The Letter Of Paul To Titus

Michael D. Coogan

in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Augmented Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780195288803
Published online April 2009 |
The Letter Of Paul To Titus

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This epistle, directed to Paul's envoy and coworker Titus, has many similarities to 1 Timothy. It is cast as a reminder and incitement to Titus to complete his mission on Crete ( 1.5 ). Acts and the other Pauline letters do not mention any apostolic mission on this, the largest of the Aegean islands, and home to a large Jewish community. Those who argue that the letter is genuine contend that such a mission could have taken place after Paul's imprisonment at Rome recounted in Acts 28 , while those who regard it as pseudepigraphical (see further Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles, p. 349 nt for the debate) think the author has chosen Crete as a locale representing quintessential disobedience ( 1.12 ), or because of a later tradition associating Titus with the island.

Although he is never mentioned in Acts, Paul's letters provide information about Titus. According to Gal 2.3 he was a Gentile who accompanied Paul to the conference with the Jerusalem apostles, where Titus served as a kind of litmus test for the acceptability of uncircumcised Gentile converts. Titus played a crucial role in the pastoral ministry to Corinth, first as a key administrator of the collection for the church in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8.6,16–17,23; 12.18 ), and later as Paul's diplomatic envoy who successfully brokered a reconciliation between the apostle and the Corinthian church, which had harbored doubts about Paul's legitimacy and financial reliability (2 Cor 2.13; 7.6–7, 13–16 ).

The epistle to Titus is framed as a commissioning letter. After the usual epistolary prescript ( 1.1–4 , which is expanded with a theological creed), the body of the letter focuses on Titus's dual commission to correct things on Crete and to appoint elders ( 1.5–16 ). The basis for his work follows in sections devoted to the submission expected of various roles in the church ( 2.1–10 ), the theological basis for pious living ( 2.11–15 ), and a final section bringing the two themes—submission and good works—together ( 3.1–11 ). The epistle concludes with a discussion of travel plans ( 3.12–13 ), a final exhortation to good works ( 3.14 ), epistolary greetings ( 3.15a ), and a benediction ( 3.15b ).

Paul delegates two tasks to Titus, under the heading of “putting things in order” ( 1.5 ): exhorting the faithful in sound teaching ( 1.9,13; 2.1–2,8 ), and refuting the opposition ( 2.2,15; cf. 1.9 ). The mainstay of sound teaching, as the author defines it, is strict maintenance of a patriarchal church order and the proper submission it demands ( 2.5,9; 3.1 ; contrast the characterization of the opponents as “insubordinate” or “rebellious” in 1.6,10 ). This ethic of the “household code” as applied to the Christian house church reflects the wider cultural context of the Greco‐Roman world and is characteristic of the Pastoral Epistles. The second task, the refutation of opponents (fellow Christians of Jewish background who adhere to the requirements of the laws of Moses, the Torah, such as dietary laws), is addressed by the author in a negative fashion, through sharp invective and ridicule ( 1.10–16; 2.8; 3.9–11 ) rather than theological debate, which the author appears to eye largely with suspicion ( 1.13–14; 3.9–11 ).

Though short, this epistle is theologically packed, requiring readers to pause and reconstruct the underlying gospel narrative and theological concepts, which the author often invokes by terse shorthand. Passages such as 1.1–3; 2.11–14; 3.4–7 allow for instructive comparison with other tight Pauline formulations (such as Gal 4.1–11; Rom 3.21–26; 2 Tim 1.9–10 ), so the theology constructed here can be appreciated both for its distinctiveness and for its continuity with earlier traditions.

Chapter.  1617 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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