There has been no less than 50 commentaries published on 1 Corinthians in the last 50 years. My desire and current goal is to provide sufficient comment and solid comparison between these works, so as to help the newcomer be adequately informed to make the best sequential purchases possible.
1 Corinthians. ANTC. Abingdon Press, 1998.
I regret that to this day I have no yet finished reading this work. I have only read 50% (the first half - 1 Corinthians chapter 1-6). However, since there are only a few reviews of this commentary, I felt the need to give it the recognition it deserves. It is in the Top 3 of the best mid-level commentaries on 1 Corinthians (1-Oropeza, 2-Thiselton Shorter, 3-Horsley). Any commentary that distances itself fro mainstream evangelical bias that is forced back onto the text (when inappropriate to do so), gets a lot of respect from me. Horlsey recognizes the fact that the Corinthians were “former” (some still were) polytheists. How many white-American churches have former polytheists in their congregation? Almost none! Which means that we need to stop reading 1 Corinthians from the perspective of modern white-Evangelicalism, and start reading the text exegetically. Horsley actually respects the original historical context of 1 Corinthians, and brings out a number of fantastic insights in his commentary. This is mandatory reading for your 1 Corinthians studies!
1 & 2 Corinthians. LPC. MISSING PUB, 1999.
I’ll give the author a star for actually writing a book (a feat in itself). But in terms of content, this commentary lacks substance. Here is the product of a systematic theologian who views the text through the lens of pre-formed dogma, rather than honest exegetical research. This commentary is last on the priority list, and does not honor Paul’s original meaning.
The Epistle to the Galatians. BNTC. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
This is the very first commentary on Galatians that a person should read. As a follower of Jesus, the traditional Lutheran approach to Galatians (advocated by Moo, Schreiner, etc) has failed my walk with Christ. This approach completely crumbles under the weight of reading the text exegetically, instead of forcing systematic theology back into the text. The traditional Lutheran approach is completely destroyed by Galatians 5:6 which says that “the only thing that matters, is faith ***WORKING*** through love.” If Paul was so hostile to “good works,” or was worried that Christians could be led to believe that their good works save them, then he would not be advocating for “good WORKS” in Galatians 5:6!!! Paul is not against “good works.” We were saved by grace through faith, and predestined to do good works (Eph 2:8-10)! While we can appreciate scholars such as Moo and Schreiner, who attempt to place exegesis in the service of the church, sometimes they prioritize the church over Scripture and exegesis. Dogma and “orthodoxy” are given priority over the clear Word of God. They cannot come to terms with the fact that Paul never converted from Judaism to Christianity (so to speak), but that Paul became a “TRUE” Jew (Rom 2:29-30) who never saw himself as abandoning the Law, but as one who saw himself NOW as truly fulfilling what the Law requires (Galatians 5:14). If you want to better understand your own relationship to the Law as a follower of Jesus today, this commentary will greatly aid in your understanding.
First Corinthians. AYB. Yale University Press, 2008.
I agree with Thiselton and Bowman below. This work is the “best commentary representing mainstream critical scholarship,” but that it “doesn’t break new ground.” Therefore, Fee’s 2014 NICNT (only minimally changed) and Thiselton’s NIGTC remain the best commentaries (see my review of those works for reasons why). I recommend purchasing Fitzmyer digitally or getting a library copy if you want to read it in print. An excellent commentary over all, and worthy of reading; although you will not be missing too much if you decide to put Fitzmyer on the bench for a while while you read other works on 1 Corinthians ahead of his.
Durken, Daniel. ed. First and Second Corinthians. NColBC. Liturgical Press, 2005.
An absolutely phenomenal overview of 1-2 Corinthians for its length. This is not priority reading for your studies, but it can be read with benefit whenever you so desire. It helps you refine your birds-eye view and approach to the letter. However, it will best profit Bible study leaders who need a concise guide as they spend a few weeks in 1 or 2 Corinthians in their small group. Definitely recommended.
1–2 Corinthians. NCBC. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
If, as I stated in my review of Fee, that commentaries should explain the text, then Keener’s work is more of a reference volume. This is why I deduct a star; for Keener’s work is less a commentary and more an encyclopedia. Nevertheless, we know that whatever Keener produces will be worthy of attention. This is then required reading for your 1 Corinthians studies. But if you are seeking an actual mid-level commentary, then Oropeza is recommended. Check out Keener when you can though!
First Corinthians. PAI. Baker Academic, 2012.
I am certainly not on board with every interpretation here, but this is a very stimulating and worthwhile read. If commentaries did not differ from each other, what would be the point?! A great addition to mid-level commentaries on 1 Corinthians. It really gets you to think through the issues again, and make sure you have covered all your bases. The format of the series makes for an enjoyable and accessible read.
1 Corinthians. NIVAC. Zondervan, 1995.
Of the 3 years I have been using this site, I have always appreciated Graham Ware’s reviews. Over the past year, I have come to consider his reviews to be the most reliable on this site (besides the seminaries and scholars of course). To put it as plainly, I wouldn’t recommend this volume for purchase. The commentary on 1 Corinthians 15 is worth attention - as it on resurrection - and Blomberg has expertise in the Gospels (which deal with resurrection). Besides that, however, I think that Blomberg is better on the Gospels: I think that he has missed Paul badly in this commentary. Thiselton’s Shorter-Pastoral commentary is the first choice for application.
1 Corinthians. ZECNT. Zondervan, 2018.
In my Amazon review of this commentary, I gave the work three stars. I did that because I needed the readers to understand that I was writing a critical review, and that the work was overrated. It was receiving too many undeserved accolades. Here the story is different, however. It has only received one review! Therefore I can give a different (and unpolemical) review here. [This does not mean that my words were dishonest there, just that they were for a reason that is not needed here]. That said, I would recommend this work prior to Garland. For Garland is primarily a product of Fee+Thiselton. Gardner, however, actually offers his own original commentary and he offers the reader much more than Garland does (ie. Application, flow of the text, etc). I would consider Gardner to be in the Top 5 exegetical commentaries (1-Thiselton, 2-Fee, 3- Fitzmyer, 4-Robertson Plummer, and 5- Gardner). I recommend Gardner prior to Ciampa-Rosner because ZECNT does not use transliteration, and because ZECNT offers more features than PNTC (I greatly dislike transliteration). Thus I give priority to Gardner over Collins (SP) for the same reason; and also because Gardner is not a Catholic. If you have Fee and Thiselton, Gardner will not add much to your exegetical studies. If you are a preacher and feel the insatiable desire to have Gardner on your shelf because of sermon preparation then I would recommend the following, but you DO NOT need any more than these commentaries on your shelf if you are a *preacher* (who is not planning on spending years in 1 Corinthians): (1) Thiselton, (2) Fee, (3) Gardner, (4) Thiselton Shorter-Pastoral Commentary, (5) Oropeza
1 Corinthians. TNTC. IVP Academic, 2018.
If you are going to read 375 pages of 1 Corinthians commentary, your time will be better spent most other mid-level commentaries (eg. Barrett, Hays, Thiselton-Pastoral, Horsley, Oropeza, Keener, Witherington, and Taylor). This commentary fills a spot in the renewed Tyndale series, but it does not really make a contribution to 1 Corinthians studies. There are better choices available. I’d recommend Oropeza first
1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary. Eerdmans, 2006.
This is the best commentary for application suggestions available. It should be purchased ahead of Blomberg’s NIVAC and even the new ZECNT, because Thiselton is the more reliable interpreter of 1 Corinthians. This means that his applications will more likely be based upon solid interpretation of the text than the others.
1 Corinthians. NCCS. Wipf & Stock, 2017.
The best mid-level commentary available for the preacher. Highly recommended!
The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 2000.
The weakest aspect of this work is the textual criticism. Thiselton usually just resorts to the Metzger Textual Commentary. In this regard, Fee’s decisions are going to be more reliable. In spite of that, this is without a doubt the best exegetical resource on 1 Corinthians (though I believe Clarke will surpass Thiselton when he is published). Fee and Thiselton are all you “need” on your shelf. Other commentaries can be acquired/ read digitally or from the library (the amount of overlap and repetitive material is not worth your shelf space and money right out of the gate).
A Week in the Life of Corinth. IVP Academic, 2012.
A highly accessible and informative read. Check it out!
The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1987.
Being recommended by Carson in 2013 and Princeton in 2017, this commentary will likely remain the best introduction to interpreting 1 Corinthians for another 50 years. The only rival we can see as of now is Craig Keener (assuming that he is still working on a 1 Corinthians commentary). It has been a classic, and will remain one, because it is the most accessible/ yet thorough, humble/ yet direct, and theologically trustworthy work available to the Christian reader. Though Thiselton (and the forthcoming work by Clarke) will be the best exegetical resources for 1 Corinthians, Fee is the best ‘commentary.’ For a commentary should fundamentally ‘explain the text.’ It should not be an encyclopedia or a collection of various essays on the numerous issues in the text. It should not be a ‘commentary on commentaries’ - interacting with other views so often that the reader loses sight of the text. In this regard, Fee’s commentary has no rival. It is the best commentary. Garland is often seen as Fee’s rival, but wrongly so. Garland came after Thiselton and Fee and has simply mined their treasure. His contribution is minimal and the format of his commentary is frustrating to read. It is more cluttered. While Fee does drag on a couple of times, the NICNT is much more readable and coherent than the BECNT. If you are trying to decide between Fee and the other works (PNTC, BECNT, SP, etc) make Fee your first choice. You will not regret it. (Ps- Fee is an expert in Textual Criticism. He does not make ‘lapses in judgement’ in his Textual decisions, as Carson wrongly claimed. Carson is a linguist, not a textual critic, and his statement carries little weight. That was said nearly 20 years ago; perhaps Carson should revise those words he wrote in his 1996 commentary survey. Daniel Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics) has called Fee one of his heroes in Textual Criticism. I say this so that you will be more patient in your critique of Fee regarding 1 Corinthians 14:34-35)