Andy Naselli on his new concise commentary on 1 Corinthians

"I’m sharing this backstory in case you’re interested in what might go into a book like this. Crossway invited me to write this commentary in October 2013. There were three basic phases between then and now..." - Naselli

4542 reads

There are 40 Comments

T Howard's picture

dcbii wrote:
I get what you are saying about the cake vs. the ingredients, but what type of point is being made makes a difference.  If it's to convince me about something like the timing of the rapture, or whether there are two 2nd comings, etc. it's quite different from something that affects how I live the Christian life.

There is no Bible doctrine or appropriate application to Christian life that stands or falls on a textual, linguistic, or grammatical nuance in Scripture. In other words, if someone claims to have found a "golden nugget" in the original languages that provides some new understanding of doctrine or Christian living, you're probably correct to conclude this person doesn't know how to properly use the original languages. This is especially true with word studies or appeals to verbal tense/form. It's common in our fundagelical churches to hear about the "real meaning" of biblical love based on someone's word study of ἀγάπη or ἀγαπάω, or better yet, to hear about the true meaning of the church by studying the etymology of ἐκκλησία. I've also heard guys wax eloquent on the meaning of the present tense/form of a Greek verb. Most of this profundity is rubbish.

Knowing the original languages helps bring valuable clarity and insight to the pastor as he studies his passage. As Dr. Rod Decker was fond of saying, if a pastor doesn't know how to use the original languages, his study of Scripture is like a husband kissing his bride through her veil. Knowing how to properly use the original languages lifts the veil, so to speak. However, Decker also repeatedly warned us about quoting Greek or Hebrew from the pulpit. Some guys do it to impress their congregation and make them appear as if only they have the correct understanding of Scripture because they know the original languages. You don't want to communicate to your people that they need to know the original languages to understand their Bibles.

So, there is both value and limitations to using the original languages.

Andrew K wrote:
My impression when it comes to study of the original languages is that there are two stages in the course of study where it's very useful: 1) to know how to use the various Biblical study tools and not get lost, and 2) after a massive amount of study and/or a particular brilliance or giftedness with languages.

I don't claim particular brilliance or giftedness with languages, but I do have a fascination with the logic of language and the joy of discovery. I enjoy discovering on my own any textual, linguistic, or grammatical issues in a passage I'm preaching. Sure, exegetical commentaries cover most of these, but I enjoy the discovery process, so translating the passage and parsing the verbals is the first step in my sermon prep process. There have been times when my commentaries don't speak to a particular textual, linguistic, or grammatical issue I've discovered. That's when I email Greek scholars like David Alan Black and get their feedback (which, btw, they often graciously provide).

One example: This Sunday, I'm preaching from 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. In verse 6, Paul uses two aorist verbs to describe his and Apollos' role as servants of God. However, when he describes God's role, Paul uses an imperfect verb. Why? Many English translations don't translate the nuance that Paul was communicating with the imperfect and translate the verb as they would an aorist. But, understanding the use and verbal aspect of an imperfect, especially as it's contrasted with two aorists, brings additional clarity to what Paul is saying about his and Apollos' role versus God's role in the church.

Andrew K's picture

T Howard wrote:

I don't claim particular brilliance or giftedness with languages, but I do have a fascination with the logic of language and the joy of discovery. I enjoy discovering on my own any textual, linguistic, or grammatical issues in a passage I'm preaching. Sure, exegetical commentaries cover most of these, but I enjoy the discovery process, so translating the passage and parsing the verbals is the first step in my sermon prep process. There have been times when my commentaries don't speak to a particular textual, linguistic, or grammatical issue I've discovered. That's when I email Greek scholars like David Alan Black and get their feedback (which, btw, they often graciously provide).

Yes, but that's exactly what someone gifted with languages would say. ;) 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

T Howard wrote:

One example: This Sunday, I'm preaching from 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. In verse 6, Paul uses two aorist verbs to describe his and Apollos' role as servants of God. However, when he describes God's role, Paul uses an imperfect verb. Why? Many English translations don't translate the nuance that Paul was communicating with the imperfect and translate the verb as they would an aorist. But, understanding the use and verbal aspect of an imperfect, especially as it's contrasted with two aorists, brings additional clarity to what Paul is saying about his and Apollos' role versus God's role in the church.

Perfect example.  A (very) brief diversion to give a quick explanation as to the difference and why it's important would be appreciated by some (or even many depending on the makeup of your congregation).  I'm guessing a few sentences would be enough.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

The hardest situation I had with this was when I preached the Hebrews warning passages many years ago. I take the position they are warnings of temporal judgment to believers. A lot of interpretive decisions go into how the English translations handle those texts. It's one of those times where you MUST make a decision. I don't think I edified anybody and I handled it badly, because I had to explain why their Bibles didn't read a different way. I was telling them their Bibles were wrong! It was a big failure, in that I doubt it edified anybody or moved them to any action at all ... other than confusion. I'm not sure how I would handle it today. Nobody was angry; I just don't think I achieved anything.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

AndyE's picture

I, for one, am very thankful for thorough exegetical commentaries and for the work that someone like Naselli puts into a commentary like this.  What a blessing to the church to care about the text so much that he would go through such an effort in writing this commentary.  There is no way that I could put that kind of effort into my studies and so I'm thankful that someone has and can help explain to me what the exegetical options are for certain difficult passages.  Certainly some commentators are better than others in their ability to be truly helpful, but I have found Naselli's work to be some the best exegetically and profound in explaining the significance of a passage. I hope to get this one some day!

TylerR's picture

Editor

For 1 Corinthians, I have (at least):

  • Barrett
  • Fee (1st ed. NICNT)
  • Garland (BECNT)
  • TDNT
  • EBC
  • Lenski
  • Hendriksen
  • Calvin
  • ZECNT
  • WBC
  • NAC
  • My Greek New Testament

All of these (with the exception of Calvin) were published within the past 35 years. Is there really something that hasn't been said, lurking somewhere in 1 Corinthians? I'm not sure there is a need for a new critical or exegetical commentary on this text. But, there will always be a need for practical commentaries, geared towards normal people. I think that's the goal of the series for which Naselli wrote his commentary. I hope it blesses people.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

I just need quick assistance to teach my children, myself, or a Sunday School class. Good quality devotional commentaries are always needed.

AndyE's picture

For 1 Corinthians, I have Fee and Garland, plus a few others of nominal value.  If I am teaching through and interpreting a difficult passage, I like to see how a variety of people have tackled that passage.  If I am taking a minority position, I want to know it and understand the best arguments for and against that position.  Long ago I determined, just for my own personal Bible study, to get 2-3 good commentaries on each NT book.  That way, I always have something to consult if I have  question about something.  If I am teaching through a book, then I"ll deep dive and get a few more.  One reason for having a whole slew of commentaries is to find at least one that actually deals with the phrase, or idea, you are interested in.  The Bible is pretty much inexhaustible and no commentary covers everything.  I often find that an author might spend multiple pages on one part of a verse and then basically ignore the rest.  All that to say, if I ever teach on 1 Corinthians, I would want to stock up, and this commentary by Nasalli is one I'd try to get!

T Howard's picture

For the first three months in 2020, I preached through 1 Corithians 1-3. This weekend, I'm preaching again in chapter 3.

Before I purchase a commentary I refer to these three websites:

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/top-commentaries-on-every-book-of-the-bible/

https://www.bestcommentaries.com/

https://dbts.edu/basic-library-booklist/

These are the commentaries I purchased (either before or specifically for this series):

  1. TNTC, Schreiner (Schreiner is a NT and Pauline scholar. The TNTC series provides a high-level view of the passage, which I appreciate after wading into the minutia.)
  2. Lexham Research Commentary (compiles the major conclusions of numerous commentaries for each passage.)
  3. BECNT, Garland (solid commentary)
  4. EBC, Mare (Mostly surface-level stuff. Some authors are better than others. This is a quick read through, but I can often find helpful summaries that I work into my sermon notes.)
  5. Revised EBC, Verbrugge (I picked this up only because Logos offered it for $3.) 
  6. NIGTC, Thiselton (here's where you find Tyler's minutia.)
  7. NICNT, Fee (Fee's 1 Cor commentary is well-known and well-regarded. Most newer commentaries have Fee as their foil.)

I consult commentaries after I've translated the passage, parsed the verbs, studied the textual, linguistic, or grammatical issues in the passage, completed any word studies, and created my structural outline of the passage from the Greek. I roughly follow the exegetical process outlined in Text-Driven Preaching. I use the commentaries to "check my work" and to point out anything I might have missed.

TylerR's picture

Editor

A few quick observations:

  1. Younger and/or inexperience preachers rely on commentaries too much. Or, perhaps more accurately, they struggle to know what not to say. You can tell when a preacher has been in the commentaries too much.
  2. Only look at commentaries after you've done your own work. Don't let commentaries shape your understanding at the beginning. Again, a problem younger pastors face.
  3. Languages give you the tools to mull over, dismiss or accept critical points the authors make. You won't be in their league linguistically, but you can follow the discussion intelligently. It's why I rolled my eyes and ignored the long discussions about αὐτάρκης in Phil 4:11, when I preached Phil 4:10-23 this past Sunday. For my purposes, it was irrelevant.
  4. I am now convinced, more than ever, that any 40 min sermon can be cut to 30 and be better. Always. I was quite ruthless during my last sermon, and did it in 27 minutes. I was very pleased. I'll try for 27-33 in my sermons from now on. I think they'll be much better for it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Pages