Schreiner ‘honored’ to write 1 Corinthians commentary for the Tyndale New Testament series
Sixty years after noted New Testament scholar Leon Morris wrote his commentary on 1 Corinthians in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Thomas R. Schreiner is contributing his own volume on the book in the same series. Schreiner noted that he was heavily influenced by the late Morris’ work and said he learned much from the Tyndale series as a young Christian. Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“When I was asked to write in the Tyndale series, I felt very happy. It brought back so many warm and wonderful memories from when I was a young student. [Back then], I asked people, ‘What commentaries should I read to help me understand the Bible?’ They pointed me to the Tyndale series,” Schreiner recalled in an interview. His new commentary is his first contribution to the TNTC.
“I was honored. It was exciting for me to think that young students today are still profiting from this series.”
Schreiner’s 352-page commentary on 1 Corinthians is intended for Sunday School teachers, pastors, and Christian laypeople who want to know the Scriptures better, he said. The Tyndale series is designed to explain the text clearly and concisely. Schreiner’s commentary is no different — it addresses key theological themes and interpretive issues but leaves textual-critical and technical matters to more exhaustive exegetical commentaries.
The commentary is divided into three large sections: an introduction, which explains the book’s authorship, date, and historical context; the main commentary, which explains the book verse-by-verse; and an “additional notes” section that discusses significant issues from the book at greater depth.
The introductory format for the commentary means that the author’s primary goal is to explain the text itself. The commentator has to stay on-point, Schreiner said, and not get bogged down in technical details or debates with other scholars.
“[The commentator has] to make sure, ‘Am I writing this at a level that's accessible to the ordinary reader? Am I focusing on the main points of the text, instead of being deflected by a secondary issue?’” Schreiner said. “[It requires] clarity and economy. You can't get into debates among scholars, so I tried to not quote other scholars as much. There's just not space to do that. In a controversial text from 1 Corinthians, I will still mention other views, but not to the same detail.”
The context of 1 Corinthians, Schreiner said, is important for understanding the letter today. The Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey, but later received word about divisions and theological problems in the church. Paul’s response, the book of 1 Corinthians, addresses a wide array of issues: church discipline, sexual immorality, the Lord’s Supper, the resurrection, marriage and singleness, spiritual gifts, and food offered to idols, among many others.
According to Schreiner, all of those issues boil down to a single problem Christians still grapple with today.
“The root problem Paul [addresses] with the Corinthians is pride. Their root problem is arrogance, and I think we can say that's still a problem today,” Schreiner said. “We see that in divisions in the church, for example. Why are they divided? When you read chapters 1 through 4, Paul says that the root of these divisions is actually their own pride and narcissism and self-absorption. His solution is: “You need to remember the cross. You need to remember the gospel. You need to remember the foolish message of the cross because the cross doesn't exalt human beings; it exalts God.’”
Paul’s solution to pride, Schreiner writes, is a genuine love for others that is motivated by the work of Jesus Christ. An extensive argument about spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14 turns upon one of the most famous chapters of the Bible — Paul’s chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13.
“That love is exemplified supremely in the cross,” Schreiner said. “So, what does it mean to live in a way that is truly motivated by caring for other people? Our pattern and model for that is Jesus Christ gifted to us in the cross, where he manifested his love for us.”