The Pastoral Epistles, First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus. Sacra Pagina

By Benjamin Fiore
Collegeville, Minn. : Liturgical (2007). xxi + 253 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
20.2 (Fall 2009) : 267-268

One of the occasional lacks in some of the more conservative branches of evangelicalism is to ignore the contributions of scholars from other traditions, particularly those of the Roman Catholic tradition. This antipathy or perhaps more charitably apathy, of course, has a long history from the Reformation and the obvious theological differences as detailed in the Council of Trent (1545-63), largely restated in Vatican I (1869-1870) and Vatican II (1962-1965). One small but nonetheless significant movement in Vatican II was the pronouncement that all people within the church were to have full and easy access to the Scriptures.

An exceedingly useful byproduct of that decree has been a resurgence of biblical commentaries from a new generation of Catholic scholars. One commentary series, Sacra Pagina (The Sacred Page), edited by Daniel J. Harrington, has been an excellent addition to the commentaries. Harrington states that the purpose of the series is to perform a “close exposition” and “maintain a focus on the issues raised by the New Testament compositions themselves” (xi). In commenting on the series D. A. Carson states, “[T]he commentaries include fresh translation, critical analysis, and theologically sensitive exposition within the Roman Catholic tradition” (Carson, NT Commentaries 28).

The author, President of Campton College at the University of Regina in Canada, has produced an exceedingly useful and detailed work on the Pastoral Epistles. He presents the commentary in the canonical rather than chronological order and presents thorough background and introductory material. The sections are short, and in the commentary portion the author provides his own translation, which, he attempts to “stay as close to the Greek text as possible” (3). The translation is followed by a section of notes where he deals with lexical, grammatical, and historical issues and points of background. He then follows with an interpretative summary. The author has then placed a bibliography at the end of each chapter. The bibliography is detailed with periodical and other literature for each section, which this reviewer finds useful. The author includes helpful Scripture and Ancient Literature, Person, and Subject indexes.

In the notes the author brings a wide range of classical (which was his primary training) and patristic literature to bear. This work is detailed and technical, but does not demand a detailed knowledge of the G reek text to be used with profit (all of the G reek words and phrases are transliterated).

That evangelicals in general and the typical audience of this Journal in particular will differ significantly with the Catholic viewpoints and interpretations is obvious. However, this is a volume and a larger series that serious students of the Bible need to consult in their sermon and lesson preparations. Anyone should profit from insights into the text and the fruits of significant research and study.