As a result of a report from Titus, Paul wrote the letter we know as 2 Corinthians sometime in AD 56. He wrote the letter to express his thanksgiving for the church’s renewed repentance (2 Cor. 7:15–16), to encourage them to complete their collection for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8–9), and to defend his ministry from those who had been falsely accusing him (2 Cor. 3:1–6; 10:1–13:10). The book of 2 Corinthians sheds much light on Paul’s gospel ministry and is one of his most personal letters. There are a number of helpful commentaries on this epistle, and the following are five of the best.
1. Paul Barnett — The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1997).
Paul Barnett’s commentary on 2 Corinthians is one of those commentaries that is so well written that one can easily read it straight through—rather than treating it as a reference work and consulting whatever section one is researching. It is very readable and accessible. One of the major strengths of the commentary is the fact that Barnett deals not only with the basic exegetical issues but also discusses the theology of the letter. In other words, he doesn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Very highly recommended.
2. George Guthrie — 2 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2015).
Coming in at a close second to Barnett is George Guthrie. The Baker Exegetical Commentaries have been consistently strong, and this new commentary by Guthrie carries on the tradition. This one is a must for pastors and teachers.
3. David Garland — 2 Corinthians (The New American Commentary, 1999).
Originally, I had David Garland’s commentary on 2 Corinthians among the “Runners-Up,” but after more time and consideration, I think this commentary is one of the five best on the book of 2 Corinthians. It is a very careful and thoughtful work that will be of great use to pastors and teachers.
4. Murray J. Harris — The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 2005).
For those seeking an exhaustive examination of the Greek text, Harris’ commentary is the resource to consult. This massive commentary (1,117 pages) deals with every imaginable question regarding the Greek text. For those doing serious in-depth study of the book, it is invaluable.
5. Frank J. Matera — 2 Corinthians (The New Testament Library, 2003).
Generally speaking, I am not impressed by many of the volumes in the Old Testament Library and New Testament Library series. Many of the contributors are in knee-jerk sympathy with higher critical views of Scripture. There are, however, a handful of volumes that should be consulted. Frank Matera’s commentary on 2 Corinthians is one such volume. It is insightful on a number of passages.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of 2 Corinthians. Among them are the introductory-level works by Colin Kruse, J. Philip Arthur, Paul Barnett, and Geoffrey Grogan. Additional commentaries that may prove especially helpful to pastors are those by Peter Naylor (Vol. 1; Vol. 2), R. Kent Hughes, Scott Hafemann, and Richard Pratt. Among the additional intermediate and advanced scholarly works are those by Mark Seifrid, Ralph Martin, Linda Belleville, C. K. Barrett, Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, James Scott, and F.F. Bruce. Do not skip the classic commentary by Charles Hodge just because it is older. Although it is out of print, if you can find a copy of the old NICNT volume by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, it is still worth consulting.
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.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.