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Introduction to Paul's Letter to Titus

Julian Spriggs M.A.


The hotly debated question of authorship of the three Pastoral Epistles is described in the article about 1 Timothy.

Historical Background

From the text of Titus itself, we see that Paul had left Titus in Crete (1:5). This would suggest that Paul and Titus had at some time been together in Crete. He says, "let our people learn to apply themselves to good deeds" (3:14). Since Paul called them 'our people', which suggests that he and Titus probably founded the church in Crete together. Paul tells Titus to meet him at Nicopolis, because he is spending the winter there (3:12). So the letter to Titus was written on the way to Nicopolis, which is on the west coast of Greece.

Several of the people mentioned in the letter are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, apart from Artemas (3:12) and Zenas (3:17) who are only mentioned here. Tychicus (3:12) was with Paul on his return to Jerusalem on third missionary journey (Acts 20:4), and served as the 'postman' for Paul during Roman imprisonment (Eph 6:21, Col 4:7). Later he was sent by Paul to Ephesus (2 Tim 4:12), perhaps being the postman again. In Titus, Paul is planning to send him to Crete to replace Titus as his representative on the island. This time he is not the postman, as Zenas and Apollos delivered the letter (3:12). Tychicus was one of Paul's trusted co-workers, often travelling with him.

Apollos (3:17) is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament. The first time, he was helped by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24), and then went to Corinth (Acts 19:1), after Paul had founded the church there. It appears that he had a special following in Corinth (1 Cor 1:12, 3:4-6,22, 4:6), and Paul has to defend their working relationship. Later he was urged by Paul to visit Corinth (1 Cor 16:12). He had spent some time with the church in Crete and was there when Titus arrived (Titus 3:13)

Biographical study of Titus

We only know a little about Titus, as he is not mentioned in the book of Acts. All the information we have about him is from brief appearances in Paul’s letters.

Titus was a Gentile whom Paul had probably led to the Lord (Titus 1:4). He was taken by Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Gal 2:3) on Paul's second visit there. Paul took him as an test case of a Gentile convert to the discussion on whether Gentiles should first become Jews, coming under the law and being circumcised. Titus was not compelled to be circumcised.

He was one of Paul's faithful co-workers, who was often given difficult and trusted tasks to do. He appears to be a stronger character than Timothy. We see him sent to Corinth as Paul's representative and trouble shooter, with the difficult job of bringing correction into that church. He also organised and was urged to complete their contribution for the Collection for the Jerusalem saints (2 Cor 8:6).

Titus was involved in the tense situation addressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians and he brought the good news of the Corinthians' positive response to his letter to Paul in Macedonia (2 Cor 7:5-16). He carried the second letter to Corinth, and was called Paul's "partner and fellow worker" in the service of the Corinthian church (2 Cor 8:16-24). Titus, like Paul, would not abuse his privilege by exploiting them to his own advantage (2 Cor 12:17-18).

Paul had high regard for Titus, in his recommendation to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians, he describes him as "my brother" (2:13), speaks of Titus' heart going out to Corinthians (7:14) and of Titus having earnest care for church at Corinth (8:16). He also says that Titus served the church without taking advantage of them financially (12:18).

Paul had left Titus on the island of Crete to amend what was defective and to appoint elders (Titus 1:5), and later was sent to Dalmatia (2 Tim 4:10).

Eusebius described Titus as being the bishop of Crete until his old age, "Titus also, was appointed over the churches in Crete." (Ecclesiastical History 3:4). Some people have suggested that he was Luke's brother.

The Church on the Island of Crete

We do not know how the Gospel first came to the island of Crete. There were Jewish Cretans at Day of Pentecost, who heard the Gospel from Peter (Acts 2:11). On his journey to Rome, Paul’s ship attempted to shelter in Crete, but was swept past in a storm, without being able to land (Acts 27). Paul had left Titus on Crete to amend what was defective and to appoint elders in every town (1:5), and quoted one of the poets who described the Cretans as “always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (1:12).

When was the church at Crete founded?

It is very difficult to answer these questions, as there is so little information. We have no record of Paul going to Crete, or of a church being planted. It may have been a result of people present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, but Paul refers to the people as 'our people' (3:14), which points to Paul seeing them as his planting.

When was the letter written?

Two suggestions have been put forward: The first suggestion was during Paul’s three months in Greece on the third Missionary Journey (Acts 20:3). Perhaps after visiting Corinth, he went with Titus to Crete (two hundred miles from Corinth, which is four days sailing), founded churches and left Titus to establish the church government. He then returned to Nicopolis and on the way wrote the letter of Titus. He spent the winter there (whatever was left of the three months) then proceeded on to Jerusalem, even though it seems that sailing in winter months was avoided (Acts 27:9-12).

We need to remember that Luke was very selective in what he included in the Book of Acts and could easily have omitted this visit, especially as he has not even mentioned Titus at all. Also, Paul seemed able to accomplish much, even in the briefest of visits. The Thessalonian church may well have been established in three weeks (Acts 17:2). However even if we accept that Paul was able to do much in a short time, it seems a few weeks is too short for churches to be started over all the island. From the letter it seems that enough time had elapsed from the planting of the church for false teachers to get in and have effect. Also Tychicus was sent to replace Titus (Titus 3;12), but in Acts 20:4, he was with Paul on his journey to Judea.

The second, and more likely, suggestion is to say that Paul’s and Titus' visit was after Paul's Roman imprisonment (Acts 28), some time after the end of the Book of Acts, during what is often called his fourth missionary journey. This would give enough time, as Paul was not martyred until after the Fire of Rome in AD 64, two or three years after the end of his imprisonment in Rome.

In the letter to Titus, we can clearly know that Paul wrote the letter on his way to Nicopolis, but we cannot be sure exactly when. As we study this letter, we will find that this lack of solid information in no way hinders our study.

Problems with false teachers in the Church on Crete

There are two main passages which describe the false teachers and what they were doing in the church (1:10-16, 3:8-11). Paul describes them and their message in very strong language.

Who were they?

The false teachers were local people from Crete who had picked up false doctrines from various sources. They were getting into the various churches and causing havoc. Their motive was money. Their consciences were corrupted and they are described as insubordinate, empty talkers, deceivers, liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons, unbelieving, detestable, disobedient and unfit for any good work.

What were they teaching?

It is difficult to know exactly what was being taught, but it seems it was a mixture, with a strong influence of Judaism, and some early Gnosticism in it. It seems to have similarities with the problems in Ephesus that Timothy was sent to sort out (1 Tim 1:3), but more Jewish. The reference to controversies and genealogies would imply that it is not pure Judaism, as in Galatians and Acts 15. False teaching in the New Testament seems to be either Jewish legalism, Gnosticism, or various combinations of both.

How did this affect the church?

The greatest problem seemed to be that they were lax and indifferent to their responsibility to live in a godly way. There was a dichotomy between belief and lifestyle. This was because Cretans 'naturally' proved to be lazy and this was exaggerated by the false teaching. In Col 2:20-23, Paul addresses a similar situation: how legalism and ascetic practices do not have any value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (also see 1 Tim 4:8). Some may have been abusing the grace of God (3:11ff), while others were taking great care to carry out ritual obedience, while ignoring the areas of character and kindness.

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

New Testament History

Articles which give additional information about the history and culture of the first century, giving helpful background knowledge for the Gospels and Paul's travels.

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey.

More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Early Church Fathers

These are a series of pages giving biographical information about some of the more significant early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian, as well as some important groups and events in the first centuries of the church.

Artifacts in the British Museum relevant to Biblical studies

These are a series of pages describing artifacts in each gallery of the British Museum, which have a connection with the Bible.

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Historical documents

These are a series of pages containing historical documents which give helpful information for Biblical studies. These include Hittite suzerainty treaties with a similar structure to the Book of Deuteronomy, different lists of the New Testament books and quotations from Josephus and other ancient writers.

Life Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.