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New Testament Commentary Recommendations (9)

1-2 Thessalonians and the Pastoral Epistles

When I preached through First and Second Thessalonians in the late 70's and early 80's there was very little to draw from. That is no longer the case, as we've seen several excellent studies appear in the last fifteen to twenty years.

I was teaching at Wheaton during the time that two of my colleagues were both writing commentaries on the Thessalonian epistles and they top the list of my recommendations. Gene Green has written the longer and more technical of the two for the Pillar series (Eerdmans, 2002, 400 pp.), but I actually prefer G. K. Beale's contribution to The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (IVP, 2003, 279 pp.). Beale is especially good in dealing with texts on eschatological themes.

The most helpful treatment of the Greek text is by Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 1990, 316 pp.), although I've only read him on selected passages. Always good and solid is the older work by F. F. Bruce in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Word Books, 1982, 228 pp.).

There are five good treatments for those not trained in Greek, three of which I used extensively when I preached through these epistles. Leon Morris has written for the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1973 [1959], 274 pp.). He's not exciting to read, but he's always a good conservative guide. Although Arminian in approach, I. Howard Marshall has written a helpful volume in The New Century Bible Commentary series (Eerdmans, 1983, 240 pp.). I also found quite helpful the work by D. Edmond Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles: A Call to Readiness (Moody Press, 1971, 383 pp.), although beware of his dispensational, pretribulational reading of the eschatological texts.

Two more recent works on the English text that I haven't looked at closely are John Stott, The Gospel & The End of Time: The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (IVP, 1991, 220 pp.), and Michael W. Holmes in the NIV Application series (Zondervan, 1998, 302 pp.).

So, the bottom line is this: begin with Beale, Green, and Wanamaker, and look to Stott for helpful pastoral and practical insights.

The Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) were for a long time much neglected by scholars. I'm happy to say that is no longer the case. We now have several, quite substantive, commentaries that are worthy of recommendation.

First on my list is the technical but extremely readable work by William D. Mounce in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, 641 pp.). Mounce provides an excellent discussion of the controversial text on women in ministry and responds at length to egalitarian arguments. Running a close second to Mounce is George W. Knight, III, in the New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1992, 514 pp.).

Equally committed to analysis of the Greek text and every bit as substantive are the commentaries by I. Howard Marshall in the ICC series (T & T Clark, 1999, 869 pp.) and Philip H. Towner in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Eerdmans, 2006, 886 pp.). Both Marshall and Towner explain (away) Paul's prohibition on women teaching and exercising authority over men by arguing that the problem was a local and limited issue of wealthy women assuming a dominant teaching role in which elements of both theological heresy and an over-realized eschatology were found. Be alerted that Marshall also denies Pauline authorship of the Pastorals. Another massive work on the pastorals that I've not yet examined is the combined work of Jerome D. Quinn and William C. Wacker in The Eerdmans Critical Commentary (Eerdmans, 2000, 918 pp.).

Three less technical but helpful treatments of the English text are John Stott, Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (IVP, 1996, 232 pp.; this includes a helpful study guide for each epistle), J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (A & C Black, 1963, 264 pp.), and Walter L. Liefeld in the NIV Application series (Zondervan, 1999, 378 pp.). Not a commentary, but still quite good, is the shorter work by George Knight, The Faithful Sayings in the Pastoral Epistles (Baker, 1979, 167 pp.).

For the ordinary pastor, the size of one's book budget comes into play in making choices about commentaries for the Pastorals. Mounce and Knight are necessities, and I'm inclined to put Marshall in that category. I may come to that conclusion concerning Towner once I've delved into it more deeply. Once again, get Stott for the obvious reasons.