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The Epistle to Titus

Updated on November 28, 2016

The Epistle to Titus is the 17th book in the New Testament, ostensibly a letter from the Apostle Paul to his coworker Titus instructing him how to organize church life in Crete. Many modern scholars doubt that Paul wrote the letter, because its language, style, and content differ considerably from the undisputed Pauline letters. Probably this epistle and the two addressed to Timothy are the work of a single author, a disciple of Paul who wrote near the beginning of the 2nd century for the benefit of fellow church leaders. Almost certainly he wrote in Paul's name because he was attempting to restate the apostle's message for his own time and situation.

The chief themes of the epistle are the qualifications and tasks of bishops, the moral standards believers should observe, and the proper measures to take toward heretics. The writer's fundamental concern is the stabilization of church life and thought. He wrote in an age when a fixed episcopal office had developed, and perhaps the terms "bishop" and "elder" are used interchangeably (1:5-7). Bishops are to be models of uprightness and vigorous defenders of "sound doctrine."

The content of orthodox belief is not specified at length, but the author presupposes a Pauline doctrine of justification by grace apart from works. This justification, however, requires believers to strive zealously to lead lives free from sinful passions and devoted to good deeds (2:11-14; 3:4-8). They should display love, gentleness, honesty, and sobriety so as "to adorn the doctrine of God" and win the respect of non-Christians. The epistle attacks heretics who are succeeding in disrupting the churches (1:11). The author chooses not to discuss the content of their teaching but refers cryptically to a "circumcision party", "Jewish myths", and "foolish controversies." Evidently it was a syncreti tic heresy with Judaizing tendencies. The author denounces the conduct of the heretics as immoral and insists that they be rebuked and, unless they repent, shunned.


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