The Epistles of Paul – 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.

The Epistles of Paul – 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.

So Paul had left Titus in Crete at some point in the past and now, writing this epistle, Paul is in the Troad in 56 AD and did not find Titus there. As we have already asserted, Paul must have met someone in the Troad who told him that Titus was in Crete once again, so that Paul knew where to find him, and then Paul writes this letter to him explaining why he had left Titus in Crete in the past, which also seems to be reminding him of what action he should take presently, as Titus must be in Crete again – for which reason Paul did not find him in the Troad. In other words, Paul goes to the Troad expecting to find Titus, but Titus had already left for Crete in order to address some problems in the assembly there, so he missed his meeting with Paul. Once Paul learns that Titus has again gone to Crete, he writes this epistle both beckoning Titus to join him, and reminding him of what to do with the hope of helping him to solve those problems. This is where we are now in verse 6 of the opening chapter of the epistle to Titus, as Paul is advising him on the constitution of a healthy Christian assembly:

6 If one is without reproach, a husband of one wife, having faithful children: not by accusation of profligacy or insubordination.

The purpose for Paul’s instruction here is explained in verse 5 where he said “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.” So the instructions here and in the verses to follow are in relation to the type of men whom the Cretans should have set as elders over them. First Paul insists that such men are the “husband of one wife”, so we shall discuss that admonition at length within the historical context of Scripture.

Unfortunately, even a lot of Identity Christians repeat things about marriage and divorce which are not actually found in Scripture, or especially, which are not really found in the law. For instance, there are claims that a woman was not allowed to divorce a husband. In truth, there is no law prohibiting a woman from divorcing a husband. However in ancient times, among Hebrews and Greeks alike, typically a woman did not hold any property, although there were certain exceptions. Among them were certain instances where a woman could inherit property among the Greeks, and where woman without brothers could inherit their father’s estates among the Hebrews. But except for those rare instances, if a woman held no property, to leave a husband she would inevitably end up as either a slave, or as a prostitute in a pagan temple. Likewise, a woman leaving a husband could not be found with another man, or they could both be stoned as adulterers. Furthermore, a woman had no right over the children, which first belonged to the husband. So the truth is, because of the cultural and economic circumstances, and for her own well-being, it was nearly impossible for a woman to divorce a husband.

The Levitical priests were not allowed to marry divorced women, being held to a higher standard, but that other men were permitted to marry a properly divorced woman is rather clear in the law. Where we say properly divorced, we only mean that the first husband issued a bill of divorcement, but we are certainly not promoting the idea that divorce itself is proper. The Levitical priests were required to marry virgins when they married (Leviticus 21:7, 14), but other men were not restricted in that manner in Deuteronomy. However it is clear that from a cultural perspective, brides were expected – but not required – to be virgins, which is evident in Deuteronomy chapter 22 (22:13-17) and elsewhere.

A man divorced a woman simply by putting her out of his house. For that reason, the law requires a man to write the woman a bill of divorcement, so that the woman, who typically had no property rights, had the opportunity to find refuge with another man. For better or worse, as we should be certain that not all men were good husbands, the customs and laws of the Hebrews helped to uphold the institution of marriage as Yahweh our God designed it, that a wife should be subject to her husband (Genesis 3:16), something which our modern views on marriage have ruined. To think that marriage is made and governed by the State, and that women can take the property of their husbands in no-fault State-enforced divorce lawsuits, has ruined the institution of marriage while it has empowered feminism. If anyone protests that a woman is in need of the State for protection in her marriage, then alone that is obvious proof that the State is their god, and that they have rejected Yahweh as God. That was one of the significant errors that led the ancient children of Israel astray in the first place.

So today, we must ask how a man could be held to the same standards, where the State governs a family, and not God, and the man is no longer the ruler of his own house. This is the predicament which Liberalism and Feminism have caused in our society, and if God is not mocked, it will not endure for long.

Paul was dealing with the reality of the times when he wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 that “If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” Reading this carefully, we see where Paul indicates that it was possible for a woman to leave an unbelieving husband, so even if it was difficult, the possibility of a woman divorcing herself from her husband did exist. This is also evident in the words of Christ, where it is recorded in Mark chapter 10 that He said “11… Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. 12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” So even Christ admitted the possibility that a woman could divorce a husband.

But in Paul’s day, even though Roman divorce laws were somewhat more liberal, it was still nearly impossible for a woman who was not wealthy or who did not have the support of a wealthy family to divorce a husband. Under Roman law, a husband who divorced a woman did not need any permission from the State, and was only obligated to return to her a portion of her dowry. The woman had no property rights beyond that. But a woman who wanted to divorce a husband needed permission from the State, and she still had no further property rights. And as it was amongst the Hebrews, it was also in Rome, that the children belonged to the husband. A husband being divorced by his wife could even keep a larger portion of the dowry to help support the children.

Because it was so difficult for a woman to divorce a husband, and because it was relatively easy for a husband to divorce a woman, the burden of responsibility for keeping the marriage intact and healthy falls mainly on the shoulders of the man. Even under Roman law, a husband or father who found a wife or daughter committing adultery could have both the woman and her lover put to death. Furthermore, even under Roman law it was possible for a man to be charged with adultery in certain circumstances, although there were customary exceptions permitted by Roman law under which he could have concubines or visit prostitutes [McGinn, Thomas A. J., Concubinage and the Lex Iulia on Adultery, published in the Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974–) Vol. 121 (1991), pp. 335-375.] Furthermore, just because the Old Testament had no laws against polygamy does not excuse the husband from the possibility of committing adultery. Once we understand this, we can better see the context of the words of Christ where He said, according to Matthew chapter 9, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” Fornication is the only lawful grounds for divorce, and a man does not have license to leave his wife for another woman, or to whore around. If a woman left a husband for reason of faith, Paul encouraged her to remain without a husband, in 1 Corinthians 7: 11 where he wrote that “... if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”

But where Paul said that an elder should be “a husband of one wife”, this is not only in reference to divorce and remarriage, but also to polygamy. A man with multiple wives, or who has been divorced under these circumstances which we have described, is a man who evidently cannot keep a commitment. He is certainly not the “husband of one wife”. And if a man cannot keep a commitment to a wife, how should he be expected to be able to keep a commitment to the body of Christ? Neither does a Christian have just grounds for having multiple wives, if indeed he truly loves Christ.

In the Old Testament, polygamy was tolerated under Yahweh's permissive will, and there are times when it was beneficial to a particular family – especially to Jacob himself. So there is no law against a husband having more than one wife, and it often happened as a matter of necessity. However the only way that a man is actually commanded in the law to take an additional wife is in the event that his married brother died childless, and he is to raise up seed in the name of his brother, which would include the necessity of financially supporting his brother's wife in order to fulfill that objective. As a digression, we may not like that law today, and of course we are no longer required to keep it since it was one of the Kingdom laws, and not one of the moral laws. But in ancient times it helped to assure that every man in Israel had a posterity, and that every woman also received a heritage from the family of the tribe to which she was married. If the law did not exist, then Tamar had no lawful right to do what she had done to Judah, and we would have no tribe of Judah. Likewise, Ruth would not have been redeemed by Boaz, and the line of David could have been cut off before David was born. So there are at least two occasions, and possibly a third, where the line of our Redeemer was continued by this law.

The blessed Abraham did not want more than one wife, and Sarah his wife insisted that he take her handmaid, thinking that she herself would not have a child by which to provide Abraham an heir. In this regard it is evident that while Abraham did not intend to have multiple wives, Isaac is the role model which Christian men should seek to follow, since he never had more than one wife, and he was blessed. In the Gospel, Christ himself expresses opposition to polygamy, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 19: “3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" So we see in the words of Christ that in the beginning Yahweh God made man “male and female”, not male and females, and that a man should “cleave to his wife”, not cleave to his wives. Christ is addressing the question of divorce while He is explaining the original purpose of God. Christians are challenged into choosing the original purpose of God in the Spirit, and not pursuing the ways of the flesh, even if some of them were permitted under the law. Polygamy is not against the law, but it is not the ideal to which man is challenged to aspire, and it never was. Polygamy and divorce are both fleshly, although they were not prohibited, they were not barred because as Christ said concerning divorce, Yahweh had mercy upon the fleshy nature of man. As we read in Matthew chapter 19: “8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.” As for polygamy, there are many things which the law does not explicitly forbid, and to judge their merits we must assess the positive aspects of the will of God, and Yahweh made men male and female, as Christ had said.

Christians must further consider this: Yahweh God Himself is the husband of one wife, and if He did not have an eternal commitment to the children of Israel as His bride, the world would not exist today for its sins.

We have one more aspect of Paul’s instructions here to discuss, so we shall repeat verse 6:

6 If one is without reproach, a husband of one wife, having faithful children: not by accusation of profligacy or insubordination.

We recognize that the grammar seems to be incomplete here in English, and that could probably be repaired with a few small changes and by adjusting the punctuation in relation to verse 7. But we sought to avoid a run-on sentence, which is frequent in Paul’s epistles, and also sought to maintain a faithfulness to the literal meaning and grammatical form of each word without adding words, wherever that was possible. So if we wanted to simply rephrase the verse, we would not be damaging Paul’s original intention by writing “6 If one is without reproach, being a husband of one wife, he must also have had faithful children without any accusation of profligacy or insubordination.” As Paul explained in 1 Timothy chapter 3, where his advice to Timothy is very similar to what he wrote to Titus here, a prospective bishop of the assembly must have already raised his own family, ostensibly so that he could serve the assembly with experience. There he wrote in part: “now if one does not know to govern his own house, how would he care for an assembly of Yahweh?”

Here the word for husband is ἀνήρ, which is properly a man as an adult male. The word for wife is γυνή, which is properly only a woman as an adult female. The word was commonly used in opposition to παρθένος, which is a maiden – a virgin female. In this context “a man of one woman”, the words are interpreted to mean husband and wife, as they were commonly used in this context in secular Greek.

The phrase without reproach is from the word ἀνέγκλητος, which according to Liddell & Scott means “without reproach, blameless… giving no ground for dispute” and “not accused... void of offence”. It does not necessarily mean that people may not unjustly accuse an elder of the assembly, but that the elder himself is not guilty of anything which may beckon a just accusation. Paul had advised in 1 Timothy chapter 5 that “19 An accusation against an elder you must not receive publicly, except ‘by two or three witnesses.’” This means that no charge should be accepted without substantial and independently verifiable evidence of wrongdoing. This same word appears again in verse 7, where we have translated it as irreproachable.

After explaining that the prospective elder should be the husband of one wife, Paul then insists that being the husband of one wife, he should be “having faithful children: not by accusation of profligacy or insubordination.” Here the King James Version takes a noun, which we have translated as accusation, and translates it as a verb, where it has accused and it may be imagined that the children are the subject of the clause. However the word is a noun and being in the Dative Case it describes the actions of the man having the children, and not the actions of the children themselves. Where Paul states “not by accusation of profligacy or insubordination” he is referring to the action of fathering the children. This proper reading also helps to support our assertions concerning the use of the Greek word γνήσιος here in verse 4 and again in 1 Timothy chapter 1. As it is defined by Jude (v. 7), fornication is the “going after of strange (ἔτερος, different) flesh”, a meaning which is also evident in Paul’s use of the term in 1 Corinthians 10:8, which is itself a reference to the race-mixing events of Numbers chapter 25. To have children without the faith, or outside of the faith, one may be accused of having children profligately and in a state of insubordination to the law.

Here we have translated the Greek word ἀσωτία (Strong’s # 810) as profligacy, which can mean wastefulness. But this Greek word actually has an even stronger meaning. According to Liddell & Scott, the noun ἀσωτία, which they define to mean prodigality or wastefulness, is from an adjective ἄσωτος, which means “having no hope of safety, abandoned, profligate...” and in their examples of its use they cite the Tragic poet Aeschylus who employed it in the phrase ἄσωτος γένει, which they in turn define to mean “bringing ruin on the race”. This is exactly how we interpret Paul’s use of it here, as he admonishes Titus to choose leaders of the assembly who had faithful children, who must therefore be of the seed of Abraham through Jacob Israel, thereby not bringing ruin on the race. The word ἄσωτος is formed from the negative particle a- and a form of the word σωτηρία (Strong’s # 4991), which means salvation. Literally, it means without salvation, and children born of parents outside of the Adamic race are indeed without salvation.

The word ἀνυπότακτος (Strong’s # 506) is insubordination here, again referring to the fathering of children, because fornication is breaking the law, and act of insubordination to Yahweh, and race-mixing produces children who are forever outside of the faith, so they cannot be faithful to Christ. The King James Version has only unruly, which is fine in certain contexts, but here Paul is referring to men who are being considered for leadership positions in the Christian assembly, and ἀνυπότακτος most literally means not made subject to someone or something, according to Liddell & Scott. Paul is advising Titus to make certain that the men chosen to be leaders are indeed subject to the commandments of God, and have children according to His law – not having children in a manner contrary to the law. The accuracy of our interpretation is upheld in part by the context of the chapter, as in verse 10 Paul says that “...there are many insubordinates, vain talkers and deceivers of minds - especially those from among the circumcision...” So there we see that Paul is talking about the prospective bishops here, and how they have children, rather than the behavior of the children themselves.

Now, before continuing, we should discuss what Paul had meant by elders in verse 5 of this chapter, because in verse 7 in reference to the same men he uses another term, which is usually translated as bishop.

In the definitions of words used to describe ecclesiastical offices in the New Testament, as they are translated in the King James Version of our Bibles, on the surface there appear to be two different positions of authority within the Christian assembly, which are elder and bishop. We are not considering ministers here, who are merely servants of the assemblies.

The word for elder in verse 5 is πρεσβύτερος (Strong’s # 4245), it is the word which presbyterian comes from, a word adopted by modern Christian denominations, and it means an elder in Greek. Some modern sources claim that the word means “priest” to Christians, but that is an outright lie. A πρεσβύτερος is most literally an old man, but pre-Christian Greeks used the term as one of respect for the leaders and rulers of their communities, which were centered on the patriarchal principle, which is evident as far back as the ancient Greek Epic and Tragic Poets and the earliest prose historians.

In verse 7 here we see another Greek term, ἐπίσκοπος (Strong’s # 1985), which is literally an overseer or a supervisor. The prefix epi means upon and skopos is the ancient word from which we have our English word scope. So an ἐπίσκοπος is a look-uponer. According to Liddell & Scott the word most literally means “...one who watches over, overseer, guardian...” The literary examples of the usage of the word show that it was used at Athens to describe the officials responsible for supervising subject states, where in Rhodes it was used of the of the local municipal officials – which is closer to the Christian model outlined here.

But the fact that these two titles are used to describe one and the same office in a Christian assembly is fully evident here in Titus 1:5-7, and also from Paul’s discourse to the Ephesians in Acts chapter 20 (20:17, 28), and in 1 Peter chapter 5 (5:1-2). Here in Titus, even according to the King James Version, we first read that the apostle was to “ordain elders in every city” in verse 5, and then, in relation to the men chosen for that purpose, the admonition that “a bishop must be blameless” in verse 7, whereby we see that the two words are interchangeable within the context of this office in a Christian assembly. The reason for appointing elders in a Christian assembly is so that they could oversee the functioning of the assembly, which the purpose of an ἐπίσκοπος, or bishop.

So in the King James Version, in Acts chapter 20 where Paul had assembled the leaders of the assemblies of Ephesus we read in verse 17 that “... from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” then we read in verse 28, where Paul is addressing those elders: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” That word for overseers is from this Greek word ἐπίσκοπος, which the same translation often has as bishop in other places.

Likewise, in 1 Peter chapter 5 we read “1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” here we see elders have the responsibility of “taking the oversight” of their respective communities, where the verb is the Greek word ἐπισκοπέω, the verb equivalent of the office of ἐπίσκοπος, supervisor, overseer, or bishop. In Medieval Latin, the Greek word ἐπίσκοπος eventually became ebiscopus, the first p being replaced with a b, and then in Old English, bisceop, and then finally the modern word bishop. So bishop is essentially the same word as ἐπίσκοπος, and it is not even a proper translation. Like other words, it was brought into English for the purpose of organized church government, but its final use is not the way it was used in the New Testament.

In other places the word ἐπίσκοπος appears as bishop in the King James Version and most others in Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; and 1 Peter 2:25. The related noun ἐπισκοπή (1984, episkopê) is “a watching over, visitation... the office of ἐπίσκοπος... generally, an office...” (Liddell & Scott). In the King James Version, ἐπισκοπή is the office of a bishop at 1 Timothy 3:1, bishoprick at Acts 1:20 – to which we may compare Psalms 109:8 – and visitation in Luke 19:44 and 1 Peter 2:12. Nearly all of these simply describe the position or office of a leader chosen by the people to oversee a particular Christian assembly, as we shall now see.

Therefore, next in order for discussion is where the King James Version has the word ordain at Titus 1:5. The Greek word is καθίστημι (Strong’s # 2525) which may mean to ordain, appoint and may also mean to establish, according to Liddell & Scott. So in our own translation we have establish. While the intended meaning of this one word here in this passage may be argued, we may see the manner by which elders were to be selected, which was by an election of the assembly, in both Acts 14:23 and in 2 Corinthians 8:19 (although the election there was for a different purpose), so here we must read καθίστημι as establish, and not as ordain, which may infer that Titus himself appointed the bishops of Crete. That is certainly what the organized churches would prefer that we believe.

In 2 Corinthians 8:19 we see a reference to a Christian man who was chosen by the assemblies themselves for the service of delivering certain gifts to the poor of the saints in Jerusalem. The word which the King James Version has to describe that choosing is simply chosen, but the word actually has a more distinct meaning. In Acts chapter 14 we see a description of Paul and Barnabas and the others who were with them travelling through Anatolia and setting up Christian assemblies throughout the various provinces, and it says in the King James Version: “23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” Both of these words, chosen in 2 Corinthians 8:19 and ordained in Acts 14:23, are from the Greek word χειροτονέω (Strong’s # 5500). This word literally means to stretch out the hand, and it was a common Greek word used to describe the act of voting for something by a show of hands.

Liddell & Scott translate the word χειροτονέω [where we have expanded the abbreviations in their definition] to mean: “I. to stretch out the hand, for the purpose of voting, Plutarch, Lucian II. cum accusative of person to vote for, elect, properly by show of hands, Aristotle, Demosthenes :– Passive to be elected, Aristotle, etc.; χειροτονηθῆναι, election, was opposed to λαχεῖν, appointment by lot, Plato, etc. 2. cum accusative rei [rei meaning accusative of person and/or thing], to vote for a thing, Demosthenes; so cum infinitive to vote that … , Aeschines:— Passive, κεχειροτόνηται ὕβρις εἶναι it is voted, ruled to be violence, Demosthenes.”

The word χειροτονέω means nothing but to vote for or to elect, speaking of people or things, and it is clear that the elders – who are the men of a community who were respected as leaders by the people – were to be elected by the people themselves in each and every Christian assembly. And if the assemblies of Anatolia elected their bishops, as we see in the use of the term χειροτονέω in Acts 14:23, why would it be any different with Titus in Crete? As Paul had taught elsewhere, and as we have seen here in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, this same process was undertaken for the appointment of other servants of the assembly, especially of ministers.

The first precedent for this in the time of the ministries of the apostles is found in Acts chapter 6, where in the very first organized Christian community the people saw that the widows were being treated unfairly, and they brought their complaints to the apostles themselves. There we read in part: “2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” So the apostles did not directly appoint the managers of the people in this instance, but instructed the people themselves to do such choosing.

So Titus was not the bishop of Crete, as the popular denominational commentaries so wrongly claim, but Titus was sent by Paul to Crete in order to organize the assemblies and manage the establishment of bishops over each of them, certainly in the same manner as the process which we have seen here in other relevant passages of Scripture. Now Paul continues to describe the sort of men whom the assemblies should choose:

7 It is necessary for that supervisor to be irreproachable as an administrator of the household of Yahweh, not stubborn, not prone to anger, not a drunkard, not a brawler, not shamefully desirous of gain,

There is no space in apostolic Christianity for community oversight and management from any far-away office such as the one in Rome or anywhere else. Each community chose its own leaders, and they were not imposed from outside. Those leaders were to exhibit sound Christian morals, having been married and having had their own children faithfully, and only then were they qualified to be leaders of a Christian assembly. This idea of ordained priests ruling over men did not come into Christianity until near the beginning of the fourth century AD, when the pagan temples of Rome adopted Christianity as a facade in order to maintain their own appearance of legitimacy. We have not yet found the concept of an organized Christian priesthood in the works of the earliest Christian writers, Ignatius or Clement of Rome or Justin Martyr or Theophilus of Antioch or Tertullian or Irenaeus. We certainly do not find it anywhere in the New Testament. The supremacy of the pope of Rome was created by the laws of Justinian in the sixth century, and before that there was no appointing authority outside of the people.

Chapter 2 of Justinian’s Novels, in section 131, is titled Concerning the Precedence of Patriarchs, and it says:

Hence, in accordance with the provisions of these Councils, We order that the Most Holy Pope of ancient Rome shall hold the first rank of all the Pontiffs, but the Most Blessed Archbishop of Constantinople, or New Rome, shall occupy the second place after the Holy Apostolic See of ancient Rome, which shall take precedence over all other sees.

Now if the Gospels or the other writings of the New Testament ordained a pope in Rome who had supremacy over the entire Christian world, why would it have to be enforced by the laws of men in Justinian’s Novels? The truth is that it is not ordained by God, and it only has the authority of the laws of men. As the papacy is the second beast of Revelation chapter 13, and as Paul explains in Romans chapter 13 that government is a judgement from God, the papacy existed as part of the punishment by which Yahweh God has punished the children of Israel.

This commandment is not a commandment of Christ or His apostles. The reference to councils is to the four major councils of Christian bishops under the empire from the first Council of Nicaea in the time of Constantine, but neither did they at first acknowledge the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, which was asserted but contested at the time of Eusebius.

While the Word of Yahweh God, which of course includes the Gospel of Christ, is the ultimate authority over each Christian assembly, as Paul often demonstrates in his epistles, the assemblies were charged with choosing responsible men to administer and oversee their communities. This is not only for church for an hour or so each week, or to keep lists and books. Rather, these men would act as the community elders and leaders in every aspect of community life. Being assigned with this task, they were the administrators of the household of Yahweh in each of their separate communities. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that the men chosen maintain sound Christian morals.

It is also important that men leading the assemblies of Christ not be distracted in the household disputes they would have among multiple wives, as the patriarch Jacob had constantly suffered in the rivalry between his several wives.

While of course, Christian morality is not limited to the things here mentioned by Paul, he lists examples. First he lists the negative qualities, things which are not to be found in Christian leaders, and they include stubbornness, where we see that the elders or bishops of an assembly do not have final authority over their communities, and that they should not be prone to anger. A good Christian exhibits humility, and true humility is a willingness to be subject to the Word of God. They should not be drunkards, or as the King James Version has it where Paul repeats the admonition in relation to women in Titus chapter 2 and in reference to ministers in 1 Timothy chapter 3, they should “not given to much wine”, because it is certainly permissible for a Christian to drink wine in moderation. They should not be brawlers, where the Greek word is πληκτής (Strong’s # 4131). The admonition is not meant to describe a man who will not fight, as cowardice and effeminacy are disdained in the laws of God, but rather it describes men who are pugnacious, men who are quarrelsome or quick to fight.

Finally, Paul warns against choosing men who are “shamefully desirous of gain”, where the King James Version has “not given to filthy lucre”. In Philippians chapter 3 Paul spoke of the enemies of the cross of Christ “19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” In 2 Corinthians 2:17 Paul wrote in part: “17, For we are not as the many, selling the word of Yahweh in trade, but as from sincerity, rather as from Yahweh.” Judaizers teaching salvation by works basically sell the dispensation of rituals to the unsuspecting. Also, men who are desirous of gain would be quick to compromise the Word of God for their own benefit, seeking to enrich themselves by doing so. Such men should be put out of any office that they acquire. Since the most ancient priesthoods of Mesopotamia, and probably even before that, Religion has been a business. So Paul warned in 1 Timothy chapter 6 of those who were “corrupting the minds of men and defrauding them of the truth, supposing piety to be a means of gain.” They are still doing that same thing today, and Christianity is supposed to be the answer to that, whereas the organized modern denominations, like the Medieval Roman Catholic Church had instead only adopted Christianity for such purposes.

Now Paul speaks of the positive qualities which the assembly should seek in men that are prospective leaders:

8 but hospitable, loving goodness, discreet, righteous, hallowed, self-controlled, 9 holding onto the trusted word according to the teaching, in order that he would then be able to exhort with sound teaching and to reprove the contradictors.

The 5th century Codex Alexandrinus (A) has the end of the verse to read “… to exhort those in all tribulation and to reprove the contradictors.”

The word translated as hospitality is φιλόξενος (Strong’s # 5382), which is literally a lover of those who are entitled to one’s hospitality, as we have explained that the word ξένος refers to an outsider or a sojourner who has the expectation of hospitality by custom or treaty. It does not describe any mere alien who happens to cross into one’s borders. The first definition of the word ξένος given by Liddell & Scott is a “guest-friend, applied to persons and states bound by a treaty or tie of hospitality”.

The phrase “loving goodness” is the similarly constructed word φιλάγαθος (Strong’s # 5358), and where the King James Version has “lover of good men”, there is no word for men or implication of men in the text. Liddell & Scott define the word as loving goodness, and Christ Himself said to a certain young man, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 19, “17… Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Therefore the Christian leader should look for what is good in the Word of God.

The word for discreet, where the King James Version has sober, means to be of sound mind – not necessarily to abstain from alcohol although drunkenness certainly is not amenable to discretion. The word for which we have hallowed is not the typical word for holy, which is ἄγιος, but a word lesser used in the New Testament, ὅσιος (Strong’s # 3741), which is defined as “hallowed, sanctioned by the law of God” as it was used in the earliest times in Hesiod’s Theogony and in the Tragic Poets. The word for just, which is δίκαιος, was distinguished by those same early Greek writers to refer to the justice of man, opposed to ὅσιος, or the justice of God. We would assert that it was not so in Paul’s writings, as he commonly used δίκαιος to describe the justice of God which exists even outside of the law, for instance throughout his epistle to the Romans where he described the righteousness of God apart from the law and used the corresponding noun δικαιοσύνη. So we esteem that in Paul’s writing, δίκαιος describes the justice of God which transcends the law, and ὅσιος can describe the justice of God found in the law as far as it can be determined by men through the Word of God.

The word translated here as self-controlled is from the Greek word ἐγκρατής, which by itself, according to Liddell & Scott, literally only means “in possession of power… holding fast, stout, strong” or “having possession of a thing, master of it”. Here in the context of these other words, it is interpreted to mean self-controlled, but it may instead refer to a man who is willing to take control of a situation when the need arises, and may have been rendered as having control. Paul used a similar form of the verb in 1 Corinthians 9:25 where the King James Version has “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.”

Where Paul said that Christian leaders should be found “holding onto the trusted word according to the teaching”, he is referring to the word of the Old Testament, as he said in his epistle to the Romans, in chapter 15: “4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Likewise he said in the similar instructions which he gave in 1 Timothy chapter 3 that “16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Once again, he was referring to the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

Paul continues with another warning:

10 For there are many insubordinates, vain talkers and deceivers of minds - especially those from among the circumcision, 11 whom it is necessary to muzzle, who upset entire houses teaching things which are not necessary, for reason of shameful profit.

Things which were not necessary are circumcision, water baptism, altar marriages, whatever dispensation of rituals the Judaizers sought to institute to use as wares to sell to men. None of these things are necessary for Christian salvation, as Christ has already made one sacrifice for each and every child of Israel.

But Paul evidently says these things to recall the treachery of the Judaizers to the attention of Titus. But Titus had already seen the disputes of Paul with the Judaizers as he had accompanied Paul to Antioch, and also visited Jerusalem with him, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 18. Of this encounter Paul had written in Galatians chapter 2: “1 Then after fourteen years I had again gone up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titos along also; 2 and I had gone up after a revelation, and laid upon them the good message which I proclaim among the Nations, but privately to those of repute, lest in any way I strive, or have strived, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titos who with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised 4 by those privily introduced false brethren, such who infiltrate to spy out our freedom, which we have in Christ Yahshua, in order that they may enslave us; 5 to whom not even for a minute did we yield in subjection, at which the truth of the good message would persevere for the sake of you.”

When Paul arrived in the Troad and learned that Titus had gone back to Crete, Paul must have also learned that there were Judaizers operating among the Cretans, so in relation to what he had just said concerning these Judaizers, he then says:

12 One of them, a prophet of their own said “Kretans are always liars, evil beasts, slothful gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true, for which cause you must censure them relentlessly, that they would be sound in the faith,

According to the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) Paul is quoting here from the ancient Cretan poet Epimenides and his work περὶ χρησμῶν, which is About Oracles, and which is lost along with all of his other writings. But other sources attribute this citation to a work called the Κρητικά, which basically means About Crete, which is presently only known to scholars through a 9th century commentary on the Book of Acts written by a Syrian and first translated into English in 1906, when it was published by one Professor J. Rendel Harris in a series of articles in a publication called The Expositor. This account seems to be factual, but for some reason the credit to Epimenides himself as the source for this citation has been completely removed from the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (NA28). Epimenides was a Cretan poet who was mentioned by later Greek writers such as Aristotle, Athenaeus, Diogenes Laërtius, and Plutarch. However all accounts of him and his work seem to be apocryphal.

Paul of Tarsus must have known more about Epimenides than we can know from the literature which survives today, and even though the attribution was removed from the most recent publication of the Novum Testamentum Graece (NA28), we cannot imagine who it may belong to if it is not from Epimenides, and J. Rendel Harris, who translated the Syrian commentary in which a fragment of the Κρητικά was found was himself persuaded that it belonged to Epimenides. A nearly exact passage is found in the Hymn to Zeus written by the 3rd century BC Greek poet Callimachus. But Callimachus was a native of Cyrene, a Greek colony on the coast between Egypt and Carthage, and Paul could not have called him “a prophet of their own” in relation to the Cretans.

But by calling Epimenides “a prophet of their own” Paul is not recognizing the poet as a prophet of yahweh God. Rather, he is only acknowledging the esteem which Epimenides was said to have had among the Cretans, which is described in some of those later apocryphal accounts of his life. At any rate, without delving into the theology expressed in the wider passage of Epimenides, and repeated in Callimachus, he is credited with having written that “Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.” [The phrase which we translated as slothful gluttons may likewise have been literally translated as idle bellies.]

In the context in which it appears in the Medieval Syrian commentary on the Book of Acts, the line is not readily recognized as a paradox. But this passage is popularly referred to as the Paradox of Epimenides by nearly all of the denominational commentators. It only seems to be a paradox because it was written by Epimenides, who was a Cretan, and seems to have been discussed as a paradox by scholars at least since the mid-18th century. (With this it is also evident that scholars were able to connect the saying to Epimenides even before the discovery of the Syrian commentary on the Book of Acts.) According to logic, if Epimenides, being a Cretan, writes that the Cretans are always liars, he is very likely lying because he is a Cretan, and therefore it is not true that the Cretans are always liars.

But Paul is not a liar, and he is evidently taking the words of Epimenides quite seriously, and therefore he did not necessarily recognize the passage as being paradoxical. Later, the Cretan inclination for lying is evident from Plutarch’s use of the word κρητισμός in order to describe such behavior. Plutarch, who was merely a child when Paul wrote his epistles, follows Epimenides by about 700 years. Liddell & Scott inform us that κρητισμός means “Cretan behaviour, i.e. lying….

Paul evidently had no moral problem identifying the Cretans as liars, which may also be attributed to the extent to which he was troubled over the problems in Crete for which he writes Titus here. However elsewhere, in his epistle to the Romans, Paul wrote “let God be true, but every man a liar”, and it can indeed be argued that every man is a liar, at least at one time or another. So after using their own writings to describe them as liars, Paul warns Titus that he “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.

Here we see a profound warning that is relevant to this very day, that Christians should not accept Jews as authorities on the Word of God, as Jews – who had rejected Christ and clung to the hypocrisy of Judaism – can only turn men away from the truth which is in Christ.

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