed opinions on the matter. It has everything to do with the fact that I worked through the full text of 1Corinthians by myself, and then supplemented my own outline and preparation with these two commentaries, and Morris’ proved to outshine Blomberg’s at every turn. Of course, this is just one man’s opinion, but I hope it proves to be food for thought.

©2016 E.T.

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