Book Review: 2 Corinthians (BECNT)

2corinthiansguthrieTitle: 2 Corinthians

Series: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Author: George Guthrie

Bibliographic info: 736 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2015.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Baker Academic for the digital review copy.

I should start this review by confessing that 2 Corinthians is the New Testament book I have studied the least. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that I have always felt more interested in the Gospels, Catholic Epistles, and Revelation more so than Paul’s epistles. But even when I have gone on the occasional Pauline bender, I much prefer something like Galatians (and even Philemon) over 2 Corinthians.

I thought it was high time I familiarize myself with 2 Corinthians and decided that Guthrie’s contribution to the BECNT series was the way to go. As with every other BECNT volume, this one takes you on verse-by-verse exegetical tour of the epistle, providing the Greek text, a transliteration of the Greek, and the author’s own English translation. Each section follows the conventional BECNT pattern: (1) a short summary; (2) the exegesis; (3) reflection; and (4) additional notes (usually related to matters of textual criticism).

The introduction of this volume varies from how they normally run, with Guthrie opting to begin with a piece of (pedagogical) fiction on ancient Corinth to convey the difficult ministry situation that Paul faced there. I actually found this to be a rather refreshing way of approaching the introduction.

With what I have read of the commentary so far, there are many instances where the author tackles a difficult or perplexing issue and provides a helpful examination. For instance, on the issue of literary unity, Guthrie sees 2 Corinthians as being a single composition and provides some literary dynamics in the text that strongly point in this direction (e.g. an inclusio of several verbal parallels between 1:1-7 and 13:11-13). When it comes to what is perhaps my favorite passage of 2 Corinthians–the triumphal procession word picture that Paul provides in 2:14-16–Guthrie approaches it by focusing upon neglected background information that (I think) is overlooked by other commentators. Another pericope that I appreciated Guthrie’s commentary on was 3:7-18 and, of course, the thorny issue of 12:6-9.

Guthrie does a good job at dealing with the question as to the exact nature of the opponents in Corinth, with many seeing them as being Judaizers (to whatever degree). Guthrie divides the opponents into two camps. The first are a vocal minority in the church who oppose Paul, and the second are people pretending to be “apostles” who had been visiting the Corinthian church (and who Guthrie sees as being strongly influenced by the sophist tradition).

All in all, Guthrie provides careful exegesis and a solid commentary from an evangelical perspective. Like all volumes in the BECNT series, this one is written for the more technically minded, and a knowledge of Greek will definitely help. Guthrie ably shows how 2 Corinthians is a rich resource for ministry and also provides the reader with some nice practical reflections on the text.

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