Benjamin FIORE, S.J., Sacra Pagina: Volume 12: The Pastoral Epistles: First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007. pp. 253. $39.95 pb. ISBN -13: 97800-8146-5814-7.
Bruce MALINA, Timothy: Paul’s Closest Associate. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008. pp.156. $16.95 pb ISBN-13: 978-0-8146-5180-3.
Reviewed by James ZEITZ, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX 78240

Modern consensus is that the Pastoral Epistles are “Pauline school” rather than Paul. Thus these three letters (PE), although still sometimes cited as Paul’s words, need to be distinguished from “authentic” Paul. At the same time they now have increasing importance for understanding the earliest church.

Thus Bruce Malina’s study of Timothy is a good complement to the Sacra Pagina commentary on the Pastorals by Benjamin Fiore. Both works presume pseudonymity: Fiore presents the arguments for or against, but also presumes it in discussing the later social situation of the Pauline communities these letters address. Malina not only accepts it but gives the most convincing summary of what it is and why it was used in a section about Timothy in the Deutero-Pauline letters: “About forgery in the Hellenistic period”.

Benjamin Fiore’s commentary provides the usual tools for understanding the Pastoral Epistles (PE): first, a brief introduction to the literary character of the letters, the historical situation (the Jewish-Christian threats to sound teaching, authorship), and the “hortatory strategy” of the author. This is followed by his translation, then detailed notes and, finally a summary interpretation. Here he frequently includes patristic commentaries, as well as discussion of rhetorical structure. Sometimes these interpretation sections come from Fiore’s pastoral experience: for example when he mentions—in connection with Titus 1:1-9 “on appointing elders”—that today there is a need for a “well-educated priesthood” in a world where Catholic parishioners have a university-level education. (203)

Fiore’s background in the Greek and Latin classics shows up in detailed discussions of classical literature in the Hellenistic world to explain some of the letter’s moral exhortations, e.g. Timothy’s classical statement that love of money is “the root of all evils” (1 Tim.6:10).

Overall, an excellent commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, I would recommend it for courses in Paul as well as the history of the early church. One minor problem I had: sometimes comments on rhetorical structure (such as inclusion) are not reflected in the overall “outline” of the letter (see comments on 1 Timothy 3-4)

Bruce Malina’s study of Timothy and his “social network” uses the method he and Jerome Neyrey have been using for some time: “cultural readings” of Paul and his world (see Neyrey’s 1990 work, "Paul, in Other Words", and Malina’s and Neyrey’s "Portraits of Paul". Thus Timothy: Paul’s Closest Associate complements the study of the PE by summarizing all that we know about Timothy, the coworker of Paul, from Paul’s authentic letters as well as the second and third generation Pauline communities and their social situations.

After presenting Timothy as a “collectivist” person, and his relationship to the Jesus tradition and Paul, chapters 5-7 of this brief work treat Timothy in the Deutero-Pauline letters and the Pastorals.

Both of these works are important for understanding Paul and re-imagining the value of his letters for the modern church.

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