Best Commentaries on Paul, with Nijay Gupta: 1 Corinthians

Scholars have long been fascinated by the window that 1 Corinthians provides into life of the early Christians. In this letter we also have creedal information, gender relationship teachings, and—what’s up with “baptism for the dead” (15:29)? Thankfully, there are many excellent 1 Corinthians commentaries available.


Technical Commentaries

Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner (PNTC). These two scholars make a great academic team. Ciampa (one of my seminary professors) has expertise in the use of the Old Testament in Paul and also biblical translation theory and practice. Rosner wrote his doctoral dissertation on 1 Corinthians and has written extensively on Paul’s ethics.

Gordon D. Fee (NICNT). It is hard for any other Pauline scholar to match Fee’s combination of academic knowledge, pastoral wisdom, and spiritual zeal. He is a recognized expert in textual criticism, and he is especially attuned to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the church according to Paul.

Joseph Fitzmyer (AB). Fitzmyer is one of the finest and most respected New Testament scholars ever. His commentary models the historical-critical approach, where questions of historical circumstance, relationship to comparative (Jewish and Greco-Roman) literature, and Greek word meanings (diachronically and synchronically) are of the utmost importance. See my Themelios review of his commentary here.

Anthony Thiselton (NIGTC). At 1400+ pages this is one of the most comprehensive studies of 1 Corinthians available. This series (NIGTC) is designed to give careful attention to the Greek text, and Thiselton does so admirably. But he also has expertise in systematic and historical theology, as well as philosophical hermeneutics.

For the patient reader, there is much to learn from this weighty commentary. For the “TL/DR” people, mercifully Thiselton has written a shorter version.

Own It: Fee


Semi-Technical

David Garland (BECNT). Garland balances academic discussions, theological questions, and ministry application exquisitely. For the busy pastor who still wants an academic discussion, Garland is the best resource for reliable interpretation.

Craig S. Keener (NCBC). Keener offers his usual guidance to comparative ancient literature and weighs in (often briefly) on controversial theological matters. This volume covers both 1-2 Corinthians.

Paul Sampley (NIB). Sampley has written extensively on Paul’s theological ethics and brings that expertise to his commentary on 1 Corinthians.

Ben Witherington III (SR). Witherington has developed his own commentary series (it is not an official series, but it is complete, as he has covered the whole New Testament through different publishers). He dubs his approach “socio-rhetorical,” combining careful consideration of the socio-historical context behind the NT text with attentiveness to the rhetorical format and forms within the text. Many, including myself, consider his best volumes in this “series” to be 1–2 Corinthians (Conflict and Community in Corinth) and Acts (The Acts of the Apostles).

Own It: Garland


Non-Technical

Craig L. Blomberg (NIVAC). Blomberg is a widely respected exegete, especially as a Gospels scholar, but here he shows his ability to work skillfully in Paul. Perhaps his greatest asset in this volume is his well-balanced approach to various thorny theological issues and his ability to unpack complex issues simply and clearly.

Richard B. Hays (Interpretation). Hays is a world-renowned Pauline scholar who has written ground-breaking works in Paul’s interaction with the Old Testament as well as Paul’s moral reasoning. He has only written a couple of commentaries, so I consider these precious commodities. Hays’ work fits well with this series, offering interpretive, theological, and preaching pointers for pastors.

Pheme Perkins (Paideia). While the Paideia series aims at a more basic level of interpretation, Perkins showcases her expertise in the Jewish and Greco-Roman world of Paul and the early Christians.

Own It: Hays


Hidden Gems

I have several “gems” to recommend that often get overlooked by scholars and pastors.

First, it is well worth the effort and time to consult Judith Kovacs’ analysis of patristic discussions of 1 Corinthians in her The Church’s Bible commentary.

Few people seem to know that John Barclay contributed a short—but extraordinarily insightful—commentary of 1 Corinthians in the Oxford Bible Commentary.

Preben Vang wrote a very handy guide to 1 Corinthians in the (sadly discontinued) Teach the Text series. See my review here.


See the rest of the Best Commentaries series at this link.

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Written by
Nijay Gupta

Nijay Gupta is Associate Professor of New Testament at Portland Seminary, George Fox University.

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Written by Nijay Gupta
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