Fall 1998 · Vol. 27 No. 2 · pp. 198–99 

Book Review

2 Corinthians

V. George Shillington. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1998. 309 pages.

Reviewed by Devon H. Wiens

The greatly conflicted relationship of the apostle with the Christian community at Corinth is impressively sketched in this commentary: “This language of 2 Corinthians exhibits deep feelings of hurt and grief in the heart of this foremost Christian missionary of the first century” (13).

George Shillington, Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at Concord College of Winnipeg, pens the latest volume in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series which is designed for a general adult reading public. In the words of the Series Foreword: “The desire to help as wide a range of readers as possible has determined the approach of the writers” (9).

Shillington’s perspective combines literary and theological concerns, {199} though he also seeks to address the contemporary bearing of the text. He employs genre and rhetorical analyses, but rightly rejects the sort of overemphasis on reader-response methodology which arbitrarily overlooks the original cultural setting of the text (see p. 17). His critical assumptions on the evolution of the Corinthian letters are as follows (17-19): (1) The letter alluded to in 1 Corinthians 5:9 has not survived; (2) Paul wrote

1 Corinthians in response to the question posed by the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7:1 and reports about problems in the ranks (1 Cor. 1:11; 5:1); (3) the “letter of tears” Paul alludes to in 2 Corinthians 2:1-4; 7:8 has not survived; (4) in response to Titus’s report (2 Cor. 2:12-13; 7:6-7; 3:1-3) Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 1-9; and (5) “Paul wrote a severe letter of defense and censure” (18) preserved as 2 Corinthians 10-13.

The critical stance employed by the commentary is a moderate one. Certain critical issues are merely hinted at (e.g., the unity of Isaiah, the question of Paul’s “uncontested” letters vis-á-vis the contested ones). Some churchly readers may find surprising the view that the “unequal yoke” passage (6:14-7:1) “seems not to have been written originally by Paul” (156), though he hastens to assert its canonical and authoritative nature (see the critical elaboration of this view in the end essays, p. 281).

The writer systematically provides an overview of each major section in 2 Corinthians, then launches into an exegetical analysis of each textual unit, which is in turn divided into “preview,” “outline,” and “explanatory notes.” This is followed, in each instance, by an informed discussion of “The Text in Biblical Context.” Then the author provides what is distinctive about this commentary series, a look at “The Text in the Life of the Church,” in which peculiarly Believers Church appropriations of the text are reviewed and suggested. Finally, the “Essays” at the end of the commentary clarify some of Shillington’s assumptions in the commentary part.

On the whole, this commentary is one that will be used with profit by students of Paul’s letters. Its brevity is both a virtue and a problem: the reviewer frequently found himself wanting more extensive explanations. But Shillington writes lucidly, is conversant with contemporary critical and exegetical trends, and offers numerous salient challenges (e.g., the need to raise the “glass ceiling” for women who seek to serve the church, as did their prophetic forbears at Corinth) for the modern descendants of the early Anabaptists.

Devon H. Wiens
Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies
Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, California