In seminary I took an exegesis course on 1 Corinthians with Dr. Sean McDonough. We read Thiselton, but I benefited much from engaging with Gordon Fee’s magisterial NICNT volume for my exegesis paper. It demonstrated Fee’s expertise in textual criticism, his comprehensive exegesis approach, and how the text shapes Christian life and guides Christian ministry. This fall saw the release of the revised edition of Fee’s NICNT volume – over 25 years after the original (1987). Here’s the million-dollar question, what’s new? Three areas of note:
–Translation – Fee switched to the 2011 version of the NIV for the revision. This might not sound like a big deal, but in the new edition’s preface he mentions how disappointed he was with the previous translation of 1 Corinthians in the NIV. Fee explains that the 1987 NIV translation was “more poorly done in this letter than anywhere else in the entire canon” (p. xvi) – Yikes!
–Chapter and verse – Fee has tried to eliminate language of “chapter and verse” because he passionately believes this mentality hinders our understanding of whole texts.
–Updates – Fee has tried to engage with scholarship since 1987, but acknowledges that being exhaustive is impossible. He notes, “the bibliography has in the past twenty-five years multiplied over 300 percent in relationship to all such materials in the preceding two centuries!” (xvii). I did some poking around here and there to see how much additional material I could find. Working from the index, I noted that Fee includes lots of extra interaction in footnotes with folks like Richard Hays, Ray Collins, Thiselton, Garland, etc. There also is the inclusion of a couple of addenda where Fee gives a quick weigh-in on an issue that has arose or changed directions in recent years. He adds very little on these topics, but his desire is mostly to add in additional bibliographic items of note.
One additional note: Fee advocates for a view of the underlying problems related to the Corinthian community as a form of overrealized eschatology. I know that, in the years following his commentary, there has been some pushback (I am thinking of Hays at least here, but others too). I did not see evidence that Fee defended his position beyond the original discussion.
Given that the first edition has been influential and still stands as one of the finest and most thorough expositions of the text, it deserves to be reprinted. While the second edition is not a comprehensive revision, clearly Fee has tried to engage with some of the most important commentaries in the last quarter of a century. If you do not own Fee’s work on 1 Corinthians, this is a good opportunity to get it now.
It should go without saying, but Fee is one of the finest New Testament interpreters in all of history. I am sad never to have had him as a seminary professor, but his writings have had a strong impact on my approach to the New Testament and exegesis. May his influence continue for many generations.
At SBL this year, there was a session in appreciation of Gordon Fee where Fee himself gave a few words of address at the end. For your viewing pleasure, see below.