Book Review: 1 Corinthians (ZECNT), Paul Gardner

Paul Gardner has written the newest volume in the ZECNT series on 1 Corinthians, a book that always requires a massive undertaking to study, teach, and exegete. Gardner agrees that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, probably around 54-55 AD. Looking at the history and culture of Corinth, Gardner, agreeing with David Garland, says that while Corinth, a seaport city, was very much sexually immoral, much of its sexual reputation came from earlier accounts before the Roman conquest on Corinth (146 BC).

The pervasiveness of temples meant that every part of life dealt with religion. To deal or trade with someone meant considering one another’s patron god. It meant receiving invitations to dinners where food would be offered which had been sacrificed to the particular god. Gardner provides some insight into a Corinthian lifestyle. The “main underlying issue that Paul addresses concerns the possession of wisdom and knowledge…. [T]he Corinthians regarded these as spiritual gifts and gave them a significance that caused spiritual arrogance among some” (36). As a result, “Paul’s response is to return to the humbling centrality of the gospel message in which Christ is preached as the crucified Lord” (36).

Commentary Set-Up

The Literary Context shows how, say, 1 Corinthians 1.18–25, fits in between the previous section and the next. and a short explanation of it’s position in the broader context. A Progress Bar with an outline is added at the end. The Main Idea is a simple, one- or two-sentence statement on the passage. The Translation and Graphical Layout is Gardner’s translation of the Greek text represented in a sentence phrasing diagram as to how each clause relates to each other. (See my review [https://spoiledmilks.com/2015/02/22/review-matthew-zecnt/] of the ZECNT’s Matthew volume for an “example of the Graphical Layout” [https://spoiledmilks.com/2015/02/22/review-matthew-zecnt/])

The Structure describes Paul’s flow of thought in 1.18–25.

The Exegetical Outline gives a detailed outline for the chapter.

In The Explanation of the Text, Gardner examines words, ideas, rhetoric, the social context, and/or biblical theology. So in 1.18, Gardner explains why the cross was “foolishness” to so many people “who are perishing,” and how “those who are being saved” are being done so by God’s power.  The highlight for many pastors and teachers, the Theology in Application section discusses how 1.18–25 contributes a piece of theology to the overall meaning of the book and provides some suggestions for application to the church. It will be incredibly helpful to the pastor/teacher in drawing out the text’s implications for the Christian community founded on solid exegesis.

With 15.20–28, Jesus is the conquering King who saves us from death, the great enemy of all people from the very beginning (at least since the third chapter). Paul writes of “Christ” (Messiah) four times, and this Christ represents his people who belong to him by being in him and are in his kingdom. He is currently destroying all powers and authorities, and he will destroy death itself. Thus, sin cannot be treated lightly. It must be preached so that Christ’s saving power over broken relationships, death, diseases, and corruption can be longed for.

In-Depth

Gardner also has many In Depth sections where he takes a deeper look at a particular topic, such as “The Theme of Stumbling” in 1.18–25 (101-104). Some In Depth sections are quite long, with “What Was Paul’s Attitude to ‘Speaking in a Tongue’ and What is the Phenomenon?” extending to 7 pages (593-600). Don’t miss the ever-interesting In Depth question asking if there is support for three resurrections (“Jesus, Those in Christ, and Others Who Have Died,” pp. 681-83). Though I agree with his position, Gardner doesn’t say much about the “others who have died” and where their resurrection will show up in the schema of things.

Interpretations

Though there is much to say, here are brief comments on a few of Gardner’s interpretations.

4.3–4: Paul does not preach the gospel according to “human wisdom” (2.13), and he will not be judged by a human court. The Corinthians are not to judge how ‘faithful’ Paul has been; that is the Lord’s prerogative.

1 Cor 10: Food sacrificed to idols should not be eaten in a temple/religious setting but can be eaten in “a nonreligious context,” for then it is eaten as food and not as a sacrifice (464).

10.28–29: “Even though this is not a religious context, if the eating is suddenly given religious significance, they should not eat” (466). This is an instance of one of the ‘strong’ asserting his ‘knowledge’ that he can eat this food before others. Paul says in this instance all Christians should not eat. “To eat at this stage would be to confirm the informant in his arrogance. It would be bad for their ‘self-awareness’ and add to their false sense of confidence that is altogether based in the wrong things” (466). Gardner provides a helpful paraphrase of the text that shows how Paul’s “for” statement in 10.29b fits into the context.

14.33c–35: To use Gardner’s summary, “wives are told not to judge or question publicly any prophecies emanating from their own husbands. Such action might bring shame upon the marriage” (629). Gardner provides a helpful In Depth look here. He does not believe it forbids all women from speaking in the gathered assembly.

Recommended?

There are an overwhelming amount of 1 Corinthian commentaries one could buy. There is no ‘right’ commentary. Excellent commentaries have been written by Fee, Garland, Hays, Blomberg, Ciampa/Rosner, Thiselton, with most of these (especially Ciampa/Rosner) being pretty long. Gardner has provided one that is worthy of purchase and could be paired with Schreiner’s upcoming volume in the TNTC series, which is shorter than most of the above. 

Gardner provides explanations, the main points, flow of thought, and a commentary that abounds with application sections. Gardner is to be commended and his volume recommended. His volume is an excellent addition to the ZECNT series.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Author: Paul D. Gardner
  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (April 3, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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