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 missionaries 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 laypeople alike, this commentary on 2 Corinthians will be a lasting reference work for those interested in this important section of Scripture.
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“Striking is the contrast between the radiant treasure of the knowledge of God/Christ in the heart (4:4, 6)10 and the inexpensive and easily breakable receptacle11 that bears it, an earthen pot.12 Such vessels are both cheap and fragile,13 thus having no enduring value in their own right.14 Only their contents give them worth.” (Page 230)
“Rather, Paul’s ‘mirror’ analogy suggests that we see the ‘glory of the Lord’ indirectly,42 ‘mirrored,’ as it were, in ‘the face of Jesus Christ,’ ‘the image of God.’” (Pages 205–206)
“Paul’s understanding that Jesus, in his death, loved him was now the controlling force in the apostle’s life.” (Page 289)
“The grace that Christ displays toward his people is expressed in, and is inseparable from, his power. To be shown the one is to be given the other. But this power is ‘perfected,’ becomes a reality, in weakness, of which the thorn/stake ‘given’ to Paul is a concrete example.” (Pages 573–574)
“Thus there is a double dying; one has died that all might be reconciled to God, and all are to die to themselves.” (Page 291)
This Pauline letter is rightly regarded by Paul Barnett as a favorite with scholars, having generated a wealth of literary studies in recent times. It also remains an epistle full of problems—historical, textual, and interpretive—for modern readers, especially those who use 2 Corinthians for preaching. Yet it is a rich mine of Gospel truths and a valuable resource for understanding Paul’s teaching on proclamation, ministry, and the Christian life. Barnett is well qualified to handle all these complexities with a sure touch, a scholar’s expertise, and a pastor’s concerns. Above all, he does so with a deft style that makes this new volume accessible to all. A warm welcome awaits this commentary.
—Ralph P. Martin, professor emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary
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.
—Journal of Theological Studies
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