Vincent BRANICK: First Corinthians. Spiritual Commentaries on the Bible Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001. Pp. 152. $11.95. PB. ISBN 1-56548-162-3
Reviewed by Kim PAFFENROTH, Iona College, New Rochelle, NY 10801

This eminently readable little commentary begins with a historical introduction to the situation in Corinth, a review of Paul's apocalypticism and theology, a discussion of the conventions and forms of Paul's letter writing, and a very brief overview of his other letters. The book then gives exegesis of the letter, including the NAB translation throughout (though the author frequently offers his own suggestions for a better translation and gives transliterated Greek occasionally to make his point). At the end of each section of exegesis there is a paragraph labeled "For reflection," in which the author suggests present day questions and applications for that section of the letter. The book ends with a very brief bibliography of works in English.

This is a remarkably thorough and helpful commentary in such a small package. With astonishing brevity, the author makes the findings of historical and linguistic research available to the average reader and, more importantly, uses that research to illuminate the epistle. Any reader would benefit from his straightforward and clear insights into the text. And the author's sensitivity to the continuity and differences between Paul's age and our own is, to me at least, astute and balanced, as he shows his respect for Paul and his message at the same time as he criticizes or qualifies it. On 1 Cor 11:2-16, he is frank about the distastefulness of Paul's pronouncement, but shows how in some important ways Paul is undercutting the hierarchical presuppositions of his own culture. The author is not above even saying that Paul was engaging in the same bad behavior that others do: ". . . he pulls the plug on further discussion - an easy trap that people in authority can fall into" (p. 95). On 1 Cor 14:34-35, the author is also not above excluding the verses as post-Pauline (pp. 124-25). And his "For reflection" paragraphs are consistently as thoughtful and challenging as they are pious. I highly recommend this commentary to ordinary people interested in Paul.

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