Book Reviews

Book Review: 2 Corinthians (CSC), David Garland

If you didn’t see my review of Tom Schriener’s revised 1–2 Peter and Jude commentary, the NAC series has been rebooted as the Christian Standard Commentary (CSC). Some of these volumes are revised (like Schreiner’s volume) some are have been given new authors (like Patrick Schreiner with Acts). Prolific commentator David Garland has revised his commentary on 2 Corinthians, though to what extent I am unsure. He has updated his bibliography, footnotes, and comments within the the body of the commentary. I don’t know if he has made any major changes.

For a long while, there was a dearth of commentaries on 2 Corinthians. Thankfully there has been a change in the last forty years, with more and more commentaries being written on Paul’s most personal and emotional letter. Garland believes 2 Corinthians is a single, unified letter. He provides a tentative chronology of events, reconstructed from what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians. It is difficult to know exactly what happened in between 1 and 2 Corinthians, but Garland makes a good case. The purpose of Paul’s letter is mulit-faceted. Paul is defending his ministry to those who want to turn away from the apostle of Jesus Christ. Garland writes, “Paul tries to show them that God’s power exhibits itself in his ministry ‘in the same way in which it was expressed in Jesus: in cross-shaped humility'” (17).

In 2:14, Paul does not portray himself as an adorned and heralded victorious general, nor as one of God’s glorious foot soldiers. Instead, “[h]e portrays himself as a conquered prisoner being put on display” (146). Paul was a violent opposer of Christ, and now he “has been taken captive by Christ’s love and reconciled to God through Christ’s death” (148).

Garland provides a section on the structure of 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. He notes that Paul’s “interpretation of Exodus 34 shows that the boldness (3:12), freedom (3:17), and glory (3:18) that he lays claim to has nothing to do with his personal characteristics but has everything to do with the intrinsic splendor of the [new covenant] ministry he serves” (181).

Garland not only believes that 6:14-7:1 is a unified, integral part of 2 Corinthians, but he pokes fun at scholars who disagree. He notes how theories put forth to explain how these verses were not written by Paul end up making more problems than they solve, and skip the important task of explaining how such an interpolation could have been slipped into this letter and accepted as canonical. He quotes Frederick Danker who “contends that ‘the early editors of what is now 2 Corinthians did a skillful job of mending the seams, for vv. 11–13 constitute an appropriate transition” (362). Poking fun, Garland writes, “Apparently, it was not skillful enough to the fool the expert detection of modern scholars” (362). Garland ably shows how these verses fit into the letter as a whole.


Why should you buy Garland’s commentary? Garland is a clear writer who ties in the theology of 2 Corinthians with other parts of the Bible. For example, concerning Paul’s approach to the church discipline scenario in 2:5–8, Garland draws in insights from C. S. Lewis and Calvin, as well as what the NT teaches about forgiveness, comfort, and loving one another. He encourages us to discipline in the church when necessary, but not to fall into either ditch. Discipline needs to be constructive, not destructive. We may try to scapegoat a sinner while trying to hide our own sins.

Garland follows Paul’s train of thought, shows where he uses rhetoric that would have been understood by the Corinthians, and when Paul uses chiastic arguments, a sort of “surround sound, 3-D” effect to his arguments. Like Schreiner, Garland pulls on the threads from the web of Scripture, showing you Paul’s theology. This is a pastoral, academic commentary. There is little Greek used in the commentary. There are no application sections used consistently in the commentary, but Garland sprinkles it throughout his volume. Any pastor would benefit greatly from using this commentary. 


  • Author: David E. Garland
  • Paperback: ‎ 707 pages
  • Publisher: ‎ B&H Academic (April 15, 2021)

Buy this from Amazon or B&H Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H 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

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