The First Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)
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4.5 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0802825079
Manufacturer : Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company|
Release data : July, 1987
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Top scholarship that seems to step on some toes
Fee taught a course on 1 Corinthians for about 15 years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary before completing this commentary (I only took his course on Textual Criticism). Thus, this book represents mature scholarship, thought, and an awareness of the kinds of questions people want answers to. The students at Gordon-Conwell were from every confessional background, so his teaching and writing has been for the whole church, and not geared toward charismatics. With about a dozen reviews already posted, I not only review Fee's book, but respond to some recurring comments in the other reviews.
Fee's logic is impressive. He takes 30-35 pages to untangle 1 Cor. 11:2-16, which represents one of the most difficult passages in the Greek NT. His evidence and reasoning are strong, and I've concluded the NIV (and most translations) botch this difficult passage. In trying to smooth out the difficulties in the Greek, our translations create meanings that are not well supported by the Greek nor the culture. Fee offers a sane exposition of this section.
Fee's argument that 14:33b-35 was not original to Paul but an early textual corruption may seem radical. Donald Carson, in his book on commentaries, inappropriately calls Fee's conclusion a "lapse," as if Fee thought this up himself. Yet this scholarly opinion goes back a long, long time. A. T. Robertson & A. Plummer's ICC on 1 Corinthians (1911) indicate that various scholars before their time thought those verses were an interpolation (e.g., Weinel, 1906, Schmiedel 1892, Holsten, 1880, and Hilgenfeld, n.d.). It would be difficult to argue that those scholars were motivated by our modern "feminist" movement! In more recent times, C. K. Barrett's Harper's/Black's commentary (1968) prefers the interpolation hypothesis, F. F. Bruce's NCBC commentary (1971) discusses it but passes no judgment (but he notes how several aspects of those verses are very awkward and difficult to square with the rest of the context and the epistle), and H. Conzelmann's Greek Hermeneia commentary (1975) is more adamant than Fee. Those who flippantly dismiss Fee's arguments seem not to have grasped his evidence nor his logic. The "hypothesis" that these verses were not in Paul's original letter has multiple stands of strong evidence, (mostly internal, but some external). By contrast, the "hypothesis" that the text as it stands was originally from Paul's hand is fraught with difficulties (but makes us feel good because we don't like the concept of later interpolations). The church is divided on issues related to women, so Fee's conclusion is controversial. Yet, our view of the role of women should have NO bearing on the question of the originality of those verses. That must be determined by the evidence.
Also, I am NOT in any way, shape, or form, charismatic (I'm a high churchman). But I acknowledge that the Bible never teaches an "end" to the spiritual gifts (well, we can make some verses teach that if we try). However, I'm very SKEPTICAL of most of today's alleged display of gifts. My fellow non-charismatics seem uncomfortable with Fee's interpretations, but such fears are unwarranted. To say God is free to give gifts as he chooses does not oblige us to accept modern Pentecostal practices.
The "problems" with Fee's book brought up by other reviewers represent one of the book's strengths. It is very scholarly and typically lets the chips fall where they may. We need a fresh look at this epistle that isn't laden with all of our traditions and perspectives that have affected us over the last 1900 years. While Fee is not without his biases, any disagreement with him (as a high churchman, I disagree with him at points) must be met with an equal level of evidence and logic, not with an ad hominem argument that Fee is a charismatic. Fee has given the church a great tool for interpreting God's Word, and I am very grateful for that.
Gordon Fee has provided us with such a "packed" and well-reasoned commentary that I can't recommend it more highly.
More mature than Garland
One of my principle in pick up a commentary is when everthing equal, the newer is the better one. So when I planned to bought one commentary on 1 Corinthians, I prefered Garland's more than Fee's. Both come from a conservative point of view. They have almost the same size (Fee: 904; Garland: 896) and the same prize (Fee US$ 54; Garland US$ 50). Both also get very positive reviews. The different is Fee wrote his 1 Corinthians commentary in 1987 while Garland wrote in 2003, so there is almost twenty years gap between them.
Then when I planned to gave an expositionary preaching from 1 Corinthians 15, I knew that I need Fee's as a comparison. What a surprised! I find that at least for 1 Corinthians 15, I gain more insight from Fee than from Garland. For me, Fee's argument is more mature, and he is also braver and firmer when he must to state something. Garland make Fee as one of his sparring partner but when he disagrees with Fee, it seems to me that he do not give enough power to send his counter attack.
Both are good, really! But now if I must choose one commentary in 1 Corinthians, my choice is clear. For this time, the old recipe is the better one.
NB. I am also skimming Thiselton's work. This one is a huge commentary but at least from the preacher's point of view I must agree with D.A. Carson that "I do not have a good feel for it yet." Too many debate in it. If you need a third choice for 1 Corinthians, I will recommend Ancient Christian Commentary Series produced by Gerald Bray (ed.). You will be surprised with what you can get inside.
Corinth or the mdern church.
A very thorough and scholarly work. The ability of Dr. Fee to carry out the exegesis back to Corinth, and then forward to the modern Church. I have found the historical and original meanings to several sections to be extremely helpful. Dr. Fee coming from an active gifting background is also helpful to me, it is enlightening to see the reasons from that side presented in a very cognitive and cogent manner. The most encouraging thing to me about this commentary is the willingness to acknowledge and address not only his professional point of view of the passages, but also treat other views with courtesy and respect even in disagreement.