Monthly Archives: April 2015

Review: Ephesians (BECNT)

Ephesians BECNT

Frank Thielman is the Presbyterian Professor of Divinity of the New Testament at Beeson Divinity. He is well known for his work on the Law and it’s relation to the Christian believer, along with his Theology of the NT, commentary of Philippians, and his contribution to the Commentary of the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament on Ephesians.

Each section in this volume (and all BECNT volumes) can be divided up into four ways:

  1. An short summary introduction, presented in a gray-shaded box (making it easy to recognize).
  2. Exegesis and Exposition, where a translation of the text is given along with its meaning.
  3. A concluding summary, also in a gray-shaded box for easy recognition.
  4. Additional Notes, not given in every section, but usually deals with textual criticism and linguistics.
    1. I usually never read these sections since I’m neither a textual critic not a Greek reader, but I was surprised at how interesting some of the notes were in Thielman’s volume.  In many cases they’re more like extended footnotes dealing with theological matters in the text, rather than which manuscript is more original (important in it’s own right)

Thielman is careful in his exegesis, looking beyond the most recent of commentators to those of the nineteeneth and twentieth centuries, even down to the early church. Besides having taught the Greek text of Ephesians at BDS and being committed to his own studies, Thielman remains up-to-date on ancient primary sources and secondary literature from Greco-Roman history on culture, and he consistently looks back to find the meaning of particularly difficult words. Yet in all of this, he doesn’t rely so heavily on them that he misses the influence of the OT (and the works of Second Temple Period Judaism).

The Chocolate Milk

While I own only the volumes on Mark, Luke, John, and this one, I was surprised at how easy this volume was to read. The BECNT series is academic. I like that and I expect them to be so. Academic means good information, but not always easy on the eyes. But for the pastor, the student, or the layman (however you define that term), there is plenty of depth here to be explored. In-text citations are much fewer in number (especially when compared to the John volume). Really, the majority of in-text references are Scriptural! This volume is quite easy to read, especially since the author is not focusing on redactional criticism, or the thoughts of all of commentators (neither of which are bad, but footnotes are a godsend). That aside, this is still an exegetical (read: dense) commentary, so the term “easy” is relative. But it is “easier” than other commentaries I’ve come across.

Thielman’s Views

1.1; Ephesians is not pseudonymous as many say. Paul is the author (my post here).

1.7; Acknowledging the intense debate, Thielman takes the phrase “redemption through his blood” to mean that “in the death of Christ, God came powerfully to the rescue of his people just as he had done in former times when he rescued them from the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and other nations” (60), while also giving credence to the meaning that redeeming one from slavery was done at a high price.

2.14-18; Thielman doesn’t believe that the “dividing wall” that was “broken down” should be linked with the Temple wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles. Rather, Paul is speaking about Christ breaking down the Torah Law. This isn’t to mean it has no relevance for believers, as it glorifies God and shows his good character. But we are not bound to following it to the minutia. Christ has fulfilled the Law. When Christ died on the cross, he set the Law aside and “created a new people unified across ethnic barriers” (173). He reconciled to God all those who believe in he gospel (being Jew and Gentile).

3.6; Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ are made one people. They both share in the promise given to Abraham, and share equal status before God.

4.11-12; Some of the gifts Christ gave to the church were the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers. Pastors and teachers are different offices (though both gifts can be held by one person). Not every teacher is a pastor/shepherd. They were given to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. It is not the five aforementioned offices who do all of the work. Those who are gifted work together with “those whom they equip… to build up the body of Christ” (280).

5.5-7; Paul is talking about the present inheritance of the kingdom of God (though not excluding the future inheritance). The Messiah is presently reigning with God, and his enemies are beneath his feet. We are to now be imitators of God, not partakers with the world, those still walking according to the course of this world.

6.5-9; Paul is not neutral toward slavery. In fact, believing masters should follow after Jesus’ words that he who is greatest must be servant of all (my post here).

The Spoiled Milk

While there is an important OT focus in this commentary, sometimes Thielman doesn’t make all of the connections. In wanting to write a post about the connections between Isaiah 59.16-21 and Ephesians 6.1-20 (we put on the armour of God), I looked up what Thielman had to say. Yet, while in Isa. 59 the armour of God is worn by YHWH and it aids in an offensive attack, here in Eph. 6 it is “used to defend a position” and is worn by believers (425). Thielman says, “The differences between the imagery in Isaiah and Paul’s use of it here probably mean that he is not providing a commentary in Isa. 11:5 and 59:17 but developing the imagery in his own way” (425). Is this the case? I am no scholar, but couldn’t it be that God is now doing battle through his church? In Isaiah 59 God sees that there is no justice and puts on his armour to fight. Now, the Ephesian believers have put on Christ, the new man, and they are to expose the works of darkness (5.11) that the unbeliever may be saved.

There are a few other examples like this. Regardless, these examples are minor. They are not a significant hindrance to this volume.

Recommended?

Yes. Thielman is careful in his exegesis and gives a solid, evangelical commentary which is important for such a difficult and grammatically-ambiguous book as Ephesians. Thielman keeps his eyes on the rest of the text being faithful to remind us of what has come before and what will come after. As with the BECNT volumes, Knowledge of the Greek language gives you an upper hand in using this volume to its fullest, but it is not necessary. Being slightly longer than O’Brien’s volume [PNTC] and half as long as Hoehner, Thielman would be in good company with both. While not as applicable as O’Brien, Hoehner, or Arnold, a student of Ephesians would benefit from having Thielman on his bookshelf. We need more solid, evangelical commentaries on Ephesians, and Thielman does an excellent job of filling up what is lacking.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2010)
  • Amazon: US // UK
  • PDF excerpt found here

[Special thanks to Mark at SPCK and Trinity at Baker Academic  for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Review: Hidden But Now Revealed

Hidden But Now Revealed

People love mysteries. Whether it be Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, or Scooby Doo, it’s not hard to figure out: everybody loves a good mystery. It’s part of what creates a good story. We experience the everyday normal, yet our characters lead unexpected lives of adventure. A crime occurs with no evidence left behind. Suspects are few and far between. To make matters worse, time is running out. Books like these create in us a sense of wonder, curious about what the very next page will bring. And it’s all experienced in the comfort of our own chair.

Greg Beale has a knack for taking some of the most obscure topics in the Bible, revealing their importance, and making them very interesting. In The Temple and the Church’s Mission Beale showed us how John looks back to the Garden of Eden in Revelation 21-22. Throughout the book he shows the reader how this temple theme is found all throughout God’s word.

Here, in Hidden But Now Revealed, he looks at how mystery is used in the New Testament by grounding it’s meaning in the book of Daniel. Greg Beale and Daniel Gladd (a doctoral student of Beale at Wheaton College) cover the twenty-eight uses of the term mystery in the NT, along with explaining the meaning of mystery in Daniel, it’s subsequent interpretations in early Judaism, concepts related to mystery in the NT yet do not use the word mystery, and the relation between the Christian mystery and the pagan mystery religions (which is very little).

Matthew, Paul, and John all speak about mystery in their letters (i.e., the Gospel of Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation). But where is their meaning derived from? Not only this, but what does the meaning of mystery in Daniel and the NT tell us about how the NT contextually interprets the OT?

The Chocolate Milk

Daniel

How do we define mystery? Do we pull out Webster’s Dictionary to figure out the meaning? It doesn’t matter that we’re 2,000 years removed from the NT, does it? Yes, it does matter. Instead of relying on Webster, we look even further back in time. Beale and Gladd look to the book of Daniel and define mystery generally as “the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the ‘latter days’” (20, emphasis original). What makes mystery so complex is that sometimes the biblical authors use two definitions at the same time: “(1) God’s wisdom has been finally disclosed, but nevertheless (2) his wisdom remains generally incomprehensible to non-believers” (20).

The original context for mystery comes from Daniel 2 and 4. In both of these chapters we see that either king Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was troubled” (2.1) over his dreams or they “made him fearful” (4.5). He tells Daniel “no mystery baffles you!” (4.9). In Daniel 4 the king might be fearful because he knows the dream is about him because his dream follows that of Daniel 2, where the destruction of Babylon is portrayed in the destruction of the golden head of the statue. The authors argue that mystery “is not a radically new revelation but a disclosure of something that was largely (but not entirely) hidden” (35).

New Testament Letters

The authors look at the NT letters (see paragraph 3) to see how the NT authors develop the idea of mystery. The chapter on Matthew was by far my favourite (as I am captivated by the Gospels right now) as they showed how the kingdom of heaven was known in the OT, yet it was also a mystery. Rather than being established at the end of time as was perceived in the OT and in early Judaism, it came in two stages (or an already-and-not-yet manner). It has “come” but is “not yet” completed.

This goes on for the rest of the NT’s use of mystery. There is a facet of the mystery that was known in the OT (whether it be about salvation, the Gentiles, the man of lawlessness, how the kingdom of evil will be defeated, etc), and there is new revelation now that Jesus, the high King of heaven, has come.

The Spoiled Milk

I enjoyed the book. It’s quite dense, and in reading this you’ll want your Bible by your side so you can read along with Gladd/Beale. Though the book can be quite general, it’s mainly due to the fact that the authors cover twenty eight uses of the term mystery in the NT. This is not an easy task. Though I feel some space could have been saved but for this one thing: double-summaries.

As Jim Hamilton has said in a review, “Beale is prolix” (a.k.a. Beale is “wordy”). At the end of each chapter is a conclusion where the authors summarize their findings. This is especially helpful in the chapters covering the NT letters. Yet, at the beginnings of those same chapters we run into the same findings again!

Example: The Ephesians chapter ‘ends’ with a conclusion summarizing the main points discussed, after which we are provided with an excursus. When we turn the page to Colossians we find four paragraphs repeating the summary conclusions from Ephesians. This is seen constantly throughout the section on the NT letters. It’s not a major flaw (it is helpful to see the thoughts summarized in perhaps a different way), still, much of it could have been done away with leaving us with either a slightly shorter book or one filled with some newer information.

Recommended?

Oh, yes, this is recommended. Though I should qualify that statement. If you’re interested in mystery in Daniel and/or in the NT, or how the NT interprets the OT then you would like this book. This book could be read all the way straight through (as I did), but what I did catch I’ll leave in the book until I come back to use it as a reference guide. The authors leave the excursuses at the end of each chapter, which really helps keep the flow of each chapter moving right along. Mysteries are quite complex, head-scratching, and, well, “mysterious” until you have the key. And I think Beale and Gladd can be looked to on having gone deeper into finding that key, not only of what consists of mystery, but how the NT interprets the OT.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 393 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 3, 2014)
  • Amazon: US // UK
  • PDF sample here

[Special thanks to Christine at Think IVP for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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The Major Prophet Isaiah

aaaaa

The semester here in Waterford is winding down. I have three weeks left with two for teaching and one final. After that Mari and I will be heading back to Norway to get ready for our wedding celebration in June.

In the meantime I wanted you to know that I’ve been able to get my hands (or ears) on a class on Isaiah by Rikk Watts. If you don’t know who Rikk Watts is, he was originally trained as an aeronautical engineer. He did some engineering work for IBM while working toward (and receiving) a degree in philosophy, art, and sociology. He wrote his dissertation on one of my favourite books, the Gospel of Mark, saying that Mark’s themes, structure, and narrative came right out of Isaiah. The book is called Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. I haven’t started reading it yet, but from everything I’ve heard and read (here and in this good book), it’s genius.

Watts knows his Mark, and I’m going to see how well he knows his Isaiah (meaning, I’m going to learn a lot from him). I requested to review this class from Bill and Kim at Regent College, and my request was approved! So I’ll be throwing some posts up on here about different things Watts says. I don’t know Isaiah very well, which is unfortunate because it’s one of the most quoted OT books in the NT (along with Deuteronomy and the Psalms). I hope you’ll enjoy the posts too and hopefully take some interest with Watts, his class, and his writings.

Watts is also set up to write the new Mark volume in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series. This will set a new standard for Mark commentaries (and other works) to come, especially in dealing with OT quotes and allusions.

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Review: The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown

Cradle, Cross, Crown

These days, NT introductions are all over the place. They can be found all over and just about everywhere. From more liberal introductions there is Achtemeier and Green’s Introduction and Raymond Brown’s Introduction, to the moderately conservative Introduction by Donald Hagner, up to the conservative evangelical The Cradle, The Cross, and the Crown by KKQ. Since there are so many NT Introductions, I’m thankful to be able to review a book like this, hopefully fulfilling my intention of pointing people to good biblical books.

While much different than David deSilva’s NT Introduction which deals much more with the cultural, social, and rhetorical life and setting of the NT world, KKQ have put together a rather large 954 page Introduction to the NT based on everything you would need to know about the NT. It’s divided into five parts:

I. Introduction
II. Jesus and the Gospels
III. The Early Church and Paul
IV. The General Epistles and Revelation
V. Conclusion

Hopefully my previous posts have given you a bit of a (albeit, small) taste of the book:

It’s quite a task trying to review a NT Intro. There’s so much to discuss, and so little space to talk about it. I’ll start by telling you how this book differs from other NT Introductions. This review will differ from others of mine as there are plenty of lists, but I hope it makes it all easier to read and comprehend.

Content

Each chapter begins with a Core Knowledge section, divided up into three smaller segments:

  • Basic-
  • Intermediate-
  • Advanced Knowledge

This book has both the student and the teacher in mind, and depending on the school one is teaching/learning at, or how many semesters they will have of a particular course, can help determine how detailed a teacher would want to get. The Advanced Knowledge section is available for those students who want to move beyond the Intermediate- and go further in their own study.

Chapters 1-3

Chapter 1 introduces discussions on The Nature and Scope of Scripture dealing with

  • Evidence and Scholarship on the Canon of Scripture
  • Translations and transmission of the biblical manuscripts
  • How Jesus and the early church viewed the OT

Chapter 2 is on The Political and Religious Background of the New Testament

Chapter 3 is Jesus and the Relationships Between the Gospels. We read about

  • Historical quest for Jesus
  • Contemporary views of Jesus
  • Approximate chronology of Jesus’ life
  • Variety of discussions on
    • Gospels
    • Authenticity
    • Transmission
    • Similarities

Chapters 4-20

Once we get to the NT books themselves (including a chapter on the Apostle Paul), we see what would normally be in a NT Introduction:

  • Authorship
  • Date
  • Origin
  • Destination of the letter
  • Purpose
  • Literary plan.

But the topics aren’t static. Different books can have a different series of discussions.

  • John has an Occasion for the letter (what led him to write his gospel)
  • Acts has Genre and Historical Reliability
  • Corinthians has a piece on Paul’s Opponents

There is no stock set of questions. The authors have freedom to add discussions to the normal list that they think would be beneficial.

The authors divide each book into two ways:

  • Outline
  • Unit-By-Unit Discussion

The authors here do a much better job than the others I’ve read (Tenney, Metzger, Geisler) in discussing each Unit. While I have read portions of deSilva’s NT Introduction and have very much enjoyed it, he does not have a Unit-By-Unit Discussion making it tough to find a specific verse/section. Though his purposes are more thematic and show the connections within a particular NT book, here the Unit-By-Unit Discussions are exactly what many will want.

Each letter ends with a Theology section which looks at some of the main themes in each letter.

  • Acts has Salvation History and The Holy Spirit
  • Romans has 13 pages on The “Righteousness of God” and justification
  • Philemon gives A Christian Approach to Slavery and Other Social Issues
  • James gives Wisdom and Ethics

The final sections of each letter are:

  • Contribution to the Canon
  • Study Questions (good questions, I might add)
  • and a long Further Study (aka bibliography)

Chapter 21

The book concludes with Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, which shows just how the 27 NT books interrelate.

  • The Synoptics and John are not irreconcilable
  • Paul’s teaching is not wildly opposed to Jesus’
  • Paul’s letters do jive with the account of Acts

The NT can be trusted for they all speak of one God and the good news of the gospel about the risen and exalted Messiah.

The Chocolate Milk

The authors are good at reviewing differing perspectives, the biggest of which can be found in Revelation. They cover the Preterist, Historicist, Idealist, and Futurist options, and settle on the futurist (more likely called a modified/moderate futurism) approach which affirms the thousand-year reign of Christ but disregards the “strict literalism,” the distinction between Israel and the church, the chronology of end-time events, and the belief in the pretribulational rapture as taught in dispensational theology. They pick a side (because everyone eventually has to, lest Revelation be impossible to interpret) and give a good discussion regarding each view, showing their strengths and weaknesses.

This introduction is a good, academic work. It’s pretty easy to read, though I understand not everybody is breaking down the doors to know about the Two-Document Hypothesis vs. Markan Priority (though I enjoyed it). The chapter on the Second Temple Period was well done. It’s still a difficult read, but better than some books I’ve read (see my review of Leithart’s The Four). Even still, there’s something for everyone in this book, and if nothing else, all will enjoy reading about each NT letter.

There is plenty of eye candy (so to speak) to go around making it feel like Halloween for the reader:

  • Maps
  • Charts
  • Tables
  • Sidebars

The Spoiled Milk

Though it’s not deSilva, I was disappointed that, unlike deSilva, there was not much discussion of the social, cultural, and rhetorical contexts of the NT world. Patron-client relationships are briefly mentioned in the Destination of Luke (written to Theophilus), but surprisingly not much besides that, not even in the Corinthian correspondence where a knowledge of the patron-client relationship is key to a deeper understanding of the underlying issues going on between Paul and his church. Regardless, this isn’t a major deal, but it still would be helpful in knowing the mindset of the NT world.

Recommended?

Yes, certainly. If you’re looking for a good, solid, conservative, evangelical NT introduction, this is the one to get. Even if that’s not exactly what you’re looking for, I would still point you in this direction. It has plenty of information, a thorough analysis of each NT letter, up-to-date studies in how we received our Bible and how it has been translated and how Jesus has been interpreted over the years, you can’t go wrong here. Even better, they believe in the inspired word of God. This should be implied in the words “solid, conservative, evangelical,” but because there is so much waffling out there, I feel it needs to be said. This is a book I’ll come back to for years to come.

Lagniappe

[Special thanks to Chris at B&H for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Excursus: Slavery and the Law in Ancient Israel

All it takes is a quick scan through a few internet forums. In the midst of the shallow conversations against Christianity’s “bigoted” beliefs, one surely finds a re-occurring topic: if it’s not about how Christians are heretics for wearing wool with cotton, it’s about how we read a slavery-promoting Bible. How can Christians serve a loving God who advocates such horrid slavery like that found in the 1700-1800s?

Of all the problems that people have with the OT law, slavery ranks near the top (along with homosexuality and genocide). Yet, should both slaveries be counted equal? Was the OT slavery equally as horrible as that found in the 1700s? Or is our YouTube generation committing the fallacy of anachronism: when one takes a modern concept/definition and imports it into the word/concept of an earlier time.

This would be like painting a picture of Moses and giving him a wristwatch. Or thinking that when the man in Ruth 4.8 gave Boaz his shoe, he handed over some Nike Elites.

looseshoe

That’s anachronism.

What is Old Testament Slavery?

Slavery_or_Shellfish

I’ve looked already at Frank Thielman and what he says about slavery in the NT, so I now turn my attention from the New to the Old Testament. In Exodus 21.1-11, the Laws on Servants, in Douglas Stuart’s commentary on Exodus (NAC), Stuart provides the reader with a three page excursus titled “Slavery and Slave Laws in Ancient Israel.”

The various Hebrew terms translated… as ‘servant,’ ‘slave,’ ‘maidservant,’ occur more than a thousand times in the Old Testament…. Although the laws in Exod 21:1-11 address primarily the circumstances of six-year contract servants, they do not implicitly distinguish among categories of employees. The most common vocabulary word for the servant is ‘ebed, which can mean ‘worker,’ ’employee,’ ‘servant,’ pr ‘slave.’ Anyone in any of these categories come under the protection of Yahweh’s covenant law…. Similarly, the words translated ‘buy’ [21.2]… and ‘sell [21.7-8]… can refer to any financial transaction related to a contract (474).

In the Ancient Near East ([ANE] the time during much of the OT), as Stuart will go on to explain in his excursus, there were no corporations in this age. Pretty much “all industry…was ‘house’ or ‘cottage’ industry” (475). The business world was always family owned. The “financial transaction” that took place could be likened to that of a sports team. The players are not the property of the team/manager who owns them. The manager has the exclusive right to the employment of his players.

These “servants/slaves/workers/employees… signed” a six-year contract for their job. While they couldn’t expect 401(k)’s and retirement pension to comfort them in their old age, they could choose to serve longer than the required six years. In fact, they might actually like their boss and his family. This is quite different from slavery in the Western world.

In addition, some of the misunderstanding of biblical laws on service/slavery arises from the unconscious analogy to modern Western hemisphere slavery, which involved he stealing of people of a different race from the homelands, transporting them in chains to a new land, selling them to an owner who possessed them for life without obligation to any restrictions and who could resell them [to] someone else (although such did occur in the ancient world) [475]. 

Egypt vs. Israel

YHWH brought Israel out of the land of Egypt just a few months before. The memories of their forced slavery in Egypt were still fresh on their minds. The back-breaking work. Little pay (if even that). Little food. Whippings and beatings in the beating heat of the sun. Why would YHWH bring Israel out of bondage simply to put them under more bondage again?

The Egyptians made the Israelites slaves based on their ethnicity, forced them to serve as slaves for life, did not compensate them properly, if at all, and worked them unbearable hard as a means of keeping them weak and/or causing at least some to die under the burden of their slavery (1:9-14). 

Against this sort of historical experience, the Bible’s laws protect all sorts of workers, guaranteeing them the right to gain their freedom after a set period of time (21:1-4) as against the Egyptian practice of permanently enslaving Israel. Biblical law allowed service out of love rather than out of necessity (21:5-6) as opposed to involuntary service under oppressive masters in Egypt. Biblical law also gave immediate freedom to those who had in any way been physically abused (21:26-27) as opposed to the severe abuse the Egyptians had imposed on Israel.


Though there are many texts and issues left uncovered, here we can get an idea of the OT world and its context. Biblical slavery was not the slavery experienced in the 1800s. Here, people needed work. People went into debt. People needed to pay bills. They would work for a family for six years and be released, and they could choose to stay longer if they wanted.

But God’s Law was there not to completely overthrow the cultural system (the Law wasn’t written on iPads), but to shape the culture they lived in to God’s ideal. It gave the opportunity for each and every person to show that he loved the Lord with all of his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and his neighbour as himself.

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Rhetorical Q&A in Romans 6-7

In Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles’ NT Introduction The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, we find a list of Paul’s Rhetorical Questions and Answers in Romans 6-7. While we could find these ourselves, this short list is a helpful guide as to where these question are and what is being expressed. We should look to the references to see the fuller context and hopefully realize why this is important.

I. Romans 6.1-2

Rhetorical Question, v1

“What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may multiply?”

Answer, v2

“Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

II. Romans 6.15-16

Rhetorical Question, v15a

“What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?”

Answer, v15b-16

“Absolutely not! Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey?”

III. Rom 7.7

Rhetorical Question, v7a

“What should we say then? Is the law sin?”

Answer, v7b

“Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law.”

IV. Rom 7.13

Rhetorical Question, v13a

“Therefore, did what is good cause my death?”

Answer, v13b

“Absolutely not! In the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin might become sinful beyond measure.”


In this list we can see some issues that Paul foresaw would arise in his preaching. Sin does not serve a positive purpose nor should it be continued. More sin doesn’t necessarily mean more grace to come. Rather, more sin leads to deeper slavery. A life of sin is inconsistent with our union with Christ. Sin is no longer our master, and we believers should offer ourselves as instruments for righteousness.

Hopefully in our teaching, in our preaching, and in our proclaiming the gospel we would be prepared for the questions that would arise, done with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3.15).

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Review: 2 Corinthians (PNTC)

2 Corinthians PNTC

After teaching 2 Corinthians last semester and using Hafemann, Garland, and deSilva, I was excited to hear that PNTC’s newest commentary would be on Second Corinthians and written by Mark Seifrid (Mildred and Ernest Hogan Professor of New Testament Interpretation [1992] at SBTS). Seifrid is most known for his works on justification and evaluating the New Perspective of Paul (here and here).

Setting

The Apostle Paul is an ambassador for Christ with God making his appeal through the apostles, particularly, in this letter, Paul. Yet for the corinthians this is a paradox, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor 10.10).

Paul shows the hiddenness of God in Christ’s cross of salvation. How does the cross continue to play a role in the Christian life. One must only look to Paul, “in whom the experience of all believers is written large” (133), or on big-screen display. The comfort and continuing salvation of Christ cannot be separated from the participation in his sufferings in this present time (1.3-7). Yet the Corinthians, with their fast-paced culture that seeks what is new and culturally honourable, have found other apostolic claimants to follow. Paul must show them the true way to follow Christ, and that he does in fact live in that true way.

The Chocolate Milk

While he does take up conversation with Hays, Hafemann, and Mitchell in chapter 3, for the most part Seifrid sticks to the text rather than repeating or arguing against the theories of other commentators. And I quite enjoyed this. While, yes, I would liked to have seen more interaction with other commentators, I’m glad Seifrid refrained from much over-extended socializing like many other commentators. He said in an interview, While not forgetting the main exegetical debates, I intentionally concentrated on commenting on the text and not on the commentaries. There is a danger within current interpretation of directing one’s comments to the guild of scholars rather than to the believing community. I tried to avoid that danger.

Seifrid’s commentary is (normally) easy to read and flows quite well. There are no needless (read: any) in-text commentary citations (only Scriptural references and varying translations). The three most cited authors are Luther, Bonhoeffer, and Bayer, along with a number of German works appearing in Seifrid’s bibliography.

There is theological reflection here revolving around the Christian life where believers carry their cross daily. Seifrid works off of Luther’s theology of the cross. We know God because he has revealed himself to us perfectly in Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sinfulness. God’s power is seen in his working through human sinfulness, rather than grand miracles, flashy teachers, and great speakers. The Christian not only proclaims the cross, but lives the cross too.

Seifrid keeps the literary context in mind, always being aware of key texts both before him and behind him (including 1 Corinthians). He reminds the reader that Paul is seeking to win a real church back to the true gospel that he lives out, and his open-heartedness runs throughout the entire letter. This volume is shorter than some of the other 2 Corinthians commentaries, but Seifrid packs a lot in. What is the theology, how does Paul bring it into the life of a real people? This is what the pastor would want. Seifrid is attentive to the concepts that lie behind the text and brings them into the view of the reader with great ease.

3.12-18; Paul explains how God’s dealings with Israel is paradigmatic with his dealing with the world. Unlike Israel and the world (4.4), Christians are free from the veil and blindness by the Spirit of God.

6.14-18; The unbelievers Corinth is to break with are not the world, physical idol worshipers, or marriage partners, but are the false teachers who have entered the church along with anyone who has sided with them. Seifrid admits that his view is a minority view (Hafemann and deSilva hold the same view), but it’s what best fits the context (I believe). The “Jewish feel” of the text (which has led many scholars to think of this portion as non-Pauline) fits the context. The church wants Jewish apostles (11.22), so Paul gives it to them.

10-13; This is not a later add-on, nor was it written after some time (though Seifrid allows for this option). He believes 2 Corinthians is a complete unity, where Paul had all parts in mind as he wrote. The disjointedness of 2 Corinthians reflects the disjointedness of the relationship between Paul and his church.

The Spoiled Milk

To be brief, though Seifrid is usually easy to read, there are times when I simply do not know what he is talking about. He begins to speak in a roundabout way, and it’s quite ethereal, actually. I can’t seem to grasp what he’s saying. Perhaps I don’t know enough to see behind his concepts, but abstract concepts spoken of in a roundabout way never were my strong point. The thing is, Seifrid doesn’t use too much scholarly jargon. Instead he uses his own jargon. He refers to things as if the reader already knows what he’s talking about.

He spends fourteen paragraphs discussing over Hafemann’s interpretation of the letter and Spirit, yet I was left confused when all was said and done. He explained Hafemann’s position well, yet I still don’t really know what Seifrid’s argument was, except that he didn’t agree with Hafemann. It’s unfortunate because this is a really good commentary, but sometimes Seifrid’s lack of clarity gets the best of him (specifically in 3.4-11, and the occasional verse [5.16b]).

Strangely enough, there’s no information provided on the Corinthian geography, history, and culture in the Introduction. Those who have this as their only commentary will have to go elsewhere for that information.

Recommended?

Anyone who wants a serious study of this letter should get this commentary. I’ve read Hafemann, Garland, and deSilva’s monograph, and I’d like to read Harris and the upcoming Guthrie and deSilva. While helpful, I disagreed with both Hafemann and Garland on 2 Corinthians 3 (finding Meyer’s The End of the Law (my review) to be most helpful). While Meyer still proved helpful here (I thought it was unfortunate that Seifrid hadn’t read it, but who am I to expect him to read every work?), Seifrid still does an excellent job on this commentary. Unless one is against any sort of Lutheran theology, this commentary will suit your fancy. I am more than glad to be able to use this commentary for teaching 2 Corinthians this semester. Garland is too wordy and Hafemann isn’t full enough. Seifrid brings a good amount to the table that is of excellent quality. While I wouldn’t suggest this be your only commentary, this should be a top pick.

Lagniappe

[Special thanks to Christine at Think IVP for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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