Annette Bourland HUIZENGA. 1-2 Timothy, Titus. Wisdom Commentary, Volume 53, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press (Michael Glazier Book), 2016. Pp 207, $33.99 Hardcover. ISBN 9780814682036; ISBN 9780814682289 (ebook). Reviewed by James ZEITZ, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, Texas 48207.


            The Wisdom commentary series, as explained in Elisabeth Schuessler Fiorenza’s “Forward” and editor Barbara Reid’s Introduction, offers a feminist interpretation of every book of the Bible. The author of this volume on the Pastorals, Annette Huizenga begins her commentary (see “Author’s Introduction”) by setting out her agendas: Gender is important for understanding the pseudonymous author of this set of letters. His instructions to Timothy and Titus regarding ecclesiastical structures, and leadership positions continue in the Pauline tradition but are more detailed: 1 Timothy 3 describes the “offices” of bishop and deacon. Timothy—Paul’s successor—should instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. Women’s social roles and activity and moral development are a special concern to the author, since they are most likely to exemplify immoral behavior within the household.

            In her “Conclusion” Huizenga explains why the Pastoral Letters are “troubling texts.” They attack the (male) author’s opponents with sharp polemics, elevate the social status of elite men, and reinforce subordinated positions for women and the enslaved. Especially troubling is their ‘kyriacal’ view of authority—quite different from authentic Paul though authoritative because attributed to Paul. I would next point out three texts and ‘issues’ that are important for Huizinga, as well as important for the contemporary church:

First, the controversial 1 Tim 2:11-15
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing on the moral education and role of women in the church.

Huizinga’s critique includes her personal testimony serving in a nondenominational church in Chicago: it shows how effectively the Pastorals’ forbidding women teachers has been over the centuries! She points to Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptists present prohibitions for women in the highest leadership positions. She includes a long (5 pages) interpretative essay by Dr. Eh Tar Gay about a similar situation for women in the church in Myanmar. 

A second set of texts regards women leadership: 1 Tim 3:11 – after giving the qualities required of deacons, v. 11 says: “Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” Does this mean women deacons (since there is no feminine for deacon in Greek) or the wives of deacons?  Huizenga thinks they are the wives of deacons—because of the author’s consistent suspicious attitude towards women.         Women as teachers in Titus 2:3 “older women teaching younger women?” Huizenga notes that Titus is advised to teach only “older men” and “older women,” whereas older women would teach younger women—a pattern, she says, that continues today in conservative churches. She includes an interesting parallel case (excerpt from Neil Elliott’s Liberating Paul - “Politics of Anne Hutchinson”) to demonstrate that even limited teaching by women such as Anne was unacceptable in the Puritan colony.

            The third issue is slavery (1 Tim 6:1) and slaves (Titus 2:9-10)—beyond specifically feminine issues. Huizenga notes that slavery was an essential part of the Roman Empire and therefore important for the community of the Pastorals as ‘household of God.” Her commentary includes a seventeen page interpretive essay on slavery by Emerson B. Powery, as well as a ‘history’ of the Pastorals’ teaching on slaves. Christian communities no doubt included Christian masters (mostly male, but sometimes female), who may also have been slave holders. The Pastorals’ slavery exhortations, she notes, show a cruel drift from previous household codes (since Col 4:1; Eph 6:9). The exhortations in the Pastorals are only to slaves! (see 1 Tim 6:1 “Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed”; Titus 2: 9  “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, 10 not to pilfer”). Whereas Colossians and Ephesians also exhort masters. Col 4:1 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” Ephesians 6:9 And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them…”.

            A critique: “Paul” gives stern advice to “Timothy” in 2 Tim 3 regarding the ‘last days’ and the importance of Scripture to preserve correct ‘knowledge’ of the truth: Although I understand that Huizinga’s feminist Wisdom commentary must criticize the harshness of advice (here and elsewhere) and the repressive view of male leadership (emphasis on the ‘manly man,’ hierarchal order) and the misogynist views of women (‘chatterers’ – spreading old wives tales), nevertheless I would have liked more about the ‘opponents’ and possible dangers to the community from positions such as gnostic teachings on the end…reversions to Jewish ‘times and seasons’. Obviously similar dangers persist today for the church and Huizenga demonstrates how a feminist view of leadership operates, but does she appreciate the situation of second century Christians in a Roman world?