Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

- Titus

by Daniel Whedon


Intended for Popular Use








THE present volume closes our entire Commentary on the New Testament. It is a work which has occupied the mind of the author through intervals of a period of twenty-five years. It is with humble gratitude to God that he closes his task. The generous acceptance with which it has been received has been an inspiring incentive to his labours. The writer has, during that time, passed from the meridian to the evening-tide of life. Yet he hopes that, with reader as well as writer, the zest of the work will be found as fresh at the closing chapters of the Apocalypse as at the opening chapters of Matthew.

The Commentary on the Old Testament, from the hands of a number of eminent biblical scholars, is in progress, and will, we trust, be completed by the close of another quadrennium.

For the notes on First and Second Peter (with the exception of the last of the Second Epistle) we are indebted to Rev. D.A. Whedon, D.D. W.



AS the Epistle to Titus is a sort of abridgment of the First to Timothy, so Titus himself appears like a fainter edition of Timothy. Both were chosen by the Apostle Paul, as young men most likely to be a sort of continuation of himself after his earthly ministry should be closed. Hence his solicitude that they should possess and maintain the true type of his Christian doctrine, morality, and church organization. Paul calls Titus “my partner and fellow helper;” but of Timothy he had said, “I have no other like-minded.” Of Titus we know nothing from the Book of Acts; and learn all we know from four epistles Galatians, I1 Corinthians, II Timothy, and the present Epistle.

His Latin name, TITUS, indicates, but does not prove, that he was a Roman, as we know he was a Gentile. He was converted from paganism to Christianity by Paul, and so is called by him his “own son.” He went with Paul to the Council of Jerusalem as an uncircumcised Gentile Christian, and was not permitted by Paul to be circumcised. The apostle had, indeed, himself circumcised Timothy, when it was possible so to do, on the ground that circumcision was a matter of indifference; but when, at the Council of Jerusalem, it was claimed by eminent leaders that circumcision should be a permanent part of Christianity, Paul promptly made Titus a test case. And when he was not compelled to be circumcised, the victory of emancipation from Jewish ritualism was decisive. Titus, then, had the conspicuous honour of being the typical uncircumcised Christian Gentile. Thenceforth the Judaistic party slowly waned, until it finally expired.

Titus was next employed in a more active mission, in which he won the apostle’s high commendation. Paul, during his long ministry at Ephesus, undertaking to collect a pecuniary contribution in behalf of the poor saints at Jerusalem, sent him, attended by other brethren, on that errand to Corinth. At the same time, being anxious as to the effect of his first severe epistle on the allegiance of the Corinthian Christians, he engaged Titus to ascertain about that matter, and to report in person to him. Under the pressure of failing health, Paul became intensely anxious for Titus to return with his report. He left Ephesus and went northward to Troas, hoping there to see Titus, but no Titus came. He then crossed the Hellespont and passed over into Macedonia, where, to his great joy, Titus appeared, and reported that all was well at Corinth.* The apostle returned him to Corinth, with his Second Epistle, to complete the work of the collections. With such ability and probity did he distinguish himself in this mission, that Paul dared confide to him the high responsibility of organizing and controlling the Christian bodies in the island of Crete.

[* Compare our Introduction to 2 Corinthians.] But from the mission to Corinth (A.D. 57) to the vicar-apostolate in Crete (67) was a long interval, during which we catch no glimpse of Titus. Paul had meanwhile passed from middle life to a somewhat premature agedness, and Titus had attained the bloom of manhood. Together they were labouring in Crete, and when St. Paul left the island he left it in charge of Titus. How long after that departure, or from what locality, this epistle was written, cannot be precisely decided. It could not be long, for the epistle describes the work of organization as yet to be completed. It was written, perhaps, from Asia Minor, when the apostle was about to start for Nicopolis, where he proposes to collect a force of Christian preachers. To that assemblage he invites Titus; but whether the latter ever went to Nicopolis we know not. At Nicopolis, it is supposed, St. Paul was apprehended and conveyed to Rome. Titus was with him in his prison at Rome. But before Paul’s trial he departed, doubtless for good reasons, to Dalmatia. There the New Testament record leaves him.†

† [Consult, with our notes, Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 12:18; 2Co 8:6 ; 2 Corinthians 8:16-23; 2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 7:6-15; 2 Timothy 4:10.] Traditionally both Dalmatia and Crete claim Titus as their first bishop; the former faintly, the latter boldly. Candia, the modern Cretan capital, professes to be his burial place. There exists an ancient Greek fragment of a “Life and Acts of Titus,” professedly written by Zenas the lawyer, in which Titus is styled Bishop of Gortyna. On the ancient site of Gortyna are the ruins of a magnificent old church of St. Titus. “St. Titus” was the watchword of the Cretans in resisting the invasion of the Venetians. When the Venetians conquered Crete, the antiphonal worship was adopted, in which the Venetians chanted “Holy St. Mark, defend us,” and the Cretans responded, “Holy St. Titus, defend us.” There is extant an able panegyric by Andreas the Cretan, published in 1644, possessing some interest. Andreas tells us that Titus was a descendant of the ancient Cretan judges, Rhadamanthus and Minos; that early in life he obtained a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures and learned the language in a brief time; and that he was present at the Council of Jerusalem. He loftily eulogizes Titus as “the first foundation of the Church of the Cretans; the pillar of the truth; the prop of the faith; the silenceless trumpet of the evangelic preachings; the sublime echo of the tongue of Paul.” All this seems to show, that, however little this epistle compliments the Cretans, the Cretans contrived to be very proud of the epistle. There is an antecedent probability that Titus would, during the rest of his life after the death of Paul, retain a sort of special relation to Crete as its proper apostle, and the specific assignment of his connexion with Gortyna can hardly be rejected as purely fabulous.

By its position a little east of the centre of the Mediterranean Crete was in the highway of the early Christian missionaries. It had, as our map will show, Palestine and Cyprus on its east; Asia Minor, Patmos, with its sister isles, and Italy, on its north; and Paul touched upon it in his disastrous voyage from Syria to Rome. Cretans were present at the Pentecost; and how early sporadic clusters of Christians existed on the island we can only conjecture. Paul and Titus found them in their dispersed state, and it became the task of Titus, as instructed in this letter, to indoctrinate them in the orthodox faith, to frame them to a Christian morality, and to organize them into a body of efficient Churches.

Paul and Titus must have found in Crete a half-civilized, turbulent people, proud of their supposed antiquity, and intensely patriotic. Homer tells us of “the hundred-citied Crete,” and its pre-historic judges, Minos and Rhadamanthus, were so just as to be appointed, after their death, as judges in Hades. The justice of their ancestors, however, was not inherited by the Cretans, as they were celebrated by the ancient writers for piracy, lying, and every form of dishonesty, and even at the present day they are described as “the worst characters of the Levant.” The island was successively conquered by the Romans, Saracens, Venetians, and Turks, under the last of whom it now is, though aspiring for a union with the kingdom of Greece. The present epistle and the two to Timothy are called the Pastoral Epistles. Their whole tone, style, and peculiar phrases indicate that they were written near the same time, in the advanced age of the apostle, and a mature state of the Church. As a lesser composition covering the same ground, this seems to have been written after the First to Timothy; and as we know that Second Timothy was the last epistle written before St. Paul’s martyrdom, this would, in the order of time, come between the two. As to its authenticity, the same remarks may be applied to it as to First Timothy in our Introduction to that epistle.

It is sad to remark, that the Christianity of Paul and Titus proved hardly more successful in forming the Cretan character to a high model than did the justice of Minos and Rhadamanthus. The emphasis with which St. Paul insists on a Gospel which shall reveal itself in external life and character that shall give honesty to the knave, purity to the unchaste, humanity to the cruel, peaceableness to the turbulent, civilization to the rude and uncouth is earnest and persistent. He projected the bringing the reckless sailors, the wild mountaineers, and the cheating townsmen of Crete to a civilized Christianity. But with what a dexterity every thing of the practical and life-long element of Christianity can be eluded! Crete belongs now to the “Holy Orthodox Church,” but a Christianized paganism has transformed the legendry of saints into a mythology; a luxuriant ritualism has sought salvation by trinkets and genuflections; a romantic reverence for sacred localities and mementos has substituted itself in place of the downright Christian pieties, virtues, and honesties. As through the ages Christian civilization has advanced, Crete has, doubtless, advanced; yet preserving the same sad relative immorality amid surrounding peoples.


1. Apostolic Title and Address Titus 1:1-4

2. Portraiture of the Suitable Eldership for Crete Titus 1:5-9

3. Contrasted Portraiture of the Cretan Errorists Titus 1:10-16

4. Portraiture of a true Christian Laity under true Teaching Titus 2:1-15

5. Miscellaneous Injunctions Titus 3:1-11

6. Concluding Directions, Personal and Official Titus 3:12-15