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  at SBTS). Seifrid is probably most known for his works on justification and evaluating the New Perspective of Paul (here and here).
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.
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.
- Series: The Pillar New Testament Commentary
- Author: Mark A. Seifrid
- Hardcover: 569 pages
- Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (November 9, 2014)
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