Aquinas on the Pastorals

Saint Augustine Press has published a new English translation of Thomas Aquinas’ Commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (pb., 222 pp).  The commentaries are actually lecture notes which are briefer than typical commentaries. However, this is a significant source for those involved in the academic study of these letters, precisely because so many of his concerns and our concerns are different.  This is C. S. Lewis’ point in urging us to read old books- to judge the balance of our concerns by comparison with the thoughts of those in previous days.


So far I have dipped into various places and have been intrigued.  Aquinas’ comments on 1 Timothy 2 will shock many modern readers.  He seems to have no problem with bishops being married in his discussion of 1Timothy 3.  One value of these notes is all the quotes from the OT, Apocrypha, and Greek philosophers which Aquinas supplies.  This could be a real help to those seeking background parallels.

First Timothy Written to Timothy?

Yep, back on this horse again (see here). The pastor of the church I attend has begun a series on First Timothy. This week we were on 1Ti 1.3-9, but during the sermon I drifted a bit (not much, don’t worry) to think about the intended recipient.

Many people say that First Timothy was written not really to Timothy, but primarily to the church in Ephesus. That is, there is so much in the letter that likely would’ve been elementary to Timothy (who had been Paul’s right-hand man for years by this point) the only reason for it being in there is for Paul to communicate to the church at Ephesus what he had in store for them — what Timothy was going to do — so that Timothy would then be in the clear, authority-wise, to go ahead and do it. (Or something like that)

But, if you look at the overall structure of the grammar in the letter, particularly person/number quality of verbs, it really does sound like it was written to Timothy and not to a group that included Timothy as leader.

In church today, I realized (duh) that communication today is much different than communication in the early Christian era. I agree that Timothy likely knew what his job was, and what Paul expected him to do. But with Paul gone, and for all intents and purposes out of reliable, regular contact; what better form for Timothy to have with him then a letter that clearly, plainly spelled out what Timothy was to do in order to get the Ephesian church back in line?

While Timothy knew the task, what would he do when he was challenged, say, six months into the task, by the false-doctrine purveyors he was attempting to extricate from the church? He could re-consult the letter, and say, "No, Paul really does want me to do this. It really is important. It really is tough. But he’s clear, this is what I’m to do."

This has much in common with P.Tebt.703 (and also here), which was a letter written from a superior to his lieutenant. In simple language it laid out clearly and plainly the expectations the superior has for his underling. The underling surely knew what he was supposed to do, but (as with First Timothy) the letter could also be consulted in the midst of the task to clarify or recall those long-since-forgotten (or at least hazily-remembered) instructions of the superior. After all, he couldn’t send an email, make a phone call, or do a google search to remind himself.

I’m not saying this is exactly the sort of purpose for which First Timothy was written. But it does help me (at this point, anyway) make more sense of the grammar and tone of the letter which seems to say so many things that would be so obvious to Timothy, at least at the time of writing. I’ll have to re-check some commentaries (particularly Witherington and Towner, which as I recall reference P.Tebt.703) to recall once again how the bring P.Tebt.703 into the discussion.

Conference Exposition of 2 Timothy

On a more popular level, I notice that the Gospel Coalition conference next Spring will focus on an exposition of 2 Timothy.  The conference theme is “Entrusted with the Gospel: Living the Vision of Second Timothy.”  You can follow the link to see the speakers and which text each one will have.  The sessions work progressively through the letter.

This sounds like a good conference and it is encouraging to see such a setting mining the riches of this wonderful letter.

HT: James Grant

The manuscript . . .

The manuscript for my commentary, Reading Paul’s Letters to Individuals: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Letters to Philemon, Titus, and Timothy, is officially in the mail to Smyth and Helwys.

S&H expects the commentary to be available in October, just in time for SBL. Maybe I’ll need to go to Boston after all.

This is the commentary that Glenn Hinson was supposed to write, then Marty Soards. Both ended up not filling the contract. Then Hulitt Gloer wrote a manuscript, but was not able to finish it for health reasons.

So in January–you may recall–the editor of the series, Charles Talbert (who was my doctorfather at Baylor) asked if I could finish Gloer’s manuscript.  And I’ve spent the last few months doing so.

I’d originally hoped to have 300 – 325 double spaced pages, and ended up with 425: OUCH! Did I type all that stuff?

What’s innovative or fresh about the commentary? Two things, off the top of my head:

First, it is a scholarly commentary, interacting extensively with primary sources (Philo and Josephus, especially) and cutting-edge secondary sources (e.g., Bruce Winter’s work on the new Roman woman), BUT the exposition is aimed at preachers and teachers. This would be the first commentary I would recommend for people who want to preach these letters.

Second, this is the first commentary on the Pastorals to take into account the role that succession plays in these letters.