First and Second Letters to Timothy by Quinn and Wacker

First and Second Letters to Timothy (Eerdmans Critical Commentary) by J.D. Quinn and W.C. Wacker (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2000).

This is the inaugural volume in a prestigous new series of commentaries from Eerdmans which aim to provide “expert insight into the background, interpretation, and contemporary application of the Scriptures.”  This first volume is strange in that one of the authors, Jerome Quinn, died some twelve years ago.  Before then, however, he had not only written the Anchor Bible Commentary on Titus but also the first draft of this present work, which is similar in format to the Anchor series with fresh translations followed by sections of notes and comments.  William Wacker was Msgr. Quinn’s last student at the Roman Catholic St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota, USA, and has co-authored this work in a complicated manner, the full explanation of which is best left to his own preface.  Given the Roman Catholic authorship, the book comes complete with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur stating that nothing contrary to Catholic doctrinal or moral teaching has been found within it – something which may cause readers of Churchman to be suspicious rather than reassured!

This is a massive work with over 50 pages of bibliography and three indexes of nearly 80 pages.  It is full of detailed interaction with scholarship both ancient and modern, is fully conversant with the major issues of authorship, style, grammar, and background, and gives great attention to philological detail.  This will ensure Quinn and Wacker a place among the heavyweights of Pastoral Epistle studies for many years to come.  As far as the preacher is concerned, there is perhaps too much of an emphasis on word studies at the expense of theology, and the explicit promise of contemporary application seems for the most part illusory.  For the scholar, it is a puzzle why a serious heavyweight commentary like this one should be afraid to write Greek words in Greek letters (compare the NICNT series which transliterates in the main body of the text, but uses Greek in the footnotes).  Headers on each page showing chapter and verse numbers would assist the reader to navigate this thick tome, in which it is easy to get lost and difficult to find precisely what one is looking for.  The lack of footnotes also makes it difficult to see the forest for the trees.


It would take several pages to discuss the noteworthy points made in such a large commentary, but readers may be interested to know that the Pastorals were not written by the Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 2:12 is about Christian wives “bossing” their husbands around, 1 Timothy 6:11-16 is an ordination charge from the second Christian generation (cf. Käsemann), and the “evil desires of youth” in 2 Timothy 2:22 include “the sexual excesses to which youths may be particularly inclined but also to impatience, self-assertion, and self-indulgence… not to mention the hunger for novelty; the contempt for routine; the obdurate, implacable intransigence; the agitation verging on violence [and] the lack of prudent measure… which mark the immature”.  On this last point, the commentary notes that such qualities are not the monopoly of the young but are also abominable in “a dirty old man”, and hence this verse does not mean that the letter was necessarily directed to a man under 40!  So, all in all, there are some stimulating points here if one is prepared to wade through nearly 1000 pages of detail.  The busy pastor-teacher will perhaps want to look elsewhere for help on these crucial epistles.           

This review was first published in Churchman 115/2 (2001).


Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews: New Testament

Comments are closed.