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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Titus, Epistle to

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TITUS, EPISTLE TO . This Epistle was written by St. Paul ( Titus 1:1 ) to Titus while the latter was acting as his delegate in Crete ( Titus 1:5 ). It may have been a reply to a request from Titus for guidance, or may have been written by the Apostle on his own initiative, to assist his delegate in the difficulties that faced him. St. Paul had come to Crete in company with Titus ( Titus 1:5 ), but, having to leave before he could complete his work there, he left Titus behind to ‘set in order things that were wanting.’

As far as our records tell us, this was the first missionary visit of St. Paul to the island. No doubt on his journey as prisoner from Cæsarea to Rome he was windbound under its lee, sheltering from unfavourable winds at Fair Havens (Acts 27:7-8 ); but we are not told that he landed on this occasion, and it is probable that, as a change of wind was being anxiously waited for, he was unable to leave the ship. In any case there was no opportunity then granted him of prosecuting any effective evangelization.

It has been thought possible that the visit alluded to in our Epistle might have taken place during the Apostle’s lengthened sojourn at Corinth (Acts 18:11 ) or at Ephesus ( Acts 19:10 ). Such a visit is possible , but we have no record of it; while the general literary style of the Epistle marks it distinctly as belonging to the same group as 1 and 2 Timothy, which group on strong grounds must be held to belong to that period of St. Paul’s life which intervened between his two Roman imprisonments (see Timothy [Epistles to]).

From the Epistle it is evident that, though the Cretan Church was lacking in organization, yet it was of some years’ standing. We read of several cities having congregations in need of supervision (Titus 1:5 ), and of elders to be chosen from among those who were fathers of ‘believing’ ( i.e. Christian) families (v. 5); while the heresies dealt with are those that are in opposition to true doctrine, rather than such as might occur in a young Church through ignorance of truth.

The Cretan character was not high. Ancient writers describe their avarice, ferocity, fraud, and mendacity, and the Apostle himself quotes (Titus 1:12 ) Epimenides, one of their own poets, as saying ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons.’ Christianity, without the discipline of a firm organization, springing up in such soil, would naturally be weakened and corrupted by the national vices. We are not surprised, then, to find the Apostle in this Epistle laying the chief emphasis on the importance of personal holiness of character, and insisting that right belief must issue in useful, fruitful life ( Titus 1:15-16; Titus 1:2 passim Titus 3:8; Titus 3:14 ). The chief errorists mentioned by him are unruly men, vain talkers, and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who led men astray for filthy lucre’s sake ( Titus 1:10-11 ), men who professed that they knew God but denied Him in their lives ( Titus 1:16 ), and men who were ‘heretical’ (RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘factious,’ Titus 3:10 ). The type of error to be resisted is also seen in the caution given to Titus to avoid foolish questions, genealogies ( i.e. Jewish legendary history), and strifes and fightings about the Law, as unprofitable and vain ( Titus 3:9 ).

These dangers to the Christian faith are very similar to those opposed in 1 Timothy; with, however, this difference, that none of those mentioned here seems to have its origin in the incipient Gnosticism which in a measure affected the Church in Ephesus, where Timothy was in charge. The false doctrines in Crete are predominantly, if not exclusively, Jewish in origin, and it is known that Jews abounded in Crete.

The ecclesiastical organization, entrusted to Titus for establishment, is of the simplest kind, merely the ordination of elders (Titus 1:5; spoken of as ‘bishops’ v. 7) officers which it had been the custom of the Apostle from the first to appoint in the Churches he established ( Acts 14:23 ). The appointment of presbyters was left entirely in the hands of Titus; but while this was so, it is evident that it would he necessary for him to consult the congregations over whom the elders were to be appointed, for he is charged to select only those whose reputation should be ‘blameless’ in the eyes of their fellow-Christians. Further, the presbyter is spoken of as ‘God’s steward,’ so that the authority committed to him by Titus was ultimately derived from God and not from man. No mention is made in this Epistle of deacons, deaconesses, or widows a fact which so far distinguishes it from 1 Timothy.

The Epistle claims to be written by St. Paul (Titus 1:1 ); and its authenticity is established by the same considerations as establish that of 1 and 2 Timothy, with which Epistles it is closely allied in general situation, external attestation, and literary style. For a discussion of the questions involved in this connexion the reader is referred to art. Timothy [Epistles to].

The Epistle was probably brought to Titus by the hands of Zenas and Apollos (Titus 3:13 ).

Charles T. P. Grierson.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Titus, Epistle to'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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