Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

- Titus

by Albert Barnes

Introduction to Titus

Section 1. The History of Titus

Of Titus nothing more is certainly known than what we find in the epistles of Paul. It is somewhat remarkable that there is no mention of him in the Acts of the Apostles, nor does his name occur in the New Testament anywhere, except in the writings of the apostle Paul. From his incidental allusions to him, we learn the following particulars respecting him.

(1.) he was by birth a Gentile. In Galatians 2:3, he is called a Greek, and it is certain from that passage that he had not been circumcised, and the probability is, that up to the time of his conversion he had lived as other Gentiles, and had not been converted to the Jewish faith. His father and mother were, doubtless, both Greeks, and thus he was distinguished from Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess, but whose father was a Greek; Acts 16:3; compare Notes on Galatians 2:3. If Titus had been proselyted to the Jewish faith, it is to be presumed that he would have been circumcised.

(2.) he had been converted to Christianity by the instrumentality of Paul himself. This is clear from the epistle, Titus 1:4, “To Titus, mine own son, after the common faith;” see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:2. This is language which the apostle would not have used of one who had been converted by the instrumentality of another. But where he lived, and when or how he was converted, is wholly unknown. As to the time when he was converted, it is known only that this occurred before the fourteenth year after the conversion of Paul, for at that time Titus, a Christian, was with Paul at Jerusalem; Galatians 2:1. As to the place where he lived, there seems some reason to suppose that it was in some part of Asia Minor - for the Greeks abounded there; Paul laboured much there; and there were numerous converts made there to the Christian faith. Still this is not by any means certain.

(3.) Titus went with Paul to Jerusalem when he was deputed by the church at Antioch with Barnabas, to lay certain questions before the apostles and eiders there in reference to the converts from the Gentiles; Acts 15:0; compare Galatians 2:1. It is not known why he took Titus with him on that occasion and the reasons can be only conjectural; see Notes on Galatians 2:1. It is possible that he was taken with him to Jerusalem because his was a case in point in regard to the question which was to come before the apostles and elders there. It is not improbable, from an expression which Paul uses in describing his visit there - “neither was Titus compelled to be circumcised “ - that the case came up for discussion, and that strenuous efforts were made by the Judaizing portion there (compare Galatians 2:4), to have him circumcised. Paul and Barnabas, however, so managed the cause that the principle was settled that it was not necessary that converts from the heathen should be circumcised; Acts 15:19-20.

(4.) after the council at Jerusalem, it seems probable that Titus returned with Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Silas and Judas Acts 15:23, and that afterwards he attended the apostle for a considerable time in his travels and labours. This appears from a remark in 2 Corinthians 8:23; “Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you.” From this it would seem, that he had been with Paul; that he was as yet not well known; and that the fact that he had been seen with him had led to inquiry who he was, and what was the office which he sustained. That he was also a companion of Paul, and quite essential to his comfort in his work, is apparent from the following allusions to him in the same epistle - 2 Corinthians 7:6 - “God, that comforteth those who are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;” 2 Corinthians 2:13. “I had no rest in my spirit because I found not Titus my brother;” 2 Corinthians 7:13. “Yea and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus;” compare 2 Timothy 4:10; 2 Corinthians 12:18.

(5.) there is reason to believe that Titus spent some time with the apostle in Ephesus. For the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written at Ephesus, and was sent by the hand of Titus; Introduction to 1 Corinthians, Section 6. It is to be presumed also, that he would on such an occasion send some one with the epistle in whom he had entire confidence, and who had been so long with him as to become familiar with his views. For Titus, on this occasion, was sent not only to bear the epistle, but to endeavour to heal the divisions and disorders there, and to complete a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem which the apostle had himself commenced; compare the notes at 2Co 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:6. After this he met Paul in Macedonia 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, but whether he was with him when he went with the collection to Jerusalem, and during his imprisonment in Cesarea, or on his voyage to Rome, we have no information.

(6.) we next hear of him as being left by the apostle in the island of Crete, that he might “set in order the things that were wanting, and ordain elders in every city;” Titus 1:5. This is supposed to have occurred about the year 62, and after the first imprisonment of the apostle at Rome. It is evidently implied that the apostle had been himself there with him, and that he had undertaken to accomplish some important object there, but that something had prevented his completing it, and that he had left Titus to finish it. This was clearly a temporary arrangement, for there is no evidence that it was designed that Titus should be a permanent “bishop” of Crete, or that he remained there long. That he did not design that he should be a permanent bishop of that island, is clear from Titus 3:12, where the apostle directs him, when he should send Artemas to take his place, to come to him to Nicopolis. If Titus was a prelatical bishop, the apostle would not in this summary manner have superseded him, or removed him from his diocese.

(7.) he was with Paul in Rome during his second imprisonment there. He did not, however, remain with him until his trial, but left him and went into Dalmatia; 2 Timothy 4:10. For the probable reason why he had gone there, see Notes on that place. What became of him afterward, we are not informed. The tradition is, that he returned to Crete, and preached the gospel there and in the neighbouring islands, and died at the age of 94. But this tradition depends on no certain evidence.

Section 2. The Island of Crete

As Paul Titus 1:5 says that he had left Titus in Crete to perform an important service there, and as the instructions in this epistle doubtless had some peculiar applicability to the state of things existing there, it is of importance, in order to a correct understanding of the epistle, to have some knowledge of that island, and of the circumstances in which the gospel was introduced there.

The island of Crete, now Candia, is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, at the south of all the Cyclades. See the Map of Asia Minor, prefixed to the Acts of the Apostles. Its name is said by some to have been derived from the Curetes, who are supposed to have been its first inhabitants; by others, from the nymph Crete, daughter of Hesperus; and by others, from Cres, a son of Jupiter and the nymph Idaea. The ancient authors in general say that Crete was originally peopled from Palestine. According to Bochart (Lib. 5, c. 15), that part of Palestine which lies by the Mediterranean was called by the Arabs Keritha, and by Syrians Creth; and the Hebrews called the inhabitants Crethi, or Crethim, which the Septuagint has rendered Κρητας Krētas - Cretans; Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5. It would be easy to pass from Palestine to the island of Crete. Sir Isaac Newton, also, is of opinion that Crete was peopled from Palestine. He says, “Many of the Phoenicians and Syrians, in the year before Christ 1045, fled from Zidon, and from king David, into Asia Minor, Crete, Greece, and Libya, and introduced letters, music, poetry, the Octaeteris, metals and their fabrication and other arts, sciences, and customs of the Phoenicians. Along with these Phoenicians came a sort of men skilled in religious mysteries, arts, and sciences of Phoenicia, and settled in several places, under the names of Curetes, Idaei, Dactyli,” etc.

According to Pliny, the extent of Crete from east to west is about 270 miles, but its breadth nowhere exceeds fifty miles. The early inhabitants are generally supposed to be the Eteocretes of Homer; but their origin is unknown. Minos, who had expelled his brother Sarpedon from the throne, first gave laws to the Cretans, and, having conquered the pirates who infested the Aegean sea, established a powerful navy. In the Trojan war, Idomeneus, sovereign of Crete, led its forces to war in eighty vessels - a number little inferior to those commanded by Agamemnon himself. At this period, the island appears to have been inhabited by a mixed population of Greeks and barbarians. After the Trojan war, the principal cities formed themselves into several republics, for the most part independent, while some of them were connected with federal ties. The Cretan code of laws was supposed by many to have furnished Lycurgus with the model of his most salutary regulations.

It was founded on the just basis of liberty and an equality of rights, and its great aim was to promote social harmony and peace, by enforcing temperance and frugality. In regard to this code, see Anthon’S Class. Dic., Art. Creta. In the time of Polybius (bc 203), the Cretans had much degenerated from their ancient character; for he charges them repeatedly with the grossest immorality, and the basest vices. Polyb. 4, 47, 53; Id. 6, 46. We know, also, with what severity they are reproved by Paul, in the words of Epimenides; see the notes at Titus 1:12. Crete was subdued by the Romans, and became a part of a Roman province. The interior of the island is very hilly and woody, and intersected with fertile valleys. Mount Ida, in the center of the island, is the principal mountain, and surpasses all the others in elevation. The island contains no lakes, and its rivers are mostly mountain torrents, which are dry during the summer season.

The valleys, or sloping plains, in the island are represented as very fertile. The greater portion of the land is not cultivated; but it might produce sugar-cane, excellent wine, and the best kind of fruit. It has a delightful climate, and is remarkably healthful. The ancients asserted that this delightful island, the birth-place of Jupiter, was freed, by the indulgence of the gods, from every noxious animal. No quadrupeds of a ferocious character belong to it. The wild goat is the only inhabitant of the forest and the lofty mountains, and sheep overspread the plains, and graze undisturbed by ravenous enemies. The island now is under Turkish rule, and is divided into three pachaliks; but the inhabitants are mostly Greeks, who are kept in a state of great depression. The native Candians are of the Greek church, and are allowed the free exercise of their religion. The island is divided into twelve bishoprics, the bishop of one of which assumes the title of archbishop, and is appointed by the patriarch of Constantinople. The situation of this island for commerce can scarcely be surpassed. It is at an almost equal distance from Asia, Europe, and Africa, and might be made the emporium for the manufactures and agricultural productions of each; but, from the oppressive nature of the government, the indolence of the Turks, and the degraded state of the Greeks, those advantages are not improved, and its condition partakes of that of the general condition of the Turkish empire.

This island was formerly famous for its hundred cities; it is distinguished in the ancient fabulous legends for the arrival there of Europa, on a bull, from Phoenicia; for the laws of Minos; for the labyrinth, the work of Daedalus; and, above all, as the place where Jupiter was born and was buried. According to the fables of mythology, he was born in a cavern near Lyctus, or Cnosus; was rocked in a golden cradle; was fed with honey, and with the milk of the goat Amalthea, while the Curetes danced around him, clashing their arms, to prevent his cries from being heard by Saturn. He became, according to the legend, the king of Crete, and was buried on the island. See Anthon, Class. Dic., Art. Jupiter.

Section 3. The introduction of the gospel into Crete

We have no certain information in regard to the time when the gospel was first preached in Crete, nor by whom it was done. There are some circumstances mentioned, however, which furnish all the light which we need on this point, in order to an understanding of the epistle before us. Among the persons who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and who were converted there, Cretans are mentioned Acts 2:11; and it is highly probable that, when they returned to their homes, they made the gospel known to their countrymen. Yet history is wholly silent as to the method by which it was done, and as to the result on the minds of the inhabitants. As no visit of any of the apostles to that island is mentioned by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, it may be presumed that the gospel there had not produced any very marked success; and the early history of Christianity there is to us unknown.

It is clear from the epistle before us Titus 1:5, that the apostle Paul was there on some occasion, and that the gospel, either when he was there or before, was attended with success. “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.” Here it is manifest that Paul had been there with Titus; that he had commenced some arrangements which he had not been able himself to complete; and that the gospel had had an effect extensively on the island, since he was to ordain eiders “in every city.”

It is not certainly known, however, when Paul was there. There is no mention in the Acts of the Apostles of his having been there, except when he was on his way to Rome Acts 27:7-8; and this was in such circumstances as to preclude the supposition that that was the time referred to in this epistle, for.

(1.) Titus was not then with him:

(2) There is no reason to suppose that he remained there long enough to preach the gospel to any extent, or to establish churches.

He was sailing to Rome as a prisoner, and there is no probability that he would be permitted to go at large and preach for any considerable time. There is, therefore, a moral certainty that it must have been on some other occasion. “It is striking,” says Neander (History of the Planting of the Christian Church, vol. 1, pp. 400, 401), “that while Luke in the Acts reports so fully and circumstantially the occurrences of the apostles last voyage to Rome, and mentions his stay in Crete, he says not a word (contrary to his usual practice in such cases) of the friendly reception given to him by the Christians there, or even of his meeting them at all. Hence, we may conclude that no Christian churches existed in that island, though that transient visit would naturally give rise to the intention of planting the gospel there, which he probably fulfilled soon after he was set at liberty, when he came into these parts.”

There is reason to believe that Paul, after his first imprisonment, at Rome, was released, and again visited Asia Minor and Macedonia. See Introduction to 2 Timothy. On this journey, it is not improbable that he may have visited Crete, having, as Neander supposes, had his attention called to this island as a desirable place for preaching the gospel, when on his way to Rome. “If we may be allowed to suppose,” says Dr. Paley (Hor. Paul.), “that Paul, after his liberation at Rome, sailed into Asia, taking Crete in his way; that from Asia, and from Ephesus, the capital of that country, he proceeded into Macedonia, and, crossing the peninsula in his progress, came into the neighbourhood of Nicopolis, we have a route which falls in with everything. It executes the intention expressed by the apostle of visiting Colosse and Philippi, as soon as he should be set at liberty at Rome. It allows him to leave ‘Titus at Crete,’ and ‘Timothy at Ephesus, as he went into Macedonia,’ and to write to both, not long after, from the peninsula of Greece, and probably from the neighbourhood of Nicopolis, thus bringing together the dates of these two letters” (1 Tim. and Titus), “and thereby accounting for that affinity between them, both in subject and language, which our remarks have pointed out. I confess that the journey which we have thus traced out for Paul is in a great measure hypothetic; but it should be observed that it is a species of consistency which seldom belongs to falsehood, to admit of an hypothesis which includes a great number of remote and independent circumstances without contradiction.” See Neander, History of the Planting of the Churches, i. 401. Compare, however, Introduction to 1 Timothy, Section 2.

Why Paul left Crete without completing the work which was to be done, and especially without ordaining the eiders himself, is not certainly known. There is evidently a striking resemblance between the circumstances which induced him to leave Titus there, and those which existed at Ephesus when he left Timothy there to complete an important work; 1 Timothy 1:3-4. We know that Paul was driven away from Ephesus before he had finished the work there which he had purposed to accomplish Acts 19:0; Acts 20:1; and it is not at all improbable that some such disturbance took place in Crete. Compare Koppe, Proleg. p. 194. When he thus left, he committed to Titus the work which he had designed to accomplish, with instructions to finish it as soon as possible, and then to come to him at Nicopolis; Titus 3:12.

Section 4. The place, time, and occasion of writing the epistle

There has been much diversity of opinion as to the time and place of writing this epistle.

In regard to the place, there can be little doubt that it was at a Nicopolis; for the apostle, in Titus 3:12, directs Titus to come to him at that place. But it is not easy to determine what Nicopolis is meant, for there were many cities of that name. The person who affixed the subscription at the end of the epistle, affirms that it was “Nicopolis of Macedonia;” but, as has been frequently remarked in these Notes, these subscriptions are of no authority. The name Nicopolis (meaning, properly, a city of victory - νίκη nikē and πόλις polis) was given to several places. There was a city of this name in Thrace, on the river Nessus, now called Nikopi. There was also a city of the same name in Epirus, two in Moesia, another in Armenia, another in Cilicia, and another in Egypt, in the vicinity of Alexandria. It is by no means easy to ascertain which of these cities is meant, though, as Paul was accustomed to travel in Greece and Asia Minor, there seems to be a probability that one of those cities is intended.

The only way of determining this with any degree of probability, is, to ascertain what city was best known by that name at the time when the epistle was written, or what city one would be likely to go to, if he were directed to go to Nicopolis, without any further specification - as if one were directed to go to Philadelphia, London, or Rome. In such a case, he would go to the principal city of that name, though there might be many other smaller places of that name also. But even this would not be absolutely certain, for Paul may have specified to Titus the place where he expected to go before he left him, so that he would be in no danger of doubt where the place was. But if we were to allow this consideration to influence us in regard to the place, there can be little doubt that the city which he meant was Nicopolis in Epirus, and the common opinion has been that the apostle alludes to this city.

This Nicopolis was situated in Epirus, in Greece, north-west of Corinth and Athens, on the Ambracian gulf, and near its mouth. See the Map prefixed to the Acts of the Apostles. On the same gulf, and directly opposite to Nicopolis, is Actium, the place where Augustus achieved a signal victory over Mark Antony; and the city of Nicopolis he built in honour of that victory. Augustus was anxious to raise this city to the highest rank among the cities of Greece, and caused games to be celebrated there, with great pomp, every few years. Having afterwards fallen into decay, the city was restored by the emperor Julian. Modern travelers describe the remains of Nicopolis as very extensive; the site which they now occupy is called Prevesa Vecchia. See Anthon’s Class. Dic. It should be said, however, that there is no absolute certainty about the place where the epistle was written. Macknight and Benson suppose it was at Colosse; Lardner supposes it was in or near Macedonia; Hug, at Ephesus.

If the epistle was written from the Nicopolis referred to, then it was probably after Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome. If so, it was written about the year 63 or 64. But there is great diversity of opinion as to the time. Lardner and Hug place it in the year 56. It is of no material importance to be able to determine the exact time.

The occasion on which it was written is specified by the apostle himself, with such clearness, that there can be no doubt on that point. Paul had left Titus in Crete, to “set in order the things which were wanting, and to ordain elders in every city” Titus 1:5; and as he had himself, perhaps, been called to leave suddenly, it was important that Titus should have more full instructions than he had been able to give him on various points of duty, or, at any rate, that he should have permanent instructions to which he could refer. The epistle is occupied, therefore, mainly with such counsels as were appropriate to a minister of the gospel engaged in the duties which Titus was left to discharge.

The principal difficulties which it was apprehended Titus would meet with in the performance of his duties there, and which in fact made his labours there desirable, arose from two sources: (1.) the character of the Cretans themselves; and (2.) the influence of Judaizing teachers.

(1.) the character of the Cretans themselves was such as to demand the vigilance and care of Titus. They were a people characterized for insincerity, falsehood, and gross living; Titus 1:12. There was great danger, therefore, that their religion would be hollow and insincere, and great need of caution lest they should be corrupted from the simplicity and purity required in the gospel; Titus 1:13.

(2.) the influence of Judaizing teachers was to be guarded against. It is evident from Acts 2:11, that there were Jews residing there; and it is probable that it was by those who had gone from that island to Jerusalem to attend the feast of the Pentecost, and who had been converted on that occasion, that the gospel was first introduced there. From this epistle, also, it is clear that one of the great dangers to piety in the churches of Crete, arose from the efforts of such teachers, and from the plausible arguments which they would use in favour of the Mosaic law; see Titus 1:10, Titus 1:14-16; Titus 3:9. To counteract the effect of their teaching, it was necessary to have ministers of the gospel appointed in every important place, who should be qualified for their work. To make these arrangements, was the great design for which Titus was left there; and to give him full information as to the kind of ministers which was needed, this epistle was written.

There is a very striking resemblance between this epistle and the first epistle to Timothy. See Paley’s Horae Paulinae. “Both letters were addressed to persons left by the writer to preside in their respective churches during his absence. Both letters are principally occupied in describing the qualifications to be sought for in those whom they should appoint to offices in the church; and the ingredients of this description are, in both letters, nearly the same. Timothy and Titus, likewise, are cautioned against the same prevailing corruptions, and, in particular, against the same misdirection of their cares and studies.” Paley. This similarity is found, not only in the general structure of the epistles, but also in particular phrases and expressions; compare 1 Timothy 1:2-3, with Tit 1:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:4, with Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12, with Titus 3:7; Titus 2:15; 1 Timothy 3:2-4, with Titus 1:6-8.

It is evident, from this, that the epistles were written by the same person, and to those who were in substantially the same circumstances. They are incidental proofs that they are genuine, and were written by the person, and to the persons, whose names appear, and on the occasions which are said in the epistle to have existed. On the subjects in this introduction, the reader may consult Macknight’s Introduction to the Epistle; Michaelis’s Introduction; Benson, Koppe, and especially Paley’s Horae Paulinae - a work which will never be consulted without profit.