This book “explains 1 and 2 Corinthians passage by passage, following Paul’s argument. It uses a variety of ancient sources to show how Paul’s argument would have made sense to first-century readers, drawing from ancient letter-writing, speaking, and social conventions” (p. i). Pastors, teachers, scholars, and serious Bible students can all profit from this unique commentary.
The ten-page introduction discusses proposed backgrounds, ancient letters, Corinth, and the particular situation in 1 Corinthians and Paul’s response to it. The writer then offers, in nine pages, suggested reading for Corinth and 1 Corinthians: Paul and philosophy, rhetoric and 1 Corinthians, politics and 1 Corinthians, the social setting of 1 Corinthians, primary sources for Corinth, studies on the local situation in Corinth and its church, ancient letters, Paul and Jewish tradition, theology, commentaries, and sample articles and monographs. Then follows the commentary per se, in which the writer stresses ancient parallels to Paul’s argumentation section by section. The commentary includes a full reprint of the New Revised Standard Version and occasional brief excursuses under the headings “A Closer Look” and “Bridging the Horizons.” Some of the “closer looks” include “Paul’s use of rhetoric,” “arsenokoites and malakos,” “sex in the cities,” “marriage, celibacy, and Paul,” “idol food,” “teachers’ support,” “the need for head coverings,” “symposia and the Lord’s Supper,” “ancient views on resurrection,” and the like. The “Bridging the Horizons” sections deal with the parallels between Paul’s and current readers’ situations, some of which Keener illustrates with personal experiences.
The introduction to 2 Corinthians discusses genre, the situation in 2 Corinthians, opponents, and unity. The suggested reading for 2 Corinthians guides the reader to helpful works on the situation of 2 Corinthians, its theology, other questions, commentaries, articles, and monographs. The commentary on 2 Corinthians follows the pattern established with 1 Corinthians with its various components. The writer holds to the unity of 2 Corinthians.
Fifty pages of indexes include an author index, a Scripture and Apocrypha index, an index of extrabiblical Jewish and Christian sources, an index of other Greco-Roman sources, and a subject index.
Keener is professor of New Testament at Palmer (formerly Eastern) Seminary of Eastern University. He has written at least twelve other books, of which three have been award-winning commentaries, and he excels in his understanding of biblical backgrounds. Keener often uses the words “may be,” “probably is,” “appears to be,” and similar phrases, though he explains convincingly, in most cases, why the interpretations he prefers have the best support from ancient backgrounds.