1, 2 Timothy, Titus
By Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, Jr
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
5.1 (Spring 1994) : 107-109
The editorial staff projects the NAC series to reach forty volumes in all. The earlier American Commentary, edited by Alvah Hovey, appeared around the beginning of the twentieth century. A notable contribution of that earlier series was John Broadus' work on Matthew, still available and helpful in reprint form today. The NAC's claim is that its authors and editors are scholars committed to the "divine inspiration, inerrancy, complete truthfulness, and full authority of the Bible" (Editor's Preface, 1). The Bible is "a sure, safe guide even in issues that touch on history and related issues of truth" (239). In vol. 34, the writers bear down on the practical implications of the Pastoral Epistles for the believer's experience and growth and for church leaders' guidance. The intended audience is primarily pastors, students, and Christians in general.
Lea who wrote 1 and 2 Timothy (1 Timothy, 61-178; 2 Timothy, 179-261) is Professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth. Griffin, a layman with an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a PhD in NT from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, has written on Titus (263-333).
The work is succinct and to the point and has a flowing, readable style. It omits lengthy comments on exegetical details, theology, and word studies. An aim is to crystalize the doctrinal import of each section. Frequent footnotes reflect literature well through the late 1980's, often containing choice insights. The writers sum up the argument at the outset of each major section so as to draw things into focus.
This survey of the three epistles is knowledgeable and faithful in helping understand the progression of thought as well as specific matters of Christian concern. The comments reflect broad reading and careful inquiry done by the authors.
The introductions handle some key issues that arise frequently in scholarly discussions. An example is Lea's refutations of five reasons advanced against the Pauline authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy. He examines the theory of a pseudonymous writer and concludes that the early church would have resoundingly rejected such a possibility. A section of "Theological Themes of the Pastorals" (45-51) covers the Trinity, Gospel, Christian Life, Eschatology, Church Government, and Salvation. On eschatology, Lea argues that Paul did not change from his earlier epistles in his expectation of an imminent return of Christ to an anticipation of death in these epistles (cf. 2 Tim 4:8) and a prolonged period before that return (48-49). Brief summaries of all three epistles and a one-page outline of each will be useful to expositors (54-60). Among other aids are a selected subject index, person index, and Scripture index.
Compacted comments often cover the most crucial views and relevant details. Examples of such include comments on 1 Tim 1:4, "myths and endless genealogies"; 2:2, exclusion of women from formal structured teaching in the church, as in the senior-pastor role (100, 104); 3:2, a "one-woman kind of man" faithful to his wife; and 4:16, the relation between lifestyle and salvation by grace. Sometimes comments do not explain clearly, but take the form of vague generalities provoking more perplexity. One instance of this is 1 Tim 1:8 where an explanation of why the law was not made for the righteous is missing. Another is 2 Tim 4:8 which lacks clarification of why Kelly's cited view (i.e., a "crown in recognition of a righteous life") is preferred as "more convincing" than Fee's (i.e., a crown as a gift consisting of ultimate righteousness awarded by Christ the Judge).
Inadvertent errors sometimes occur in a work such as this, errors such as pointing readers to "Excursus 5" on the inspiration of Scripture, etc. (235) and then later changing that to "Excursus 6" (238).
Remarks on women in Tit 2:4-5 are fairly clear. Griffin comments judiciously on seven characteristics of women, four implicitly presupposing their being married and raising a family. He is helpful both on the equality of the sexes and women's not being inferior (Gal 3:28) and on distinctive features marking the sexes as to God-given order and responsibility, with wives in subjection to their own husbands in the home. He also gives good comments on God's grace teaching believers along lines of godliness (Tit 2:12).
All in all, this is a brief but lucid product, among the top three or four popular expositions. In survey form it packs in enough competent remarks on leading issues to make it worth frequent reading. It will be particularly useful for pastors, Bible study leaders, students, and lay readers.