Richard B. Hayes has given us in this commentary on First Corinthians one of the best volumes in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series. Though I often turn to this series to grasp the critical angle on a book of the Bible, I found this one to be more conservative than several I’ve seen in that series. Mr. Hayes is a captivating writer and that is a pleasant bonus in any commentary.
The Introduction begins with an explanation of setting. When he describes the city of Corinth, he feels that it is not as wild as some writers say. He believes it had only the normal vices of any seaport city. In describing the occasion of the letter, he feels it springs from two factors: a report from “Chloe’s people” that contained alarming news and a letter from the Corinthians themselves asking for clarification on several matters. He explained Paul’s background with the group and the socioeconomic diversity in the congregation. He feels the Corinthians had issues that Paul turns to theological ideas. The section on unity and structure is a little weak as well as the arbitrary comment about certain texts being altered or added. He sees as the major theological themes as Christology, apocalyptic eschatology, embodied existence, the primacy of love, and the transformation of power and status through the cross. His last section is on the major focal points of the commentary. After a brief outline, he jumps into the commentary itself.
The commentary is thoughtful and well done. Take for example the passage of I Corinthians 5:1-13. Because that passage censures the incestuous behavior of someone in the Corinthian church with his mother-in-law, many struggle with the passage or rob it of its urgency. The author stuck to the text but didn’t dodge any of the issues involved. He defended the concept of church discipline. As I said, this book is more conservative than many in the series.
There are, as you would imagine, some places where I just couldn’t follow his conclusions; especially if those conclusions were based on his unsubstantiated claim of a textual alteration or addition. Still, it’s a vivacious effort. I believe it will make a fine addition to your library.
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