Lesson 4 of6
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 more likely, however, that this letter was written in Paul’s name by an anonymous writer after the death of Paul. The author sought to speak for 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 vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles includes many words that do not appear in the seven undisputed letters of Paul; if Paul wrote the Pastorals, one would expect that his vocabulary across all the letters would be similar; (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 do not fit well into the chronology of what we know about Paul’s career.

Titus, 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy resemble each other in terms of vocabulary, style, and themes. This similarity leads to the conclusion that the same person likely wrote all three letters at around the same time, a few decades after Paul’s death. Some scholars refer to the author of the Pastoral Epistles simply as “the Pastor.” 

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 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.” In only a handful of places does the New Testament apply the term, “God,” to Jesus (see John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Hebrews 1:8; also possibly Romans 9:5). Although the divinity of Jesus is a major theme in Christian theology, it is not emphasized in the New Testament itself. New Testament authors seem reluctant to speak of Christ as God. In those texts in which Jesus is called “God,”  the term appears to be more  an expression of praise than a statement of doctrine.

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.

The Greco-Roman Household

The basic unit of Greco-Roman society was the household. The household comprised a cross-section of society arranged in a pyramid, with an older, free male at the pinnacle. Below him were several other layers of people: male relatives, then female relatives, then male freedmen, below which were female freedwomen, all of whom worked for the pater familias. Below these were enslaved people, with males again outranking females. Within these groups, older people had higher status than younger adults and children. 

People at higher levels of the pyramid handed resources down to those at lower levels. Those at lower levels handed honor—or shame—up. Greek philosophers maintained that, when the household was working well, society would work well. This is the context for the advice to Titus in 2:1-10. Those responsible for the Pastoral Epistles wanted the Christian movement which they were a part of to be noticed by outsiders for good works. They were at pains not to appear to be revising a hierarchical, patriarchal, slave-dependent household and societal structure. 

Tables of Duties

This book, as some others in the New Testament, includes a table of duties (or household code) concerning what is expected of older men and women, young men and women, and slaves (2:2-10). Such tables reflect expectations of individuals in the era in which the tables were written and the context to which they were first addressed. History has shown that these texts are susceptible to misuse, especially as they have been used to justify slavery, to direct the behavior of enslaved individuals toward contentment with their status and to offer approval for patriarchal structures within Christian community.