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Guide to “treasures old and new”

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1 & 2 Timothy, Titus 

Paul M. Zehr
Herald Press, 2010
406 pages

Paul Zehr brings clarity and warmth to a new commentary in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. In keeping with the series’ requirements, Zehr guides the reader into the text, into the whole Bible, and into life. Zehr, a Mennonite pastor, bishop, and seminary professor, shows that the pastoral epistles do not primarily teach pastoral work. Instead, they clarify the Christian community’s theology and apply it in the context of Christian ministry.

In Zehr’s hands, these epistles address topics that are important to evangelicals. The Christology is high. Universalism is ruled out. Leadership ought to be gentle. Ordination is affirmed and clarified. Women (and men) are free to learn and teach – but they should learn in quietness and teach without domineering. Godliness is essential for being missional. As for authorship, Zehr is convinced that these letters show us the mind of Paul, although Luke’s hand may have shaped the writing.

The reader will gain a good introduction to Anabaptism from “The Text in the Life of the Church” sections that conclude each chapter. Zehr invites ecumenical discernment of the Bible’s teachings; yet he is clear that the Anabaptist voice is distinct from Reformed, Catholic, and Pentecostal voices. Zehr explains why believers churches often find the term “inerrancy” to be unhelpful.

These epistles emphasize Christ’s supremacy over all rulers and governments. Zehr shows how believers churches have modified each of the three most common explanations of the atonement in order to understand redemption biblically.

Serious students will appreciate the research behind Zehr’s clear outlines of important debates, as well as his extensive bibliography. All readers will appreciate Zehr’s pastoral asides, and his clear explanations of the occasional Greek word.

I recommend reading 1, 2 Timothy and Titus with the Bible in one hand and Zehr’s commentary in the other. This wise, gracious guide offers “treasures old and new” for faithful living as Christian communities.

Andrew Dyck is a pastoral elder at Highland Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C., and a sessional instructor at Columbia Bible College.

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