Lesson 4 of5
In Progress

Introductory Issues in Titus

The author of The Letter

According to the letter itself, Paul wrote it to Titus on Crete (1:5), from which Paul has now left. Paul is at some undisclosed location, but he will eventually be on his way to Nicopolis (eastern Macedonia), where Titus is to meet him (3:12). It is much more likely, however, that this letter was written in Paul’s name by an anonymous writer (making it a pseudonymous work) after the death of Paul. The author sought to impersonate Paul in a post-Pauline situation. Reasons cited for that view depend on an assessment of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus) as a group. The reasons are as follows: (1) the Pastorals do not appear as known Pauline letters in the earliest sources; (2) the Pastorals contain 901 different Greek words, but once the 52 proper nouns (names and places) are removed, there are 849 left; of the 849, some 306 (36%) do not appear within the seven undisputed letters of Paul; (3) the Pastorals assume and prescribe a church order with ecclesiastical offices (bishop, presbyter [=elder], and deacon) firmly in place, which is not evident in the undisputed letters of Paul; (4) the Pastorals contain teachings otherwise unknown in the undisputed letters of Paul (such as an emphasis on “piety” or “godliness,” and “faith” understood as the Christian faith that is transmitted by tradition, not simple trust); and (5) the Pastorals cannot be fitted well into the chronology of what we know about Paul’s career.

Bishop and Elder (or Presbyter)

Titus is told to appoint “elders” (or “presbyters”) in every town on Crete (1:5). But then the writer goes on to speak already in 1:7 about the qualities and qualifications of a “bishop.” This has led interpreters to wonder whether the office of bishop and elder were the same. According to some scholars, who point out that the bishop is spoken of in the singular and the elders in the plural, a bishop may have been an elder who had become the overseer (which is what the Greek word translated “bishop” means) of the community. As Titus appoints elders, therefore, he should bear in mind that any one of them might someday be the bishop, so the qualities and qualifications of the bishop are to be taken into consideration in the appointment of elders.


At 2:13 the writer says that “we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” This is one of only two places in the New Testament where the term “God” is clearly applied to Jesus. The other is at John 20:28. (In addition, there is one other passage, Romans 9:5, which may or may not speak of Christ as God, depending on how one punctuates the Greek.) It should be emphasized that, although the divinity of Jesus is a major theme in Christian theology, it is not emphasized in the New Testament itself. There seems to be a reticence to speak of Christ as God. That is true even in the passages cited here. In both cases the term “God” appears to be more honorific (in expressions of praise) than ontological.

The Pastoral Epistles

These three books–1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus–share much in common in terms of language, style, and theological themes. Each is written to a pastor from a pastor. One cannot discuss the theology of any one of them in isolation from its two companion pieces. They share many theological themes.

Tables of duties

In this book, as in some others in the New Testament, there is a table of duties (or household code) concerning what is expected of elderly men and women, young men and women, and slaves (2:2-10). Such tables (or codes) reflect expectations of persons in the era in which they were written and may or may not be applicable in later times, especially the expectations of wives and slaves. These tables stand in the Scriptures of the Christian church, however, and every interpreter will assess their importance differently, which is inevitable.