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For this review, it may help to know that I am a pastor and a Ph.D. candidate. On the one hand, this is an amazing scholarly achievement. Having read several key passages, I am thoroughly impressed by Thiselton's abilities: his mastery of secondary material, his sophisticated understanding of language and interpretation, his exegetical nuance and synthetic skill. This is simply the best commentary on 1 Corinthians in English for the scholar or seminary student. On the other hand, if you are a pastor trying to preach/teach through 1 Corinthians, I recommend you look elsewhere. There is just too much extraneous information in this book which does not directly bear on our tasks. Also, while I commend Thiselton for listing nearly every possible position on a subject, it is frustrating to read so many pages and not be sure what Thiselton's opinion is or why he holds it. There is an astonishing amount of erudite information in this book, but often too much! I wish the publishers of the ever more girthsome commentaries would realize that often, less is more! Thus, I rate the book 4 stars (5 for scholars, but only 3 for preachers). For the pastor, I still recommend Fee as the best commentary, with Barrett and Kistemaker as great complements.
First of all, the NIGTC series has never claimed to be anything but a scholar's series. So it needs to be judged on those terms. Judging it on value to the pastor who may or may not have the advanced Greek knowledge this commentary demands (2 years minimum, probably exegesis experience as well), is like judging the NIV Application series' value for scholars. This is not to say Thistleton does not deal with issues of application, he does. But the primary purpose is to survey the critical literature in view of the text. Thistleton is one of the leading British scholars of hermeneutics today, and it shows in the work. This is thorough and careful exegesis, often much more careful than Fee's work, which I also admire. This, plus Thistleton's immense vocabulary, can daunt even the most sophisticated reader. But his style is lucid, and, for a commentary, enjoyable. His scholarship is impeccable, and even when one disagrees with him in the end, one understands why one can come to such a view rationally even if you don't accept his presuppositions, which is not always possible in Fee's work. In short, this commentary is the new standard in Greek scholarship, and is set to be it for a long time. If you don't have the background for this commentary, it is very difficult going. But it rewards careful study.
It is virtually unanimous among those involved in biblical studies that Gordon Fee's NICNT volume is the best commentary written on 1 Corinthians or, for that matter, perhaps on any book. I will whole heartedly agree with that statement. This commentary by Thiselton is not a competitor but a complement to Fee's work. The NICNT volume is based on the NIV, with corrections made by Fee where appropriate. Comments on the Greek text are minimal and usually only found in the footnotes. Fee's comments are clear and concise, even if a bit underdeveloped for the needs of scholars and Greek students. Perhaps the best feature of Fee's volume is his wonderful introductions and summaries found at the opening and closing of each section of the book. This is especially important when discussing an epistle and conveys Fee's understanding that, despite the proliferation of word studies and word-by-word commentaries, words can only be understood in light of their entire context. Fee does all of these things wonderfully, and even includes helpful insights into modern application and contextualization. I have included all of this about Fee, so that the work of Thiselton can be seen for the gem that it is. This volume is massive (almost one-hundred pages devoted to each chapter). For some, this is a problem. However, as one who as actually read the commentary (many reviewers have only read a few pages of the book they review), the bulk is absolutely necessary. In the preface Thiselton says that it was his intention to answer every question a responsible scholar might bring to the text.Read more ›
Thiselton's commentary is a must for anyone working with the Greek. This does not exclude those who do not know any Greek at all, and thus it does not exclude those who know only a very little. Dr Thiselton has an impressive command of all the literature on the topic, and his translations of the texts are fresh and insightful. One would be foolish indeed to not consult this commentary when doing a class on 1 Corinthians.
One thing I like about him, unlike O'Brien in his NIGTC commentary on Philippians, is that if he disagrees with an accepted scholarly consensus about a topic, he does not merely say so. He points out fallacies and weaknesses and thus allows the reader to make his/her own judgements. Another is that while he himself is quite orthodox in his beliefs, his commentary is neither too conservative nor too liberal (I dislike either of those terms anyway) and thus one is assured a good moderate commentary composed by one who is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge--all put in a way that the beginner can grasp the most difficult spots of Paul's Greek.
Thus for really anybody--Greek expert or not--who wants to make up his/her mind about topics in 1 Corinthians with all the major relevant information in one volume, this is one commentary you need. It is a fitting companion to the New Interpreter's Commentary which, for this book, is disappointingly sparse on information.
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Dr. Anthony C. Thiselton is professor of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham and Canon Theologian of Leicester Cathedral. His substantial volume on hermeneutics, The Two Horizons, received international acclaim as a standard resource for this growing subject area.