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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

- Titus

by Henry Alford

See the book comments for 1 Timothy for an introduction to the Pastoral Epistles.





1. THE time and place of writing this Epistle have been before discussed (see above, ch. vii. § ii. 29 f.). It appears to have been sent from Ephesus, or perhaps from Macedonia, during the last year of the Apostle’s life (A.D. 67), to Titus, who was left in charge with the Churches in the island of Crete. We shall now gather up the notices which remain to us respecting Titus himself.

2. It is by no means easy to construct an account of Titus. At first sight, a strange phænomenon presents itself. The narrative in the Acts never once mentions him. And this is the more remarkable, because of all the companions of St. Paul he seems to have been the most valued and trusted. No adequate reason has ever been given for this omission. There must be some, it is thought, which we cannot penetrate. Was he identical with some one or other of St. Paul’s companions, known to us in the Acts under another name? None seems to satisfy the conditions. Or are we to regard the notice in 2Ti 4:10 as indicative of his ultimate desertion of the Apostle, and thus to seek for a solution of the problem? But even with such a supposition, we shall not touch the narrative of the Acts, which we believe to have been published some years previous to the writing of that Epistle. So that we must be content to leave the problem unsolved, and to put together the few notices which we possess, as given of a person distinct from any mentioned in the Acts.

3. The first notice of Titus, in respect of time, occurs in Galatians 2:1 ; Galatians 2:3 . We there learn that he was of Gentile origin; and that he was taken by Paul and Barnabas to the council of the Apostles and elders which was convened at Jerusalem to consider of the question of the obligation of the Mosaic law. The narrative in the Acts speaks merely of τινὲς ἄλλοι being sent with the two Apostles. But we see clearly the reason why Titus should be marked out in Galatians 2:0 for separate mention. He was an uncircumcised Gentile, and the independence of action of St. Paul is shewn by his refusing to listen for a moment to the proposal, which appears to have been urged, for his circumcision. In the Acts, no such reason for special mention of him existed. And this consideration will shew, that we are perhaps not justified in assuming from this incident that Titus held any position of high confidence or trust at this time . We find him in close companionship with the Apostles, but that is all we can say. He was certainly converted by means of St. Paul himself, from the γνησίῳ τέκνῳ of Titus 1:4 .

4. Our next notice of him is found in 2 Cor., where it appears (ch. 2Co 12:18 ) that he, with two other brethren, whose names are not mentioned, was sent forward by St. Paul from Ephesus, during his long visit there, to Corinth, to set on foot a collection (ch. 2Co 8:6 ) for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and also to ascertain the effect of the first Epistle on the Corinthians. St. Paul, on his departure from Ephesus, waited at Troas, where great opportunities of usefulness were opening before him (ch. 2Co 2:12 ): but so anxious was he for the return of Titus ( Τίτον τὸν ἀδελφόν μον ), that he “left them and passed into Macedonia” ( 2Co 2:13 ). There he met with Titus, who brought him a satisfactory account of the effect of the first Epistle (ch. 2Co 7:6-15 ): and from that which St. Paul there says of him, his effective zeal and earnestness in the work of the Gospel is sufficiently shewn. Further proof of these is given in his undertaking of his own accord the delicate task of completing the collection (ch. 2 Corinthians 8:6 ; 2 Corinthians 8:16-17 ff.): and proof also of the Apostle’s confidence in him, in the terms in which he commends him to the Corinthians. He calls him his own κοινωνός (ch. 2Co 8:23 ): appeals to his integrity, and entire unity of action with himself (ch. 2Co 12:18 ).

5. From this time (A.D. 57: see Vol. II. Prolegg. to 2 Cor. § ii. 3), to the notices furnished by our Epistle (A.D. 67), we know nothing of Titus. At this latter date we find him left in Crete by St. Paul, obviously for a temporary purpose: viz. to “carry forward the correction of those things which are defective” (ch. Tit 1:5 ), and among these principally, to establish presbyteries for the government of the various Churches, consisting of ἐπίσκοποι ( Tit 1:7 ). His stay there was to be very short (ch. Tit 3:12 ), and he was, on the arrival of Tychicus or Artemas, to join the Apostle at Nicopolis. Not the slightest trace is found in the Epistle, of any intention on the part of St. Paul to place Titus permanently over the Cretan Churches: indeed, such a view is inconsistent with the date furnished us in it.

6. Titus appears to have accordingly rejoined the Apostle, and afterwards to have left him for Dalmatia ( 2Ti 4:10 ). Whether from this notice we are to infer that he had been with him in Rome, is quite uncertain. It would seem more probable that he had gone from Nicopolis, or at all events from some point on the joujourney. We can hardly, on mature consideration of the expressions in 2 Timothy 4:10 , entirely get rid of the impression, that Titus had left the Apostle of his own accord. There is, as has been above observed, an apparent contrast intended between those who are classed with Demas, they being even included under his ἐπορεύθη , without another verb expressed and Tychicus, who had been sent on a mission by the Apostle. Still, it would be unfair to lay any stress on this, in a matter so well admitting of charitable doubt; and we may be well permitted, with Mr. Conybeare, to “hope that his journey to the neighbouring Dalmatia was undertaken by desire of St. Paul.”

7. The traditionary notices of the after life of Titus are too evidently grounded on a misunderstanding of our Epistle, to be worth much. Eus. H. E. iii. 4, says, Τιμόθεός γε μὴν τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ παροικίας ἱστορεῖται πρῶτος τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν εἰληχέναι (see on this above, Prolegg. to 1 Tim. § i. 7), ὡς καὶ Τίτος τῶν ἐπὶ Κρήτης ἐκκλησιῶν . And so Theodoret assumes, on 1 Timothy 3:1 .

8. Butler informs us (Lives of the Saints, Jan. 4) that Titus is honoured in Dalmatia as its principal Apostle: that he again returned from Dalmatia to Crete, and finished a laborious and holy life by a happy death in Crete, in a very advanced old age, some say in his 94th year: that he is looked on in Crete as the first archbishop of Gortyna, which metropolitical see is now fixed at Candia, the new capital, built by the Saracens after the destruction of Gortyna. But all this fabric too manifestly bears the appearance of having been raised on the above misapprehension, to possess any traditional worth.



1. When, and by whom, these Churches were founded, is quite uncertain. Crete abounded with Jews of wealth and influence. We find proof of this in Jos. Antt. xvii. 12. 1, Κρήτῃ προσενεχθεὶς (the Pseudo-Alexander) Ἰουδαίων ὁπόσοις εἰς ὁμιλίαν ἀφίκετο , ἐπήγαγεν εἰς πίστιν , καὶ χρημάτων εὐπορηθεὶς δόσει τῇ ἐκείνων ἐπὶ Μήλον διῇρεν : and again B. J. ii. 7. 1, τοὺς ἐν Κρήτῃ Ἰουδαίους ἐξαπατήσας καὶ λαμπρῶς ἐφοδισθείς , διέπλευσεν εἰς Μῆλον : Philo, leg. ad Caium, § 36, vol. ii. p. 587, οὐ μόνον αἱ ἤπειροι μεσταὶ τῶν Ἰουδαϊκῶν ἀποικιῶν εἰσιν , ἀλλὰ καὶ νήσων αἱ δοκιμώταται Εὔβοια , Κύπρος , Κρήτη . In Act 2:11 Cretans are named among those who heard the utterance of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It is probable therefore, that these Churches owed their origin to the return of individuals from contact with the preaching of the Gospel, and had therefore as yet been unvisited by an Apostle, when they first come before us towards the end of St. Paul’s ministry.

2. It is plain that no certain evidence can be deduced, as to the existence of these Churches, from no mention being made of them when St. Paul passed by Crete on his voyage to Malta in Acts 27:0 . We have no reason to suppose that he was at liberty to go where he pleased while remaining in port, nor can we reason, from the analogy of Julius’s permission at Sidon, that similar leave would be given him where perhaps no personal relation subsisted between him and the inhabitants. Besides which, the ship was detained by a contrary wind, and probably expecting, during a good part of the time, to sail every day.

3. The next point requiring our attention is, the state of those Churches at the date of our Epistle. If it appear, on comparison, that the false teachers in them were more exclusively Jewish than those at Ephesus, it must be remembered, that this would be a natural consequence, the origin of the Churches being that which we have supposed. And in that case the Apostle’s visit, acting as a critical test, would separate out and bring into hostility this Judaistic element, and thus lead to the state of things which we find in this Epistle.

4. Various objections are brought by De Wette against the Epistle, as not corresponding with the facts, in its assumptions and expressions. The first of them, that “it professes to have been written shortly after the founding of the Churches, but sets forth a ripeness and abundance of heretical teaching quite inconsistent with such recent foundation,” falls to the ground on our hypothesis of their origin. They were old in actual date of existence, but quite in their infancy of arrangement and formal constitution.

5. With our hypothesis also falls his second objection: viz. that “the great recent success of the Apostle there makes the severity of his characterization of the inhabitants, and that upon another’s testimony (ch. Tit 1:12 ), quite inexplicable. We should rather have looked for thankful recognition, as in other Epistles.” But, supposing Christianity to have grown up there in combination with the national vices, and a thorough work of purification to be wanted, then we need not be surprised at the Apostle reminding Titus of the character of those with whom he had to deal, appealing to the testimony of their own writers to confirm the fact.

6. His third objection, that “the heretical teachers must have grown up under the eyes of Titus since the Apostle’s absence, and thus must have been better known to him than to St. Paul, whereas here we have St. Paul informing him about them,” is grounded on pure assumption, arising from mistake. The false teachers had been there throughout, and, as we have said, had been awaked into activity by the Apostle’s presence and teaching. He knew, from long and bitter experience, far more of them than Titus could do: and his notices and warnings are founded on this longer experience and more thorough apostolic insight.

7. His fourth , that “in relation to the moral and ecclesiastical state of the Cretan Christians, as disclosed in the Epistle, a duration of the Gospel among them of some length must be assumed, from the stress laid on previous purity of character in those to be chosen to church-offices,” also falls to the ground on our hypothesis of the origin and previous duration of the Churches.

8. The fifth is, that “it is most unnatural and startling to find not one reference to what the Apostle had taught and preached in Crete, when in 1 Thess., an Epistle written under similar circumstances, we find so many.” But we entirely deny the parallelism. The Thessalonian Church had been founded by himself; he was torn away from it in the midst of his teaching: every reason existed for constantly recalling what he had said to them, either to enforce it, or to guard it from misunderstanding. Such was not the case here. He was writing of a Church which he had not himself founded: whose whole situation was different: and writing not to the Church itself, but to one whom he had commissioned to set it in order, and who knew, and needed not reminding of, what he had preached there.

9. It only remains under this head, that we should say something of the character of the Cretans which St. Paul has quoted from Epimenides, ch. Titus 1:12 , Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται , κακὰ θηρία , γαστέρες ἀργαί .

10. Meursius, in his very complete and elaborate treatise on Crete, has accumulated nearly all the testimonies of the ancients respecting them. From his pages I take a few, that the student may be able to illustrate the character by them.

11. On their avarice , we have the testimony of Livy, xliv. 45, “Cretenses spem pecuniæ secuti: et quoniam in dividendo plus offensionum quam gratiæ erat, quinquaginta talenta iis posita sunt in ripa diripienda:” of Plutarch, Paul. Æmil. c. 23, τῶν δὲ στρατιωτῶν , ἐπηκολούθησαν οἱ Κρῆτες , οὐ δι ʼ εὔνοιαν , ἀλλὰ τοῖς χρήμασιν , ὥσπερ κηρίοις μέλιτται , προσλιπαροῦντες : of Polybius, vi. 46. 3, ὁ περὶ τὴν αἰσχροκέρδειαν καὶ πλεονεξίαν τρόπος οὕτως ἐπιχωριάζει παρ ʼ αὐτοῖς , ὥστε παρὰ μόνοις Κρηταιεῦσι τῶν ἁπάντων ἀνθρώπων μηδὲν αἰσχρὸν νομίζεσθαι κέρδος .

12. On their ferocity and fraud , Polybius vi. 46. 9, Κρηταιεῖς ἐν πλείσταις ἰδίᾳ τε καὶ κατὰ κοινὸν στάσεσι καὶ φόνοις καὶ πολέμοις ἐμφυλίοις ἀναστρεφομένους : and iv. 8. 11, Κρῆτες δὲ καὶ κατὰ γῆν καὶ κατὰ θάλατταν πρὸς μὲν ἐνέδρας καὶ λῃστείας καὶ κλοπὰς πολεμίων , καὶ νυκτερινὰς ἐπιθέσεις καὶ πάσας τὰς μετὰ δόλου καὶ κατὰ μέρος χρείας ἀνυπόστατοι , πρὸς δὲ τὴν ἐξ ὁμολόγου καὶ κατὰ πρόσωπον φαλαγγηδὸν ἔφοδον , ἀγεννεῖς καὶ πλάγιοι ταῖς ψυχαῖς : Strabo, x. c. 4 περὶ δὲ τῆς Κρήτης ὁμολογεῖται διότι … ὕστερον πρὸς τὸ χεῖρον μετέβαλεν ἐπὶ πλεῖστον . μετὰ γὰρ τοὺς Τυῤῥηνούς , οἳ μάλιστα ἐδῄωσαν τὴν καθ ʼ ἡμᾶς θάλατταν , οὗτοι εἰσὶν οἱ διαδεξάμενοι τὰ λῃστήρια : an Epigram of Leonides, Anthol. iii. 22, αἰεὶ ληϊσταὶ καὶ ἁλιφθόροι οὔτε δίκαιοι Κρῆτες · τίς Κρητῶν οἶδε δικαιοσύνην ;

13. On their mendacity , Polybius vi. 47. 5, καὶ μὴν οὔτε κατ ʼ ἰδίαν ἤθη δολιώτερα Κρηταιέων εὕροι τις ἄν , πλὴν τελείως ὀλίγων , οὔτε καθόλου ἐπιβουλὰς ἀδικώτερας : again, the proverb, Κρὴς πρὸς Αἰγινήτην , is thus explained by Diogenianus, Cent. v. prov. 92, ἐπὶ τῶν πανούργοις χρωμένων πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγεται : Psellus, de operat. Dæm., πλὴν ἴσθι μηδ ʼ αὐτὸν ἐῤῥαψωδηκέναι με ταῦτα τερατευόμενον , κατὰ τοὺς Κρῆτας καὶ Φοίνικας . And the word κρητίζειν was an expression for ‘to lie.’ Suidas has κρητίζειν πρὸς Κρῆτας , ἐπειδὴ ψεῦσται καὶ ἀπατεῶνές εἰσι : see also Polyb. viii. 21. 5. And their general depravity was summed up in the proverb, quoted by Constant. Porphyrogen. de them. lib. i., τρία κάππα κάκιστα · Καππαδοκία , Κρήτη , Κιλικία .

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