The letter titled First Corinthians in our Bibles was written by the Apostle Paul from Ephesus during his third missionary journey sometime around AD 55. The letter was written to address a number of problems and questions that had arisen in the church at Corinth, including sexual immorality, marriage and divorce, food offered to idols, worship, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection. The letter is a favorite of many, but it contains a number of difficult texts. The following are five of the most helpful commentaries on the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
1. Anthony C. Thiselton — The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 2000).
Anthony Thiselton’s commentary on 1 Corinthians is the most thorough and complete commentary on this book available in English. Thiselton set forth to address virtually every imaginable question that one could ask about the text, and he appears to have succeeded. Although quite readable, this is a technical commentary on the Greek text, so it is not for everyone. For those who do not have enough background in the Greek language to use a technical commentary, Thiselton has also produced something of an abridged version with more focus on practical application. Pastors may find the abridged volume more immediately helpful, but all students should consult the larger work as well. Very highly recommended.
2. Paul Gardner — 1 Corinthians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2018).
For pastors and teachers who need a thorough yet easy-to-use commentary on 1 Corinthians but who do not need something as technical as Thiselton, the best commentary is probably the one by Paul Gardner. His exegesis is careful and thoughtful, and the application sections are very helpful.
3. David E. Garland — 1 Corinthians* *(Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2003).
Garland’s commentary on 1 Corinthians is a sane and thoughtful work that should be of use to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of this letter. It will be especially helpful for pastors. The Baker Exegetical Commentary series has the same audience as the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series and are written at about the same level, but Garland’s work does bring different insights, and if you can get more than one commentary, this will be a good one to add to your reading list.
4. Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner — The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2010).
All of the commentaries in the Pillar series are very good. Ciampa and Rosner’s is no exception. This commentary should be in every student’s library because of the unique contributions it makes. Their reading of the book with a focus on the Old Testament context of Paul’s thought is particularly useful as it sheds light on the problems facing a church that is being influenced by the pagan culture in which it finds itself.
5. Gordon D. Fee — The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 2014).
The first edition of Fee’s commentary on 1 Corinthians was published in 1987. This revised and updated second edition brings the commentary up to date. Fee’s commentary has been a standard for a generation. He writes from a Pentecostal perspective, so many readers will disagree with his interpretation of several passages in this epistle. However, those disagreements should not prevent non-Pentecostals from benefitting from this work. It contains much that is helpful.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of 1 Corinthians. Among them are the introductory-level commentaries by Thomas Schreiner, Leon Morris, David Prior and Roger Ellsworth. Pastors will appreciate the works by Kim Riddlebarger, Richard Pratt, and Craig Blomberg. There are several helpful intermediate level works written by evangelical authors, including Charles Hodge, F.F. Bruce, Peter Naylor, Craig Keener, Paul Barnett, and Alan F. Johnson. On a more advanced level are the commentaries by David Garland, Ben Witherington, and Gregory Lockwood.
Helpful Related Works
Although it is a work of historical fiction, Ben Witherington’s A Week in the Life of Corinth is a helpful work because it is written by a scholar with extensive knowledge of this ancient city and its culture. It provides a helpful introduction into the historical context of Paul’s letter. D.A. Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry is another helpful work on several passages from this epistle.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.