Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Titus - Part 1

Two years ago I posted a summary of Paul's epistle to Titus from an approximate two-month study.  I have decided to give the details of that study in the form of a paper I had written as a result.  This is the first of what will be a multi-part offering.

Godliness.  The mention of the word acknowledges a standard—one established by God and according to His word.  In Christendom, when the common person thinks of godliness, a familiar mental picture is a member of the clergy who has chosen religion as a profession or to be cloistered and unsullied by the world.  They are seen set apart from the rest of mankind to be examples of what is proper, yet unattainable, for the general public.  The book of Titus gives a different picture.  In three chapters, the Holy Spirit through Paul teaches the essence of godliness for various roles and responsibilities in life—life in obedience to the gospel.  Rather than being characteristic of the lofty few, each person is accountable for exercising and promoting godliness during day-to-day involvement regardless of office or gift in Christ’s church.  As Mounce states:
There are two underlying premises to [Paul’s] approach: (1) [T]heology should affect behavior.  Christ came to “redeem us from all lawlessness and cleanse for himself a special people, a zealot for good works” (Titus 2:14).  The call to godly behavior is not works righteousness; neither is it a call to good citizenship without theological underpinning.  (2) A person’s belief and behavior are so closely related that behavior reflects belief; the fruit of the tree is a true representation of the roots of the tree; it is out of one’s heart that one speaks (Luke 6:43-45)…Therefore, there is a significant emphasis on good works as the necessary outgrowth of salvation.1
Titus would now have Paul’s instruction and authority to inspire and establish godliness in the Cretan believers against two forces working against the gospel.

Obstacles to Success
Cretan Character (1:12-13a) Crete was the center of the Minoan maritime empire named after King Minos. The empire flourished from 2000 to 1500 BC and suddenly collapsed around 1400 BC.   The Minoans were known to the Egyptians as “Keftiu” and is similar to the Jewish “Caphtor” which Scripture indicates to be the origin of the Philistines who came to Palestine (Jer. 47:4; Amos 9:7).  The Caphtorim were originally the descendants of Ham (Gen. 10:14) who later invaded the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea and established five city-states—Gaza (Deut. 2:23), Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron.2  Also, the Cherethites of David’s bodyguard (2 Sam. 15:18) appear to have been native-born Cretan mercenaries, later coming under judgment (Ezek. 25:16; Zeph. 2:5) with the rest of the Philistine nation.

Before the second century B.C., Cretans had gained notoriety for being adept and profuse liars such that the Greeks coined a verb κρετιζω meaning to lie and cheat.  In addition, the English word “syncretism” derives from Cretan alliances formed by the different warring tribes against a common foe (from the Greek συνκρητισμος - union of two parties against a third3).  Polybius (c.200 - after 118 B.C.) reflected the Greek view of these people when he wrote:
Cretans on account of their innate avarice live in a perpetual state of private quarrel and public feud and civil strife—you will hardly find anywhere characters more tricky and deceitful than those of Crete—money is so highly valued among them, that its possession is not only thought to be necessary, but highly creditable; and in fact greed and avarice are so native to the soil in Crete that they are the only people in the world among whom no stigma attaches to any sort of gain whatever (Polybius, 6.46, Loeb edition).4
He also related negotiations between a traitor and a leader that looked out only for their own interests over those of the person in danger.  No honor or obligation was assumed.

Those outside Crete were not the only detractors, however.  Near 600 BC Epimenedes of Knossos, a Cretan philosopher and later a noted wise man of Greece, gave the truth of the matter in Paul’s quotation that Cretans were “always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12b).  One needs turn no further than to Hollywood to see how this lifestyle is depicted today.  In the formerly popular television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” an alien race (Ferengi) was written into the show which embodied this very lifestyle.  The race had a written code of acquisition that placed profit and personal safety above all else.  Not surprisingly, this character was head of the ship’s area which operated all that is desired to please the flesh, whether easy women, intoxicating drink, or gambling.  However a person would spend money for pleasure became a vehicle to bring in a profit.  Whether ancient Crete or a fantasy television series, the testimony given is not unlike that mentioned by the apostle in his epistles to Philippi (Phil. 3:18-19) and Rome (Rom. 1:28-32).  Notice must be given that though the Cretan culture was wicked, it was not uncommon for the Roman world in Paul’s day, nor is it uncommon in this day.

False Teachers (1:10-11, 13b-16) The other major influence working against the gospel was false teaching predominantly by Jews.  Paul’s countrymen were noted for constancy in two areas of his life—conflicts and burdens.  The former were enemies of Paul seeking to destroy the work that was being established through the preaching of the gospel.  Throughout Paul’s missionary efforts Jews (especially leaders) would oppose Paul, upset the crowds, and cause rioting to halt the message.  Yet, these same people are the ones Paul had in his heart when he would ask that he might be accursed in place of his countrymen (Rom. 9:3).  The latter were those Jews who had received the Lord Jesus Christ as savior and were now thinking that continued adherence to the law was required for salvation.  Paul had to deal with these issues in both Antioch (Acts 15) and Galatia (epistle to the same).

Reason to Rejoice
Lest there be discouragement caused by the obstacles above, one need only remember there were believers on Crete when this letter was written.5  The gospel had gone forth and not returned void.  Where did these believers come from?  When would there have been opportunity to evangelize?  There are three possibilities.

1. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended there were Cretans in the crowd that heard the commotion (Acts 2:11) and later heard Peter’s message.  It is possible some were numbered among the 3,000 saved that day or having heard believed at a later date.

2. As Paul was being taken under guard to Rome the ship put into port at Fair Havens on the southern edge of Crete where they stayed for an unknown length of time (Acts 27:7-9a).  We have no record of Paul’s actions while in harbor, but there remains a possibility he interacted with Cretans while awaiting continued travel to Rome.

3. From the text Paul had undertaken a missionary effort on Crete taking Titus with him (Titus 1:5).  This was no small work on the island as signified by their co-workers Zenas the lawyer and Apollos who were evidently still on Crete at the time of Paul’s letter (Titus 3:13).  Zenas is not mentioned elsewhere, so his ministry is unknown, but his occupation suggests he was able to handle the Scriptures wisely and convincingly.  Apollos, on the other hand, was a Jew born in Alexandria, eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, accurate in teaching, bold, and powerfully refuting Jews needing only some additional teaching from Aquila and Priscilla to round out his ministry (Acts 18:24-28).

1 William D. Mounce.  Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 46.  Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker., eds.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000., p. lxxviii.
2 Michael Griffiths.  Timothy and Titus.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996., p. 126.
3 Webster’s New World Dictionary, College Edition.  Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Co., 1953-60, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968., p. 1479.
4 Quoted in Griffiths, p. 139
5 This is inferred from the command to appoint elders (Titus 1:5) and the request to “greet those who love us in the faith” (Titus 3:15)—neither having meaning if there were none who would properly benefit from these directives.

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