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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical


- Titus

by Johann Peter Lange

Professor In Ordinary Of Theology In The University Of Utrecht


Professor In Yale Theological Seminary

§ 1. TITUS

Of Titus, to whom Paul directed the Second of his Pastoral Epistles, we know even less than we do of Timothy. By birth a heathen (Galatians 2:3), he was converted, it is supposed, through the agency of the Apostle, who calls him his genuine son κατὰ κοινὴν πίστιν (Titus 1:4), and elsewhere addresses him by the name of brother (2 Corinthians 2:12). On his journey with Barnabas (Galatians 2:1), Paul brought Titus to Jerusalem, and resisted the demand of the Jewish Zealots that he should be circumcised, on the ground that he was to be a living demonstration of the truth and power of the preaching of Christian freedom. Twice the Apostle sent him, when prevented from going himself, to Corinth, and the manner in which he executed the first mission, together with his readiness to undertake the same work again, led Paul to commend him as a faithful helper (2 Corinthians 7:8). Dispatched with the Second Epistle to this church, he finished the collection for the poor in Judea which he had commenced at an earlier period (2 Corinthians 8:9). As Paul’s associate and fellow laborer (2 Corinthians 8:23), he had visited the Apostle perhaps during his first imprisonment at Rome; on his release, certainly, Titus accompanied him in his journeyings for the spread of the Gospel, and was left behind in Crete by the Apostle for the further organization of the Church. Still, it does not appear to have been the design of Paul to leave him permanently at the head of all the churches on the island. At least he closes his Epistle with the wish that Titus, when his place should be supplied by Tychicus or Artemas, should come as soon as possible to Nicopolis, where Paul proposed to spend the winter (Titus 3:12), and when the Second Epistle to Timothy was written, Titus had gone to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10), probably in the service of the Gospel. Tradition makes him the first bishop of Crete, and relates that he died and was buried there at the age of ninety-four years. See Eusebius, H. E. iii. 4. Constitt. App. vii. 46. Deserving of mention is the conjecture (Märcker) that Titus was none other than the Silas of the Acts, whose full name would thus be Titus Silvanus (= Silas). In favor of this identity is the intimate connection in which Silas (or Silvanus), like Titus, stood with the Corinthian Church (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:19, with 2 Corinthians 8:23). This would fully account for the somewhat singular absence of the name of Titus in the book of Acts. Never at least does the name of Titus or of Silas occur in any such manner as would impugn the identity of the person indicated by each of these names. This identity is indeed a mere conjecture, but the suggestion is ingenious, and we know not what could be brought against it, if it were not that the Acts 15:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 15:34 seem to say that Silas was a Jewish Christian, while Titus on the other hand belonged to the Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:3). [The recent hypothesis of R. King, (Who was St. Titus? Dublin, 1853), that he was the same person with Timothy, appears to have found no favor.—D.]


We have already seen (in the general introduction) that there is no room in the history of Paul, so far as it is carried in the Acts of the Apostles, for a journey to Crete and a winter at Nicopolis.
We are therefore obliged to place the time of the composition of this Epistle in the interval between the first and second imprisonments of the Apostle. The order of events we may perhaps conceive of as follows: Paul, on being released, hastened first to Ephesus, because the church in that city was in imminent danger from the outbreak of false doctrine. Whether he had the opportunity of making on this occasion a passing visit to the church in Jerusalem, cannot be determined. Perhaps the disturbances in Palestine would render it impossible. From Ephesus he goes to Macedonia and Greece, and returns through Troas, Ephesus and Miletus to Crete. After the evangelization of this island, he repairs to Epirus, where he spends the winter in preaching the Gospel at Nicopolis. Here he leaves Titus behind (in Crete), who subsequently prosecutes his work from Nicopolis to Dalmatia. Next he turns to the remote west, and at its very threshold perhaps (the τέρμα τῆς δύσεως), and before establishing a permanent church, is arrested and carried to Rome. (Lange, Apost. Zeitalter, ii. p. 397). To the possible objection that every step of this sketch is not susceptible of equal documentary evidence, it may be sufficient to reply in the words of Paley: “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 independent circumstances without contradiction.” See Horœ Paulinœ, chap. 14, at the end.

The place where the Epistle was written cannot with entire certainty be decided. In ancient subscriptions, indeed, it is said, on the ground of the direction in Titus 3:12, to have been Nicopolis, but it is by no means certain that Paul, when he sent this letter, had taken up his winter quarters there. Very possibly the Apostle, on his way thither, remained awhile in Thessalonica or Philippi, and sent the Epistle from one of those cities. From Titus 3:12, compared with 2 Timothy 3:14, it may not improbably be inferred that the Epistle to Titus must have been written several months after the First Epistle to Timothy.

The occasion which led the Apostle to write this Epistle, was the position of Titus and the exigencies of the Church in Crete. Having learned from his own observation on the island that the morality of the inhabitants was far from what it should be (Titus 1:12), and fearing therefore that the new converts might very easily return to their former vices, he felt it to be imperatively necessary to direct Titus how to conduct among this people, and particularly in regard to the establishment of church order, in opposition to the false teachers who had already made their appearance. He aims, therefore, to prepare and strengthen him for the contest evidently before him, by placing in his hand written instructions to which he might be able to appeal, whenever the occasion should arise, in proof that he was not acting arbitrarily, but in accordance with positive Apostolic directions. But although the Epistle was addressed in the first place to Titus, it is evident at a glance that it was also, at least in part, indirectly designed for the church. This has been observed by Calvin, who says, in his introduction to the Epistle: “Paul wrote with the design of arming Titus with his own authority for sustaining so great a load. For it cannot be doubted that he ran the risk of being set at naught by some, as if he was of no special account among the pastors. Hence we may infer that Paul did not so much write privately to Titus as publicly to the Cretans. For it is not probable that Titus was reproved for introducing, with too great readiness, unworthy persons into the overseership, or that it was prescribed to him, as to an inexperienced person and a novice, with what kind of doctrine he was to instruct the people: on the contrary, since due honor was not shown to him, Paul invests him with his own authority both in ordaining ministers and in the entire direction of the church, and since many were foolishly seeking a form of doctrine different from that which he delivered, Paul, rejecting all others, approves of that alone, and exhorts him to go on as he had begun. His simple aim is to maintain the cause of Titus and to extend a helping hand to him in carrying on the work of the Lord.”


As in the other Pastoral Epistles, there is here no strict logical sequence of thought. The exhortations follow each other simply and naturally, just as they occur to the mind and heart of the Apostle. After the usual salutation, Paul instructs Titus how he is to act both in the appointment of others to office and in performing his own work as a Christian minister. He enumerates (Titus 1:5-9) the qualifications which the elders to be appointed in the church in Crete must possess, and insists upon the absolute necessity of choosing such elders, in view of the ill repute in which the character of the inhabitants was held, and the dangerous influence of the teachers of error, a picture of whom he presents briefly but in sharp outline. In opposition to these false teachers, Titus must faithfully preach the true doctrine (Titus 2:1). Instead of general exhortations, special directions are given in respect to what, by precept and example, he is to teach the individual members of the church according to their sex, age and condition (Titus 2:2-10). After this follows a pregnant summary of the Gospel, with reference particularly to the sanctifying tendency and aim to which the work of Titus must always be exclusively and most earnestly directed (Titus 2:11-15). The Apostle then adds (Titus 3:1-10) a number of exhortations designed rather for the whole church. Titus is to exhort all to obey magistrates and to live meekly (Titus 3:1-2), and to enforce his injunctions by reminding them of the sad state in which they were living before their conversion, and of the grace bestowed upon them in Christ (Titus 3:3-7). This must be forcibly impressed upon their hearts, and the practical side of saving truth be brought forward with the utmost earnestness; while foolish controversial questions must be rejected, and an heretical person, after exhortation which proves fruitless once and again, be cut off from the church (Titus 3:8-11). With the desire expressed that Titus would speedily come to Paul at Nicopolis, a few particular instructions, and the usual greeting and benediction, the Epistle closes (Titus 3:12-15).

In tone and style the Epistle is almost identical with the other Pastoral Epistles, especially with the First to Timothy, with this difference, however, that the latter has a more confidential character, while the Epistle to Titus is more distinctly official. It may also be remarked that everything in the Epistle is condensed as much as possible, yet so that nothing essential is overlooked. “This is a short Epistle, but yet such a quintessence of Christian doctrine and composed in such a masterly manner that it contains all that is needful for Christian knowledge and life” (Luther). “This Epistle preëminently teaches us what effects the grace of God must show in our whole life” (Diedrich).


In addition to the authors mentioned in the first general introduction, compare also: Pt. Van Haven, Comment. Analytica in Epist. Pauli ad Titum, Halle, 1742. Von Einem, Erklärung des Briefes an den Titus, Stendal, 1779. Van den Es, Dissert. theol. inaug. de Pauli ad Titum epistola cum ejusdem ad Timotheum duabus composita, Lug. Bat., 1819. [By far the best Commentaries on Titus in English are those of Alford and Ellicott. The notes of Wordsworth (3d ed., 1863), although sometimes good, are of less value. The elaborate Commentary on the Epistle to Titus, by Thomas Taylor, Cambridge, 1612, is composed in a homiletical style.—D.] Respecting Titus and the Epistle addressed to him, compare the article of A. Köhler in Herzog’s Real-Encyklopädie, XVI. S. 176, ff. [also the article of Wieseler, Timotheus und Titus, in the supplementary vol. XXI. p. 276–342.], and T. Ranke in Piper’s Evangelischer Kalender for 1850, S. 68–70, together with Zeller, Biblisches Wörterbuch für das christliche Volk, in voce. [Also Davidson, Introduction to the New Test., Vol. III. pp. 76–100, and Smith’s Bible Dict., art. Titus].