When it comes to the interpretation of the Bible (let alone any text) context is king. Over the years scholars have grown to realize the importance of the social context in which the Bible speaks to and is written in. Once of the more well known scholars who has taken great strides in exploring the social context of the New Testament is Ben Witherington III. His social-rhetorical commentaries on MarkActs, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philemon/Colossians/Ephesians, Hebrews/James/Jude, Titus/1&2 Timothy/1-3 John, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Peter and Philippians have made major advancements in opening the readers eyes to the social world of the New Testament.

It is without a doubt that 1 & 2 Corinthians pose some of the most difficult NT letters to interpret as the social aspect of the books play a major role in their interpretation. As such, their difficulty lies in the fact that we are 2,000 years removed from the social world of Corinth. While the above mentions commentaries have proved to be very helpful Witherington has taken up the task of putting some of the major bits of social information into narrative form as he writes a fictional story with historical characters set within the context of Corinth. A Week In the Life of Corinth serves to distill his social-rhetorical commentary into fictional form so the reader can see the social context from a more insiders view.

Nicanor is the major character who is a former slave, and unbeliever, working for Erastos a political candidate for a highly prized position. The book walks the reader through the a week of Nicanor’s life as it would have been in his social position. Throughout the week we see how a number of the major facets of social life play out: slavery, political ranking, religion, the Roman games, commerce and even how Christianity would have been viewed by unbelievers.

Throughout the book we view Corinth through the Apostle Paul’s eyes as well as his work and Christian companions Priscilla and Aqulia. Through Paul’s eyes, Witherington gives us a view into how the situation of the Lord’s Supper, Paul’s writing of his letters, Paul’s appearance before Gallio and church live on Sunday might have looked like (including speaking in tongues). Readers will be amazed at the extent of the social and historical detail Witherington is able to weave into this fictional story.

For those who have studied the Corinthian church the way in which this book presents the setting will shed more light on already familiar information. For those who are new to the study of Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church, A Week in the Life of Corinth is a great place to start for social-cultural background studies. What’s more, though the books primary goal is to expose readers to the social world of Corinth, this emphasis does not take away from the fictional story of Nicanor’s life.

As one who has studied Corinthians in a seminary class and read Witherington’s social-rhetorical commentary on Corinthians this is a great addition to further studies on this socially complex book. The story is gripping and the information is illuminating! We need more of this!

NOTE: I received this book from IVP for free and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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