Understanding the New Testament, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, and Philemon
William Victor Blacoe
Cedar Fort, Inc., 2011
Reviewed by DeWayne Hafen for the Association of Mormon Letters
The Cedar Fort website, www.cedarfort.com, touts the book with these
words: "In our modern times we use many idioms and other forms of speech
that would leave someone living twenty centuries ago baffled. The
reverse is true. Our culture has evolved since then and therefore the
message and doctrinal content of the Apostle Paul's epistles becomes
cryptic. With Understanding the New Testament you can gain new
understanding on hundreds of phases and verses in these four epistles."
And that is exactly what Mr. Blacoe does and does very well in this
book. This is not a book that one would simply sit down and read from
cover to cover. I did just that, of course, but it is better used as a
reference text. 180 plus pages to cover four small pastoral Epistles
attributed to Paul -- that's a lot of explanation.
Mr. Blacoe's approach is very direct. First he gives a prologue,
explaining who the principal players are and putting the particular
epistle into a historical context. Starting with Timothy, we learn who
Timothy was, where he came from and how he fits into the historical
church. We also get an idea as to why the epistle was written. He then
takes the epistle, gives us subject headings, then, one verse at a time,
explains in detail the meaning of each word that might be misunderstood,
sometimes with extensive explanations. He also gives alternate words to
enhance understanding. He often ties these to uniquely Mormon
He then gives an epilogue where he summarizes the Epistle and what we
have learned from the study. This is followed by extensive endnotes. He
does this for each of the four epistles he has chosen for this work.
He then gives us four appendices. Appendix A gives a very LDS view of
the Soul: Mind, Spirit and Body with appropriate explanations of the
Greek words and understandings of these terms. Appendices B and C give a
historical review of the Roman Army and slavery in the times of Paul.
Appendix D, "Conscience, Ethics and Morality," is a mixture of Greek
terms, modern philosophy, and LDS values. He sums it all up with this:
Greek "philosophy bequeathed a language" that enabled Christianity to
articulate new concepts. With the Greek language, the New Testament
authors -- all from one generation -- expressed revolutionary thinking in
individual ethics and morals and defined new concepts -- very well done
and, for the believing Mormon, this is a very good study resource.
But... I would have liked to see some discussion about the possibility
that the pastoral epistles, with the probable exception of Philemon,
were not written at the time of or by Paul. Some biblical scholars have
maintained this for a long time. I tend to share that view.
Regardless of my personal views, I feel that we, the Mormon people, need
to prepare our youth for what they will meet in the academic world. To
enter a class on Biblical history without that knowledge can be a very
faith and testimony destroying experience.
After an extensive explanation of how copy errors crept into the Greek
texts, Mr. Blacoe tells us: "Variations between New Testament Greek
texts are minutely monitored and cataloged for comparison... More than one
in every three verses of the New Testament in Greek manuscripts is
different -- in minor or major variations! The first Epistle of Paul to
Timothy has the highest accuracy at 81.4 percent, and the Gospel
according to Mark has the lowest accuracy at 45.1 percent."
This is not surprising considering that, according to such Biblical
scholars as Bart D. Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, it was possibly written decades after Paul's death and so escaped
the crude copying methods of some of the earlier books of the New
What that tells me is that 1 Timothy was copied better than some of the
much older texts. It tells me nothing of the fact that 1 Timothy and
the other pastoral epistles may not have been written by Paul. To me,
all of the instructions about bishops and deacons have as much relevance
to Paul as the care and maintenance of an automobile would to Joseph
Smith. As Mr. Blacoe points out, the Churches in Paul's time were very
small congregations. To me the hierarchal structure of bishops and
deacons just don't fit until a much later time. Then too, if we believe
the scholars, the style and vocabulary were not Paul's.
Many Biblical scholars spread the New Testament authorship over several
generations and point out that, with the exception of some of the
epistles of Paul, they weren't even written by their attributed authors.
Most are either homonymous or pseudepigraphic writings. The pastoral
epistles of Paul are said to be an example of pseudepigraphic writings.
Apparently the eighth Article of Faith should read : "We believe the
Bible to be the word of God as far as it is transcribed correctly."
Mr. Blacoe provides the correct translation and understanding in a
biblical culture and timeframe; and he does that very well. This gives
us a Bible with the correct message and understanding.
In my opinion, it might be the word of God, but I'm not so sure it is
the word of Paul.
Perhaps there is a difference between a devotional viewpoint of the
Bible and a historically critical one. This is a devotional work, not a
historically critical one. Mr. Blacoe surely knows the historical and
scholastic problems with the Pastoral Epistles, but like most ministers,
he chooses not to discuss them with his intended readers.
As a Mormon, I was interested how he would explain 1 Timothy 3:2: "A
Bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife,...." and Titus 1:6: "If
any be blameless, the husband of one wife,..."
I wasn't disappointed; he explained it much as I hoped he would. After
years of reading various attempts by Mormon authors to twist these
verses in favor of polygamy, it was refreshing to me to read, in words
to the effect that it says what it means and means what it says. As a
practicing polygamist, I can accept that because I believe that Paul
didn't say it and that the Epistle was written decades after Paul's
Overall, I like this book. I particularly like the Mormon spin he gives.
I hope Mr. Blacoe continues his study of the New Testament. I would
personally like to see some historically critical information. I doubt
that will happen. If he continues the series, they will be of a
devotional nature, meant to strengthen one's faith, not to bring in
questions about accuracy, contradictions and just who is writing and
what their objective was. If I want historical criticism, I will
continue to read books by atheist professors of Religion and Biblical
Would I buy it? Well, I did. My review copy was sent to California and I
am in Utah at the present. I now have two copies to give to my LDS
children. Maybe I will keep one. I will also buy any future books by Mr.