Anthony C. Thiselton
Reviewed by: J. V. Fesko
Date posted: 03/02/2008
1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary, by Anthony C. Thiselton. Published by Eerdmans, 2006. Hardback, 325 pages, list price $30.00. Reviewed by OP pastor J. V. Fesko.
Anthony Thiselton's shorter commentary on 1 Corinthians is not merely a cut-down version of his 1,446-page scholarly commentary. Rather, he wrote it for a different audience. It is primarily aimed at "clergy, pastors, and leaders of church Bible study groups" (p. xiii). The author basically develops his own views and does not expound those of others very much. Also, pastoral observations follow the exegesis of each passage.
The commentary has noteworthy strengths. First, Thiselton follows the long-standing counsel of John Calvin, who believed that brevity and clarity are the hallmark of good exegesis. The pastor can quickly survey a passage in a few pages. Second, Thiselton engages a wide variety of ancient and contemporary exegetes and theologians, which is helpful and interesting. Third, the author's pastoral observations are at times useful in drawing out the contemporary significance of Paul's epistle for the Christian life. And fourth, the author frequently draws connections between Paul's epistle and the Old Testament, which demonstrates the apostle's indebtedness, not to his contemporaries, but to authoritative divine revelation.
There are some points in Thiselton's work, however, that one wishes could be improved. He uses his own translation of the epistle, which at times seems a bit quirky. One wonders if the author's intended audience, especially the leaders of small group Bible studies, would have been better served by an established translation to which minor adjustments could be made. This is the method used in many commentaries aimed at the layman. There are also times when one wishes that the author drew stronger connections between Israel and the New Testament church. For example, it seems that Thiselton draws upon the Old Testament Passover leaven-purging merely as a warning against returning to old sinful habits (p. 86). In his pastoral observations, he then comments on spiritual complacency, preferential treatment of the wealthy, and the need for transparency in the work of ministry (pp. 87-88). Thiselton seems to overemphasize the imperative (what we must do) and does not highlight the indicative (what Christ has done for us—especially, in this case, as our Passover lamb and sacrifice for sin [1 Cor 5:7 ESV]).
These matters aside, Thiselton has written a helpful commentary from which the pastor or the leader of a small group Bible study could profit with a critical reading. However, this commentary would probably prove more helpful to the pastor as a secondary, rather than a primary, reference. And for Bible study leaders, Leon Morris's entry in the Tyndale Commentary series may be the better choice.