Item description for 1 & 2 Timothy Titus & Hebrews (Cornerstone Bibli by Linda Belleville, Jon Laansma & J. Ramsey Michaels...
Overview Providing students, pastors, and lay people with up-to-date, evangelical scholarship on the Old and New Testaments. Designed to equip pastors and Christian leaders with exegetical and theological knowledge to better understand and apply God's Word by presenting the message of each passage as well as an overview of other issues surrounding the text. Includes the entire NLT text of 1-2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Linda L. Belleville PhD., St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, is Professor of Greek and New Testament at Bethel College in Mishawaka Indiana. She has published commentaries on 1 and 2 Corinthians and various articles and essays on 1 Timothy. She has been a member of the translation team for the New Living Translation since its inception. Jon Laansma Ph.D., University of Aberdeen, is Associate Professor of Ancient Languages and New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of several articles and of “I Will Give You Rest”: The “Rest” Motif in the New Testament with Special Reference to Matthew 11 and Hebrews 3-4. He contributed the introductions and notes for 1?2 Timothy and Titus for the NLT Study Bible.J. Ramsey Michaels Th.D., University, is Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. He has published commentaries on the Gospel of John, 1 Peter, and the book of Revelation. He has been a member of the translation teams for the New International Version and the New Living Translation and has been a consultant for the American Bible Society.
Publishers Description Providing students, pastors, and lay people with up-to-date, evangelical scholarship on the Old and New Testaments. Designed to equip pastors and Christian leaders with exegetical and theological knowledge to better understand and apply God's Word by presenting the message of each passage as well as an overview of other issues surrounding the text. Includes the entire NLT text of 1-2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews. Linda L. Belleville PhD., St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, is Professor of Greek and New Testament at Bethel College in Mishawaka Indiana. She has published commentaries on 1 and 2 Corinthians and various articles and essays on 1 Timothy. She has been a member of the translation team for the New Living Translation since its inception. Jon Laansma Ph.D., University of Aberdeen, is Associate Professor of Ancient Languages and New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of several articles and of "I Will Give You Rest" The "Rest" Motif in the New Testament with Special Reference to Matthew 11 and Hebrews 3-4. He contributed the introductions and notes for 1 2 Timothy and Titus for the NLT Study Bible.J. Ramsey Michaels Th.D., University, is Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. He has published commentaries on the Gospel of John, 1 Peter, and the book of Revelation. He has been a member of the translation teams for the New International Version and the New Living Translation and has been a consultant for the American Bible Society."
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Studio: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.52" Width: 6.04" Height: 1.22" Weight: 1.75 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2009
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Series Cornerstone Biblical Commentary
Series Number 17
ISBN 084238345X ISBN13 9780842383455
Availability 0 units.
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A Commentary Well-Suited for Pastors, Sunday School Teachers and Laypersons Jan 19, 2010
This commentary is volume 17 of a projected 18 volumes on the entire Old and New Testaments. Thus it stands in the tradition of other commentary series such as The Broadman Bible Commentary, The Beacon Bible Commentary, and The Expositor's Bible Commentary in treating multiple books of the Bible in each volume. One should not expect, then, to get a comprehensive treatment of each book of the Bible. Persons looking for a more exhaustive treatment should turn to the more technical commentaries of other series (e.g., Anchor Bible, Hermeneia, New International Commentary, Word Biblical Commmentary). At the same time, though, the commentary gives a remarkably thorough overview for each passage.
The commentary series is based on Tyndale's second edition of the New Living Translation, and like its translation seeks to be accessible to the average English reader. The commentary series is geared towards helping "teachers, pastors, students, and laypeople" understand the words and "theological truths" of Scripture (preface). The series is overtly evangelical, drawing from scholars from a wide variety of theological traditions.
The format for each book of the Bible is the same. The commentary begins with a modest introduction which deals with the typical introductory issues (author, date, genre, audience etc.) and an outline of the book (the Pastoral Epistles are treated together). Of particular note is its attention to the major theological themes of each book. The commentary proper is divided into passages. Each section begins with the New Living Translation of each passage followed by notes and commentary. The notes deal with the Greek (or Hebrew in the case of the Old Testament) text underlying the English translation, or with textual or contextual matters. The Greek (or Hebrew) is transliterated and is cross-referenced with the Strong's and Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbering systems. Thus a profitable use of the commentary does not require technical skills in the original languages. The commentary is not so much a verse-by-verse treatment, as it is a running exposition for each passage.
The commentary on 1 Timothy is authored by Linda Belleville, Professor of New Testament at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. Jon Laansma, Associate Professor of Ancient Languages and New Testament at Wheaton College wrote the commentary for 2 Timothy and Titus. Laansma, incidentally, published a major monograph largely dealing with Hebrews ("I Will Give You Rest": The Rest Motif in the New Testament with Special Reference to Mt 11 and Heb 3-4) as well as a number of articles on Hebrews, so I was a little surprised to discover that he is not doing the commentary for Hebrews. Instead, that honor is given to J. Ramsey Michaels, Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at Missouri State University in Springfield.
In the introduction to the Pastoral Epistles, the authors advocate for Pauline authorship. They are impressed by the external (the Patristic witnesses), as well as the internal support (the autobiographical comments) for Pauline authorship (3-5). They address several objections to Pauline authorship and refute each one in turn (4-9). For example, difference in vocabulary and style from other Pauline letters is attributed to the use of an amanuensis (6). Some of the distinctive ideas of the epistles which are usually deemed to be indicative of a second-century situation (i.e., a more-developed ecclesiology, emphasis on orthodoxy, opposition to false teaching similar to Gnosticism) are regarded as insufficiently advanced to posit such a late date for the epistles. Consequently, the authors place the writing of the epistles sometime in the mid-60s (9). The authors regard the epistles as genuine letters written by Paul to two younger colleagues to address a variety of pastoral issues such as opposition to false teaching and matters of church order.
The introduction addresses a number of major theological themes (God, Christ, Holy Spirit, salvation, righteousness, piety and wholesome teaching, heresy) in the Pastorals. The authors detect a "full-orbed Trinitarian understanding" in these epistles (18). Salvation is something that believers can obtain by God's grace through faith in Christ Jesus (18-19). Righteousness has both a forensic meaning of declaring one "not guilty" and an ethical connotation of uprightness of character (19). The themes of godliness and wholesome teaching are distinctive emphases in the Pastorals (19-20). The Pastorals also have a particular concern for opposing false teachings which were syncretistic, ascetic, dualistic, and Jewish in character (20-21).
It will be impossible to treat the commentary in full, so I will highlight particular passages to give the reader a flavor of the commentators' hermeneutical propensities. Regarding 1 Tim 1:10, Belleville states that arsenokoites refers to homosexuality. The word echoes the language of the LXX version of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (33). Homosexuality was abhorred in Judaism, and was generally regarded unfavorably even among Greeks and Romans (34).
Perhaps the most controversial passage in 1 Timothy is the instructions directed towards women in 2:9-15. Belleville points out that verse 9 does not deal with the question of women wearing sexually provocative clothing, but of the ostentatious display of wealth, which tended to draw attention away from the worship of God during public prayer (52-53). Verse 11 does not deal with the silencing of women or the command for them to submit to male authority. Rather, it speaks about the manner in which women were to learn. Paul was in fact allowing women to learn and be instructed, something that was not commonplace at that time (56-57). Verse 12, furthermore, does not prohibit women from teaching men, but addresses the manner in which some women were teaching. The infinitive authentein does not simply mean "to have authority over" but should rather be translated "to domineer" or "to have dominance over" men. Paul was forbidding women from teaching men in an overbearing or domineering way. Verses 13-14 are probably used as a corrective against the cult of Artemis which thrived at Ephesus. This cult believed that Artemis originated first out of her mother's womb before helping her mother Leto give birth to her twin brother Apollo (61-62). Perhaps prompted by this cult, the women of Ephesus were probably trying to assert dominance over the men, and the men were reacting in an angry and disputatious manner; hence Paul was also trying to correct the behavior of the men in verse 8. The problematic verse 15 does not refer to childbearing in general. Instead, the subject of the sentence is the same as the previous two verses: Eve. The verse, alluding to Gen 3:15, should be rendered "she will be saved through the birth of the Child," that is, Jesus Christ (62-63). Belleville explains, that "Even though Eve was created from partnership (Gen 2:23-24) and then botched it through nonpartnership (Gen 3:6-7), ultimately she fulfilled her creative purpose through the bearing of the Christ child (Gen 3:15)" (63).
In chapter 3 Paul turns to the subject of leadership in the church. The term episkopos is better rendered as "overseer" rather than "bishop" which connotes a more developed ecclesiology (66). The term diakonos was variously translated as "minister," "deacon," or "servant," thus indicating that the ancient Christians did not make the kinds of distinctions between these roles as we do today (73). Belleville contends that gunaikas in 3:11 refers to "women deacons" and not to wives. The feminine form of "deacon" did not exist in the first century, so Paul had to resort to another term. These women shared the same qualifications as their male counterparts (75). In chapter 5 Paul makes reference to "elders," presbuteroi, which possibly includes both both "overseers" and "deacons" (104). Belleville notes that the "diverse nomenclature cautions against dogmatism regarding a uniform church polity" (104-105).
Belleville's commentary is sprinkled with numerous cross-references to other scriptures, particularly other Pauline writings, and she does a good job of situating the book within the historical and cultural context of the first-century world. One weakness, in my estimation (and this may be due to the page constraints of the commentary), is that she rarely explores the different interpretive options for any given passage, so that the inexperienced reader might think that the biblical text is more straightforward than it really is. Other interpreters have interpreted certain passages in different ways, but she rarely interacts with these other interpretations.
When we turn to Jon Laansma's commentary, the reader may notice some immediate differences. First, Laansma provides more subheadings in his commentary which makes it easier for the reader to locate comments on specific verses. Second, Laansma tends to elaborate more at length in his commentary--each section is considerably longer. His style appears more verbose compared to Belleville's more compact style (To illustrate: Belleville takes 99 pages to explicate 113 verses in 1 Timothy, while Laansma takes 95 pages to expound upon 83 verses in 2 Timothy and 76 pages for the 46 verses of Titus!). Laansma more often attempts to apply the biblical text to our current, contemporary situation.
On 2 Tim 3:1, Laansma explains that the expression "last days" is taken from the OT and "signals the breaking in of God's hoped-for salvation in history" (184). This idea would take on a new perspective in Christianity. What is new is that there arose the belief in a two-fold coming of the Messiah. The "age to come" is ushered in at the first coming, but it continues to overlap with "the present age." This period of history then is characterized by continual conflict between God and Satan. This passage is thus an anticipation of a future time but also a description of the present situation in which Paul and Timothy find themselves (184). The vice list that follows describes the kinds of people they inevitably would encounter.
In the famous passage on scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17), Laansma notes that Paul is referring to the OT here, but he may or may not have had some of the NT writings in mind. Nevertheless, "from the vantage point of broader theological understandings, his statement applies in principle to all canonical Scripture, including for us the New Testament" (197). To say that scripture is inspired or "God-breathed" is not to deny the role of human authors, but it is to affirm that God is responsible for all scripture and "it is therefore as true, reliable, authoritative, permanent, and powerful as is God himself" (198). Scripture is elevated above all other human literature. Laansma finds it highly ironic that modern interpreters have denied Pauline authorship of this letter and thus have largely marginalized and ignored it, and with it goes "this powerful statement on Scripture as a whole!" (198) When Paul tells Timothy to preach the "word of God" (4:2), he is telling him not only to preach the OT, but the good news of the gospel. Preaching the OT meant preaching Christ (202).
In Titus 2:3 women are instructed to "teach others what is good." Laansma remarks that "the fact that Paul views them as able and qualified to teach places in doubt the assumption that he would have agreed that women are inherently more gullible and easily deceived . . . than men, as has been inferred by some from 1 Timothy 2:14" (263). When Paul commands that women were "to be submissive to their husbands" (2:5), Laansma acknowledges that patriarchy was the norm in the Greco-Roman world and for Christians to flagrantly violate this would have put them in a bad light (265). Paul may have been simply holding in regard the prevailing cultural norms. However, we live in an age in which egalitarianism is held in high regard and there is no reason for Christians to revert to living within a Greco-Roman patriarchal structure (265-266). The expressions found in the household codes may actually "allow us to come closer to the Christian ideal than was possible within Paul's Roman world" (266).
In the introduction to Hebrews, Michaels notes that Hebrews' position at the beginning of the Catholic letters have often led to a neglect of the study of this book, but a study of the book can be most rewarding (305). The early manuscript tradition has attributed the authorship of the book to no one other than Paul (305). The ending of Hebrews evokes the image of Paul as the author, and indeed he was widely regarded as the author for many centuries (306). Nevertheless, the writing style is so radically different from other Pauline letters, and its placement after the Pauline corpus raises serious doubts about Pauline authorship (306). The author never identifies himself as Paul does in his other letters, and the book begins more like a homily than a letter (307). It is likely that the author is a man, due to the masculine participle in 11:32, but otherwise we have no clue as to his identity. The reference to Timothy in chapter 13 makes it likely that it was an associate of Paul's (308). Numerous candidates for authorship have been proposed (Luke, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, Priscilla and/or Aquila, Titus etc.), but none have been decisively proven (308-309). Michaels says that no one knows enough to rule out Pauline authorship, and in light of the ending, Paul may be the "implied author." Hence, he believes that the description "Deutero-Pauline" is fitting for the book of Hebrews (310).
Michaels proposes that Timothy himself may be the author of the book. The author expresses his desire to be restored to his audience, but he is currently hindered, suggesting that he may have been in prison at the time when he wrote this sermon (13:19). Paul may have had the responsibility of sending this sermon and he added the ending (13:22-25) only after Timothy had been released from prison. Michaels admits this is a speculative scenario, but he believes that it best explains the evidence of the ending (310-311). While I am not persuaded by this reconstruction, I suppose anything is possible.
Michaels is basically noncommittal about the date of Hebrews. If Paul was indeed the sender, then the date would have to be sometime in the early 60s. The lack of reference to the temple is not decisive for a pre- or post-70s date (311-312). As for genre, Hebrews is a sermon in letter form. It was meant to be communicated orally to a specific congregation. It evinces a strong emphasis on oral communication. Scripture is seen as still speaking today (312-314). As for audience, 13:24 is ambiguous; Hebrews could be written from or to Rome. The situation reflected in the book is consistent with the experience of Jewish Christians in Rome in the time of Claudius or Nero. Other writings of Roman origin (1 Clement and Shepherd of Hermas) show familiarity with Hebrews, thus suggesting a Roman destination. But early subscriptions added to the book indicate a Roman origin. One could imagine that Timothy was imprisoned in Rome and writing to fellow Christians in another destination (315). Familiarity with the OT and the Jewish cultus suggests an audience of Jewish Christians. While we cannot have complete certainty about the occasion of the book, Michaels surmises that the audience may have consisted of Gentile converts to Judaism or proselytes, who later expressed faith in Christ, but now were in danger of lapsing (316-317).
Michaels highlights two major themes in Hebrews. The first two chapters center around the theme of the Son's superiority to the angels. The remainder of the book is dominated by the theme of Jesus being a merciful and faithful High Priest. The author interweaves exposition and exhortation throughout the book (318-320). Michaels points out some of the theological contributions of Hebrews to NT theology: 1) Jesus as Active Redeemer - Jesus was not a helpless victim, but took the initiative to make an offering of himself for sin (321); 2) Jesus and the End of Priestly Liturgy - Jesus' work as High Priest has made the Jewish cultus of temple, priesthood, and sacrifice obsolete. Jesus inaugurates a new covenant (321); 3) The Divinity and Humanity of Jesus - Hebrews wrestles with Jesus' dual nature more than any other book. Jesus' experience of divinity and humanity qualifies him as the perfect High Priest; 4) The Christian Life as Pilgrimage - The Christian life is described as a journey to a heavenly destination. Our ultimate salvation does not come until the journey is completed (323-325).
Again, we will look at how Michaels deals with particular passages. I will highlight key or controversial passages so that the reader can get an idea of the kinds of exegetical decisions that Michaels makes.
In 1:3 the word apaugasma can be construed actively, "effulgence, radiance" or passively, "reflection, mirror image." However, both in the notes and in the commentary Michaels only mentions the passive meaning, keeping the uninformed reader in the dark regarding other possible renderings of the passage. Michaels rejects the idea that Hebrews is associating Jesus with Divine Wisdom (329).
At 1:6, Michaels does deal with some of the interpretive options for oikoumene. Michaels does not believe that it refers to Jesus' first coming into the world, nor does it refer to the future when Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God. Rather, it refers to a future time when Jesus will return at his second coming (333, 336).
Commenting on the quotation of Psalm 8 in chapter 2, Michaels believes that it refers to human beings (and not to Jesus, as some commentators do). The psalm is read as a promise that human beings will have dominion over the created order in "the future world" (2:5). This promise is fulfilled in Jesus, who is humanity's representative (347-348). Compelled by the wording of 2:9, Michaels takes the phrase, "crowned with glory and honor," to refer to Jesus' incarnation and not to his exaltation--a thought, he believes, that is in accord with Psalm 8 (348). In a note, Michaels remarks that brachu ti (2:7, 9) can be construed as "a little" (as of degree) or "for a little while" (as of time). Michaels rejects the latter interpretation in favor of the former, believing that it is more in line with the biblical psalm. Michaels remarks that the "accent is on his full identification with those who are `a little lower than the angels,' not on how long that identification might have lasted" (345). I myself prefer the temporal interpretation, but certainly Michaels interpretation cannot be ruled out.
In Hebrews 3-4 the author urges his readers to strive to enter God's rest. Michaels explains that this rest "is not an earthly rest or place of refuge but a heavenly rest in the sense of eternal salvation or life with God after death" (360). Heb 4:10 actually refers to Jesus, the forerunner who enters into heaven before us. Entering God's rest is the equivalent of entering heaven (4:14) or entering into God's inner sanctuary (6:19-20), or into the most Holy Place (9:12; 10:20) (360). The rest that Hebrews speaks about is not a passive existence, but a Sabbath observance which is characterized as a joyful gathering towards the end of the book in chapter 12 (360-361).
Heb 5:7 speaks about Jesus offering prayers to God with loud cries and tears. This passage seems to refer to a specific occasion, but certainty cannot be ascertained. It may possibly allude to Gethsemane, or even Jesus' cry of abandonment on the cross. If Jesus' prayer was deliverance from death, it was not answered in the way he expected it. It likely does not mean that Jesus was delivered from the fear of death. Rather, it seems to indicate that Jesus was delivered from death via the resurrection. Michaels rejects the notion that Hebrews was unaware of Jesus' resurrection. Resurrection language seems to be present in passages such as 13:20; 2:14-15; and 11:19 (367-368).
Regarding 6:1-2, Michaels comments that none of the six things listed are specifically distinctive of Christianity. He states that "All six are things Judaism and Christianity had in common, not things dividing Jew from Christian. Taken together, they suggest that at least some of the original readers of Hebrews were converts, whether directly from Greco-Roman paganism to Christianity, or first as proselytes to Judaism and then to a new kind of Judaism more receptive to such converts--the movement centered on Jesus as Messiah and Son of God" (373). Turning to the controversial passage of 6:4-6, Michaels states that verses 4-5 refer to those who have experienced Christianity in its fullness. In verse 6 Michaels rejects both the idea that is impossible for believers to fall away and the idea that those who "fall from grace" can return. He explains that "Neither sides' optimism finds much support in Hebrews. If someone's `enlightenment' is `once for all' . . . it is `impossible' to go back and experience it again because that would be like asking Jesus to be crucified again . . . Conversion, like death--Jesus' death or anyone else's--is by definition `once' (see 9:27). There is no second chance" (374). According to Michaels, salvation is not a "state of being" but a "one-way journey or pilgrimage"; there is no "stopping or turning back." No one can absolutely say with any certainty whether someone is truly saved or lost; only the end will reveal who will be numbered among the saved (375-376).
In chapter 7 Michaels claims that Hebrews argues from silence to assert that Melchizedek "was no mortal man but an eternal being" (383). Michaels interestingly concludes that Hebrews views Melchizedek as a "ministering spirit or angel," like the ones mentioned in 1:14; he is not to be identified as the preexistent Christ (384). I found this interpretation to be one of the most provocative claims in the commentary. Melchizedek is modeled after Christ and not vice versa. While Christ did have an earthly genealogy, Hebrews' point is that "his identity as Son is not dependent on his physical birth or human ancestry (385).
At Heb 8:5 Michaels surmises that the reason why Hebrews chose to speak about the tabernacle, rather than the temple, was because the tabernacle was explicitly stated in Exod 25:40 to be modeled according to a heavenly archetype. He opines that "Quite possibly this one verse of Scripture (Exod 25:40) is the main reason the author of Hebrews fastens his attention on the Tabernacle in the desert rather than on the Temple in Jerusalem. No one ever claimed that God told Solomon, `Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you,' when he built the first Temple in Jerusalem" (391).
At 9:16-17 Michaels does not try to resolve the problem about the translation of diatheke, which could mean "covenant" or "testament, will." Michaels seems to think it refers to a will, but even if the author did not have wills in mind, "he could easily have reached the same conclusion without it--that the `first covenant' was a covenant of blood (9:18)" (406). The inaugural covenant ceremony of Exod 24 utilized blood.
Heb 9:23 includes the puzzling statement that the things in heaven must be purified. Michaels regards this purification of things in heaven as propitiation or the alleviating of God's wrath: "Here the purification of `the real things in heaven' by the blood of Christ signals the removal of whatever it is on God's side that separates the sinner from God--specifically God's wrath against sin" (411). Michaels does not explore other interpretive options for this passage.
Another perplexing passage is Heb 10:20 which appears to equate the veil with Jesus' flesh. Michaels explains that there is a wordplay on the preposition dia: "The reader is invited to enter the Most Holy Place `through' the curtain as through a door, as Jesus opened the way to the Most Holy Place `through' (that is, `by means of') the sacrificial offering of his flesh (see 10:10) on the cross" (420). He sees a parallel of this passage with Mark 15:37-39 in which the rending of the temple veil follows immediately upon Jesus' death.
In the warning passage beginning at 10:26, Michaels interprets the deliberate sin as the "rejection of the sacrifice itself" (422). He explains that "Since God provided an offering and that offering is disdained or repudiated, there is nothing more that God can, or will, do. The very finality which guarantees assurance to those who trust in Christ's sacrifice seals forever the fate of those who reject it" (422). Michaels reiterates what he stated earlier regarding chapter 6: salvation is not assured to the believer until the very end (423).
Esau, in 12:16-17, is an example of unbelief, not apostasy. Rather than exhibiting the signs of a Christian life, Esau was simply an "immoral" and "godless" person in giving away his birthright (12:16). Esau's repentance failed to obtain his father's blessing. It was not a second repentance of one who had been enlightened and then fell away, but a first repentance. However, the point of the illustration is not so much Esau's repentance as it was his choosing the "seen" things over the "unseen" things, the temporary over the eternal. Esau is not an example to be followed (453-454).
Michaels does a better job of exploring different interpretive options and then explaining why he chose the option he does, but at certain key passages, as noted above, he neglects to explore differing interpretations. He also glosses over the fact that many of the quotations in Hebrews differ from the Hebrew OT. To be fair, the page constraints of the commentary probably prevented him from addressing these issues.
In summary, I think the commentary is well-suited for its targeted audience. Pastors, Sunday school teachers, students, laypersons will find the commentary useful for getting a basic introduction to the books of the Bible and a thorough overview of each passage. Scholars will find that the commentary comes up short in adequately dealing with critical issues or exploring interpretive options for various passages. Scholars will also find the bibliographies highly inadequate. The commentary will be more amenable to "conservative" readers than for more "liberal" readers who might reject Pauline authorship for the Pastoral Epistles, for example. On a final note the book is a nicely bound hardcover book. After working my way through most of the commentary, the binding is still very much intact. Although I am one who takes great care in the handling of my books, this has not prevented other books that I use from having bindings that separate from the book. This has not been the case with this book. So, the purchaser can be assured that he or she will be acquiring a quality product for a relatively inexpensive price.
The Avenue for a Deeper Understanding Mar 24, 2009
I am not a fan of commentaries. I find very little value in the thoughts of others concerning the words of God. I generally find modern commentaries to be filled mainly with easy going doctrine, with the authors unwilling to take a stand on one side of the issue. Such as Apostasy. Hebrews 6.4-10 is a fine example of where many commentaries loose me; however, the author of this particular work does not hesitate to affirm what the text plainly says. And in doing so, he heightens the image already presented in the NLT with his own descriptive language capturing the original author's intent. In doing so, he does not sidestep the issue, but meets it head on.
So, after a few proof text moments, I finally started from the beginning and found myself satisfied with this particular commentary.
The binding is modern, with a nice color design, thick paper and over all a good quality construction. My first problem, which is a rather personal one, is that I prefer my commentaries in thick gray or black cloth boards collecting dust and on a shelf somewhere. The type is easy on the eyes and the pages bright. The binding allows the book to lay upon on a flat desk, which is helpful if you are doing book reviews or teaching from the commentary.
Teachers should find this commentary series helpful in that while it makes use of the New Living Translation, it does point out more literal renderings. With each section of Scripture, the commentator adds notes, with are more copious than many study bibles that you will find today. In these notes are constant references to the Greek, using both the Strong's system of numbering as well as the new Tyndale system. The Greek is transliterated which is helpful for those of us who can read Greek better than we can pronounce it. Along with the Greek and the literal renderings, the notes contain a plethora of cross references which again, are absent from many bibles today. They make use of chain references, and as is the case in 2nd Timothy 3.10-17, note 11 (page 197), the commentator likes to make use of the original author's thought process.
The publishers include a large of amount of extra - needful - material which conforms to conservative evangelical biblical understanding. While exploring the Pastoral Epistles, modern scholarship points us to the assumption that these rather personal and end of life letters from the Apostle Paul could not be his. The Tyndale Commentators take ample time in exploring these theories and presenting a more conservative side. They easily use the Church Fathers as well as explore the internal peculiarities of these epistles to affirm the Pauline authorship. (There are also references to other leaders from other eras such as Martin Luther.)
Along with this, the authors take extended time to discuss the date, occasion and audience, which is becoming extremely important to some when exploring what was being said. Further, for both the Pastoral Epistles and Hebrews, they discuss the canonicity and textual history of the books. The provide outlines and other tools of study, which aids both students and teachers, lay or professional, in reading and studying the books before them.
In studying the books, the authors, after the notes, gives the commentary. In this section, they often will echoes the notes, but without giving a full sermon, help to bring the text off the page in a rather easy literary style. Reading the commentary section is rather like reading a novel rather than dry essays of the he-said but meant variety found in many commentaries. There are times, however, that their own commentary disagrees with the text, based on their understanding of context, of the NLT. Such as in 1st Timothy 2.8-10 (Modest clothing vs. well-considered demeanor)
The author of 1st Timothy does a fine should of clearing of preconceived notions of the 'proper-place' of a woman as well as taking a long winded approach to the idea of a woman teaching with a authority over a man. Further the same author does not hesitate in stating when the NLT 'goes beyond the evidence' of a translation that it has made.
My final verdict is this: As with all commentaries, they are not inspired, and with the lack of inspiration comes the need to more fully rest on God's word; however, as commentaries go, they are to reach the masses with the goal of an ease of understanding the Scriptures that have been set before them. Ever since William Tyndale first translated the Greek into a ploughboy's tongue, people have thirsted for a deeper understanding of what lay before. This commentary series, taken along side of others, and the pure word of God, helps to provide an avenue of learning. It provides an evangelical theological base for support, but calls to a deeper reflection based on the Greek and the audience of the original writers.
With that said, I will be adding the rest of the set to my wishlist.
Great For Preparing Sunday School Lessons Mar 16, 2009
I am a Sunday School teacher for an adult class that engages in in-depth Bible study. My review is written from this perspective.
I think the most interesting way to review my experience with this commentary is to simply describe how I got familiar with it. The first thing I did was thumb through it to see if how quickly I could figure out how it was organized. I was extremely impressed (and somewhat surprised, actually) with how easy it was to figure out how the book was laid out, without consulting the table of contents. The top of the each page indicates what passage of scripture is being discussed. The main portion includes the scripture text (NLT), followed by several brief notes, followed by the commentary. Additionally, there are two good introductory articles: one for the pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) and one for Hebrews. These articles are similar to introductions to books you find in many study Bibles, but with much more depth. All in all, the layout of this book is great -- it's very easy to find a passage you want to look at.
After getting a good overview of how this commentary was laid out, I settled in to look more closely at the content. Immediately, I enjoyed one of the advantages of using a multi-volume commentary: the scripture text is in the same book as the commentary. I also appreciated the way it is presented. Normally, I am not a fan of double-column text, so when I noticed that the scripture was double-column (the notes and commentary are single-column), I was a little put off. However, I have changed my mind on that point in this instance. Because the amount of scripture presented at any given instance is fairly small (4-10 verses seems to be the norm), it doesn't get tiring to read the double-column format. Combined with the fact that the scripture is in bold text, it also has the advantage of visually breaking up the page, making it easier to separate the scripture from the notes and commentary.
After the scripture, there is a section of notes. These notes are about the text itself: words, phrases, grammar, etc. They often include key numbers for words being discussed so that you can use a key numbering system to link the translation back to the original Greek. I especially like how the notes provide more detail to the particular language used in the original scripture. For example, the NLT translates 2 Timothy 4:1 as "I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom". There is a note on "will someday": The Greek phrasing... can mean that something is going to happen (without implying how soon), is about to happen (implying imminency), or is destined to happen (inevitability)." If you are looking for a better understanding of the original language behind the translation, these notes appear to be a great resource.
Finally, after the notes, comes the commentary. Each section typically runs between 3 to 10 pages. This is in-depth discussion of the style, content, theme, etc. The commentary is extremely readable and accessible, without sacrificing scholarly discussion. The commentary also strives to be relevant to modern life. E.g., when I looked at the commentary for 2 Timothy 2:16 ("Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior."), I found a discussion on how a command to avoid certain kinds of talk is a difficult command to hear in a society that prides itself on "free speech and the unrestricted exchange of ideas." If you are teaching or preaching on a passage, the commentary in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary offers a wealth of information and ideas on how to shape your message, while remaining accurate and true to the scripture.
All told, I'm impressed with this commentary. After spending some time with this one, I wanted to start preparing a teaching series on 1 and 2 Timothy, so I'd have a good excuse to really dig deep into the commentary. If you preach or teach, you will probably find this commentary a valuable addition to your library. For someone like me, with essentially no knowledge of Greek, it's a great resource for linking the translation back to the original language in a way that is understandable. Next time I teach a class based on one the books of the Bible, I will probably get a copy of the relevant volume of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary to use while preparing the lessons.
Good things come in small packages Mar 3, 2009
Let me begin this review by saying that I had a bias against this commentary series before it came in the mail for a couple of reasons. I had a hard time taking seriously a commentary that covered 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus AND Hebrews in only 476 pages. I have commentaries larger than this just covering the book of Hebrews. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) on Hebrews is about the same amount of pages. So I did not believe that the Cornerstone Biblical Commentaries could do an adequate job in dealing with the issues of these books of the Bible. I had seen these commentaries in Christian bookstores and had thumbed through them quickly. But they simply looked too small to be valuable. I was also concerned about a commentary series relying on the NLT as its text. While I am growing to appreciate the NLT, I had a hard time thinking that using a very dynamic translation like the NLT as the basis for a commentary was a good idea.
Each section begins with a portion of scripture using the New Living Translation (NLT). The next section is called "Notes." The general editor's preface states that the purpose of the notes section is how "the commentator helps the reader understand the Hebrew or Greek behind the English of the NLT, interacts with other scholars on important interpretative issues, and points the reader to significant textual and contextual matters." One thing that I think is very important is the willingness of the commentator to correct any places where he or she feels that the NLT misses the point of the text.
For example, in Hebrews 8:7-13 one of the notes reads for verse 8:
The day is coming. Rather, "days are coming." The text is not looking at one catastrophic "day of the Lord" but at a new era, a new order of society, and a new way of worship.
Therefore, a teacher who has reservations about a commentary built upon the NLT can rest assured that the commentator will point out places where a more literal rendering is more useful or required. Much of the technical arguments are contained in the notes section and do not find their way into the commentary section. Even those who are not very familiar with Greek or Hebrew will find the notes section useful because these notes are not overly technical. All Greek and Hebrew words are placed next to the English word or phrase so those without Greek and Hebrew knowledge are able to follow along quite easily. The notes are not overly deep. If someone is looking for all the interpretative possibilities over a given Greek or Hebrew word, one will not find such material in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. But the notes are quite useful and will give the student what he or she needs to know in a quick and concise way. For me, I found the notes section to be quite refreshing. As an evangelist, I need books to get to the point. I do not have the time (and not always the interest) to go into all of the details of a Greek or Hebrew word. If I need that, I will go to another resource. Just give me what I need to know about these words. The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary does a great job at doing such.
After the notes section comes the commentary section. The general editor's preface says that the commentary section is where "each scholar presents a lucid interpretation of the passage, giving special attention to context and major theological themes." This is not a verse by verse commentary. Rather, the commentary takes each section of scripture and gives the key points and themes from that text. The commentary is very well done. For me, I have found this to be very helpful. First, the commentary section is easy to read. Many commentaries can bore one to sleep quite quickly. The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary is well written and very engaging. It is not a drag or a chore to read. Further, and very important, the commentary does not zero in on the details of each verse so closely that one loses sight of the overall message of the text and the book. Many commentaries fail by giving so much attention and detail to the Greek and Hebrew that by the time one is done reading, the student does not know what the text means. The student knows what each word means, but not how those words relate to the context and the overall point of the writer. But that is not to say the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary skims the surface and does not dig deep. The commentary does go deeper when needed and helps the student understand the text in light of the overall context.
I have been pleasantly surprised at how good the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary is. I began with a bias against it and, after using it, I have been won over. The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary is very helpful. I am now using this volume on 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews as my main resource as I preach through the book of Hebrews. It is that good. I have even put my money where my mouth is and ordered the Romans/Galatians commentary since I am teaching Galatians in Bible class. I strongly recommend this commentary series to all who are interested in learning more about the meaning of the original message of a book in the Bible. I believe that this is a great resource to recommend to Christians who are looking for a commentary to help them in their studies. This commentary series will also be useful to all preachers and teachers giving them helpful aids and meanings in the text in a useful and concise way. You will get the answers you are looking for quickly and the answers given will be tied to the overall message, helping you understand the message better. I would not recommend this commentary to Greek and Hebrew junkies who want to spend endless time studying the original language. But for everyone else, you should buy these commentaries.