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4 Stars Out Of 5
Almost apologetic for the Wesleyan church
July 15, 2015
This review will focus mostly on my experience with studying 1 Timothy with this commentary.
The writer (two are listed; but they did not co-write) addressed some difficult passages. For example, how should the church respond to 1 Timothy 2:12 in which, it seems, women are prohibited from teaching or having authority over men. Black correctly observes that it would be inconsistent with Paul's teaching to claim this order to apply to all women everywhere. Black concludes that the passage in 1 Timothy is a "temporary injunction based on historical cultural conditions." He considers the possibility that Paul was addressing a Gnostic heresy rising up in Ephesus. Maybe so. He adequately addresses the strange argument that Adam was created first and then Eve. I don't think Black's arguments are especially convincing; but a better argument would certainly be far more complicated (see Towner's IVP volume).
Black boldly claims that Timothy had authority beyond that of the overseers/elders and "was considered the pastor of the Ephesian congregation." Oh really? That kind of claim may work for a member of a Wesleyan congregation; but for me, I need some better support than the writer offered. That Timothy appointed overseers does not make Timothy the head pastor; so how was Timothy head pastor exactly?
For that matter, Black only slightly defends his claim that Timothy was a pastor at all. Paul never calls him "pastor" but Black does all through the commentary.
The reader is warned that this commentary is written from a Wesleyan perspective. That's fine; but don't you think the writers should defend the practices of the Wesleyan Church a little -- rather than just assuming that they are Biblical? Here's where the Wesleyan Church slant is evident but poorly supported. In his comments on 1 Timothy 3:2 (where a qualification of an overseer is that he be "husband of one wife"), he correctly concludes that the point is that he is faithful to his wife -- not that he has to be married at the time of his service. Black says this: "In the home an overseer must be a faithful spouse and a good parent. Much debate surrounds the requirement that he be the husband of but one wife. This should not be taken simply as the prohibition of polygamy; that would have been unnecessary because the church would have considered such a lifestyle scandalous for any Christian, not just for leaders. Nor can it be seen as a requirement that overseersbe married, although some have taken it that way. Jesus wasn't married, and neither, apparently, was Paul (see 1 Cor. 7:8). If an unmarried man is disqualified on the basis of 1 Tim. 3:2, would a childless man be disqualified on the basis of v. 4? And if the question is merely marriage verses singleness, why the stress on one wife?"
Well, that argument rests on the experiences of members of the Wesleyan Church. "Husband of one wife" sure looks to me that Paul expected overseers to have been married at least in the past and that people knew him to be faithful to his wife. Yes, how his children are treated by him(/her) is important; and thus the condition of verse 4 implies the overseer candidate must have children. If I am wrong, Black needs to convince me with better arguments.
Black's explanation about Paul's meaning in the word "mystery" (1 Timothy 3:16) is quite brilliant, compact and understandable.
His comments on Timothy's ordination by the laying on of hands of the eldership (1 Timothy4:14) are quite excellent and personally challenging.
Occasionally, Black blurts out some historical detail that is historically dubious, such as Nero's claim that the Christians burned Rome. I wish he provided a source for that information. Maybe he did. There are many "Endnotes" in the commentary chapters that have no matching superscripts in the commentary text pointing to them.
This commentary is a quick and easy read. I don't recommend using it alone, unless you need comfortable affirmation that every practice of the Wesleyan Church is completely Scriptural.