Shillington, V. George. 2 Corinthians (Believers Church Bible Commentary). Scottdale, Penn; Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 1998. Pp. 310. ISBN 0-8361-9073-4. US $28.00; CA $28.50.
L. Ann Jervis
Associate Professor, NT
Wycliffe College, University of Toronto
This commentary is part of an interesting and creative series, the express purpose of which is to speak from within a certain tradition of the church to that church. The series originates in what the editorial council calls Athe believers church tradition,@ a tradition characterized by Abelievers baptism, commitment to the Rule of Christ in Matthew 18:15-20 as crucial for church membership, belief in the power of love in all relationships, and willingness to follow Christ in the way of the cross@ (p. 10). This church tradition also stresses compliance with the plain meaning of scripture. The commentary series, then, seeks to provide a tool for Bible study for a Christian community committed to obeying scripture in the context of the life of the church. Accepting the task of writing one such commentary means being willing as an author to submit one=s work for review to consultants from within this Christian tradition. The unique organization of the commentary bears the mark of this procedure.
Included in every portion of the commentary is a section entitled AThe Text in the Life of the Church.@ Here Shillington, who teaches at Concord College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, relates matters from the portion of 2 Corinthians just studied to issues in the life of the church. While occasionally general issues are mentioned, such as Christian parenting or Christians in the workplace (pp. 104-5), the emphasis is strongly on issues in the believers church. Shillington notes both the way 2 Corinthians and its theology was used historically (referring frequently to Dirk Philips, the sixteenth century radical reformer), and how it might be used today in the believers church. He is bold about admonishing his church on the basis of this letter about matters such as, for instance, exclusion from the community (p. 57).
Each portion of the commentary also has a section dealing with AThe Text in Biblical Context.@ Shillington relates the portion of 2 Corinthians studied to other Biblical passages and to texts in the interpretive tradition (e.g., Jewish apocalyptic literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls). The purpose of this section appears to be to remind the reader that 2 Corinthians is part of the canon and of Biblical tradition. While at points these sections appear artificial, generally Shillington uses them wisely. For instance, it is in this section that he addresses Paul=s appeal to Moses and Exodus 34 in 2 Cor. 3:7-18.
Preceding these two sections are a preview of the passage to be studied, an outline of the passage itself, and explanatory notes. The explanatory notes are balanced and helpful, often including references to standard scholarly works in English, but their brevity (e.g., there are just over two pages on 2 Cor 3:7-9) is a liability. While the nature of the commentary series requires Shillington to leave room for the various foci addressed in each portion of the commentary, the commentary might have been stronger if the explanatory notes had been chosen as a primary focus.
The commentary concludes with fourteen short essays on matters arising from the study of 2 Corinthians, such as the collection for the Jerusalem church, the Asuper-apostles,@ Jewish-Christian relations, etc. In these essays Shillington demonstrates his fine scholarship.
The whole commentary, in fact, is not only accessible but responsible and well-researched. Shillington is an excellent exegete. While the explanatory notes are brief, Shillington gives enough evidence of his careful work with the Greek text to allow the reader to trust his reading. He is also a good teacher, as demonstrated in his use of diagrams and his concern to inform the reader of recent approaches to reading Paul (e.g., the use of rhetoric in the ancient world).
Shillington reads one theme as predominant throughout the two letters that make up 2 Corinthians. In both 2 Corinthians 1-9 and 2 Corinthians 10-13, he finds Paul speaking of missionary ministry and the suffering inherent in such service. This commentary admirably serves the purpose for which it was written B to be a resource to Christians in a particular theological tradition. Indeed, it is an especially fitting commentary for a Christian tradition that stresses the necessity of taking up one=s cross.