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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 52, 2004

Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians. NT Library. (Louisville: WJK Press, 2003). Pp. Xx+332. $US39.95.

Like most commentators, Frank J. Matera sees the main topic of 2 Corinthians as “apostolic ministry,” an issue relevant to “the contemporary church … struggling with many of the same problems” (p. 1). The helpful Bibliography (pp. xiii–xx) includes classic and recent commentaries besides monographs and articles mainly from the fifteen years prior to publication. Bornkamm’s article (p. xvi) should have the title, “The History of the Origin of the so-called Second Letter to the Corinthians” (1961–62). Other corrections required include: chs 8 and 9 for 7 and 8 (p. 28, l. 2); 7:3 for 7:2 (p. 159, l. 3 ab infra); 12:2 and 12:3–4 for 12:3 and 12:4 (repeatedly, pp. 278–79); insertion of a negative (“did [not] see fit,” p. 287, l. 6); and various transliterations of Greek and Hebrew.

The Introduction (pp. 1–32) covers: ministry and conflict; historical background and literary-theological argument (the structural outline being repeated from the table of contents); theology; issues common to 1 and 2 Corinthians, and events between 1 and 2 Corinthians; the competing “super-apostles” as Jewish-Christian missionaries; and an outline of partition theories and Matera’s arguments for the integrity of 2 Corinthians.

The Commentary proper (pp. 35–314) has an introduction to each Part (e.g., 1:12–7.16) and Section (e.g., 1:12–2:13) and, after the translation and linguistic notes, to each Unit (e.g., 1:12–14). The subsequent commentary on the Unit frequently concludes with a summary. This structure entails unnecessary repetition. Numerous three-fold divisions of the text sometimes appear to be a means of managing the material rather than being inherent in the text. The category “ring pattern” is used loosely and too often. The translation presents Matera’s understanding of individual phrases, but it does not read smoothly as a whole. There is room for disagreement with some grammatical notes, especially concerning what constitutes an “objective genitive” (e.g., pp. 144, 314).

Overall the commentary operates at the surface of the text. For more depth and detail the reader is referred to other commentaries and studies. Prominent among the partition theories which Matera rejects is the “Bornkamm-Schmithals Hypothesis” of five separate letter-fragments: 2 Cor 2:14–7:4 omitting 6:14–7:1 (Paul’s reaction to competing Jewish-Christian missionaries); 2 Cor 10–13 (possibly the main part of the “tearful” letter); 2 Cor 1:1–2:13 and 7:5–16 (main part of the letter of reconciliation); 2 Cor 8 (letter to Corinth on the collection); 2 Cor 9 (letter to Achaea on the collection). Matera does not adequately account for the abrupt changes of tone and content between these proposed divisions. By fairly presenting alternative views of the integrity of the letter and of the chronological sequence of material and events, Matera leaves the impression that another view may be as valid as his own (cf. p. 32, n. 26). Conversely, theories of partition often do not explain how and why letter fragments were arranged in their present sequence; for this purpose, see Bornkamm’s article listed on p. xvi (and noted above). Matera’s commentary has not convincingly overcome this impasse. Finally, the fact that Margaret E. Thrall’s commentary is the most frequently cited work is a recommendation to the reader: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (ICC; 2 vols; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994, 2000).

Review by
Darryl W. Palmer
The University of Melbourne VIC 3010, Australia