Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Titus

- Titus

by Charles John Ellicott

The Epistles to Timothy and Titus.
BY
THE VERY REV. H. D. M. SPENCE, D.D.,

Dean of Gloucester.


INTRODUCTION
TO
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TITUS.

I. Titus.—Among the early Christian leaders of the school of Paul, Titus, to whom one of the three Pastoral Epistles of the Gentile Apostle was addressed, must have occupied a prominent position. For some unknown reason his name never occurs in the Acts (save, perhaps, in the doubtful reference, Acts 18:7, on which see below); but from a few scattered notices in the Epistles of St. Paul we are able to gather some notion of the work and influence of this distinguished and able teacher of the first days.

The silence of St. Luke in the Acts with reference to one who evidently played so important a part in the days when the foundations of the Christian Church were being laid, has been the subject of much inquiry. Attempts have been made, but with little success, to identify Titus with one or other of the characters prominent in the Acts story—with Luke himself, for instance, or Silvanus (Silas). The only possible identification, however, is with the “Justus” of Acts 18:7, to which name, in some of the older authorities, the name “Titus” is prefixed. The circumstances, as far as we know them, connected with Justus would fit in with this identification. This Justus was, like Titus, closely connected with Corinth; and, like Titus too, was an uncircumcised Gentile, attending the Jewish services as a proselyte of the gate. That these two were identical is possible, but nothing more.

Titus was of Gentile parentage, and probably a native of Antioch—the great centre of that early Gentile Christianity of which St. Paul was the first teacher, and, under the Holy Ghost, the founder. Some time before A.D. 50-51 the master and scholar had come together. In that year he accompanied Barnabas and St. Paul to the council of Apostles and elders which was convened at Jerusalem to consider the question of the general obligations of the Mosaic law. The result was the drawing up of the charter of Gentile freedom from all the restraints of the Jewish law. (See Acts 15:0; Galatians 2:1-3.) From this time (A.D. 50-51) the glad tidings that Christ was indeed a Light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6) spread through Asia, North Africa, and Europe with a strange and marvellous rapidity. There is no doubt, from the scattered notices in the Epistles of St. Paul, that Titus was one of the most active agents in the promulgation of the gospel story among the peoples that had hitherto sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The following table will give some idea of Titus connection with St. Paul:—

DATE.

EMPEROF
OF ROME.

——

Before
A.D. 50-51

Claudius.

Titus meets with and is instructed by St. Paul at Antioch in the faith. (Comp. Titus 1:4 : “My own son in the faith.”)

50-51

Titus accompanies St. Paul and Barnabas to the council of Apostles and elders at Jerusalem (Acts 15:0; Galatians 2:1).

54-55

Nero.

Probably with St. Paul during part of his second missionary journey. He is evidently well known to the Galatians, from the familiar reference to him in the Epistle to that Church. Perhaps he is alluded to in Galatians 3:5.

56

With St. Paul at Ephesus. Thence sent on a special mission to Corinth, probably bearer of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:18).

57

With St. Paul in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:6-15), and perhaps with St. Paul at Corinth, if identical with Justus, according to the reading of some of the older authorities.

65-66

Titus is superintending presbyter in Crete.

66-67

At Rome with St. Paul; thence sent to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10).

[Tradition speaks of Titus as returning from Dalmatia to Crete, where he died in extreme old age, as Archbishop of Gortyna.]

Titus, as we have seen, was a Gentile—was the one chosen by the great Apostle in very early days as the example of Christian freedom from Jewish rites and customs. At first the pupil, then the friend of St. Paul, we find him, in the brief notices in the Epistles, evidently occupying a position quite independent of, and in no wise subject to, his old master. He is St. Paul’s brother,” “companion,” “fellow-labourer” (2 Corinthians 8:22-23); St. Paul’s trusted and honoured friend. His missions of investigation and love, his arrangements for the famous collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, were apparently undertaken spontaneously, rather than by the direction of a superior and elder officer of the Church. (See, for instance, 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:16-17.) Now the Acts is confessedly a very early writing, and must have been put forth not later than A.D. 62-63; would it not be very probable that, in such a work, so prominent a Gentile, who had publicly, with St. Paul’s consent, held himself free from all Jewish restraints, and by his prominent example preached the perfect equality of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God—would it not be very probable that in the Acts the name and work of such a person would be omitted? The fierce hostility of a large section of the Jewish race to St. Paul on account of this very teaching of equality is well known: it probably compassed in the end his death. The gentle, loving spirit of St. Luke while telling the story of the foundation of the Christian Church with scrupulous accuracy, would be likely to avoid such passages of the early history which would tend to alienate any. (He never, for instance, hints at such scenes as the Galatian Epistle, Titus 2:0, relates so graphically.) This same spirit, which ever sought to win rather than to alienate, induced him, perhaps, to avoid the mention of the famous Gentile leader Titus at a period when the fierce hostility of the Christians of the Circumcision was endeavouring to compass the fall of St. Paul and the disruption of the school of Gentile Christianity.

The Holy Spirit loves to work, we know, by purely human instruments—now by the tender conciliatory pen of a Luke—now by the fiery zeal of a Paul, which refuses to recognise danger, or to acknowledge the possibility of failure.

Later on the appointment of the brilliant and successful Gentile organiser to the chief superintendence of the churches of Crete was one of singular fitness. “There was,” as it has been well said, “a strange blending of races and religions” in the island which boasted the possession of the birthplace of Zeus (Jupiter), and rejoiced in the vile mysteries practised in the worship of Dionysus (Bacchus). There were many Jews we know at Crete, but the Gentile population, of course, far outnumbered them. The congregation seem to have been numerous and full of life, but disorganised and troubled with disorder, misrule, and even dishonoured with many an excess utterly at variance with their Christian profession. Who so fitted to restore order and to enforce a sterner rule in such communities as the friend of St. Paul, who had worked already so great a work among the turbulent and licentious Christians of Corinth, and had persuaded by his marvellous skill so many Gentile congregations to unite in helping with a generous liberality the pressing needs of their proud and haughty Jewish brethren who disdained them? (See the Note on Titus 1:4.)

After the year A.D. 65-66 the story of Titus is uncertain. We know he rejoined the Apostle at Rome, and left him again for Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10).

Then traditionary recollections which lingered in Crete tell us how he returned from Dalmatia to the island, where he worked long and presided over the churches, and died at an advanced age. The church of Megalo-Castron, in the north of the island, was dedicated to him. In the Middle Ages, his name was still revered, and his memory honoured. The name of Titus was the watchword of the Cretans when they fought against the Venetians, who came under the standard of St. Mark. The Venctians themselves, when here, seem to have transferred to him part of that respect which elsewhere would probably have been manifested for St. Mark alone. During the celebration of several great festivals of the Church the response of the Latin clergy of Crete, after the prayer for the Doge of Venice, was, Sancte Marce tu nos adjuva; but after that for the Duke of Candia, Sancte Tite tu nos adjuva (Pashley’s Travels in Crete, quoted by Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul).

II. Contents of the Epistle.—After a formal salutation and greeting St. Paul reminds Titus of his special work in Crete, viz., that the government of the various churches must be properly organised—a body of elders, or presbyters, must be ordained and set over the congregation. The qualifications of these officers are then detailed. They are for the most part of a moral nature, but these elders must also possess the power necessary for teaching and influencing such a people as were the Cretans (Titus 1:1-16). St. Paul passes on to the special kind of instruction Titus and the elders must impart to men and women of varied ages, sexes, and ranks in the Cretan churches—to aged men, to aged women, to the young of both sexes, to slaves—and then proceeds to show the reason why such instruction must be given. God’s grace, he says, has appeared in the work of redemption, bringing salvation to all—old or young, free or slaves (Titus 2:1-15). St. Paul now points out to Titus how the Christian community must conduct themselves towards the heathen world. There must be no thought of rebellion among the worshippers of the Lord Jesus. Again he enforces these solemn admonitions by an appeal to the loftiest Christian truths. He closes his Letter by reminding his friend that this practical teaching, based on gospel truth, must be the standard of instruction; no time must be wasted on useless theological questions. A few personal requests are added (Titus 3:1-15).