by Kimlyn J. Bender
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Pub Date 08 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 08 Jan 2023
Baker Academic & Brazos Press, Brazos Press
In this addition to the series, respected theologian Kimlyn Bender offers a theological reading of 1 Corinthians. As with other volumes in the series, this commentary is designed to serve the church, providing a rich resource for preachers, teachers, students, and study groups. It demonstrates the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of the Bible.
“The vision of the Brazos series of theological commentaries is once again vindicated in this dazzling work by the distinguished theologian Kimlyn Bender. The radical nature of Paul’s apostolate is illuminated on every page by Bender’s focus on Paul’s Christ-centered message. This commentary gleams with passion reflecting that of the great apostle as he risks everything to give his whole self for the life of the body of Christ. I particularly urge this book upon preachers looking for larger vistas of proclamation.”—Fleming Rutledge, author of The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ
“Kimlyn Bender’s commentary both explains and honors Paul’s self-description as an apostle: one commissioned by the risen Christ to bear a Spirit-empowered witness to the identity and meaning of Christ’s work, an identity and meaning that transcends Paul’s own cultural and historical context. The commentary makes it clear how Paul’s testimony to the cross and resurrection of Christ challenges the local church—and not only in ancient Corinth but in every time and culture—to decide to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Throughout, Bender does well to keep out of the way in order to let the reader receive the full force of Paul’s apostolic preaching and his call to respond to the gospel by living a life of suffering witness.”—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“Kimlyn Bender has written an illuminating, astute, and potent commentary on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Unlike many commentators, Bender deeply engages not only contemporary critical scholarship but the exegetical and doctrinal reflections of a wide range of historical figures, from Augustine to Luther, from Calvin to Barth. Bender avoids the temptation to simply catalog past acts of interpretation but instead brings the reader into an encounter with Paul’s witness to the gospel of God in Jesus Christ, with profound implications for our theology and discipleship. Highly recommended!”—J. Todd Billings, Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary
“Historically informed, theologically rich, and pastorally wise, this highly accessible commentary offers the attentive reader—whether novice interpreter or seasoned scholar—an invaluable apprenticeship in the art of scriptural interpretation.”—J. Ross Wagner, associate professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
“This commentary displays all the hallmarks of what makes Bender’s work so valuable: it is judicious, engaging, crystal clear, and consistently attentive to the gospel and its implications for life. It is informative without getting bogged down in detail. It offers decisive interpretive judgments while maintaining a spirit of humility and charity. It is at once theologically rich and pastorally sensitive. Readers will quickly recognize that they are being ushered through the epistle by a wise and reliable guide who is himself moved and delighted by the subject matter.”—Adam Neder, Bruner Welch Professor of Theology, Whitworth University
“In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Bender effectively demonstrates the truth of his claim that everything Paul wrote is framed theologically and shaped by the apostle’s convictions about God; at the same time, he shows how later theological discussions work out implications present in Paul’s text. Yet his study remains a responsible commentary on Paul’s epistle itself, drawing on (though never weighed down by) discussions of the epistle in current exegetical literature. Most importantly, there is wisdom in Bender’s understanding of the epistle’s relevance and application today. Serious students of 1 Corinthians cannot but profit by a thoughtful reading of this commentary.”—Stephen Westerholm, professor emeritus of New Testament and early Christianity, McMaster University
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The is a commentary of St Paul’s Letter to the Church in Corinth (aka 1 Corinthians). It is the second letter (the first was referenced within this one but is apparently lost to history) to the Greek converts (Gentiles) in a city with a disreputable reputation that apparently created aberrant behavior and discord within the community Paul had founded two years prior. This letter is an important factor driving the characteristic of most Pauline tradition Christian Churches today. The Letter consists of sixteen (16) chapters in roughly six or seven parts dealing with divisions within the Church, sexual immorality and idolatry, proper worship, and the cross and resurrection of Christ.
Written in the first century (approx 55 AD), the cultural context for Paul and the Corinthians can be different enough to make proper exegesis difficult for some passages. The commentary walks through each chapter in order and tries to provide that context for better understanding of Paul is actually trying to say … and it does a pretty good job of that even to the point of highlighting problematic interpretations (especially with regard to the apparent duality of the text that actually isn’t) with some rational discourse on resolving apparent contradictions with prior/subsequent teachings (such as the prohibition of women speaking in the assembly). Speculative context that makes some of the passages easier for modern sensibilities is generally avoided though, especially within the realm of sexual immoralities which largely confirm to Paul’s Judaic roots. The language is clear and accessible with as much depth as needed to full explain the concepts and practical direction behind each group of verses and would be an important addition to any study of this Epistle.
I. Address (1:1–9)
II. Disorders in the Corinthian Community (1:10–6:20)
A. Divisions in the Church (1:10–4:21)
B. Moral Disorders (5:1–6:20)
III. Answers to the Corinthians’ Questions (7:1–11:1)
A. Marriage and Virginity (7:1–40)
B. Offerings to Idols (8:1–11:1)
IV. Problems in Liturgical Assemblies (11:2–14:40)
A. Women’s Headdresses (11:3–16)
B. The Lord’s Supper (11:17–34)
C. Spiritual Gifts (12:1–14:40)
V. The Resurrection (15:1–58)
A. The Resurrection of Christ (15:1–11)
B. The Resurrection of the Dead (15:12–34)
C. The Manner of the Resurrection (15:35–58)
VI. Conclusion (16:1–24)
I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
Traditional apostolic interpretation examines scriptures from the mindset of doctrines with the Church leading the way in Bible interpretive matters. Modern interpreters critique the use of tradition and dogma. Postmodern interpreters criticize the critics. A lot of modern scholars understand the Bible from the perspective of a reader-response attitude. By giving us an overview of the broad strokes of biblical interpretation through the ages, we are reminded that there are still many strengths in letting these clarify rather than obstruct our interpretive paradigms. In other words, instead of adopting a hermeneutic of suspicion which many modern and postmodern scholars adopt, believe rather that "dogma clarifies rather than obscures." Recognizing the increasing secularization of Western society, and the rising fragmentation of Christendom, author and professor Kimlyn Bender seeks to bring us back to the importance of Church doctrine in interpretive matters. Instead of jettisoning historical interpretive strategies, this commentary combines the heritage of the Nicene tradition and marries them with modern biblical scholarship. Use the old to understand the new; and to use the new in the old, in the light of Christ. Theologically, Bender shows us the critical need to take every thought captive to Christ. Textually, we are called to harness the best of historical-critical studies in the past and combine them with modern exegesis.
Bender weaves in exegesis with hermeneutical application meticulously through the whole letter of First Corinthians. In fact, the way he exegetes the texts already opens up creative imaginations on applications. For instance, Paul's declaration of his calling as an apostle prompts one to examine one's calling. Presenting the commentary word-for-word or passage-by-passage according to the thought processes, readers can easily use this commentary as a reference for their own studies and exegesis.
I appreciate how Bender consistently affirms the theological anchor in Christ. Going through verse-by-verse, passage-by-passage, the highlighted words in bold that refer to the NRSV affirm the focus on Christ on every page. That is a visible form of taking every thought captive unto Christ. It is also refreshing to see the different inputs from the Ante-Nicene Fathers as well as Post-Nicene Fathers. By doing so, we learn from the wisdom of our predecessors. It is arguable that while modern scholarship has a breadth of knowledge, furnished by rich libraries collected through the ages, ancient scholars are steep in meditation and contemplation of the spirituality of the Scriptures. Modern scholarship benefits from the wide variety of resources to study the Scriptures but ancient believers were able to focus and dwell longer in the texts concerned. In other words, it is likely that the ancients were less distracted by extra-biblical resources that many modern folks are used to. I believe this is an important check-and-balance approach to let the Nicene tradition inform our study of the text.
I like the way Bender anchors his exegesis by making the Scripture texts bold for our easy reference. This gives us an important handle on the texts that are being examined in depth. I find that helpful to avoid confusing what is Scripture and what is commentary. Not only that, it keeps the reader mindful that they are the words or phrases being exegeted. They work not only like a subtitle but also as chance for us to reflect on the Scripture texts even as we explore Bender's work. Some commentaries present the Scriptures right before the commentary. Others simply place Scripture references as placeholders. Here, Bender integrates the texts directly inside the commentary which I find simply brilliant. This might seem like a minor point but I find it extremely beneficial for my own exegesis as well.
Another helpful point is the introductory words about the evolution of biblical interpretation. Through that, we are reminded that our modern hermeneutics of suspicion needs to be balanced with dogma that "clarifies rather than obscures." Like the "Back to the Bible" movement a few decades ago that urges believers to go back to the basics of the Bible, Bender in this commentary is showing us the benefits of learning from our Church Fathers before, during, and after the Nicene era. This engagement of the community of interpreters both past and present helps us learn from the past and avoids the chronological snobbery affecting some modern scholars.
Some of Bender's comments on controversial verses should be examined more critically. For instance, his arguments about the passages on women having personal authority (self-authority) over their own heads are unconvincing. To be fair, he does concede that the passages in 1 Corinthians 11 are some of the most difficult ones to interpret. For that reason, readers should remain open to his take on what the passages mean, even when the Church Fathers take a different trajectory. That said, this commentary is commendable and I can appreciate the due diligence the author has taken to give us this resource.
Kimlyn J. Bender is Professor of Christian Theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He received his Ph.D. in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. His primary area of research is in 19th and 20th century theology with a particular specialty in the theology of Karl Barth, though his publications extend to include work in ethics and philosophy in addition to historical and systematic theology. His research has examined the underlying theological convictions that have shaped the Protestant traditions and how they might continue to serve the present confession of the church and its proclamation of the gospel.
Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.
This book has been provided courtesy of Brazos Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.