1 Corinthians -- By: Cynthia Long Westfall
(InterVarsity Press, 2004)
Cynthia Long Westfall is an Assistant Professor at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario.
The InterVarsity Press New Testament Commentaries target pastors, teachers, students, Bible teachers, and small group leaders of all sorts with a combined appeal to heart and scholarship. Two observations stand out about the series in general. First, Johnson and the other authors have successfully been able to present biblical exegesis and discuss thorny interpretive issues in language that is engaging and accessible. Second, the authors who have been selected to write the commentaries on the books that play a major role in the egalitarian conversation are evangelical egalitarians. So much of the discussion surrounding the relationship of men and women in the church, home, and society is not an “easy read,” so these presentations are welcome and effective additions to the conversation.
Alan Johnson is emeritus professor of New Testament and Christian ethics at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His work on 1 Corinthians is particularly engaging. His reference notes and bibliography provide an entry into further study if desired, all while maintaining an appealing readable style. He deftly bridges the two horizons of the Greco-Roman culture and American culture. He skillfully selects and integrates patristic support and anecdotes from church history with his own story, observations, and critiques of our contemporary culture.
Johnson’s treatment of women in the home, church, and society is of special interest. He devotes a significant amount of space to the most relevant passages: 7:1-40, 11:2-16, and 14:34-35, and makes egalitarian observations, connections, and applications in other related passages.
Johnson summarizes with fairness a selective range of the major interpretive views in these highly controversial passages, interacts with them, and then states his own position. Concerning Paul’s discussion on marriage, divorce, remarriage, and singleness as a calling in 7:1-40, he observes that Paul’s egalitarian emphasis in verse 5 “is nothing short of amazing” (110). Johnson’s discussion on the dispute over head attire for men and women in worship in 11:2-16 begins with his personal journey, wherein he went from rejecting women’s leadership in worship to affirming men and women leading in worship as equals. He...
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