Epistle to Titus

The Epistle of Paul to Titus, usually referred to simply as Titus, is one of the three Pastoral Epistles (along with 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy) traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle and is part of the New Testament. It is addressed to Saint Titus and describes the requirements and duties of elders and bishops.[1] Like 2 Timothy, this epistle is considered to be Paul's final instructions to early church leaders before his final departure.


Not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Titus was noted in Galatians (cf. Gal. 2:1, 3) where Paul wrote of journeying to Jerusalem with Barnabas, accompanied by Titus. He was then dispatched to Corinth, Greece, where he successfully reconciled the Christian community there with Paul, its founder. Titus was later left on the island of Crete to help organize the Church, and later met back with the Apostle Paul in the Nicopolis. He soon went to Dalmatia (now Croatia). According to Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical History, he served as the first bishop of Crete and remained there in his old years. He was buried in Cortyna (Gortyna), Crete; his head was later removed to Venice during the invasion of Crete by the Saracens in 832 and was enshrined in St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy.


Scholars are not unanimous about the authenticity of the pastoral epistles.[1] Titus is usually one of the three Pastoral epistles attributed to Paul. Titus has a very close affinity with 1 Timothy, sharing similar phrases and expressions and similar subject matter.[2][3]

Pauline Authenticity

The author of Titus identifies himself as "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ." According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, "Paul's authorship was undisputed in antiquity and was probably written about the same time as the First Epistle to Timothy, with which it has many affinities."

Scholars who believe Paul wrote Titus date its composition from the circumstance that it was written after Paul's visit to Crete (Titus 1:5). That visit could not be the one referred to in the Acts of the Apostles 27:7, when Paul was on his voyage to Rome as a prisoner, and where he continued a prisoner for two years. Thus traditional exegesis supposes that after his release Paul sailed from Rome into Asia, passing Crete by the way, and that there he left Titus "to set in order the things that were wanting." Thence he would have gone to Ephesus, where he left Timothy, and from Ephesus to Macedonia, where he wrote the First Epistle to Timothy, and thence, according to the subscription of this epistle, to "Nicopolis of Macedonia",[4] from which place he wrote to Titus, about 66 or 67.

The first page of the epistle in Minuscule 699 gives its title as 'προς τιτον, "To Titus."

However, works written under a false name would have been very problematic since the early church clearly excluded from the apostolic canon any works they thought to be pseudonymous. While critics point to the common practice of pseudonymous writing in the ancient world, they usually fail to point out that this practice, though common in the culture, was not common in personal letters, and was categorically rejected by the early church (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17; also Muratorian Canon 64–67; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.12.3). Tertullian (c. a.d. 160–225) wrote that when it was discovered that a church elder had composed a pseudonymous work, The Acts of Paul (which included a purported Pauline letter, 3 Corinthians), the offending elder "was removed from his office" (On Baptism 17).

Opposed to Pauline Authenticity

The Pastoral epistles are regarded by some scholars as being pseudepigraphical. On the basis of the language and content of the pastoral epistles, these scholars today doubt that they were written by Paul and believe that they were written after his death. The early Church did not agree. Critics claim the vocabulary and style of the Pauline letters could not have been written by Paul according to available biographical information and reflect the views of the emerging Church rather than the apostle's. These scholars date the epistle from the 80s CE up to the end of the 2nd century.[5] The Church of England's Common Worship Lectionary Scripture Commentary concurs with this view: "the proportioning of the theological and practical themes is one factor that leads us to think of these writings as coming from the post-Pauline church world of the late first or early second century".[6]

Epimenides paradox

One of the secular peculiarities of the Epistle to Titus is the reference to the Epimenides paradox: "One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, 'Cretans are always liars'."[7] The statement by a member of a group that all members are liars is a famous logic problem, applicable also to Psalms 116:11.

Summary Exegesis and Commentary

First page of the Epistle to Titus in a Gutenberg Bible held by the Bodleian Library

Chapter One

"1. PAUL, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;"

"The exact meaning of the prepositional phrases is perplexing... the obscurity is due to... the fact that vss. 1–3 are composed of a series of phrases in liturgical form – compact, condensed, intent – symbols whose first intent is to work on emotion rather than describe or clarify an idea." TIB 1955[8] XI p. 523
"Knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness is circumlocution for 'Christianity.'" TIB 1955 XI p. 524

"7. Does not, in accordance with his stewardship of the house God, the administrator need to be a man who has no flaw in him, who is not perverse, not bad tempered, not given to wine, not a brawler, not a pursuer of ill-gotten gain? 8. Rather" [he should be] "hospitable, a lover of the good, settled in his opinion, wise, holy, self controlled,"

"moderate, just, devoted, self-controlled: A version of the four cardinal virtues of Greco-Roman antiquity. The candidate must be a fully virtuous man." TNJBC 1990[9] p. 894
"A lover of hospitality] φιλοξενον" [filoxenon] "; a lover of strangers... Instead of φιλοξενον, one MS. has φιλοπτωχον"[filoptokhon] ", a lover of the poor." A.C. 1831[10] VI p. 617
"The two virtues master of himself (σωφρον" [sofron] ")and self-controlled (εγκρατης" [egkrates]"), more Greek than Jewish, are closely related to each other in Stoic thought. Self control has small place in biblical religion because the Christian life is determined by God's command, and self-control loses its high position, asceticism being cut off as a method of meriting salvation (Gerhard Kittel ... 1935)..." TIB 1955 XI p. 528

"9. and a grasper of the faithful word according to our doctrine, for the encouragement of sound moral instruction, and also to rebuke the opposition. 10. For there are many, particularly from the circumcised, who urge vain and misleading words upon listeners, 11. and who ought to shut their mouths. They destroy whole families teaching their flawed words, and this for base profit. 12. One of their own prophets said: 'Cretans are always liars; they are evil beasts and slothful gluttons.'"

"This ... singularly indiscreet quotation ... over reaches itself to defame all Cretans ... although unnamed, the prophet is probably Epimenides of Cnossos, a half-mythical sixth century Greek, variously described as poet, prophet (Aristotle Rhetoric III. 17. 10) ... religious reformer to whom the Cretans offered sacrifices (Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers I. 11), one of the seven sages (Plutarch Solon XII), and the reputed author of a body of literature extant in the first century...
"Epimenides, it appears, called the Cretans liars because they claimed to have the tomb of Zeus among them, whereas his devotees said he was not dead but alive and risen. ...
"In a real letter addressed to Cretans the quotation would be singularly untactful. And in any case, the elders Titus would appoint would have to be Cretan elders... Unless the Cretan destination of the letter is entirely fanciful and unreal, and was conceived by the writer in order to blacken the names of his opponents by smearing them with the reputed Cretan depravity, we should have to suppose either that Titus was strictly a private letter to a non-Cretan named Titus, or that the writer was strangely insensitive to the insult he was inflicting on the Cretan brethren by the use of so devastating a quotation." TIB 1955 XI pp. 530 – 531

In addition, within those denominations and groups which have the position or office of elder, vv. 5-9 (along with 1 Timothy 3:1-7) is considered the criteria to be used in determining if a person (nearly always a man within these groups) is qualified as such.

"15. All is pure to the pure, but to the defiled, and to those who do not believe, nothing is pure because both their mind and their conscience are defiled."

"To the pure all things are pure has the ring of a proverb. Even if its identical form is not found elsewhere in the N.T. (nor indeed outside; but see Philo On the Special Laws III. 208-9; Seneca Epistle XCVIII. 3), yet the idea is proverbially used as a warrant for engaging in practices traditionally regarded as taboo. Jesus was believed to have given expression to the idea in Mark 7:14–15 (cited by Paul in Rom. 14;14) and Luke 11:41, thereby asserting that purity is of the heart, releasing men in principle from the error of thinking that religious purity can be attained by correct performance of specified ritual or by careful avoidance of practices declared (ritually) unclean, and releasing them in fact from the necessity of observing those precepts in Judaism, whether written or unwritten, which were to be interpreted as ceremonial rather than moral. In the present passage the writer brandishes the familiar saying in his own defense to justify Christian practice of marriage and enjoyment of foods (see I Tim. 4:3; 5:23): to the spiritually pure all (an overstatement) things are (ritually) pure. The reason why to the corrupt and unbelieving [with special reference to the false teachers] nothing [an overstatement] is pure, not even marriage, or foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe(I Tim. 4:3), is that their very minds and consciences are corrupted, i.e. the impurity is in their souls, not in the created world. Since their souls are totally depraved, they think the world is. The heart of the verse is that purity is a matter of the mind and conscience, not an attribute of things." TIB 1955 XI p. 532

"16. They declare that they know God, but in their deeds deny him, they are loathsome and unruly, and do not succeed in anything."

"He who does not refer every thing to eternity, is never likely to live either well or happily in time." A.C. 1831 VI p. 619

Chapter Two

"1. And speak the word that is fitting to our sound doctrine, 2. that the elders (aged men) be sober, serious, restrained, and sound in faith, in love, and in patience."

"As is typical of the Pastorals, the morality here urged is in no sense specifically Christian, but is a good account of conventional behavior as approved in any patriarchal society anywhere. It is a civil not a heroic morality..." TIB 1955 XI p. 533

"3. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the younger women..."

Titus chapter 2 makes specific addresses related to aged men, aged women, younger women, young men and servants (v.9–10). As such, it is a commonly referenced text for teaching on roles and relationships.

"4...teach the younger women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children," "5. to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their husbands..." "6. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded"

"9. It is for slaves to submit to their masters in everything; to satisfy their wants and not to be refractory. 10. Do not pilfer; rather show full faithfulness, so that everything will increase the glory of the law of the God our savior."

"The mention of a stereotypical slave vice like pilfering and the failure to list the duties of masters suggest a lurking bias in favor of the slaveholders." TNJBC 1990 p. 895 The relationship of employees to their supervisors and employers has also been taught from this section on servants. Commendation to the good and faithful servant is also taught by Jesus Christ in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:21,23)

"11. Thus the mercy of God will appear to the salvation of all men, 12. to guide us in departing from the evil and passions of the world, so that we can live in this world in chastity and in righteousness and in piety, 13. in expectation of the realization of the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of the great God, and our savior Jesus the anointed ..."

"The Pastorals view Christ as subordinate to God yet accord him, as a past and also yet-to-come manifestation of God, the same titles as God. Here he receives the very name of God." TNJBC 1990 p. 895
"The Greek of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ is ambiguous and therefore capable of being interpreted as referring to two persons rather than one. It is preferable, however, to suppose with most commentators, ancient as well as modern, that both epithets refer to Jesus, even though nowhere else in the N.T. is Jesus spoken of as our great God. This is the natural construction in Greek of two nouns following one article ('the'). Also the language here is obviously framed in reaction to that of the emperor cult and of the mystery religions Ptolemy I was named 'savior and god'; Antiochus and Julius Caesar 'god manifest'; Osiris, 'lord and savior,' In common usage the compound epithet meant one deity, not two. It should therefore not be surprising that a late Christian writer should speak of Jesus in the same two fold fashion, claiming for him the divine titles which others ascribed to their gods. Furthermore, functions ascribed to Yahweh in the O.T., viz., to redeem us ... and to purify for himself a people of his own, are ascribed to Jesus (vs.14). Identity of function prompts identity in name. Also, while Jewish apocalyptic speaks now of the appearing of God, now of the Messiah, the two are never thought of as appearing simultaneously. Such a double appearance would be unthinkable. And in the N.T. it is always the appearing of Christ which is expected, not of God..." TIB 1955 XI pp. 539–540

It should also be noted that the Greek text for "our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ" follows the Granville Sharp Rule (also known as the GSR which has never been debunked. The construction in Greek is as follows:

"When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle ..."

There has been many attempts over the last 200 years to dislodge the GSR, yet the GSR stands vindicated after all the dust settles.

Chapter Three

"1–2. Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men."

They must be not only obedient subjects (passively) but must be ready to initiate every good work (actively).

"3. Once we too were lacking in knowledge, rebellious, wrong, slaves to all kinds of passions and cravings, wasting our time in malice and envy, hateful," [Στυγητοι, stugetoi] "and each hating his brother."

"hateful as hell. The word comes from Στυξ, Styx, the infernal river... he who ... violated [an]oath was expelled from the assembly of the gods," [to the other side of the river Styx] "and was deprived of his nectar and ambrosia for a year" A.C. 1831 VI p. 624

"8. The word is trustworthy, and I want you stand upon its authority so that the believers in God turn their heart to engage in good works."

"When he is most himself" [the author] "thinks of religion in terms of an obedience to the received pattern of faith issuing in good deeds. The function of doctrine is to undergird the practical moral life." TIB 1955 XI p. 547

"9... refrain from investigations of foolish questions, from research into the histories of the genealogies, and from quarreling and disputes about the Law; there is no value in them; they are pointless."

"As the church sought to ground its unity in a creed, the problem of heresy and discipline became increasingly troublesome." TIB 1955 XI p. 548
"Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies] In these the Jews particularly delighted; they abounded in the most frivolous questions; and, as they had little piety themselves, they were solicitous to show that they had descended from godly ancestors....
"Of their frivolous questions, and the answers given to them, by the wisest and most reputable of their rabbins, the following is a specimen:
"Rabbi Hillel was asked, Why have the Babylonians round heads? To which he answered, This is a difficult question, but I will tell the reason: Their heads are round because they have but little wit. ...
Q. Why have the Africans broad feet? –
A. Because they inhabit a marshy country...
But ridiculous and trifling as these are, they are little in comparison to those solemnly proposed, and most gravely answered, by those who are called the Schoolmen. Here is a specimen, which I leave the reader to translate:-
Utrum essent excrementa in Paradiso? Utrum sancti resurgent cum intestinis? Utrum si deipara fuisset vir, potuisset esse naturalis parens Christi?
These, with many thousands of others, of equal use to religion and common sense, may be found in their writings. See the Summa of Thom. Aquinas, passim. Might not the Spirit have these religious triflers in view, rather than the less ridiculous Jews?" A.C. 1831 VI p. 626
"There is not one ... subscription... of any authority; and some of them are plainly ridiculous... see a treatise by old Mr. Prynne, intituled, The unbishoping of Timothy and Titus, 4to. Lond. 1636 and 1660, where, among many crooked things, there are some just observations." A.C. 1831 VI p. 627

"12. When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter."

This is Paul's exit plan for Titus from Crete. Titus had received direction from Paul to complete a work in Crete. (Titus 1:5). However, upon the arrival of Artemas or Tychicus, Paul was directing Titus to leave Crete and join him at Nicopolis.

See also


  1. 1 2 Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  2. William Paley Horae Paulinae (1785)
  3. Bart D. Ehrman. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. pp. 385ff
  4. "It was written to Titus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Cretians, from Nicopolis of Macedonia." —Authorized Version subscription after Titus 3:15
    • Note: Sources that say Nicopolis was in Epirus are technically correct, but Epirus had become part of Macedonia (Roman province) in 146 BCE. In 110 CE under Trajan it became a province in its own right, separate from Macedonia and Achaia. The expression "Nicopolis of Macedonia" in Paul's timeframe is valid.
  5. Raymond E. Brown. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Anchor Bible, p. 662
  6. Houlden and Rogerson (2001). Common Worship Lectionary: a Scriptures Commentary. London: SPCK. p. 18.
  7. Titus 1:12-13
  8. The Interpreters Bible The Holy Scriptures in the King James and Revised Standard versions with general articles and introduction, exegesis, [and] exposition for each book of the Bible in twelve volumes, George Arthur Buttrick, Commentary Editor, Walter Russell Bowie, Associate Editor of Exposition, Paul Scherer, Associate Editor of Exposition, John Knox Associate Editor of New Testament Introduction and Exegesis, Samuel Terrien, Associate Editor of Old Testament Introduction and Exegesis, Nolan B. Harmon Editor, Abingdon Press, copyright 1955 by Pierce and Washabaugh, set up printed, and bound by the Parthenon Press, at Nashville, Tennessee, Volume XI, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Pastoral Epistles [The First and Second Epistles to Timothy, and the Epistle to Titus Introduction and Exegesis by Fred D. Gealy, Philemon, Hebrews
  9. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Edited by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Union Theological Seminary, New York; NY, Robert A. Wild, S. J. [The Pastorals]; Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm. (emeritus) The Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC, with a foreword by His Eminence Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, S.J.; Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990
  10. The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The text carefully printed from the most correct copies of the present Authorized Version. Including the marginal readings and parallel texts. With a Commentary and Critical Notes. Designed as a help to a better understanding of the sacred writings. By Adam Clarke, LL.D. F.S.A. M.R.I.A. With a complete alphabetical index. Royal Octavo Stereotype Edition. Vol. II. [Volume VI together with the Old Testament volumes] New York, Published by J. Emory and B. Waugh, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, at the conference office, 13 Crosby-Street. J. Collord, Printer. 1831.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "Titus, Epistle to". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. 

External links

Online translations of the Epistle to Titus:

Exegetical papers on Titus:

Epistle to Titus
Preceded by
Second Timothy
New Testament
Books of the Bible
Succeeded by
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