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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Titus 1

 

 

Verse 1

; Titus 1:4

Chapter 18

Titus

HIS LIFE AND CHARACTER. - Titus 1:1; Titus 1:4

THE title "Pastoral Epistle" is as appropriate to the Epistle to Titus as to the First Epistle to Timothy. Although there is a good deal in the letter that is personal rather than pastoral, yet the pastoral element is the main one. The bulk of the letter is taken up with questions of Church doctrine and government, the treatment of the faithful members of the congregation and of the unruly and erring. The letter is addressed to Titus, not as a private individual, but as the delegate of the Apostle holding office in Crete. Hence, as in the First Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul styles himself an Apostle: and the official character of this letter is still further marked by the long and solemn superscription. It is evidently intended to be read by other persons besides the minister to whom it is addressed.

The question of the authenticity of the Epistle to Titus has already been in a great measure discussed in the first of these expositions. It was pointed out there that the external evidence for the genuineness in all three cases is very strong, beginning almost certainly with Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp; becoming clear and certain in Irenaeus, and being abundant in Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian: Of the very few people who rejected them, Tatian seems to have been almost alone in making a distinction between them. He accepted the Epistle to Titus, while rejecting the two to Timothy. We may rejoice that Tatian, Marcion, and others raised the question. It cannot be said that the Churches accepted this Epistle without consideration. Those who possessed evidence now no longer extant were convinced, in spite of the objections urged, that in this letter and its two companions we have genuine writings of St. Paul.

With regard to modern objections, it may be freely admitted that there is no room in St. Paul’s life, as given in the Acts, for the journey to Crete, and the winter at Nicopolis required by the Epistle to Titus. But there is plenty of room for both of these outside the Acts, viz., between the first and second imprisonment of the Apostle. And, as we have already seen good reason for believing in the case of 1 Timothy, the condition of the Church indicated in this letter is such as was already in existence in St. Paul’s time; and the language used in treating of it resembles that of the Apostle in a way which helps us to believe that we are reading his own words and not those of a skilful imitator. For this imitator must have been a strange person; very skilful in some things, very eccentric in others. Why does he give St. Paul and Titus a work in Crete of which there is no mention in the Acts? Why does he make the Apostle ask Titus to meet him in Nicopolis, a place never named in connection with St. Paul? Why bracket a well-known person, like Apollos, with an utterly unknown person, such as Zenas? It is not easy to believe in this imitator.

Yet another point of resemblance should be noted. Here, as in 1 Timothy, there is no careful arrangement of the material. The subjects are not put together in a studied order, as in a treatise with a distinct theological or controversial purpose. They follow one another in a natural manner, just as they occur to the writer. Persons with their hearts and heads full of things which they wish to say to a friend, do not sit down with an analysis before them to secure an orderly arrangement of what they wish to write. They start with one of the main topics, and then the treatment of this suggests something else: and they are not distressed if they repeat themselves, or if they have to return to a subject which has been touched upon before and then dropped. This is just the kind of writing which meets us once more in the letter to Titus. It is thoroughly natural. It is not easy to believe that a forger in the second century could have thrown himself with such simplicity into the attitude which the letter presupposes.

It is not possible to determine whether this letter was written before or after the First to Timothy. But it was certainly written before the second to Timothy. Therefore, while one has no sufficient reason for taking it before the one, one has excellent reason for taking it before the other. The precise year and the precise place in which it was written, we must be content to leave unsettled. It may be doubted whether either the one or the other would throw much light on the contents of the letter. These are determined by what the Apostle remembers and expects concerning affairs in Crete, and not by his own surroundings. It is the official position of Titus in Crete which is chiefly before his mind.

Titus, as we learn from the opening words of the letter was, like Timothy, converted to Christianity by St. Paul. The Apostle calls him "his true child after a common faith." As regards his antecedents he was a marked contrast to Timothy. Whereas Timothy had been brought up as a Jew under the care of his Jewish mother Eunice, and had been circumcised by St. Paul’s desire, Titus was wholly a Gentile, and "was not compelled to be circumcised," as St. Paul states in the passage in which he tells the Galatians [Galatians 2:1-3] that he took Titus with him to Jerusalem on the occasion when he and Barnabas went thither seventeen years after St. Paul’s conversion. Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem on that occasion to protect Gentile converts from the Judaisers, who wanted to make all such converts submit to circumcision. Titus and others went with them as representatives of the Gentile converts, and in their persons a formal protest was made against this imposition. It is quite possible that Titus was with St. Paul when he wrote to the Galatians; and if so this mention of him becomes all the more natural. We may fancy the Apostle saying to Titus, as he wrote the letter, "I shall remind them of your case, which is very much to the point." Whether Titus was personally known to the Galatian Church is not certain: but he is spoken of as one of whom they have at any rate heard.

Titus was almost certainly one of those who carried the First Epistle to the Corinthian Church, i.e., the first of the two that have come down to us; and St. Paul awaited his report of the reception which the letter had met with at Corinth with the utmost anxiety. And he was quite certainly one of those who were entrusted with the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. St. Paul wrote the first letter at Ephesus about Easter, probably in the year 57. He left Ephesus about Pentecost, and went to Troas, where he hoped to meet Titus with news from Corinth. After waiting in vain he went on to Macedonia in grievous anxiety; and there Titus met him. He at once began the second letter, which apparently was written piece-meal during the journey; and when it was completed he sent Titus back to Corinth with it.

That Titus should twice have been sent as the messenger and representative of St. Paul to a Church in which difficulties of the gravest kind had arisen gives us a clear indication of the Apostle’s estimate of his character. He must have been a person of firmness, discretion, and tact. There were the monstrous case of incest, the disputes between the rival factions, contentions in public worship and even at the Eucharist, litigation before the heathen, and wild ideas about the resurrection, not to mention other matters which were difficult enough, although of a less burning character. And in all these questions it was the vain, fitful, vivacious, and sensitive Corinthians who had to be managed and induced to take the Apostle’s words (which sometimes were very sharp and severe) patiently. Nor was this all. Besides the difficulties in the Church of Corinth there was the collection for the poor Christians in Judea about which St. Paul was deeply interested, and which had not been progressing in Corinth as he wished. St. Paul was doubly anxious that it should be a success; first, because it proved to the Jewish converts that his interest in them was substantial, in spite of his opposition to some of their views; secondly, because it served to counteract the tendency to part asunder, which was manifesting itself between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. And in carrying out St. Paul’s instructions about these matters Titus evidently had to suffer a good deal of opposition; and hence the Apostle writes a strong commendation of him, coupling him with himself in his mission and zeal. "Whether any inquire about Titus, he is my partner and my fellow-worker to you-ward." "Thanks be to God, which putteth the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For indeed he accepted our exhortation; but being himself very earnest, he went forth unto you of his own accord." With great delicacy the Apostle takes care that, in making it clear to the Corinthians that Titus has his full authority for what he does, no slight is cast upon Titus's own zeal and interest in the Corinthians. "He is my representative; but he comes of his own free will out of love to you. His visit to you is his own doing; but he has my entire sanction. He is neither a mechanical delegate, nor an unauthorized volunteer."

A curtain falls on the career of this valued helpmate of the great Apostle, from the time when he carried the second letter to Corinth to the time when the letter to himself was written. The interval was probably some eight or ten years, about which we know only one thing, that during it, and probably in the second half of it, the Apostle and Titus had been together in Crete, and Titus had been left behind to consolidate the Church there. The Acts tell us nothing. Probably Titus is not mentioned in the book at all. The reading "Titus Justus" in Acts 18:7, is possibly correct, but it is far from certain: and even if it were certain, we should still remain in doubt whether Titus and Titus Justus are the same person. And the attempts which have been made to identify Titus with other persons in the Acts, such as Silvanus or Timothy, are scarcely worth considering. Nor has the conjecture that Titus is the author of the Acts (as Krenkel, Jacobsen, and recently Hooykaas in the "Bible for Young People" have suggested) very much to recommend it. The hypothesis has two facts to support it:

(1) the silence of the Acts respecting Titus, and

(2) the fact that the writer must have been a companion of St. Paul. But these two facts are equally favorable to the tradition that St. Luke was the author, a tradition for which the evidence is both very early and very abundant. Why should such a tradition yield to a mere conjecture?

One thing, however, we may accept as certain:-that the time when St. Paul was being carried a prisoner to Rome in an Alexandrian corn-ship which touched at Crete, was not the time when the Church in Crete was-founded. What opportunity would a prisoner have of doing any such work during so short a stay? Cretans were among those who heard the Apostles at Pentecost preaching in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. Some of these may have returned home and formed the first beginnings of a Christian congregation: and among imperfect converts of this kind we might expect to find the errors of which St. Paul treats in this Epistle. But we can hardly suppose that there was much of Christian organization until St. Paul and Titus came to the island after the Apostle’s first Roman imprisonment. And the necessity of having some one with a calm head and a firm hand on the spot, forced the Apostle to leave his companion behind him. The man who had been so successful in aiding him respecting the difficulties at Corinth was just the man to be entrusted with a somewhat similar but rather more permanent post in Crete. The Cretans were less civilized, but in their own way scarcely less immoral, than the Corinthians; and in both cases the national failings caused serious trouble in the Church. In both cases ecclesiastical authority has to be firmly upheld against those who question and oppose it. In both cases social turbulence has to be kept in check. In both cases there is a tendency to wild theological and philosophical speculations, and (on the part of some) to a bigoted maintenance of Jewish ordinances and superstitions. Against all these Titus will have to contend with decision, and, if need be, with severity.

The letter, in which directions are given for the carrying out of all this, is evidence of the great confidence which the Apostle reposed in him. One of those who had worked also in Corinth, is either already with him in Crete, or may soon be expected, Apollos, and with him Zenas. So that the Corinthian experience is doubly represented. Other helpers are coming, viz., Artemas and Tychicus; and, when they arrive, Titus will be free to rejoin the Apostle, and is to lose no time in doing so at Nicopolis.

One commission Titus has in Crete which very naturally was not given to him at Corinth. He is to perfect the organization of the Christian Church in the island by appointing elders in every city. And it is this charge among others which connects this letter so closely with the first to Timothy, which very likely was written about the same time.

Whether Titus was set free from his heavy charge in Crete in time to join St. Paul at Nicopolis, we have no means of knowing. At the time when the second letter to Timothy was written, Titus had gone to Dalmatia; but we are left in doubt as to whether he had gone thither by St. Paul’s desire, or (like Demas in going to Thessalonica,) against it. Nor does it appear whether Titus had gone to Dalmatia from Nicopolis, which is not far distant, or had followed the Apostle from Nicopolis to Rome, and thence gone to Illyria. With the journey to Dalmatia our knowledge of him ends. Tradition takes him back to Crete as permanent bishop; and in the Middle Ages the Cretans seem to have regarded him as their patron saint.

The impression left upon our minds by the Acts is that St. Luke knew Timothy and did not know Titus: and hence frequently mentions the one and says nothing about the other. The impression left upon our mind by the mention of both in Paul’s Epistles, and by the letters addressed to each, is that Titus, though less tenderly beloved by the Apostle, was the stronger man of the two. St. Paul seems to be less anxious about the conduct of Titus and about the way in which others will treat him. The directions as to his personal behavior are much slighter than in the case of Timothy. He seems to credit him with less sensitiveness and more decision and tact; perhaps also with less liability to be carried away by fanatical views and practices than the other.

Titus shares with Timothy the glory of having given up everything in order to throw in his lot with St. Paul, and of being one of his most trusted and efficient helpers. What that meant the Epistles of St. Paul tell us:-ceaseless toil and anxiety, much shame and reproach, and not a little peril to life itself. He also shares with Timothy the glory of being willing, when the cause required such sacrifice, to separate from the master to whom he had surrendered himself, and to work on by himself in isolation and difficulty. The latter was possibly the more trying sacrifice of the two. To give up all his earthly prospects and all the sweetness of home life, in order to work for the spread of the Gospel side by side with St. Paul, was no doubt a sacrifice that must have cost those who made it a great deal. But it had its attractive side. Quite independently of the beauty and majesty of the cause itself, there was the delight of being associated with a leader so able, so sagacious, so invigorating, and so affectionate as the Apostle who "became all things to all men that he might by all means save some." Hard work became light, and difficulties became smooth, under the inspiriting sympathy of such a colleague. But it was quite another thing to have given up everything for the sake of such companionship and support, or at least in the full expectation of enjoying it, and then to have to undergo the hard work and confront the difficulties without it. The new dispensation in this respect repeats the old. Elisha leaves his home and his inheritance to follow Elijah, and then Elijah is taken from him. Timothy and Titus leave their homes and possessions to follow St. Paul, and then St. Paul sends them away from him. And to this arrangement they consented, Timothy, (as we know) with tear’s, Titus (we may be sure) with much regret. And what it cost the loving Apostle thus to part with them and to pain them we see from the tone of affectionate longing which pervades these letters.

The example set by both master and disciples is one which Christians, and especially Christian ministers, must from time to time need. Christ sent forth both the Twelve and the Seventy "two and two"; and what is true of mankind generally is true also of the ministry-"It is not good for man to be alone." But cases often arise in which not more than one man can be spared for each post; and then those who have been all in all to one another, in sympathy and Counsel and cooperation, have to part. And it is one of the greatest sacrifices that can be required of them.

Paul and Timothy and Titus were willing to make this sacrifice; and it is one which Christ’s servants throughout all ages are called upon at times to make. Many men are willing to face, especially in a good cause, what is repulsive to them, if they have the company of others in the trial, especially if they have the presence and support of those whose presence is in itself a refreshment, and their support a redoubling of strength. But to enter upon a long and trying task with the full expectation of such advantages, and then to be called upon to surrender them, this is, indeed, a trial which might well make the weak-hearted turn back. But their devotion to their Lord’s work, and their confidence in his sustaining power, enabled the Apostle and his two chief disciples to make the venture; and the marvelous success of the Church in the age which immediately succeeded them, shows how their sacrifice was blessed. And we may be sure that even in this world they had their reward. "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for My sake, and for the Gospel’s sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."


Verse 4

; Titus 1:4

Chapter 18

Titus

HIS LIFE AND CHARACTER. - Titus 1:1; Titus 1:4

THE title "Pastoral Epistle" is as appropriate to the Epistle to Titus as to the First Epistle to Timothy. Although there is a good deal in the letter that is personal rather than pastoral, yet the pastoral element is the main one. The bulk of the letter is taken up with questions of Church doctrine and government, the treatment of the faithful members of the congregation and of the unruly and erring. The letter is addressed to Titus, not as a private individual, but as the delegate of the Apostle holding office in Crete. Hence, as in the First Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul styles himself an Apostle: and the official character of this letter is still further marked by the long and solemn superscription. It is evidently intended to be read by other persons besides the minister to whom it is addressed.

The question of the authenticity of the Epistle to Titus has already been in a great measure discussed in the first of these expositions. It was pointed out there that the external evidence for the genuineness in all three cases is very strong, beginning almost certainly with Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp; becoming clear and certain in Irenaeus, and being abundant in Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian: Of the very few people who rejected them, Tatian seems to have been almost alone in making a distinction between them. He accepted the Epistle to Titus, while rejecting the two to Timothy. We may rejoice that Tatian, Marcion, and others raised the question. It cannot be said that the Churches accepted this Epistle without consideration. Those who possessed evidence now no longer extant were convinced, in spite of the objections urged, that in this letter and its two companions we have genuine writings of St. Paul.

With regard to modern objections, it may be freely admitted that there is no room in St. Paul’s life, as given in the Acts, for the journey to Crete, and the winter at Nicopolis required by the Epistle to Titus. But there is plenty of room for both of these outside the Acts, viz., between the first and second imprisonment of the Apostle. And, as we have already seen good reason for believing in the case of 1 Timothy, the condition of the Church indicated in this letter is such as was already in existence in St. Paul’s time; and the language used in treating of it resembles that of the Apostle in a way which helps us to believe that we are reading his own words and not those of a skilful imitator. For this imitator must have been a strange person; very skilful in some things, very eccentric in others. Why does he give St. Paul and Titus a work in Crete of which there is no mention in the Acts? Why does he make the Apostle ask Titus to meet him in Nicopolis, a place never named in connection with St. Paul? Why bracket a well-known person, like Apollos, with an utterly unknown person, such as Zenas? It is not easy to believe in this imitator.

Yet another point of resemblance should be noted. Here, as in 1 Timothy, there is no careful arrangement of the material. The subjects are not put together in a studied order, as in a treatise with a distinct theological or controversial purpose. They follow one another in a natural manner, just as they occur to the writer. Persons with their hearts and heads full of things which they wish to say to a friend, do not sit down with an analysis before them to secure an orderly arrangement of what they wish to write. They start with one of the main topics, and then the treatment of this suggests something else: and they are not distressed if they repeat themselves, or if they have to return to a subject which has been touched upon before and then dropped. This is just the kind of writing which meets us once more in the letter to Titus. It is thoroughly natural. It is not easy to believe that a forger in the second century could have thrown himself with such simplicity into the attitude which the letter presupposes.

It is not possible to determine whether this letter was written before or after the First to Timothy. But it was certainly written before the second to Timothy. Therefore, while one has no sufficient reason for taking it before the one, one has excellent reason for taking it before the other. The precise year and the precise place in which it was written, we must be content to leave unsettled. It may be doubted whether either the one or the other would throw much light on the contents of the letter. These are determined by what the Apostle remembers and expects concerning affairs in Crete, and not by his own surroundings. It is the official position of Titus in Crete which is chiefly before his mind.

Titus, as we learn from the opening words of the letter was, like Timothy, converted to Christianity by St. Paul. The Apostle calls him "his true child after a common faith." As regards his antecedents he was a marked contrast to Timothy. Whereas Timothy had been brought up as a Jew under the care of his Jewish mother Eunice, and had been circumcised by St. Paul’s desire, Titus was wholly a Gentile, and "was not compelled to be circumcised," as St. Paul states in the passage in which he tells the Galatians [Galatians 2:1-3] that he took Titus with him to Jerusalem on the occasion when he and Barnabas went thither seventeen years after St. Paul’s conversion. Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem on that occasion to protect Gentile converts from the Judaisers, who wanted to make all such converts submit to circumcision. Titus and others went with them as representatives of the Gentile converts, and in their persons a formal protest was made against this imposition. It is quite possible that Titus was with St. Paul when he wrote to the Galatians; and if so this mention of him becomes all the more natural. We may fancy the Apostle saying to Titus, as he wrote the letter, "I shall remind them of your case, which is very much to the point." Whether Titus was personally known to the Galatian Church is not certain: but he is spoken of as one of whom they have at any rate heard.

Titus was almost certainly one of those who carried the First Epistle to the Corinthian Church, i.e., the first of the two that have come down to us; and St. Paul awaited his report of the reception which the letter had met with at Corinth with the utmost anxiety. And he was quite certainly one of those who were entrusted with the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. St. Paul wrote the first letter at Ephesus about Easter, probably in the year 57. He left Ephesus about Pentecost, and went to Troas, where he hoped to meet Titus with news from Corinth. After waiting in vain he went on to Macedonia in grievous anxiety; and there Titus met him. He at once began the second letter, which apparently was written piece-meal during the journey; and when it was completed he sent Titus back to Corinth with it.

That Titus should twice have been sent as the messenger and representative of St. Paul to a Church in which difficulties of the gravest kind had arisen gives us a clear indication of the Apostle’s estimate of his character. He must have been a person of firmness, discretion, and tact. There were the monstrous case of incest, the disputes between the rival factions, contentions in public worship and even at the Eucharist, litigation before the heathen, and wild ideas about the resurrection, not to mention other matters which were difficult enough, although of a less burning character. And in all these questions it was the vain, fitful, vivacious, and sensitive Corinthians who had to be managed and induced to take the Apostle’s words (which sometimes were very sharp and severe) patiently. Nor was this all. Besides the difficulties in the Church of Corinth there was the collection for the poor Christians in Judea about which St. Paul was deeply interested, and which had not been progressing in Corinth as he wished. St. Paul was doubly anxious that it should be a success; first, because it proved to the Jewish converts that his interest in them was substantial, in spite of his opposition to some of their views; secondly, because it served to counteract the tendency to part asunder, which was manifesting itself between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. And in carrying out St. Paul’s instructions about these matters Titus evidently had to suffer a good deal of opposition; and hence the Apostle writes a strong commendation of him, coupling him with himself in his mission and zeal. "Whether any inquire about Titus, he is my partner and my fellow-worker to you-ward." "Thanks be to God, which putteth the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For indeed he accepted our exhortation; but being himself very earnest, he went forth unto you of his own accord." With great delicacy the Apostle takes care that, in making it clear to the Corinthians that Titus has his full authority for what he does, no slight is cast upon Titus's own zeal and interest in the Corinthians. "He is my representative; but he comes of his own free will out of love to you. His visit to you is his own doing; but he has my entire sanction. He is neither a mechanical delegate, nor an unauthorized volunteer."

A curtain falls on the career of this valued helpmate of the great Apostle, from the time when he carried the second letter to Corinth to the time when the letter to himself was written. The interval was probably some eight or ten years, about which we know only one thing, that during it, and probably in the second half of it, the Apostle and Titus had been together in Crete, and Titus had been left behind to consolidate the Church there. The Acts tell us nothing. Probably Titus is not mentioned in the book at all. The reading "Titus Justus" in Acts 18:7, is possibly correct, but it is far from certain: and even if it were certain, we should still remain in doubt whether Titus and Titus Justus are the same person. And the attempts which have been made to identify Titus with other persons in the Acts, such as Silvanus or Timothy, are scarcely worth considering. Nor has the conjecture that Titus is the author of the Acts (as Krenkel, Jacobsen, and recently Hooykaas in the "Bible for Young People" have suggested) very much to recommend it. The hypothesis has two facts to support it:

(1) the silence of the Acts respecting Titus, and

(2) the fact that the writer must have been a companion of St. Paul. But these two facts are equally favorable to the tradition that St. Luke was the author, a tradition for which the evidence is both very early and very abundant. Why should such a tradition yield to a mere conjecture?

One thing, however, we may accept as certain:-that the time when St. Paul was being carried a prisoner to Rome in an Alexandrian corn-ship which touched at Crete, was not the time when the Church in Crete was-founded. What opportunity would a prisoner have of doing any such work during so short a stay? Cretans were among those who heard the Apostles at Pentecost preaching in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. Some of these may have returned home and formed the first beginnings of a Christian congregation: and among imperfect converts of this kind we might expect to find the errors of which St. Paul treats in this Epistle. But we can hardly suppose that there was much of Christian organization until St. Paul and Titus came to the island after the Apostle’s first Roman imprisonment. And the necessity of having some one with a calm head and a firm hand on the spot, forced the Apostle to leave his companion behind him. The man who had been so successful in aiding him respecting the difficulties at Corinth was just the man to be entrusted with a somewhat similar but rather more permanent post in Crete. The Cretans were less civilized, but in their own way scarcely less immoral, than the Corinthians; and in both cases the national failings caused serious trouble in the Church. In both cases ecclesiastical authority has to be firmly upheld against those who question and oppose it. In both cases social turbulence has to be kept in check. In both cases there is a tendency to wild theological and philosophical speculations, and (on the part of some) to a bigoted maintenance of Jewish ordinances and superstitions. Against all these Titus will have to contend with decision, and, if need be, with severity.

The letter, in which directions are given for the carrying out of all this, is evidence of the great confidence which the Apostle reposed in him. One of those who had worked also in Corinth, is either already with him in Crete, or may soon be expected, Apollos, and with him Zenas. So that the Corinthian experience is doubly represented. Other helpers are coming, viz., Artemas and Tychicus; and, when they arrive, Titus will be free to rejoin the Apostle, and is to lose no time in doing so at Nicopolis.

One commission Titus has in Crete which very naturally was not given to him at Corinth. He is to perfect the organization of the Christian Church in the island by appointing elders in every city. And it is this charge among others which connects this letter so closely with the first to Timothy, which very likely was written about the same time.

Whether Titus was set free from his heavy charge in Crete in time to join St. Paul at Nicopolis, we have no means of knowing. At the time when the second letter to Timothy was written, Titus had gone to Dalmatia; but we are left in doubt as to whether he had gone thither by St. Paul’s desire, or (like Demas in going to Thessalonica,) against it. Nor does it appear whether Titus had gone to Dalmatia from Nicopolis, which is not far distant, or had followed the Apostle from Nicopolis to Rome, and thence gone to Illyria. With the journey to Dalmatia our knowledge of him ends. Tradition takes him back to Crete as permanent bishop; and in the Middle Ages the Cretans seem to have regarded him as their patron saint.

The impression left upon our minds by the Acts is that St. Luke knew Timothy and did not know Titus: and hence frequently mentions the one and says nothing about the other. The impression left upon our mind by the mention of both in Paul’s Epistles, and by the letters addressed to each, is that Titus, though less tenderly beloved by the Apostle, was the stronger man of the two. St. Paul seems to be less anxious about the conduct of Titus and about the way in which others will treat him. The directions as to his personal behavior are much slighter than in the case of Timothy. He seems to credit him with less sensitiveness and more decision and tact; perhaps also with less liability to be carried away by fanatical views and practices than the other.

Titus shares with Timothy the glory of having given up everything in order to throw in his lot with St. Paul, and of being one of his most trusted and efficient helpers. What that meant the Epistles of St. Paul tell us:-ceaseless toil and anxiety, much shame and reproach, and not a little peril to life itself. He also shares with Timothy the glory of being willing, when the cause required such sacrifice, to separate from the master to whom he had surrendered himself, and to work on by himself in isolation and difficulty. The latter was possibly the more trying sacrifice of the two. To give up all his earthly prospects and all the sweetness of home life, in order to work for the spread of the Gospel side by side with St. Paul, was no doubt a sacrifice that must have cost those who made it a great deal. But it had its attractive side. Quite independently of the beauty and majesty of the cause itself, there was the delight of being associated with a leader so able, so sagacious, so invigorating, and so affectionate as the Apostle who "became all things to all men that he might by all means save some." Hard work became light, and difficulties became smooth, under the inspiriting sympathy of such a colleague. But it was quite another thing to have given up everything for the sake of such companionship and support, or at least in the full expectation of enjoying it, and then to have to undergo the hard work and confront the difficulties without it. The new dispensation in this respect repeats the old. Elisha leaves his home and his inheritance to follow Elijah, and then Elijah is taken from him. Timothy and Titus leave their homes and possessions to follow St. Paul, and then St. Paul sends them away from him. And to this arrangement they consented, Timothy, (as we know) with tear’s, Titus (we may be sure) with much regret. And what it cost the loving Apostle thus to part with them and to pain them we see from the tone of affectionate longing which pervades these letters.

The example set by both master and disciples is one which Christians, and especially Christian ministers, must from time to time need. Christ sent forth both the Twelve and the Seventy "two and two"; and what is true of mankind generally is true also of the ministry-"It is not good for man to be alone." But cases often arise in which not more than one man can be spared for each post; and then those who have been all in all to one another, in sympathy and Counsel and cooperation, have to part. And it is one of the greatest sacrifices that can be required of them.

Paul and Timothy and Titus were willing to make this sacrifice; and it is one which Christ’s servants throughout all ages are called upon at times to make. Many men are willing to face, especially in a good cause, what is repulsive to them, if they have the company of others in the trial, especially if they have the presence and support of those whose presence is in itself a refreshment, and their support a redoubling of strength. But to enter upon a long and trying task with the full expectation of such advantages, and then to be called upon to surrender them, this is, indeed, a trial which might well make the weak-hearted turn back. But their devotion to their Lord’s work, and their confidence in his sustaining power, enabled the Apostle and his two chief disciples to make the venture; and the marvelous success of the Church in the age which immediately succeeded them, shows how their sacrifice was blessed. And we may be sure that even in this world they had their reward. "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for My sake, and for the Gospel’s sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."


Verses 5-7

Chapter 19

THE CHURCH IN CRETE AND ITS ORGANISATION THE APOSTLE’S DIRECTIONS FOR APPOINTING ELDERS. - Titus 1:5-7

THIS passage tells us a great deal about the circumstances which led to the writing of the letter. They have been touched upon in the previous chapter, but may be treated more comprehensively here.

It is quite evident:

(1) that the Gospel had been established in Crete for a considerable time when St. Paul wrote this to his delegate, Titus;

(2) that during the Apostle’s stay in the island he had been unable to complete the work which he had in view with regard to the full establishment of the Church there; and

(3) that one of the chief things which remained undone, and which St. Paul had been compelled to leave to Titus to accomplish, was a. properly organized ministry. There was a large and scattered flock; but for the most part it was without shepherds.

It is quite possible that the Gospel of Christ was at least known, if not by any one believed, in Crete before St. Paul visited the islands. Cretans were among those who heard the miraculous preaching of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; and some of these may have returned to their country, if not converts to Christianity, at any rate full of what they had seen and heard of "the mighty works of God," as shown forth in the words spoken on that day, and in their consequences. Certainly there were many Jews in the island; and these, though often the bitterest opponents of the Gospel, were nevertheless the readiest and best converts, when they did not oppose; for they already knew and worshipped the true God, and they were acquainted with the prophecies respecting the Messiah. We may therefore conclude that the way was already prepared for the preaching of Christ, even if He as yet had no worshippers in Crete, before St. Paul began to teach there.

There are three things which tend to show that Christianity had been spreading in Crete for at least some years when the Apostle wrote this letter to Titus. First, the latter is charged to "appoint elders in every city," or "city by city," as we might render the original expression (kataliu). This implies that among the multitude of cities, for which Crete even in Homer’s day had been famous, not few had a Christian congregation in need of supervision; and it is not improbable that the congregation in some cases was a large one. For the interpretation is certainly an untenable one which forces into the Apostle’s words a restriction which they do not contain, that each city is to have just one presbyter and no more. St. Paul tells Titus to take care that no city is left without a presbyter. Each Christian community is to have its proper ministry; it is not to be left to its own guidance. But how many elders each congregation is to have is a point to be decided by Titus according to the principles laid down for him by St. Paul. For we must not limit the "as I gave thee charge" to the mere fact of appointing elders. The Apostle had told him, not merely that elders must be appointed, but that they must be appointed in a particular way, and according to a prescribed system. The passage, therefore, tells us that there were a good many cities in which there were Christian congregations, and leaves us quite free to believe that some of these congregations were large enough to require several elders to minister to them and govern them. Secondly, the kind of person to be selected as overseer seems to imply that Christianity has been established for a considerable time among the Cretans. The "elder" or "bishop" (for in this passage, at any rate, the two names indicate one and the same officer) is to be the father of a family, with children who are believers and orderly persons.

The injunction implies that there are cases in which the father is a good Christian, but he has not succeeded in making his children good Christians. Either they have not become believers at all; or, although nominal Christians, they do not conduct themselves as such. They are profligate. riotous, and disobedient. This implies that the children are old enough to think for themselves and reject the Gospel in spite of their parent’s conversion; or that they are old enough to rebel against its authority. And one does not use such strong words as "profligacy" or "riotous living" of quite young children. The prodigal son, of whom the same expression is used, was no mere child. Cases of this kind, therefore, in which the father had been converted to Christianity, but had been unable to make the influences of Christianity tell upon his own children, were common enough to make it worth St. Paul’s while to give injunctions about them. And this implies a condition of things in which Christianity was no newly planted religion. The injunctions are intelligible enough. Such fathers are not to be selected by Titus as elders. A man who has so conspicuously failed in bringing his own household into harmony with the Gospel, is not the man to be promoted to rule the household of the Church. Even if his failure is his misfortune rather than his fault, the condition of his own family cannot fail to be a grave impediment to his usefulness as an overseer of the congregation. Thirdly, there is the fact that heresies already exist among the Cretan Christians. Titus, like Timothy, has to contend with teaching of a seriously erroneous kind. From this also we infer that the faith has long since been introduced into the island. The misbeliefs of the newly converted would be spoken of in far gentler terms. They are errors of ignorance, which will disappear as fuller instruction in the truth is received. They are not erroneous doctrines held and propagated in opposition to the truth. These latter require time for their development. From all these considerations, therefore, we conclude that St. Paul is writing to Titus as his delegate in a country in which the Gospel is no new thing. We are not to suppose that the Apostle left Titus in charge of Christians who had been converted a very short time before to the faith.

The incompleteness of the Apostle’s own work in the island is spoken of in plain terms. Even in Churches in which he was able to remain for two or three years, he was obliged to leave very much unfinished; and we need not be surprised that such was the case in Crete, where he can hardly have stayed so long. It was this incompleteness in all his work, a defect quite unavoidable in work of such magnitude, that weighed so heavily upon the Apostle’s mind. It was "that which pressed upon him daily, -anxiety for all the Churches." There was so much that had never been done at all; so much that required to be secured and established; so much that already needed correction. And while he was attending to the wants of one Church, another not less important, not less dear to him, was equally in need of his help and guidance. And here was the comfort of having such disciples as Timothy and Titus, who, like true friends, could be indeed a "second self" to him. They could be carrying on his work in places where he himself could not be. And thus there was no small consolation for the sorrow of parting from them and the loss of their helpful presence. They could still be more helpful elsewhere. "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that were wanting."

There were many things that were wanting in Crete; but one of the chief things which pressed upon the Apostle’s mind was the lack of a properly organized ministry, without which everything must soon fall into confusion and decay. Hence, as soon as he has concluded his salutation, the fullness and solemnity of which are one of the many evidences of the genuineness of the letter, he at once repeats to Titus the charge which he had previously given to him by word of mouth respecting this pressing need. A due supply of elders or overseers is of the first importance for "setting in order" those things which at present are in so unsatisfactory a state.

There are several points of interest in connection with St. Paul’s directions to Titus respecting this need and the best way of meeting it.

First, it is Titus himself who is to appoint these elders throughout the cities in which congregations exist. It is not the congregations that are to elect the overseers, subject to the approval of the Apostle’s delegate; still less that he is to ordain any one whom they may elect. The full responsibility of each appointment rests with him. Anything like popular election of the ministers is not only not suggested, it is by implication entirely excluded. But, secondly, in making each appointment Titus is to consider the congregation. He is to look carefully to the reputation which the man of his choice bears among his fellow-Christians:-"if any man is blameless having children who are not accused of riot for the bishop must be blameless." A man in whom the congregation have no confidence, because of the bad repute which attaches to himself or his family, is not to be appointed. In this way the congregation have an indirect veto; for the man to whom they cannot give a good character may not be taken to be set over them. Thirdly, the appointment of Church officers is regarded as imperative: it is on no account to be omitted. And it is not merely an arrangement that is as a rule desirable: it is to be universal. Titus is to appoint elders "in every city." He is to go through the congregations "city by city," and take care that each has its elder or body of elders. Fourthly, as the name itself indicates, these elders are to be taken from the older men among the believers. As a rule they are to be heads of families, who have had experience of life in its manifold relations, and especially who have had experience of ruling a Christian household. That will be some guarantee for their capacity for ruling a Christian congregation. Lastly, it must be remembered that they are not merely delegates, either of Titus or of the congregation. The essence of their authority is not that they are the representatives of the body of Christian men and women over whom they are placed. It has a far higher origin. They are "God’s stewards." It is His household that they direct and administer, and it is from Him that their powers are derived. They are His ministers, solemnly appointed to act in His Name. It is on His behalf that they have to speak, as His agents and ambassadors, laboring to advance the interests of His kingdom. They are "stewards of His mysteries," bringing out of what is committed to them "things new and old." As God’s agents they have a work to do among their fellow-men, through themselves for Him. As God’s ambassadors they have a message to deliver, good tidings to proclaim, ever the same, and yet ever new. As "God’s stewards" they have treasures to guard with reverent care, treasures to augment by diligent cultivation, treasures to distribute with prudent liberality. There is the flock, sorely needing, but it may be not greatly craving, God’s spiritual gifts. The longing has to be awakened: the longing, when awakened, has to be cherished and directed: the gifts which will satisfy it have to be dispensed. There is a demand; and there is a supply; a human demand and a Divine supply. It is the business of God’s stewards to see that the one meets the other.

"God’s steward" is the key to all that follows respecting the qualities to be looked for in an elder of overseer of the Church: and, as the order of the words in the Greek shows, the emphasis is on "God’s" rather than on "steward." The point accentuated is, not that in the Church as in his own home he has a household to administer, but that the household to which he has to minister is God’s. That being so, he as "God’s steward" must prove himself worthy of the commission which he holds: "not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, temperate; holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers."

Such men, wherever he can find them, - and "if any man is blameless" is not meant to hint that among Cretans it may be impossible to find such, - Titus is to "appoint" as elders "in every city." In the A.V. the phrase runs "ordain elders in every city." As we have seen already, [1 Timothy 5:1-25] there are several passages in which the Revisers have changed "ordain" into "appoint," Thus in Mark 3:14, "He ordained twelve becomes He appointed twelve." In John 15:16, "I have chosen you and ordained you" becomes "I chose you and appointed you." In 1 Timothy 2:7, "Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle" becomes "whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle." In Hebrews 5:1, and Hebrews 8:3, "Every high priest is ordained" becomes "every high priest is appointed." In these passages three different Greek words ( ποιεω τιθομι καθιστημι) are used in the original; but not one of them has the special ecclesiastical meaning which we so frequently associate with the word "ordain"; not one of them implies, as "ordain" in such context almost of necessity implies, a rite of ordination, a special ceremonial, such as the laying on of hands. When in English we say, "He ordained twelve," "I am ordained an apostle," "Every high priest is ordained," the mind almost inevitably thinks of ordination in the common sense of the word; and this is foisting upon the language of the New Testament a meaning which the words there used do not rightly bear. They all three of them refer to the appointment to the office, and not to the rite or ceremony by which the person appointed is admitted to the office. The Revisers, therefore, have done wisely in banishing from all such texts a word which to English readers cannot fail to suggest ideas which are not contained at all in the original Greek.

If we ask in what way Titus admitted the men whom he selected to serve as presbyters to their office, the answer is scarcely a doubtful one. Almost certainly he would admit them, as Timothy himself was admitted, and as he is instructed to admit others, by the laying on of hands. But this is neither expressed nor implied in the injunction to "appoint elders in every city." The appointment is one thing, the ordination another; and even in cases in which we are sure that the appointment involved ordination, we are not justified in saying "ordain" where the Greek says "appoint." The Greek words used in the passages quoted might equally well be used of the appointment of a magistrate or a steward. And as we should avoid speaking of ordaining a magistrate or a steward, we ought to avoid using "ordain" to translate words which would be thoroughly in place in such a connection. The Greek words for "ordain" and "ordination," in the sense of imposition of hands in order to admit to an ecclesiastical office ( χειροθετει, χειροθεσια), do not occur in the New Testament at all.

It is worthy of note that there is not a trace here, any more than there is in the similar passage in 1 Timothy, of the parallel between the threefold ministry in the Old Testament and a threefold ministry in the Christian Church, high-priest, priests, and Levites, being compared with bishop, presbyters, and deacons. This parallel was a favorite one, and it was made early. The fact, therefore, that we do not find it in any of these Epistles, nor even any material out of which it could be constructed, confirms us in the belief that these letters belong to the first century, and not to the second.

In giving this injunction to Titus, St. Paul assumes that his disciple and delegate is as free as he himself is from all feelings of jealousy, or envy. "Art thou jealous for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets," is the spirit in which these instructions are given, and no doubt were accepted. There is no grasping after power in the great Apostle of the Gentiles; no desire to keep everything in his own hands, that he might have the credit of all that was done. So long as Christ is rightly preached, so long as the Lord’s work is faithfully done, he cares not who wins the glory. He is more than willing that Timothy and Titus should share in his work and its reward; and he without hesitation applies to them to admit others in like manner to share with them in their work and its reward. This generous willingness to admit others to co-operate is not always found, especially in men of strong character and great energy and decision. They will admit subordinates as a necessary evil to work out details, because they cannot themselves afford time for all these. But they object to anything like colleagues. Whatever of any serious importance is done must be in their own hands and must be recognized as their work. There is nothing of this spirit in St. Paul. He could rejoice when some "preached Christ even of envy and strife," "not sincerely, thinking to raise up affliction for him in his bonds." He rejoiced, not because of their evil temper, but because that at any rate Christ was preached. How much more, therefore, did he rejoice when Christ was preached "of good will" by disciples devoted to himself and his Master. They all had the same end in view; not their own glory, but the glory of God.

And this is the end which all Christian ministers have to keep in view, and which they too often exchange for ends that are far lower, and far removed (it may be) from the cause with which we choose to identify them. And as time goes on, and we look less and less with a single eye at the will of God, and have less and less of the single purpose of seeking his glory, our aims become narrower and our ends more selfish, At first it is the triumph of a system, then it is the advancement of a party. Then it becomes the propagation of our own views, and the extension of our own influence. Until at last we find ourselves working, no longer for God’s glory, but simply for our own. While professing to work in His Name and for His honor, we have steadily substituted our own wills for His.

But it is only by forgetting ourselves that we find ourselves; only by losing our life that we find it. "God’s steward" must be ready to sink every personal interest in the interests of the great Employer. He has nothing of his own. He deals with his Master’s goods, and must deal with them in his Master’s way. He who labors in this spirit will one day be rewarded by the Divine voice of welcome: "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."


Verse 12-13

Chapter 20

CHRISTIANITY AND UNCHRISTIAN LITERATURE. - Titus 1:12-13

THE hexameter verse which St. Paul here cites from the Cretan poet Epimenides is one of three quotations from profane literature which are made by St. Paul. Of the other two, one occurs in 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Evil communications corrupt good manners"; and the other in the Apostle’s speech on the Areopagus at Athens, as recorded in the Acts: [Acts 17:28] "For we are also his offspring." They cannot be relied upon as sufficient to prove that St. Paul was well read in classical literature, any more than the quoting of a hackneyed line from Shakespeare, from Byron, and from Tennyson, would prove that an English writer was well acquainted with English literature. It may have been the case that St. Paul knew a great deal of Greek classical literature, but these three quotations, from Epimenides, from some Greek tragedian, and from Cleanthes or Aratus, do not at all prove the point. In all three cases the source of the quotation is not certain. In the one before us the Apostle no doubt tells us that he is quoting a Cretan "prophet," and therefore quotes the line as coming from Epimenides. But a man may know that "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," is Shakespeare, without having read a single play. And we are quite uncertain whether St. Paul had even seen the poem of Epimenides on Oracles in which the line which he here quotes occurs. The iambic which he quotes in the letter to the Corinthians, although originally in some Greek play (perhaps of Euripides or Menander), had passed into a proverb, and proves even less than the line from Epimenides that St. Paul knew the work in which it occurred. The half-line which is given in his speech at Athens, stating the Divine parentage of mankind, may have come from a variety of sources: but it is not improbable that the Apostle had read it in the "Phaenomena" of Aratus, in which it occurs in the form in which it is reproduced in the Acts. This astronomical poem was popular in St. Paul’s day, and he was the more likely to have come across it, as Aratus is said to have been a native of Tarsus, or at any rate of Cilicia. But even when we have admitted that the Apostle had read the "Phaenomena" of Aratus or Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus, we have not made much way towards proving that he was well read in Greek literature. Indeed the contrary has been argued from the fact that, according to the reading of the best authorities, the iambic line in the Corinthians is quoted in such a way as to spoil the scanning; which would seem to show that St. Paul was not familiar with the iambic meter. If that was the case he can scarcely have read even a single Greek play.

But the question is not one of great importance, although doubtless of some interest. We do not need this evidence to prove that the Apostle was a person, not only of great energy and ability, but of culture. There are passages m his writings, such as chapters 13 and 15 in 1 Corinthians, which are equal for beauty and eloquence to anything in literature. Even among inspired writers few have known better than St. Paul how to clothe lofty thoughts in noble language. And of his general acquaintance with the moral philosophy of his age, especially of the Stoic school, which was very influential in the neighborhood of Tarsus, there can be no doubt. Just as St. John laid the thoughts and language of Alexandrian philosophy under contribution, and gave them fuller force and meaning to express the dogmatic truths of the Gospel, so St, Paul laid the thoughts and language of Stoicism under contribution, and transfigured them to express the moral teaching of the Gospel. Cleanthes or Aratus, from one or both of whom one of the three quotations comes (and St. Paul seems to know both sources, for he says "as certain even of your own poets have said"), were both of them Stoics: and the speech in which the quotation occurs, short as it is in the Acts, abounds in parallels to the teaching of St. Paul’s Stoic contemporary Seneca. If St. Paul tells us that "the God that made the world and all things therein dwelleth not in temples made with hands," Seneca teaches that "temples must not be built to God of stones piled on high: He must be consecrated in the heart of man." While St. Paul reminds us that God "is not far from each one of us," Seneca says "God is near thee: He is with thee; He is within." Again St. Paul warns his hearers that "we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man"; and Seneca declares "Thou shalt not form Him of silver and gold: a true likeness of God cannot be molded of this material." But the quotations are of other interest than their bearing upon the question as to the Greek elements in the education and teaching of St. Paul. They have a bearing also on the question of Christian use of profane authors, and on the duty of self-culture in general. The leading teachers of the early Church differed widely in their estimate of the value of heathen literature, and especially of heathen philosophy. On the whole, with some considerable exceptions, the Greek Fathers valued it highly, as containing precious elements of truth, which were partly the result of direct inspiration, partly echoes of the Old Testament. The Latin Fathers, on the other hand, for the most part, treated all pagan teaching with suspicion and contempt. It was in no sense useful. It was utterly false, and simply stood in the way of truth. It was rubbish, which must be swept on one side in order to make room for the Gospel. Tertullian thinks that heathen philosophers are "blockheads when they knock at the doors of truth," and that "they have contributed nothing whatever that a Christian can accept." Arnobius and Lactantius write in a similar strain of contemptuous disapproval. Tertullian thinks it out of the question that a right-minded Christian should teach in pagan schools. But even he shrinks from telling Christian parents that they must allow their children to remain uneducated rather than send them to such schools. The policy of permitting Christian children to attend heathen schools, while forbidding Christian adults from teaching in them, appears singularly unreasonable. Every Christian teacher in a school rendered that school less objectionable for Christian children. But Tertullian urges that one who teaches pagan literature seems to give his sanction to it: one who merely learns it does nothing of the kind. The young must be educated: adults need not become schoolmasters. One can plead necessity in the one case; not in the other ("De Idol.," 10.). But the necessity of sending a child to a pagan school, because otherwise it could not be properly educated, did not settle the question whether it was prudent, or even right, for a Christian in after-life to study pagan literature; and it required the thought and experience of several centuries to arrive at anything like a consensus of opinion and practice on the subject. But during the first four or five centuries the more liberal view, even in the West, on the whole prevailed. From Irenaeus, Tatian, and Hermias, among Greek writers, and from various Latin Fathers, disapproving opinions proceeded. But the influence of Clement of Alexandria and Origen in the East, and of Augustine and Jerome in the West, was too strong for such opinions. Clement puts it on the broad ground that all wisdom is a Divine gift; and maintains that the philosophy of the Greeks, limited and particular as it is, contains the rudiments of that really perfect knowledge, which is beyond this world. Origen, in rebutting the reproach of Celsus, that the gospel repelled the educated and gave a welcome only to the ignorant, quotes the Epistle to Titus, pointing out that "Paul, in describing what kind of man the bishop ought to be, lays down as a qualification that he must be a teacher, saying that he ought to be able to convince the gainsayers, that by the wisdom which is in him he may stop the mouths of foolish talkers and deceivers." The Gospel gives a welcome to the learned and unlearned alike: to the learned, that they may become teachers; to the unlearned, not because it prefers such, but because it wishes to instruct them. And he points out that in enumerating the gifts of the Spirit St. Paul places wisdom and knowledge before faith, gifts of healing, and miracles. [1 Corinthians 12:8-10] But Origen does not point out that St. Paul himself makes use of heathen literature; although immediately before dealing with the accusation of Celsus, that Christians hate culture and promote ignorance, he quotes from Callimachus half of the saying of Epimenides, "Cretans are always liars" ("Con. Cels.," III 43.). What Origen’s own practice was we learn from the "Panegyric" of his enthusiastic pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus (13.).

With the exception of atheistic philosophy, which is not worth the risk, Origen encouraged his scholars to study everything; and he gave them a regular course of dialectics, physics, and moral philosophy, as a preparation for theology. Augustine, who ascribes his first conversion from a vicious life to the "Hortensius" of Cicero ("Conf.," III 4. 1), was not likely to take an extreme line in condemning classical literature, from which he himself frequently quotes. Of Cicero’s "Hortensius" he says, "This book in truth changed my affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord, and made me have other hopes and desires." He quotes, among other classical authors, not only Virgil, Livy, Lucan, Sallust, Horace, Pliny, and Quintilian, but Terence, Persius, and Juvenal, and of the last from those Satires which are sometimes omitted by editors on account of their grossness. In his treatise "On Christian Doctrine" (II 40.), he contends that we must not shrink from making use of all that is good and true in heathen writings and institutions. We must "spoil the Egyptians." The writings of his instructor Ambrose show that he also was well acquainted with the best Latin classics. In Jerome we have what may be called an essay on the subject. Ruffinus had suggested to Magnus, a Roman rhetorician, that he should ask Jerome why he filled his writings with so many allusions and quotations taken from Pagan literature, and Jerome in reply, after quoting the opening verses of the book of Proverbs, refers him to the example of St. Paul in the Epistles to Titus and the Corinthians, and in the speech in the Acts. Then he points to Cyprian, Origen, Eusebius, and Apollinaris: "read them, and you will find that in comparison with them we have little skill (in quotation)." Besides these he appeals to the examples, among Greek writers, of Quadratus, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, etc.; and among Latins, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Arnobius, Hilary, and Juvencus. And he points out that quotations from profane authors occur in nearly all the works of these writers, and not merely in those which are addressed to heathen. But while Jerome defends the study of classical authors as a necessary part of education, he severely condemns those clergy who amused themselves with such writers as Plautus (of whom he himself had been very fond), Terence, and Catullus, when they ought to have been studying the Scriptures. Later in life his views appear to have become more rigid; and we find him rejoicing that the works of Plato and Aristotle are becoming neglected.

It was the short reign of Julian, commonly called "the Apostate" (A.D. 361-363), which had brought the question very much to the front. His policy and legislation probably influenced Augustine and Jerome in taking a more liberal line in the matter, in spite of Latin dislike of Greek philosophy and their own ascetic tendencies. Julian, jealous of the growing influence of Christian teachers, tried to prevent them from lecturing on classical authors. From this he hoped to gain two advantages.

(1) Secular education would to a large extent be taken out of Christian hands.

(2) The Christian teachers themselves would become less well educated, and less able to contend with heathen controversialists. He sarcastically pointed out the inconvenience of a teacher expounding Homer and denouncing Homer’s gods: Christians had better confine themselves to "expounding Matthew and Luke in the Churches of the Galileans," and leave the interpretation of the masterpieces of antiquity to others. And he seems not to have contented himself with cynical advice, but to have passed a law that no Christian was to teach in the public schools. This law was at once cancelled by his successor Valentinian; but it provoked a strong feeling of resentment, and stirred up Christians to recognize and hold fast the advantages of a classical education.

But while the influence of the first three of the four great Latin Fathers was in favor of a wise use of the products of pagan genius, the influence of the last of the four was disastrously in the opposite direction.

In the period between Jerome and Gregory the Great two facts had had a calamitous effect upon the cause of liberal education.

(1) The inroads of the barbarians almost destroyed the imperial schools in Gaul and Italy.

(2) The miserable controversies about Origen produced an uneasy suspicion that secular study was prejudicial to orthodoxy. It is perhaps to this latter influence that we may attribute two ecclesiastical canons of unknown date and origin. In the "Apostolical Constitutions" (I 6.) we read, "Abstain from all heathen books. For what hast thou to do with such foreign discourses, or laws, or false prophets, which subvert the faith of the unstable? For what defect dost thou find in the law of God, that thou shouldest have recourse to those heathenish fables?" etc., etc. Again in a collection of canons, which is sometimes assigned to a synod at Carthage (A.D. 398), the 16th canon in the collection runs thus: "Abishop shall read no heathen books, and heretical books only when necessary." The Carthaginian synod of 398 is a fiction, and some of the canons in the collection deal with controversies of a much later date: but we need not doubt that all the canons were enacted in some Church or other in the course of the first six centuries. The spirit of this one is very much in harmony with the known tendencies of the sixth century; and we find Gregory the Great (A.D. 544-604) making precisely the same regulation. He forbade bishops to study heathen literature, and in one of his letters ("Epp.," 9:48) he rebukes Desiderius, Bishop of Vienne, for giving his clergy instruction in grammar, which involved the reading of the heathen poets. "The praises of Christ do not admit of being joined in the same mouth with the praises of Jupiter; and it is a grave and execrable thing for bishops to sing what even for a religious layman is unbecoming." The story that he purposely burnt the Palatine library is not traced earlier than the twelfth century, and is probably untrue; but it indicates the traditional belief respecting his attitude towards classical literature. And it is certainly true that he was twice in Constantinople, and on the second occasion remained there three years (A.D. 579-582), and yet never learnt Greek. In his time, as we learn both from himself and his contemporary, Gregory of Tours, the belief was very prevalent that the end of the world was at hand; and it was argued that mankind had more serious things to attend to than the study of pagan literature - or indeed any literature that was not connected with the Scriptures or the Church. Henceforward, in the words of Gregory of Tours, "the study of literature perished": and, although there were some bright spots at Jarrow and elsewhere, yet on the whole the chief services which Christianity rendered to classical learning during the next few centuries, were the preservation of classical authors in the libraries of monasteries and the preservation of the classical languages in the liturgies of the Church.

The question will perhaps never cease to be argued, although it is hardly probable that so extreme a view as that of Gregory the Great will ever again become prevalent. Let us take a statement of the question from the utterances of one who will not be suspected of want of capacity or experience in the matter, or of want of sympathy with stern and serious views respecting education and life.

"Some one will say to me perhaps," wrote John Henry Newman in 1859, "our youth shall not be corrupted. We will dispense with all general or national literature whatever, if it be so exceptional; we will have a Christian Literature of our own, as pure, as true as the Jewish." You cannot have it. From the nature of the Case, if Literature is to be made a study of human nature, you cannot have a Christian Literature. It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man. You may gather together something very great and high, something higher than any literature ever was; and when you have done so, you will find that it is not Literature at all. You will simply have left the delineation of man, as such, and have substituted for it, as far as you have had anything to substitute, that of man, as he is or might be, under certain special advantages. Give up the study of man, as such, if so it must be; but say you do so. Do not say you are studying him, his history, his mind, and his heart, when you are studying something else. Man is a being of genius, passion, intellect, conscience, power. He exercises his great gifts in various ways, in great deeds, in great thoughts, in heroic acts, in hateful crimes. Literature records them all to the life

"We should be shrinking from a plain duty, did we leave out Literature from Education. For why do we educate except to prepare for the world? Why do we cultivate the intellect of the many beyond the first elements of knowledge, except to fit men of the world for the world? We cannot possibly keep them from plunging into the world, with all its ways and principles and maxims, when their time comes; but we can prepare them against what is inevitable; and it is not the way to learn, to swim in troubled waters, never to have gone into them. Proscribe (I do not say particular authors, particular works, particular passages) but secular literature as such: cut out from your class books all broad manifestations of the natural man; and those manifestations are waiting for your pupil’s benefit, at the very doors of your lecture room in living and breathing substance. They will meet him there in all the charm of novelty, and all the fascination of genius or of amiableness. Today a pupil, tomorrow a member of the great world: today confined to the Lives of the Saints, tomorrow thrown upon Babel; - thrown on Babel, without the honest indulgence of wit and humor and imagination ever permitted to him, without any fastidiousness of taste wrought into him, without any rule given him for discriminating ‘the precious from the vile,’ beauty from sin, the truth from the sophistry of nature, what is innocent from what is poison."

Many Christians are apt to forget that all truth is of God; and that every one who in an earnest spirit endeavors to ascertain and to teach what is true in any department of human knowledge, is doing God’s work. The Spirit, we are promised by Christ Himself, "shall lead you into all the Truth," and "the Truth shall make you free." Our business is to see that nothing claims the name of truth unlawfully. It is not our business to prohibit anything that can make good its claim to be accounted true.

Those who enjoy large opportunities of study, and especially those who have the responsibility not only of learning, but of teaching, must beware of setting their own narrow limits to the domain of what is useful and true. It has a far wider range than the wants which we feel in ourselves or which we can trace in others. Even the whole experience of mankind would not suffice to give he measure of it. We dishonor rather than reverence the Bible, when we attempt to confine ourselves and others to the study of it. Much of its secret and inexhaustible store of treasure will remain undiscovered by us, until our hearts are warmed, our intellects quickened, and our experiences enlarged, by the masterpieces of human genius. "To the pure all things are pure." In the first century, in which the perils of heathenism to Christianity were tenfold what they are at present, St. Paul in plain terms told his converts that if they liked to accept the invitations of their heathen friends and acquaintances, they need not scruple to do so; [1 Corinthians 10:27] and by his own example, he shows them that they may enjoy and use what is beautiful and true in heathen literature. Let us beware of narrowing the liberty wisely allowed by him. Each one of us can readily find out what is dangerous for himself. There is plenty that is not dangerous: let him freely enjoy that. But the limits that are wise for ourselves are not to bind others. Their liberty is not to be circumscribed by our conscience. "The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Titus 1:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/titus-1.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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