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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

- Titus

by S.R. Driver, A.A. Plummer and C.A. Briggs


ἐπὶ ἕργοις ἁγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν—Ephesians 2:10.

Historical situation.—(i) St. Paul. —St. Paul has been at Crete, and has left Titus behind to complete the organization of the churches there: he is now apparently on his travels (3:15 οἱ μετʼ ἐμοῦ πάντες, cf. Galatians 1:2 and contrast 1 Corinthians 16:19): with him are Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas, and Apollos: the latter two are starting on a journey which will take them past Crete: so St. Paul sends this letter by them, which is to serve as a συστατικὴ ἐπιστολή for them, and also to prepare Titus to join him before the winter, as soon as he receives a visit from Artemas and Tychicus, and meanwhile to guide him in his work and teaching at Crete. There is no indication of the place of writing: it is perhaps a fair inference from 1 Timothy 1:3 that it was somewhere in Macedonia: this would be consistent with his intention to winter at Nicopolis. Zahn (Einl., p. 430) assumes that Titus had written, asking for advice: this is possible, but not necessary.

(ii) The situation at Crete.— There are already groups of Christians, “whole families,” 1:11, in several cities in the island (κατὰ πόλιν, 1:5), but their organization is incomplete: there are false teachers, mainly converted Jews, laying stress on the Jewish law, on myths and genealogies, wasting time on worthless controversies; and the standard of life has scarcely risen above that of their heathen neighbours: there are insubordinate, quarrelsome, useless members of the community. St. Paul had begun to organize them and had left Titus to finish his work: he is now authorized to appoint presbyters, 1:6-9, to guide the teaching, 2:1-15, to rebuke with authority, to deal with those who are factious, 3:11: there is no mention of his ordination for this special work or of its permanence. The bishop is mentioned and presbyters, but it is not clear whether they are separate grades (cf. Introduction, p. xx); there is no mention of deacons, deaconesses or widows, or of any details of the Services of the Church, except the allusion to Baptism (3:5). The Christians are “God’s elect” (1:1), His “peculiar people” (2:14), both titles of the Jewish nation in the O.T., οἱ πεπιστευκότες θεῶ (3:8), the men of faith, and, apparently, of οἱ ἡμέτεροι (3:14), “our brothers and sisters.”

Date. —Assuming the integrity and Pauline authorship of the whole, it seems impossible to fit these circumstances into the narrative of the Acts. St. Paul is only mentioned there as visiting Crete on the last journey to Rome: he stayed there some time (Acts 27:8, Acts 27:9): this might be the visit referred to in 1:5, and the Epistle might have been written during the imprisonment of Act_28; but there is no evidence of Titus being with him on that journey, and, with the exception of Tychicus, his present companions are different from those in the letters from Rome. Moreover, the likeness of style with I and II Timothy points to a later time after the release from the first imprisonment. The greater likeness with 1 Ti (as compared with 2 Ti) suggests that it was written very nearly at the same time as it, and its greater simplicity suggests that it was the earlier of the two and therefore the earliest of the three Pastorals.

On the theory that the Epistle is a later expansion of a genuine Pauline fragment, that fragment, consisting only of the address and the personal messages, 3:12, 15, might have been written by St. Paul while in Macedonia to Titus still at Corinth, i.e. after writing 2 Co 10-13, and before writing 2 Co 1-9 (so Harrison, P.E., p. 115); and the expanded letter will fall at the end of Cent. I, or the beginning of Cent. II. In this case, it would probably be later than 2 Ti but earlier than 1 Ti, as being simpler and implying a less organized Church; but v. Introduction, p. xxxiv.

Aim and value.—The chief aim of the writer is to raise the level of character; but whereas in I and II Ti the main stress was on the character of the officers of the Church, on the teachers, here it is also and mainly on the character of the taught. He is dealing with communities in a fairly early stage of Christian life and with less civilization than the Church at Ephesus. The population of Crete had always been very mixed (cf. Hom. Od. 19. 172-77): there had been constant rivalry between city and city: in the first century before Christ it had been the centre of piracy, subdued with difficulty by the Romans: since 67 b.c. it had been part of a Roman province, and at this time there was still a mixed population, consisting of the Roman officials, the natives, and a considerable colony of Jewish traders (Philo, Leg. ad Gaium, 36; cf. 1 Mac 11:33); it still supplied mercenaries for foreign armies (Joseph. Ant. xiii. 4. § 3; Livy, xliv. 45), and the inhabitants had a bad name for treachery and for love of money (Polyb. vi. 46, 47; Plutarch, Æmil. 23, τοῖς χρήμασιν, ὥσπερ κηρίοις μέλιτται, προσλιπαροῦντες. Livy (ubi supra), “Cretenses spem pecunisæ secuti”).

Hence the writer lays stress on the duties of members of a family, and on those of citizens of a State. The true character of each member is defined: the duty of obedience to authority, of active service to the community, of honest trading, of a peaceable temper, are insisted upon. This is exactly in the spirit of St. Paul’s stress on family life in Col. and Eph., and on obedience to magistrates in Rom.: it is the natural language of the Roman citizen anxious to strengthen the hands and to carry out the policy of the Roman Government towards its provincials (cf. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen, c. 6). To secure such a character the foundation is laid in sound, wholesome teaching: the grace of God disciplines and educates: Christ’s self-sacrifice was made for this very purpose: God’s own graciousness and love for man is the model for the Christian’s imitation and supplies the strength for it. The Church is the school of character.


1:1-4 Salutation. Paul the apostle of a common faith, a true knowledge, a hope of eternal life, to Titus a genuine son in the faith.

1:5-3:11 Commands to Titus.

(a) With regard to the ministry (1:5-16),

Presbyters to be appointed in every city, but only men known to be of high character in their family life to be chosen, 5, 6.

Reason.—Because the bishop has to regulate God’s family, to teach sound teaching, and refute opponents,7-9. Such opponents are to be sharply rebuked, as upsetting others, insubordinate, wasting time on foolish discussions, and as untrue to their profession, 10-16.

(b) With regard to the various classes in relation to their family life (2:1-15).

Titus is to teach and enforce a true standard of character on the elder men, 2:

The elder women, who are to train the younger women.

Reason.—That God’s word be not evil spoken of, 3-5.

The younger men, to whom he is to be himself the example.

Reason.—That opponents of Christianity be put to shame, 6-8.

The slaves, to be obedient, honest, thoroughly loyal to their masters.

Reason.—That they may adorn the Christian teaching, 9, 10.

Such character is made possible by the grace of God, bringing salvation and training us to a true life here, with our eyes fixed on the appearing of Christ, the whole purpose of whose self-sacrifice was to save us from lawlessness and make us eager for excellence, 11-14.

(c) With regard to the behaviour of Christians to the heathen world, to their life as citizens, 3:1-8.

They must be reminded (1) to be subordinate to authority and active in good works, (2) to be courteous and gentle to all men, 1-2,

Reason.—God’s loving-kindness to us has raised us from the old heathen life by the rich outpouring of the Spirit to a hope of eternal life; hence all believers must take the lead in good works and live useful lives, 3-8.

(d) In regard to teaching. Titus is to avoid foolish discussions and controversies; to rebuke; but if rebuke fails, to have nothing to do with factious men, 9-11.

12, 13 Personal messages.

14 Final, appeal for useful, fruitful lives.

15 Greetings.

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