Bible Book Number 56—Titus
Place Written: Macedonia (?)
Writing Completed: c. 61–64 C.E.
1. (a) What task was entrusted to Titus? (b) In what environment had the congregations on Crete sprung up, and what did the Christians in Crete need to do?
“PAUL, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . to Titus, a genuine child according to a faith shared in common.” (Titus 1:1, 4) So begins Paul’s letter to his coworker and longtime associate Titus, whom he had left on the island of Crete to organize the congregations better. Titus had a big task on his hands. This island, which was said to have been the ancient abode of “the father of gods and men,” was the source of the saying, “to Crete a Cretan,” meaning “to outwit a knave.”* The untruthfulness of its people was proverbial, so that Paul even quoted their own prophet as saying: “Cretans are always liars, injurious wild beasts, unemployed gluttons.” (1:12) The Cretans of Paul’s day have also been described as follows: “The character of the people was unsteady, insincere, and quarrelsome; they were given to greediness, licentiousness, falsehood, and drunkenness, in no ordinary degree; and the Jews who had settled among them appear to have gone beyond the natives in immorality.”* It was in just such an environment that the congregations of Crete had sprung up; and hence it was especially needful for the believers “to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion,” as Paul exhorted.—2:12.
2, 3. (a) What association did Titus have with Paul? (b) From where did Paul likely write to Titus, and for what purpose?
2 The book of Titus itself gives very little information about the association of Paul and Titus. From the references to Titus in Paul’s other letters, however, much information can be gleaned. Titus, who was a Greek, often accompanied Paul and on at least one occasion went up to Jerusalem with him. (Gal. 2:1-5) Paul refers to him as “a sharer with me and a fellow worker.” It was Titus whom Paul had sent to Corinth after writing his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus. While in Corinth, Titus was connected with the collection that was being made for the brothers in Jerusalem, and subsequently he went back at Paul’s direction to complete the collection. It was on the return journey to Corinth from his meeting with Paul in Macedonia that Titus was used to carry the second letter from Paul to the Corinthians.—2 Cor. 8:16-24; 2:13; 7:5-7.
3 After his release from his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul was again associated with Timothy and Titus during the final years of his ministry. This appears to have included service in Crete, Greece, and Macedonia. Finally, Paul is spoken of as going to Nicopolis, in northwest Greece, where he was apparently arrested and taken to Rome for his final imprisonment and execution. It was during the visit to Crete that Paul had left Titus there to “correct the things that were defective and . . . make appointments of older men in city after city,” in harmony with the instructions he had given Titus. Paul’s letter appears to have been written shortly after he left Titus in Crete, most likely from Macedonia. (Titus 1:5; 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:13, 20) It seems to have served a purpose similar to that of First Timothy, namely, to encourage Paul’s colaborer and to give him authoritative backing in his duties.
4. When must the letter to Titus have been written, and what is the evidence for its authenticity?
4 Paul must have written the letter sometime between his first and his second imprisonment at Rome, or about 61 to 64 C.E. The weight of evidence for the authenticity of the letter to Titus is the same as for the contemporary letters to Timothy, the three Bible books often being termed Paul’s “pastoral letters.” The style of writing is similar. Irenaeus and Origen both quote from Titus, and many other ancient authorities also testify to the book’s canonicity. It is found in the Sinaitic and Alexandrine Manuscripts. In the John Rylands Library there is a papyrus fragment, P32, which is a codex leaf of about the third century C.E. containing Titus 1:11-15 and; 2:3-8.* There is no question that the book is an authentic part of the inspired Scriptures.
CONTENTS OF TITUS
5. (a) What qualifications for overseers does Paul emphasize, and why is this needful? (b) Why must Titus reprove with severity, and what is said of defiled persons?
5 Overseers to exhort by healthful teaching (1:1-16). After an affectionate greeting, Paul sets out the qualifications for overseers. It is emphasized that an overseer must be “free from accusation,” a lover of goodness, righteous, loyal, a man “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching, that he may be able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.” This is needful in view of the “deceivers of the mind” who are even subverting entire households for the sake of dishonest gain. So Titus must “keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith, paying no attention to Jewish fables.” Defiled persons may declare publicly that they know God, but they disown him by their works of disobedience.—1:6-10, 13, 14.
6. What advice is given on Christian conduct?
6 Living with soundness of mind, righteousness, and godly devotion (2:1–3:15). The aged men and aged women should be serious and reverent. The younger women should love their husbands and their children and subject themselves to their husbands “so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” The younger men should be an example of fine works and wholesome speech. Slaves in subjection should exhibit “good fidelity to the full.” God’s undeserved kindness, leading to salvation, has been manifested, encouraging soundness of mind, righteousness, and godly devotion in those whom God has cleansed through Christ Jesus to be “a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.”—2:5, 10, 14.
7. What does Paul stress in connection with subjection, salvation, and fine works?
7 Paul stresses the need for subjection and obedience to governments and for “exhibiting all mildness toward all men.” Paul and his fellow Christians were once as bad as other men. Not owing to any works of their own, but because of God’s kindness, love, and mercy, they have been saved by holy spirit and have become heirs to a hope of everlasting life. So those who believe God should “keep their minds on maintaining fine works.” They are to shun foolish questionings and strife over the Law, and as for a man that promotes a sect, they are to reject him after a first and second admonition. Paul asks Titus to come to him at Nicopolis and, after giving other missionary instructions, stresses again the need for fine works, in order not to be unfruitful.—3:2, 7, 8.
8. What in Paul’s counsel in the letter to Titus is “fine and beneficial” for us today, and why?
8 The Cretan Christians lived in an environment of lying, corruption, and greed. Should they just go along with the crowd? Or should they take definite steps to separate themselves completely to serve as a people sanctified to Jehovah God? In making known through Titus that the Cretans should “keep their minds on maintaining fine works,” Paul said: “These things are fine and beneficial to men.” It is “fine and beneficial” today also, in a world that has sunk into a mire of untruthfulness and dishonest practices, that real Christians “learn to maintain fine works,” being fruitful in God’s service. (3:8, 14) All of Paul’s condemnation of the immorality and wickedness that threatened the congregations in Crete stands as a warning to us now when ‘the undeserved kindness of God instructs us to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this system of things.’ Christians should also be “ready for every good work” in showing obedience to governments, maintaining a good conscience.—2:11, 12; 3:1.
9. How is the importance of right teaching underlined, especially as a responsibility of an overseer?
9 Titus 1:5-9 supplements 1 Timothy 3:2-7 in showing what holy spirit requires of overseers. This lays emphasis on the overseer’s “holding firmly to the faithful word” and being a teacher in the congregation. How necessary this is in bringing all along to maturity! In fact, this need for right teaching is emphasized several times in the letter to Titus. Paul admonishes Titus to “keep on speaking what things are fitting for healthful teaching.” The aged women are to be “teachers of what is good,” and slaves are ‘to adorn the teaching of their Savior, God, in all things.’ (Titus 1:9; 2:1, 3, 10) Stressing the need for Titus as an overseer to be firm and fearless in his teaching, Paul says: “Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command.” And in the case of those who disobey, he says: “Keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith.” Thus, Paul’s letter to Titus is especially “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.”—Titus 2:15; 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:16.
10. In what does the letter to Titus encourage us, and what happy hope does it stimulate?
10 The letter to Titus stimulates our appreciation for the undeserved kindness of God and encourages us to turn from the ungodliness of the world ‘while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of our Savior, Christ Jesus.’ So doing, those who have been declared righteous through Christ Jesus may become “heirs according to a hope of everlasting life” in the Kingdom of God.—Titus 2:13; 3:7.
McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, 1981 reprint, Vol. II, page 564; The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1958, Vol. III, page 306.
McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, 1981 reprint, Vol. X, page 442.
The Text of the New Testament, by Kurt and Barbara Aland, translated by E. F. Rhodes, 1987, page 98.