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on September 5, 2006
Several years ago (before Garland's book came out) I did a fairly detailed study over about 6 months on the book of 1 Corinthians. I relied fairly heavily on the commentaries by Thiselton and also by Fee. In the subsequent years, I frequently re-read sections of both commentaries. Recently I wanted to get a more clear understanding of the controversial passages about headcovering and women's silence (in chapters 11 and 14, respectively) so I re-read the relevant portions of both commentaries again. I was pretty unsatisfied with both so I went to the library to see if I could find anything else more insightful. Happily, I encountered Garland's book.

Garland's book was much more helpful than either Thiselton or Fee. It was more lucid, kept the same high level of scholarship, and even touched on application! I continued reading the book and have come to the conclusion that it is the best commentary on 1 Corinthians available, for several reasons:

- It interacts with all the major views of a given position without becoming too bogged down (something that I think happens often with Thiselton). It is still a long book, but substantially shorter than Thiselton's.

- Instead of being merely a commentary on commentaries, Garland tries to persuade the reader of the legimitacy of what the author feels is the correct view. In contrast, you can read many 1 Corinthian commentaries and not even know what the author finally thinks!

- It has excellent scholarship with a good degree of balance. Fee, in contrast, holds to extreme views on the controversial women passages (such as arguing that 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 wasn't even written by Paul!).

- Garland lightly touches on application. While the majority of the book is on exegesis, Garland helpfully states the relevance of his conclusions to church life today. Thiselton does not really do this, which is unfortunate.

- His prose is lucid and sharp.

In summary, I believe that Garland's volume is now the best commentary on 1 Corinthians available. Bravo to Baker for this volume. Hopefully other books in the series will have the same standard of quality.
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VINE VOICEon September 24, 2009
I'm a pastor who preaches through books of the bible. I am just finishing my current series on 1 Corinthians. I've found this commentary to be one that I would not want to work without. It's really one of the best ones I own. I've found David Garland's commentary to be consistently even handed, careful to evaluate the text honestly, and helpful in almost every situation I've used this commentary for. In particular I found this commentary more helpful on his treatment of 1 Corinthians 11, 13 & 15 than most of my other tools on 1 Corinthians. I've been using about 15 different commentaries on 1 Corinthians, including Worthington, Fee, Keener, Thiselton's NIGTC & Thiselton's Short Pastoral Commentary on 1 Corinthians, as well as a bunch of other commentaries like Prior (Bible Speaks Today Series) & Life Application Commentary. All of them have individual strengths, but this commentary, Garland's, has a lot more material than most of the other commentaries (except for NICNT & NIGTC) I own. Not only does it have more material, but most of the material is helpful.

This series of commentaries does one thing that I don't appreciate. The editors have decided to put summaries at the beginning of each segment of the commentary in a medium gray shaded box. This does set apart the text that is a summary of what follows, but it does not copy well on a copier. So if you like a summary and want to use that in a small group discussion you have to lug the entire book in with you. It is also difficult on the eyes to read a few pages of that black print on medium gray background. I just don't like it.

Garland sometimes doesn't summarize his material as well as I would like to see. For example, the section on 1 Corinthians 13 where he introduces his exegetical comments on love has some statements that are meant to summarize what follows, but almost contradict the most important point that follows. They sounded good, but as I thought about them, I became worried that he was going to add to the published material that wrongly defines agape as 'unconditional love'. Sometimes he also spends a lot of time on things that most pastors (at least myself) don't really care about. For example in his discussion on love he gives 23 pages of material. The first 4 pages are his summary, but he never accurately defines love in his summary. He does later on in his detailed exegesis, but in his summary he says things like "Love is concern for their community" and "love is the new aeon already present". He says that love is the marrow of the Christian existence. In the 4 pages of summary material he gives two pages to the discussion of the raging and worthless debate on what kind of literary passage does 1 Corinthians 13 represent. If scholars ever figure that out, will it help us? I think that kind of stuff is pretty much a waste of ink and paper, but that's just my opinion. He obviously thought it was worth half of his summarization of 1 Corinthians 13! But he never got to the point that some have written about...and EVERY scholar publishing articles on agape needs to have the courage to write about the fact that the word agape does not mean unconditional love just because it is the word agape. He didn't say that...although he in essence comes to that conclusion without talking about the unconditional love definition pop myth.

So anyhow, much to my delight when I arrived at his detailed exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Garland (to use a baseball metaphor) hits a grand slam home run. He goes to the fine work of Spicq (French scholar and quotes his 3 volume set's article on agape-which has the best definition on agape in print). Theological Lexicon of the New Testament 3 Volume Set (By the way, he doesn't cite Spicq's exhaustive work on Agape. But he is the published authority on detailed study of this term historically and is the most helpful scholar in print on agape. Agape in the New Testament, 3 Volumes

It made me so happy to see Garland pull through and define agape as "demonstration of love" that I wanted to shout 'yes'! He defines agape in this section as something that is not an inner feeling alone, but that it must put itself on display...quoting Spicq verbatim. So he ends up contradicting the summary section of his commentary. Agape is not 'concern for the community'. It is a demonstration of love. I especially love his links to the unmentioned backdrop of the 1 Corinthians passage (Paul doesn't say it in chapter 13), but the clear demonstration of God's love for us all in the offering of his Son on the cross. Bravo!! Pastors-these things preach well! Don't overlook this material. If we goof up the definition of love, we seriously miss what the accurate meaning is of many biblical passages. For 'agape' is a primary theme in the New Testament, if not THE primary theme.

He also handles the 'perfect' term correctly, does not even bother to mention the old view that some amazingly are still teaching to this day...that the perfect refers to the completion of the canon: see the ESV Study Bible notes on 1 Corinthians as an example.The ESV Study Bible

His material should be read before one uses 1 Corinthians 13 in a wedding because it will help a good Pastor preach in a more practical way for a couple.

I say all of this, because sometimes if you are short of time you will be tempted to read just his summaries of a section. I recommend you try to slot enough time to read his exegetical comments in full because of what I have just chronicled on 1 Cor 13.

I wish he had a sub section for each part that gave pertinent links to ancient Jewish and Greek literature with focus on the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Apostolic Fathers, and 1 Century Jewish authors writing in Greek (like Josephus). I think it would be helpful to have more cross links to these categories. He does bring them into play, but it seems to be more judicious that I would prefer. It would also be interesting to see some material tying into the Hebrew Old Testament terms for love and how this ties in to 1 Corinthians as well as more LXX ties.

I found his treatment of 1 Corinthians 11 to be convincing, noting the difficulty of treating the 'head covering' issue, he lays out a full case for how to interpret that passage, including a simple, yet confirming chiastic outline to support his point. I think I agree with him on that as well. His handling of 1 Corinthians 15 helped me preach on the resurrection and is a worthy aid to any pastor who has to prepare a message for a funeral.

Because some of these passages are usually used in Weddings and Funerals, and I have used them over and over in Weddings and Funerals, I found it interesting to see how Garland contextualizes these passages. I think his links to Paul's purpose in writing remain consistent throughout the book. So you will regularly be reminded of why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. On 1 Corinthians 13 Garland's comments are superior to Fee's because he correctly defines agape. Fee doesn't cite either of the massive works by Spicq (how can they be ignored?)...but does quote Shakespeare?! This is why it's good to have both commentaries if you can afford it.

One reviewer wrote that this commentary is superior to Fee's The First Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) because of his treatment of 1 Corinthians 14:34. I don't know if I agree with that. I believe it's a worthy addition to ones library and that one should read Fee as well as Garland. I don't think I know enough to say which one is superior. I love both of these commentaries. I will say that I also prefer Thistleton's Shorter Commentary First Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentaryover his NIGTC The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text, and I prefer Keener's short Socio commentary 1-2 Corinthians (New Cambridge Bible Commentary) over Witherington Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians because he consistently gets to the relevant issue at hand.

If you have $100 budgeted for 1 Corinthians, I recommend Fee & Garland. Then Thiselton's shorter commentary and Keener's shorter commentary. Of all of these I love Garland the best. But they are all excellent. When I am done reading a section by Garland on 1 Corinthians, I usually have the sense that I've just had an objective and helpful look at what scholars say, and what the text actually means, as well as some links for further study on key issues. I think that's likely how you will feel too if you purchase and use this book in your sermon prep time.
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on November 12, 2007
Garland's commentary is well-written and not difficult to read or understand. Scholarly enough, but very readable. Overall, it is well worth having. I would not, however, recommend its use alone. One should probably have both Fee and Garland, as they complement each other. In some areas, Fee is better; in other areas, Garland is better. My only disappointment was that in some sections, Garland cites a bunch of commentators and scholars but doesn't make his own view sufficiently clear. But on the whole, it is one of the two or three commentaries on 1 Corinthians pastors and Bible students should own.
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on November 14, 2005
I have preached through First Corinthians for several months now. This commentary has been my primary resource. It is the most thorough, well-researched, and sound commentary I have ever read. Garland confronts the "common" interpretations with historical and biblical insights which make his conclusions virtually argument proof. If you really want to know what Paul was doing in First Corinthians, this commentary is a must read.
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on January 5, 2007
This book is an exceptional exegetical and expositional treatment of Paul's corrective letter to the church at Corinth.

Enough sprinkling of original language word studies without being too heavy, and just the right amount of practical application, this book is divided into well-organized sections.

It is, in my opinion, the best commentary available on this book - surpassing even Gordon Fee's excellent work.
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on May 17, 2015
I purchased and own both this Baker Commentary (Garland) and the one by Fee. As I started preaching through 1 Corinthians in a slow methodical exegetical fashion, it soon became evident that I only needed this commentary by Garland.
Garland has taken into account and even-handedly presents the views of most other respected commentaries, including Fee. After presenting other supported interpretations, Garland does point to the one he feels is best.

Overall I find Garland to offer a great commentary on 1 Corinthians. His background information, geography, cultural excursus and use of native texts is quite informative. One could spend more time engaging the cultural aspects, but I think for preaching p purposes this is plenty. I appreciate Garland’s efforts to properly connect what Paul is writing to other verses and portions of Scripture – and mostly I found them exactly right.

Garland addresses the Greek text throughout and offers helpful definitions – which naturally color the text and rectify/clarify the English translation. Garland does cull some of his information from Apocryphal sources, for which I have little use – but these are secondary to normative Biblical and otherwise historical documentation.

I applaud Garland for not following the Reformed crowd and renouncing the continuity of Spiritual Gifts for believers today. It is clear that if the Gifts are meant to build, edify and grow the Church – then they must still exist, since the Church still exists. Garland also stays true to the text of 10:5, 12 and allows Paul to offer real warnings about loss of salvation. He does not expound upon Paul’s statements, but does not reinterpret or dismiss them either.

Since no one can possibly agree with everything another says, I do have a few issues.
In chapter 8 Garland exercises poor logic and seems to refute Paul own statements concerning idol food – where Paul clearly says there is nothing about the food itself that is at issue. Meat is meat, no matter where. And if Paul or other believers feel it will not cause other problems, we are free to eat whatever – because it is God who has made it all.

The same error is made in chapter 9 and Garland limits Christian freedom beyond what Paul has stated. Freedom is real, and is only to be self-limited out of love for others. In fact, Garland asserts on page 498 that he is “…convinced that Paul never ate idol food…” and thereby uses this assumption to reinterpret the whole teaching on Christian freedom and idol fool in chapters 8-10. Too bad.

On the issue of Tongues, Garland states on page 584 that this is a personal prayer language used for personal use and gain – since these utterances are made to God. This contradicts his earlier statements that Tongues were real “human” languages. Imposing a divine prayer language into the text is not good exegesis. That this is the Gift of translation or speaking someone else’s language matches the variety of Scriptures much better – and follows that the Gifts are for the benefit of others, and spreading of Gospel (not for personal benefit).
Garland exhibits more poor logic and unfounded assumptions to prove his point about a divine prayer language on page 634 “..the majority will speak privately.”

My final complaint with Garland is on page 733 where he claims the Resurrection body is not simply a spruced up, glorified version of the old – but a totally different body. Again, why impose your imaginations upon what Paul is quite clearly teaching? We will have changed, glorified bodies – but we will still be us, and like Jesus, have our original, but changed bodies. Paul shows a continuity of body, not the end of one with a brand new totally foreign replacement.
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on August 2, 2012
Hands-down a must for any pastor walking through 1 Corinthians. Very clear and cogent arguments. Challenges some of the conventional takes, but for good reason. His take on chapters 8-10 alone is worth the price of the book. We are working through 1 Corinthians as a church on Sunday mornings and while I have used many commentaries, always find this to be the most useful every week. The text becomes clearer and clearer as I read Garland's work.
Of course I recommend it for any serious student of the epistle as well.
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on April 21, 2015
This commentary is well researched and thoughtful. With helpful analysis of other commentators, Garland does a great job of giving helpful perspectives and explanations without having too much.

I would recommend including this commentary in your study of 1 Corinthians. (An understanding of the Greek language is helpful in getting the most out of this resource, though not necessary.)
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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2014
The author is an immensely well regarded scholar and academic having served as the interim President of Baylor University and having published a considerable body of work including an engrossing commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. As part of the Baptist tradition the author has also remained active within the church preaching and teaching.

What makes the best commentary is a passionate writer attempting to teach the truth to his or her best student. Dr. Garland's work qualifies as that type of commentary. The passion comes through both in the scholarship and exegesis which is top notch, but also at the points he chooses to reach. The moments of speculation are both meaningful and worth pondering. After reading my fair share of the commentaries, these are the ones that I keep taking off the shelf. The author has something to say that they want you to believe and apply. That allows you the reader to ponder and debate. They are and become your partners in reading and absorbing the Word. Dr. Garland's reaches are that rare mix middle course of profound between the Scylla and Charybdis of facile and rash. It is that balance between the academic honesty and the needs of the pulpit that come through in this commentary.

This commentary on 1 Corinthians is far and away the best on my shelf. (I rarely pull down another for this letter.) But, there is one quibble with the book that I wonder if it is because of the nature of the times, the desire for the student to make the leap or something else. Multiple times in tough sections of the letter the author will almost state a conclusion and then back away. If you know 1 Corinthians as a letter there isn't a tougher one for our culture taking on squarely such things as sexuality, church order and love. And the Apostle Paul has a habit of direct language. The best construction is that the author believes his scholarship and initial pointers are enough to let the student make the correct application and read. You can get the best feel for this occasional pulling of a punch because of one of the features of the BECNT series. At the start and end of any section BECNT includes a gray box which is a summary. In these boxes the author can say something that will get nuanced or partially wiped away in the fuller commentary. When forced to be brief the punches land. With more space they are occasionally wiped off. More than once I've found myself saying "which is it - the gray box or this?" That doesn't take away from the overall effect worth. It just occasionally adds a question mark.
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on October 16, 2009
The church of Corinth was found early in AD50, but Gallio's accession a year-and-a-half later as the proconsul led to his presiding over Paul's impromptu court hearing which 'seems to have brought Paul's successful activity in the city to an end.' p 18 Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus in AD54-55. Garland, citing Bruce Winter authoritatively, asserts that both Philo in Alexandria and Paul in Corinth had to contend with the cultural phenomenon of 'virtuoso orators', influential leaders with big followings (p 43). Thus the cultural fad of the day, philosophical-driven oratory, entered this socially-diverse church. But the revelation of Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God (1:24) stood in complete opposition to the wisdom of the Greek philosophers. Garland does not sufficiently press for the church leaders at Corinth as the real antagonists of Paul: 'In my opinion, he steps gingerly to avoid offending directly the leaders of the Corinthian factions, who tout their own wisdom.' p 60 Yet Paul knew he was called to proclaim God's Word alone, not the world's wisdom, through word and in deed: 'But he also holds himself up as an example for the Corinthians to imitate (4:16). One may proclaim the truth and many may respond, but that same truth may not penetrate the heart and soul of the proclaimer. The warning that teachers need to conform their lives to their own teaching is captured.' p 444 His chosen way of life Paul consistently taught "them everywhere in every church" (4:17).

Anthony Thiselton exerts considerable hermeneutical persuasion: 'The theme of covenant clearly provides the thematic link between 10:1-13 and 10:14-22.' The First Epistle to the Corinthians p 750 Paul, in illustrating the Israelite wilderness generation to the Corinthians in this difficult passage, literally called them "cravers after evil" [Gk: epithumetes] (10:6). Garland's borrowed exegesis clinches the point: 'Paul's primary concern surfaces in the command forbidding the Corinthians to become idolaters (10:7). Calvin (The First Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians p 208) asks why Paul mentions the feast and the games rather than the worship, and gives an answer that is on target: 'For it is not likely that they were in the habit of attending the gatherings of unbelievers in order to prostrate themselves before the idols, but they used to share in the feasts, which the unbelievers held in honor of the gods, and did not keep away from the debased rites which were marks of idolatry'.' p 461 Marking the course of a true herald, 'Paul sounds the alarm against pagan banquets that may seem to the Corinthians to be only innocuous conviviality combined with meaningless ritual.' pp. 466-7

Garland informs us that even if Paul was 'rigidly opposed to any encroachment by religious syncretism...his argument does not take the form of a raging renunciation.' p 378 In mentioning the "same spiritual bread" and "the same spiritual drink" (10:3-4) Paul may have been setting up for the Corinthians by way of analogy the fact that the wilderness generation had a Lord's Supper of their own. 'After their divine deliverance they received divine succor.' p 452 Still, Paul presaged them that if God had not spared the wilderness generation from judgment (who drank and ate spiritually), He would not overlook the Corinthians being led back into idolatry. Idolatry, in all its forms, is sinful and must be forsaken. Emerging in ch 10, what "I [Paul] do not want you to be ignorant of" (10:1) is the covenant relationship the sacraments as signs point to. As a result of their ignorance of this, Garland adds, 'they have blithely ignored the warning siren from the biblical accounts of Israel's chronic idolatry and terrifying punishment. If the wilderness generation met such a horrifying end by spurning a concealed Christ who nurtured them throughout their journey, how much more the Corinthians will be condemned if they spurn the revealed Christ.' p 465 The seriousness of this breach Garland leaves in no doubt: 'If the Corinthians are not faithful in their covenant obligations, if they put Christ to the test (10:9), if they compromise their loyalty and are caught in idolatry, they can expect no divine aid, only destruction.' p 469

Garland is one who thinks that a common meal was held between the breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup (p 546). The "fellowship" [Gk: koinonia, twice stated in 10:16] around the Lord's Table and a common meal was mutually exclusive to the two greatest problems endemic to the Corinthian church: factions and idolatry. True fellowship through union and communion with Christ and with others could deliver them from the wrong perception that participation meant automatic salvation. Faith in Christ's shed blood, in the creedal use of Christ's own words, says Garland, 'commands ritual remembrance of this foundational saving event.' p 548 The unity and joy of God's people was symbolized through Paul's high regard for the eschatological banquet, of which the Corinthian's fellowship was but a foreshadowing in grace at the Lord's Table.
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