A Commentary in Simple English on the letter Paul sent to Titus

Titus: what we know about him

The New Testament speaks about Titus in several places. These places are: -
2 Corinthians 2: 12 and 13; 7: 7 and 13-15; 8: 6 and 16, 17 and 23; 12: 18; Galatians 2: 1-3; 2 Timothy 4: 10; and Titus 1: 4 and 5.

Now there are two problems here. The first problem is this. You will not find the name of Titus anywhere in the Book of Acts and Acts is our main source for the story of the early Church. Here is the other problem. We only know roughly when Paul and other people wrote the New Testament letters. So we have to fit the story of Titus together as best we can.

Titus: his life story as we see it

  1. Titus became a Christian as a result of Paul's preaching (Titus 1: 4).
  2. About AD 46, Paul and Titus were together, probably at Antioch in Syria. Paul and Barnabas went from Antioch to Jerusalem. They took with them money to help the Jerusalem church (Acts 11: 27-30). Titus went as well, which shows that Paul already trusted him and thought well of him. [0.1]
  3. Titus was a Greek (Galatians 2: 1-3). Some Jewish Christians wanted Titus to be circumcised as the Jews were. Paul refused this. (Acts 16: 3 tells us that later on Paul did circumcise Timothy. This was because Timothy was half Jewish. He had a Jewish mother.) In Galatians 2: 9, James the Lord's brother and Peter and John 'give the right hand of fellowship' to Paul and Barnabas, but perhaps not to Titus (See also Acts 12: 25.) The Galatian churches knew about Titus. He may well have been with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Galatians.
  4. 2 Corinthians tells us about some of the work that Titus did with Paul. This was about AD 56, ten years later. Titus made a visit to Corinth when Paul would not visit the church there. And the visit by Titus was a success. He put right the problems in the church and also the problems between Paul and people at Corinth.
  5. Paul wrote the letter to Titus about AD 64. This letter shows that Paul had been in Crete with Titus. Paul has left Titus behind in Crete. Then we find Titus with Paul, perhaps in Nicopolis. Or perhaps Titus reached Rome. Last of all he goes to Dalmatia (1 Timothy 4: 10).

Titus: what we do not know

We think that Titus was one of the many people who joined the church at Antioch (Acts 11: 21). We think that in the long gaps in his story he was busy. He helped Paul as he preached the Good News.

You will remember that Titus is not named anywhere in the Book of Acts. Luke wrote Acts and some people guess that Luke and Titus were brothers. Another guess is that Luke is 'the brother who is praised by all the churches' in 2 Corinthians 8: 18. There are other guesses.

No one knows what happened to Titus after he left Paul in Nicopolis or perhaps in Rome to go to Dalmatia [0.2].

Crete

Crete is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is about 250 km long from east to west and from 10km to 56km from north to south. A thousand years or more before the time of Jesus a people we call the Minoans lived there and they built the city of Knossos. The Old Testament may call Crete 'Caphtor'. Crete does not seem to play a large part in the story of the Greeks. The Romans came to Crete in BC. 68 and made it a part of their empire.

Acts 2 tells us what happened in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. This was after Jesus rose from the dead. God poured out his Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus and this was how the Church began. If you look at verse 11 you will see that there were Cretans, that is, people from Crete there on that day. Most of these people would be Jews who lived in Crete. They went back home after the holiday at Jerusalem. From Jerusalem to Crete is about 1200km; it was a long journey by sea. No doubt they spoke to other people in Crete about Jesus. So other people became Christians. And the apostles from Jerusalem would have visited the people who had become Christians at Pentecost. 30 years later there were Christian people all over the island.

The Book of Acts speaks about Crete in one other place. This is in Acts 27: 7-16. Here Paul is on his way from Caesarea in Palestine to Rome. We know that Luke is with him. Paul is a prisoner. They make the journey by sea. The ship sails along the south coast of the east half of Crete, until an autumn storm drives it away. This was in October AD 59. Paul does not seem to have left the ship at Crete, and Titus was not with Paul. [0.3]

Paul: the last years

Paul reached Rome in the spring of AD 60. He lived there in rented rooms for two years (Acts 28: 30). So it seems that in spring AD 62 the Romans set Paul free. Paul had wanted to go west to Spain (Romans 15: 24,28). No one knows whether or not Paul did this. Perhaps he felt that he first had to go back east to Greece. It was seven or eight years since Paul had visited the churches in Greece. He felt the need and the desire to travel east of Rome again. (See, for example, Philemon 22 and Philippians 1: 25 and 26.) So for about two years or a little longer he was free. He worked in Ephesus, and he went to Corinth as well as to Crete. Late in AD 64 or a year or two later, Paul became a prisoner again. It was in AD 64 that Nero killed great numbers of Christians in Rome. It seems likely that the Romans took Paul to Rome at about that time. He wrote 2 Timothy from prison. Not long after the Romans killed him.

The Letter to Titus

The letter is a letter to Titus. But Paul wrote it for the whole church in Crete. Some of the Christians in Crete did not like what Titus had to do. So Paul sent him this letter. He could show this to people. He would say: 'What I am doing is not just my idea. It is what Paul asked me to do.' It is full of teaching which we need to look at with care.

It has been usual for many years to group together the two letters to Timothy and this one to Titus. They are known as 'the Pastorals'. It is true that many of the things, which Paul says in Titus, he also says in 1 Timothy.

But we can miss the importance of the Letter to Titus if we look at it in this way. Martin Luther said that all that is needed for Christian knowledge and life is there in this short letter.

You will find that Titus is not the same as Paul's other letters. Paul was older. And the Church had developed quickly. For about 25 years Paul had watched what happened as churches grew older. Paul's reasons for writing this letter were different from the reasons that he had when he wrote the other letters. And the condition of the Christians was different. [0.4]