Book Reviews

Book Review: 2 Corinthians (RCS), ed. Scott Manetsch

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) series covers the entire Bible with gathered writings from sixteenth-century preachers, scholars, and reformers. It is the sequel to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series which focus on the church fathers. The goal of this series is to expose you to Reformation-era biblical exegesis, to enrich contemporary biblical interpretation, to renew contemporary biblical preaching with insights from Reformation writers from 500 years ago, aa clearer understanding of the Reformation itself, and “a recovery of the profound integration of the life of faith and the life of the mind that should characterize Christian scholarship” (xix).

The Introduction covers goals and perspectives of the series, and it gives some historical context behind the Reformation and some of the names you’ll find in this volume. It covers School of Exegesis (Luther and the Wittenberg School, the Zurich group, the Genevan reformers, the British reformation, and anabaptists).

The Introduction to 2 Corinthians begins with some perspectives on commentaries on 1 and 2 Corinthians by the Reformers. Then it offers a guide to reading 2 Corinthians. Unlike many (though not all) scholars today, Reformation commentators understood 2 Corinthians to be a unified letter. They believed it gave instruction on pastoral formation and leadership, discipline and repentance, the law and gospel distinction, and Christian generosity. When it comes to Paul’s boasting and suffering, Paul defended his ministry to protect the purity  of the gospel of Jesus Christ and for God’s glory aline. Christian ministers should seek to protect the church “from pompous assertions and fake wisdom of false teachers” (lvi).

I was impressed with how large this book was. The commentary proper contains 398 pages of text from the usual suspects—Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Sibbes, Bucer (and more)—plus many I hadn’t heard of—Hyperius, Hesshus, Musculus, and Hemmingsen. One reason why it’s beneficial to read the Reformers (and anyone who came before us) is that they see things in the text we tend not to see, for better and for worse. Often here it was usually for the better, like the example below on Christ’s body.

Christ’s Body

Commenting of 2 Cor 5:16, “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer,” Calvin notes that this does not mean that Christ does not live in glorious body of flesh. He does, and we have our hope of bodily immortality because of it. Calvin’s comment was due to heretical comments by Servetus, but all the same. I’ve never connected that idea with this verse. Paul’s point is that he used to view Christ with a worldly lens, and now he, being in Christ, no longer does. But another person’s perversion of Scripture allowed Calvin to take a little tangent on how Christians have confidence because Christ has flesh now.

Godly verses Worldly Sorrow

Here the Reformers clearly separate the difference between these two kinds of sorrows. One leads to true repentance and turning away from sin, while the other carries with it bitterness “of their misery without any serious and sincere repentance” (219). Edward Leigh offers seven signs of godly sorrow, and he takes thosse seven signs straight from the text of 2 Corinthians itself.

Generosity

Cyriacus Spangenberg hits hard here. Concerning the beginning of 2 Cor 8, we should give to those in need. But we often thing about how much we’ll have left, or what if we run into trouble and need help. He then writes, “Whoever relies on God’s blessing and waits for their calling in simplicity is not tied by such bonds, but their hands remain free to give alms to the needy” (230). How often do I not give because I am afraid something will happen that I can’t pay for, instead of glorifying God by giving money to help those who have even less than what I have?

Recommended?

There is a lot more that could be said, the contrast of covenants in 2 Cor 3, reconciliation and imputation in 2 Cor 5, Paul’s suffering throughout the letter. There is a lot here that will help you preach 2 Corinthians in a down to earth way. It isn’t a commentary you will read straight through and understand Paul’s flow of thought. Instead you will have varied perspectives on his terms and concepts and how they play out in real life. A great work.

Lagniappe

    • Series: Reformation Commentary on Scripture
    • Editor: Scott Manetsch / Tmothy George
    • Paperback: 560 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 28, 2022)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. 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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