Pastors, scholars, and students of Scripture have benefited from the Pillar New Testament Commentary Series for many years. The newest volume on 2 Corinthians is by Mark Seifrid, The Millard and Ernest Hogan Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Seifrid has graciously agreed to a brief interview on the writing of his new commentary. Seifrid has also written a wonderful book on Justification titled Christ, Our Righteousness which I commend to you.
1. Did the Lord encourage you in any particular way as you worked your way through 2 Corinthians? Maybe a new insight that you’re thankful for?
Seifrid: I received not only encouragement, but repeated challenges as I worked through the text of 2 Corinthians. As I explain in the commentary, the question at stake is the form of Christian life in the world. Our growth and progress is more “suffered” in God’s works in us than accomplished by our works. That means first of all, that we are to seek, find, and receive Paul’s words of comfort in this letter. It also means that we are to share that comfort with others in need, not only in words but also in works.
2 Did any passage stick out to you as more challenging to exegete? What made it challenging?
Seifrid: Paul’s account of being led to death in God’s triumphal procession in Christ has long been difficult for interpreters (2 Cor 2:14-17). It called for considerable reflection. I spent a good deal of time on 2 Cor 3:1-18, with Paul’s comparison of the apostolic mission to that of Moses, his paradoxical contrast of the letter and the Spirit, and his reference to the doing away of the “old covenant” in Christ. The passage is of considerable importance for understanding the letter as a whole. There is also considerable exegetical and theological confusion concerning its meaning in the recent literature. In working through the text, I was surprised to find how often I thought the English translations failed to capture the proper sense of the text (the rendering of 10:2 is an especially good example). In exegesis classes I regularly warn students against criticizing the translations from the pulpit. I stand by that warning. Nevertless, it have become increasingly aware of the importantce of a properly trained pastor, who is able to handle the text in the original languages, and thus able to offer a guide to reading the Scriptures to the congregation.
3. What makes your contribution perhaps unique compared to the works already published on 2 Corinthians?
Seifrid: Others tell me that it is the combination of detailed exegesis and theological reflection. While not forgetting the main exegetical debates, I intentionally concentrated on commenting on the text and not on the commentaries. There is a danger within current interpretation of directing one’s comments to the guild of scholars rather than to the believing community. I tried to avoid that danger.
4. Which commentaries on 2 Corinthians do you recommend other than your own?
Seifrid: That is a difficult question! There are so many good commentaries available to us, it is hard to single out a few without unfairly slighting or neglecting others. The technical commentaries by Thrall (ICC), Harris (NIGNT), and Martin (Word) are obviously worth consulting. I also recommend David Garland’s commentary (NAC) and that of Victor Paul Furnish (AB).
5. What encouragement would you give to New Testament PhD students hoping to teach and publish in the future?
Seifrid: Above all else, listen, listen, and listen again to the Scriptures. That advice applies not only to exegetes, but to also to others, especially systematicians. On the other hand, biblical scholars need to be reminded to read theology, especially historical theology, so that they become aware of the way in which their exegetical “discoveries” fit into the Christian tradition. That is the only way to know what we are saying! Finally, we must make sure that we become familiar with the exegetical and theological debates that are taking place in the larger world of theological scholarship, and not merely within our own circles. Otherwise we run the risk of merely talking to ourselves.
Thank you Dr. Seifrid for taking the time to share these helpful insights! May God bless your work as you equip students for gospel ministry and as you continue to write. Readers can purchase Mark Seifrid’s commentary from Eerdmans and Amazon.
Lastly, I hope to offer more posts on Seifird’s take on passages in 2 Corinthians in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Photo: Seifried: SBTS, Commentary: Amazon