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Best Commentaries on Paul with Nijay Gupta: Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus)

The Pastoral Epistles have long been regarded as wise instruction for the benefit of the church. But in the last two centuries these texts have often been sidelined in the academy due to suspicions of pseudepigraphal (false) authorship and seemingly negative sentiments towards women. On the other hand, the 21st century has seen numerous detailed commentaries that are a harbinger of renewed interest.


Technical

Luke Timothy Johnson (AB) [authentic]. In this technical study of 1-2 Timothy (Titus is not included in his volume), Johnson offers one of the most extensive arguments in favor of Pauline authorship of these texts. The commentary itself presents Johnson’s thoughtful exegetical discussion of the text, which is historical-critical in general, but also attentive to important theological questions.


I.H. Marshall (ICC) [Other]. Marshall has written numerous NT commentaries and is also an expert in Pauline theology. In this multi-volume set, Marshall places a heavy focus on historical-critical analysis and examination of the Greek text. But he does not neglect key theological conversations. He argues that Paul did not write these letters, and that a better term for this situation is “allonymity”—not false authorship, but authorship by another person. The author of these letters, according to Marshall, had no deceptive intention.


Philip Towner (NICNT) [authentic]. Towner has devoted many years to the study of these letters and is considered an expert within the evangelical tradition. Towner offers robust arguments for Pauline authorship, plausible theories about the situations behind these texts, and is thoughtful about the theological relevance of their messages for today.


Own it: Johnson

Semi-Technical

James D. G. Dunn (NIB) [pseudonymous]. Dunn engages in his usual exegetical and theological perceptivity, offering one of the more valuable contributions to the study of the Pastorals that is sadly buried within NIB volume 11 (often not reviewed because it contains several Pauline letters examined by different scholars in one volume).


J. N. D. Kelly (BNTC) [authentic]. Kelly, a late 20th-century scholar of early Christianity, offers a wise and balanced albeit brief study of the Pastorals. 


Aída B. Spencer (NCCS) [authentic]. Spencer is especially known for her scholarship on 2 Corinthians and her work on the subject of women in Scripture.


Robert Wall and Richard Steele (THNT) [canonical approach]. Wall, who is well known for his “canonical” reading of Scripture, is responsible for the theological exposition of the Pastorals in the commentary. Steele, a historical theologian, adds insightful case studies in the interpretation of these texts. 


Own it: Dunn

Non-Technical

Gordon D. Fee (UBC; formerly NIBC) [authentic]. This is a very short volume, but in spite of its modest size it contains Fee’s typical energetic style. I find myself returning to this commentary often for sensible exposition of the Pauline text.


Thomas Oden (Interpretation) [authentic]. Well-known Methodist theologian Thomas Oden offers a more thematic approach in his accessible study of Pastorals. Oden focuses on the following themes: the authority of the apostolic tradition, Christian preaching, pastoral care, and “the right ordering of ministry.”


Philip Towner (IVPNT) [authentic]. This lay-level commentary is a concise version of Towner’s NICNT commentary.


Own It: Fee

Hidden Gems

Paul Trebilco, a recognized social historian of early Christianity, has produced a helpful (albeit brief) commentary on 1 Timothy for the Asia Bible Commentary series. (Unfortunately it is not widely available in the US).


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Written by
Nijay Gupta

Nijay Gupta is Associate Professor of New Testament at Portland Seminary, George Fox University.

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Written by Nijay Gupta