The Epistle of Paul to Titus - Audio and Written Bible Commentary

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Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 1: Purity Spiraling in Apostolic Christianity

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Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 1: Purity Spiraling in Apostolic Christianity

The early manuscript evidence for the epistle to Titus is found in the papyrus designated P32, which is esteemed to date from around 200 AD; the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus (א); the 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Vaticanus 2061 (048); and the 6th century Codices Claromontanus (D) and 088, which is an unnamed manuscript that may be a little older than that, and in which survive only a few fragments, parts of the first 13 verses of this epistle as well as parts of the final chapters of 1 Corinthians. Additionally, Paul’s epistle to Titus is cited or mentioned in the epistles of Ignatius, which date to around the very beginning of the 2nd century, and also by Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, who are both of the late 2nd century, and by Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian, all of whom wrote in the early half of the 3rd century. However none of these early sources add anything to our knowledge of Titus himself or his work in the ministry of Christ.

For the historical background on Titus, we must also include a brief discussion of Paul’s travels in relation to the epistles which he had written to the Corinthians and the Galatians, as Titus is mentioned in both of them. The first surviving epistle to the Corinthians was written during the time that Paul stayed in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8, 19), as it is described in Acts chapter 19. After spending approximately three years in Ephesus, Paul departed from the city in 56 AD. His departure may be reckoned by counting backwards from the time of his detention in Caesareia which is given by Luke in the final chapters of the Book of Acts, by comparing the times of the terms of office of the Roman procurators Festus and Felix which are known from history. The primary witness for this in Luke's writing is at Acts 24:26-27 where he says of Felix “But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.” Many historians debate whether it was 58 AD or 59AD, but the one-year difference is close enough for us. We cannot be absolutely certain, but for various historical reasons we are confident that the year was 59, and we can count back through the Book of Acts to this point in 56 AD. That is also the year in which we believe this epistle to Titus was written, in the Summer of 56 AD, or perhaps the Spring of that year if Paul had to leave Ephesus before the Pentecost which he had planned on spending there (1 Corinthians 16:8).

This map of the empire in the time of Augustus shows Nicopolis in Thrace to the north, and Nicopolis in Greece, in Epirus, on the coast opposite the tip of Italy. Click here for higher resolution.

Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 2: Leadership Morality, A Husband of One Wife

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Fragment ot Titus 1:11-15 from Papyrus 032 dating to circa 200 AD.

Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 2: Leadership Morality, A Husband of One Wife

In the opening segment of this presentation of Paul’s epistle to Titus we set forth the assertion that Titus is the Titus Justus, or Titios Justus, of the older manuscripts of Acts 18:7, who became a colleague of Paul from the time when Paul had stayed in his house in Corinth, around 49 or 50 AD. We also demonstrated, by referencing Paul’s own statements concerning Titus in his second epistle to the Corinthians, that this epistle was written from the Troad as Paul left Ephesus in 56 AD, and that Titus met with Paul in Makedonia shortly thereafter, spending the winter months with him in Nicopolis of Epirus before bringing Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians to Achaia in very early 57 AD, ahead of Paul’s planned visit there. With that we had asserted that the statement made by Paul here in this epistle, that he had left Titus in Crete, must have referred to an earlier time, to an event which happened between 52 and 55 AD, as Titus was with Paul when he travelled to Antioch after departing from Corinth in late 51 or early 52 AD, something which is evident in his epistle to the Galatians which was written just after that visit to Antioch, or perhaps in Antioch after the visit to Jerusalem which was on the way to Antioch.

Now, departing from his three-year stay in Ephesus (Acts 20:31) and arriving in the Troad, Paul had expected to find Titus there, and was disappointed when he did not find him. Writing this epistle, after his opening salutation Paul says “5 For this reason I had left you in Krete: that you would set in order the things which are wanting, and establish elders by city, as I have instructed you.” Understanding the context of these events within the chronology of Paul’s ministry much better than we had when we did our original translation in 2001 and 2003, we are going to revise the phrase “I have left you in Crete” to “I had left you in Crete”, since the verb is in the Aorist tense and either interpretation is possible. It is now evident to us that Paul had left Titus in Crete at some point in the past, but Titus did not remain there, especially since here, as he departed from Ephesus, Paul expected to find Titus in the Troad, which we have seen from his statement in 2 Corinthians. Later it is evident that Titus did not return again to Crete, or reside there permanently, as he spent the following winter with Paul in Nicopolis, went on to Corinth, and he is not mentioned again until the during the period of Paul’s detention in Rome when he had gone off to Dalmatia.

Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 3: The Cleanliness of God

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Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 3: The Cleanliness of God

As we have already discussed at length in the opening segments of our presentation of Paul’s epistle to Titus, when the apostle arrived in the Troad he must have been informed that Titus was in Crete, and that there were some problems there among the assemblies. So in the opening verses of chapter 1 of this epistle we had observed where Paul addressed Titus as a true member of his race, according to the common belief. We interpret that statement to mean that even though Titus was a Greek by race, perceptibly he was of the race of the ancient Israelites, and therefore should be accepted as such. Then after reminding Titus of why he was sent to Crete in the first place, in order to organize the Christian assemblies there, Paul advised him to ensure that elders, which are the overseers or bishops of each assembly, were established, and that the offices be filled by men who had endeavored to maintain a virtuous way of life. The foremost of the examples of virtue which Paul gave was that they were to have been the husbands of one wife, and that they had children without the possibility that they themselves could be accused of disobedience. We also perceive this to mean that men who would be leaders of Christian assemblies should have experience raising families of their own, they should be committed to those families, and that their children in turn must also be true members of the race, since otherwise the men would be chargeable.

Making these admonitions to Titus, Paul advised him that the “Cretans are always liars”, evidently quoting the Cretan poet Epimenides. Since Epimenides was a Cretan, modern commentators interpret the statement paradoxically, but we have asserted that Paul and other early Christian writers did not interpret it in that manner. Rather, they accepted it at face value. The early 2nd century Greek writer Plutarch also accepted the statement of Epimenides as being true, and it seems to have been a common observation, as he even used the term κρητισμός, or Cretan behavior, to describe the act of lying. Paul himself had said of the saying of Epimenides that “13 This testimony is true, for which cause you must censure them relentlessly, that they would be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to myths of Judaism and injunctions of men turning themselves away from the truth.” So Paul seems to be using the line from Epimenides as a rhetorical device in order to warn Titus of how important it is that he make certain that the most pious and virtuous men among the Christians in Crete were given the responsibility of supervising each assembly, men who exhibited piety in the conduct of their lives, and not merely men who professed piety with their lips.

Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 4: The Mercy of God and Justification in Christ

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The Epistles of Paul – Titus, Part 4: The Mercy of God and Justification in Christ

The opening remarks to the podcast have been published separately under the title Dating the Passover.

In the last portion of this commentary on Titus, we had made a few brief remarks on the closing verses of Titus chapter 2, and promised to elaborate on a few things when we resumed. So to begin this evening, we shall repeat those verses, beginning from Titus 2:11 where Paul wrote:

11 For the delivering favor of Yahweh [א interpolates “the Savior”; the text follows A, C, D, and the MT which varies slightly] has been displayed to all men, 12 teaching us that, rejecting impiety and the lusts of this Society, discreetly and righteously and piously we should live in this present age,

Paul’s words seem to take it for granted that men should understand the favor of Yahweh once they hear the message of the Gospel. But the lesson to be learned is not merely a personal lesson in admonitions to do or not to do certain things. Christ would not have had to die on the Cross for that, and it is unlikely that His enemies would have even killed Him for that. Rather, the message of the Gospel is much deeper than that: in large part it is a historic lesson, that the children of Israel were alienated from Yahweh their God for their sins, and they were oppressed and ruled over by the enemies of God and man because of their alienation. But they were reconciled to God in Christ when He died on their behalf, which made their reconciliation possible according to His law. All of the nations to which Paul had brought the Gospel were descended from those ancient Israelites who had been alienated from Yahweh their God, and who have to learn the lesson which Paul describes.

This is evident in other places in Paul’s writings, such as Galatians chapter 3 where Paul had told them that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”, and, for example, in Ephesians chapter 2 where he wrote “8 For in favor you are being preserved through faith and this, Yahweh's gift, is not of yourselves, 9 not from works, lest anyone would boast, 10 for His work we are, having been established among the number of Christ Yahshua for good works, which Yahweh before prepared in order that we would walk in them. 11 On which account you must remember that at one time you, the Nations in the flesh, who are the so-called 'uncircumcised' by the so-called 'circumcised' made by hand in the flesh, 12 because you had at that time been apart from Christ, having been alienated from the civic life of Israel, and strangers of the covenants of the promise, not having hope and in the Society without Yahweh; 13 but now you among the number of Yahshua Christ, who at one time being far away, have become near by the blood of the Christ.”