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The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Hardcover – April 17, 1997
The Amazon Book Review
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"Easy to read and accessible to a wide range of readers. Barnett pays careful attention to the Greek text and clarifies for the readers the grammatical and logical connections between Paul's statements. . . Barnett succeeds in presenting a careful scholarly, theological, and pastoral reading of the text of 2 Corinthians. He traces Paul's argument through 2 Corinthians with care and consistency. He does so with a concern for the pastoral heart and method of Paul, yet without forcing every text into an easy contemporary application. . . A valuable resource for teachers and pastors who seek to understand the issues and argument of 2 Corinthians, especially for those who want to examine how Paul as pastor wrestles with this troubled congregation."
"An excellent commentary, especially for serious students and pastors."
Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft und Grenzgebiete (IZBG)
"All theological libraries need this important resource."
"There is much thoughtful reflection in this commentary that will be of interest to scholars, pastors, and readers in general. Pastors in particular and Christians in general will find both comfort and challenge in the author's actualizing reflections. . . The work as a whole reflects diligent labor and a spirit both scholarly and pastoral."
Southwestern Journal of Theology
"This book is full of good theological insights and is now the evangelical commentary of choice on II Corinthians. It will serve students and pastors for many years to come. Buy it."
The Bible Today
"Does what a good commentary is supposed to do—provides the reader with a wealth of background on the probable setting of the letter, its literary structure, and major motifs. His comments also have a strong pastoral bent, a plus particularly for this theologically rich letter. Pastors and biblical students will find this a substantial resource for an in-depth study of 2 Corinthians."
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"In one respect the book fills a much-needed vacuum today. Very little has been done in commentary format with the theology of Paul's letters. And the author takes great pains to tie together the theological threads of 2 Corinthians. . . Another strength is the author's firsthand acquaintance with a wide range of primary sources that helps in setting forth the first-century religious and theological milieu. Also, the theologically focused introductions to each pericope are themselves worth the price of the volume."
Journal of Theological Studies
"Dr. Barnett has made a substantial contribution to this impressive series. While engaging in a thoroughgoing manner with the main thrusts of contemporary research into the problems of a uniquely difficult epistle, he has borne in mind the non-specialists who form an important part of his intended readership. He has made the fruits of scholarship accessible to such readers without any serious loss of depth and penetration."
From the Back Cover
This excellent commentary on 2 Corinthians by Paul Barnett illumines the historical background of the church at Corinth and clarifies the meaning of Paul's passionate letter both for those first-century Christians and for the church today. Assuming the unity of the letter, for which extensive argument is offered, Barnett takes the view that Paul is, in particular, addressing the issue of triumphalism in Corinth. This triumphalism is expressed by the newly arrived missioners who portray Paul as "inferior" to themselves; it is also endemic among the Corinthians. According to Barnett, the recurring theme of the letter is "power-in-weakness", based on the motif of the Resurrection of the Crucified, which lies at the heart of the gospel of Christ. Also fundamental to the letter is the theme of fulfillment of the "promises of God" by Christ and the Spirit under the New Covenant. Written for scholars, pastors, and lay readers alike, this new commentary on 2 Corinthians will be a lasting reference work for those interested in this important section of Scripture.
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2 Corinthians is a NT book that has many purple (oft-quoted) passages but is rarely studied as a whole. A lengthy defence of Paul's apostleship (marked not so much by success as by suffering, which Paul considers the true mark of apostleship), the letter and commentary make for essential reading for pastors, who often find their pastorships often under attack for the same reasons Paul had his apostleship under attack.
Barnett is a true and wise guide into this must debated letter.
My main disappointment with this commentary is that it seems to gloss over exegetical questions to get to the so-called "theology." The commentary on individual verses seemed to consist less of actual discussions on the text, and more of springboard discussions into broader theological topics. I found myself frequently thinking, "That might make for a moving sermon, but what does that have to do with 2 Corinthians?"
Coupled with this, when Barnett does make exegetical comments, he sometimes tends to give conclusions without giving reasons. Some examples:
- 3:6--"The letter kills but the Spirit gives life." Barnett states three views in the footnotes, as well as giving his preference. However, he didn't really give any reasons why one option is to be preferred over the others.
- 5:1-10 is apparently about the intervening time between death and resurrection, and the state of the dead during that time. He doesn't really appear to give convincing reasons for why this is the case.
- 5:14--"One died for all, therefore all died." Barnett states his conclusion, but again doesn't really give reasons for why this option is to be preferred over the others.
I could go on, but the point is made.
This is not to say that Barnett's work is a bad commentary. However, there were many places where it could have been much much more than it was. If you looking for a book that specifically focuses on the broad "theology" of 2 Corinthians, then this commentary will probably suit your needs. If you are looking for a book that actually wrestles with the difficult questions, I suggest you look elsewhere.
Paul's opening benediction to God (1:3-7) regarding the twin realities of suffering and divine deliverance from life-threatening perils in Asia produced a hard-won experiential knowledge of godly comfort deep within the soul of the apostle. Through the repetition of the word 'comfort' the apostle 'writes of the faithfulness of God to His promises and to His people.' p 66 Paul tied "the God of all comfort" (1:3) in to the blessing of the gift of the Spirit (1:21-22), completing the trinitarian unity by way of a subtle reminder to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit's major occupation is to comfort God's people in Christ (1:4-5).
Citing Barnett, Sinclair B Ferguson attaches great importance to preserving the integrity of all ministers called by God: 'No more poignant or instructive description of the work of the minister of the gospel exists than Paul's 'defensive excursus' in 2 Cor 2:14-7:4.' Feed My Sheep ed. Don Kistler p 101 'As such,' Barnett continues, '2 Cor 2:14-7:4 may be included with Paul's other 'pastoral letters' in their applicability to ministers of the gospel.' p 145 What becomes clear from the general tendency of this section, receives an even more emphatic distinction in the construction of the text of 5:20, where "we are ambassadors for Christ", "in His stead" has in view those called to the ministerial office, and not congregants. Barnett informs, 'The Corinthians are not those to whom the ministry and the word of reconciliation have been given.' p 304 But Paul is heavenly bidden, "constrained" (4:15) [Gk: sunecho; "hard pressed", Phil 1:23] by the love of Christ, as he bears this message from God to men.
An interesting chapter in the history of the nascent church in Corinth, which I was not aware of, was the hype surrounding the enigmatic man in the church of Corinth who had somehow 'wronged' Paul. 'While the man was not actively supported by a majority of the Corinthians, nonetheless, he was not directly opposed to them nor subject to any expression of displeasure on their part, nor, least of all, the congregational discipline appropriate to the circumstances.' p 381 Through this man's opposition, Paul's position was rendered untenable, adds Barnett, and the apostle had to withdraw from Corinth to write the "severe letter" which most likely was directed at the Corinthian's infatuation with the cult of secular leadership. Barnett thinks that their reaction to the "severe letter" (2:3-4) may have left Paul feeling 'chastened'. When Titus brought him news to the opposite effect, this brought Paul much joy and much needed relief. This was the occasion for writing the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Barnett takes the view that 'our canonical 2 Corinthians did not originate as two separate letters.' p 450 In the second major division within the letter (chs. 10-13) the apostle introduced the enigmatic 'interlopers' (p 453) or "false apostles" (11:13). Because of the use of the same preposition, "hyper", Barnett conceives of them as being the super-apostles (p 33). Paul was concerned to avoid the slightest appearance of a breach between his gentile mission and the Jerusalem church. Pressed as he was, however, in defense of his apostleship, Paul and Barnett expend precious ink on 2 Cor 11:23-33. Here Paul drew a striking contrast for the Corinthians between his ministry and that of the super-apostles (11:5; 12:10), who commended themselves and foisted their demands for payment upon the gentile converts, most likely an accepted practice, but nonetheless engineered by their own superior speech. Their custom of commending themselves by writing introductory letters of commendation for each other was not foreign to Paul either who, as unregenerate Saul, had followed this practice in Acts 9:2 when he "asked letters". Paul addressed the tension they brought to his apostolic ministry by comparing the pedigree of the super-apostles to that of his own. Barnett states the mock presumption of Paul was intended to confound their triumphalist rhetoric. In what Barnett terms 'Paul's Fools Speech', Paul petitions the Corinthians to "yet as a fool receive me", and not on grounds of his Jewishness. In contrast to their boasting, Paul's pure proclamation of the gospel was prioritized by Christ-centered preaching.
Says Barnett: 'Indeed, his "I am better" [Gk: hyper ego] controls the list of weaknesses following, including the climax, the "thorn in the flesh" (12:9).' p 538