Throughout the history of church, the book of 2 Corinthians has often lived in the shadow of its older sibling 1 Corinthians. While not intentionally neglected, 2 Corinthians has not received nearly as much attention as it deserves. Fortunately, however, times are changing and over the last few decades there has been a renewed interest in the lesser-known epistle to the Corinthians. Following previous commentaries on 2 Corinthians, including those by Furnish, Harris, and Barnett, George Guthrie’s new commentary adds another significant contribution to our understanding of the epistle. Further conversations about the book are needed as “all that could be said has not been said” (p. xii).
This commentary, like others in the Baker Exegetical series, seeks to marry exegesis and theology with clarity and coherence. After dealing with the normal introductory issues surrounding authorship, and audience, Guthrie humbly navigates the contentious issue of the book’s unity and provides sensible reflections on the book’s overall purpose. He concludes,
In short, the message of 2 Corinthians is that Paul commends his ministry to the Corinthians as one of integrity. Appointed by God, under the lordship of Christ, and suffering in his proclamation of the gospel, Paul calls the Corinthians to repent from unhealthy relationships and embrace his authentic leadership. Their appropriate response will be seen, on the one hand, by again taking up the collection for Jerusalem, and on the other hand, by resolutely rejecting the ministry of the false teachers. (p. 50)
The commentary provides an excellent mix of technical nuance and big-picture clarity. Each pericope begins with a helpful half-page summary that enables the reader to see the whole forest before looking at the individual trees. In a similar fashion each section concludes with a brief paragraph that identifies the main exegetical ideas of the passage along with their contribution to the large theological ideas of the book. In the main body of the commentary Guthrie provides thorough and often highly sophisticated insights into the text. Without losing the reader, the author provides careful explanation of each individual unit within the book and provides judgments that are both accessible and astute. There are numerous diagrams, charts, and tables throughout the commentary that elucidate the uses of words, grammar, and the development of themes. The crisp layout along with helpful footnoting and headings make this a highly usable resource.
One of the outstanding features of this commentary is Guthrie’s sensitivity to the cultural backdrop and imagery of 2 Corinthians. In his analysis of 2 Cor 2:14–16, for example, Guthrie masterfully explores the background of the Roman triumphal procession and how that metaphor shapes the understanding of authentic Christian ministry under God. His observations give evidence of thorough research and provide access for the reader to better understand both the world of the Corinthians and the significance of it to understanding the text. Although there may be times when some readers might feel overwhelmed by the detail, one feels that the mix between technicality and readability is about right in this volume.
George Guthrie has provided a benchmark commentary on 2 Corinthians. His work demonstrates excellent scholarship that is marked by humility as well as pastoral warmth and wisdom. Throughout this commentary Guthrie’s interpretive decisions are both judicious and persuasive. Even if one were to reach different exegetical conclusions than the author, there can certainly be no charge that Guthrie’s interpretation lacks critical judgment or thoroughness. 2 Corinthians is fresh, engaging, and thoroughly accessible to pastor and scholar alike and should be an automatic inclusion into the library of anyone hoping to mine the wealth of this wonderful epistle.