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Titus’ Task on Crete October 18, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

Here are my thoughts on Titus 1:5-16.

Summary: Paul begins by stating that he has appointed Titus as his representative; thus, he should build the church on Crete and preside as a moderator at the election of presbyters in every town. A presbyter should:

  • have an unblemished reputation
  • have lived in a chaste way
  • be able to control his own family so that his children respect him.

Indeed, a presbyter is a steward of God’s house (His church); thus, he should have an untarnished reputation. He should not be wise in his own conceits; instead, he should:

  • be devoted to kindness
  • have a proper relationship with God
  • not harm anyone.

He must be zealous for pure doctrine – which edifies the church – so that he can guide those who want to learn and refute those who oppose the truth.

This stems from the fact that Titus must deal with many unruly people, who are absorbed by unprofitable subtleties; they hold people spellbound so that they cannot accept sound teaching. Paul refutes their vain talk, since they have placed entire families in danger by moving away from sound teaching; indeed, they are diseased. To support this point, he quotes from a poet who was born on Crete; this poet noted that Cretans are lying, lazy gluttons who always prove to be evil brutes. Since this poet has an accurate assessment of Cretans, Titus should be unrelenting in rebuking them so that they will remain strictly within the bounds of sound faith. Thus, they will not listen to frivolous stories, including the superstitious ceremonies that have been introduced by Jews under the guise of promoting obedience to the law. Indeed, to believers, nothing is unclean; as for unbelievers, they are defiled, as their understanding and their hearts are impure. Paul concludes by asserting that unbelievers:

  • are unholy
  • break the chief requirements of the law with impunity
  • lack judgment and understanding regarding good deeds.

Thoughts: Verses 5-9 are similar to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 in that both passages present some guidelines for selecting presbyters for a church. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 6:

In Titus, Paul’s first requirement is that the children should be believers so that it is apparent that they have been brought up in the sound teaching of godliness and in the fear of the Lord.

When this letter was written, were elders required to have children who were believers? Was any believer who had unbelieving children automatically disqualified from being an elder? Parenting is an inherently tricky endeavor; the difficulty of this task is compounded by the fact that a believing parent must strive to teach their children to worship God with a pure heart. Can a believing parent guarantee that their best efforts will result in their children developing a holy fear of the Lord? Perhaps Paul was most concerned about spreading the Gospel at that time; thus, he knew that any elder with unbelieving children could be slandered by those outside the church.

In verse 12, Paul quotes from a Cretan poet who notes that all Cretans are liars, lazy, gluttonous and evil. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

I am sure Paul is quoting here from Epimenides, who was a Cretan…But it is not clear why Paul should refer to this man as a prophet. Poets are sometimes called prophets in Greek, just as they are called seers in Latin, and I take it to mean simply a teacher here. They were given the title of poet because they were thought to be “divine and moved by divine inspiration.” Thus Adimtus in the second book of Plato’s Republic, having called poets “sons of the gods,” adds that they were also their prophets.

I did some research on Epimenides and learned some interesting anecdotes, including:

  • he apparently lived for 300 years
  • his skin was covered with tattoos
  • while tending his father’s sheep, he fell asleep for 57 years in a cave that was sacred to Zeus.

While these (fictional) anecdotes were interesting, I was more intrigued by the Epimenides paradox that forms the heart of this verse. Did Paul realize that this statement by Epimenides was logically inconsistent? Since Calvin makes no mention of the paradox in his commentary, I assume that it escaped his notice. Perhaps Paul consciously brushed past this logical difficulty, choosing to focus on the harsh – yet accurate – portrait of Cretans that is presented by this quote; thus, they should strive against their natural impulses and resist those who would ensnare them.

In verse 14, Paul exhorts the Cretan believers to avoid submitting to those Jews who insisted that they must observe the Mosaic law in order to be saved. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

The Gentiles realized that they had spent all their lives being deceived, so it was easier for them to forsake their way of life, but the Jews who had been brought up in true religion stubbornly defended the ceremonies they were used to and could not be persuaded that the law had been abrogated. In this way, they were upsetting all the churches, for as soon as the Gospel was planted in a particular place, they methodically began to pollute it by adding their own leaven to it.

One must wonder if the Jewish diaspora caused Jews to migrate throughout the Roman Empire and settle in locations such as Galatia, Colosse and Crete. In any event, Paul must have been deeply frustrated whenever these enemies appeared as he preached the Gospel. Somehow God gave him the strength that he needed to continually refute their false doctrines and promote the simple – yet accurate – Gospel message. One must also wonder if these Jews eventually overwhelmed the churches on Crete after Paul passed away; I hope to learn more about this from Titus in the next life.



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