Like 1 and 2 Timothy, this is a letter addressed to an individual not a community. We learn from 1.5 that Titus was overseeing the church in Crete. The themes of the letter are how to order the Church and how to live well as a Christian.
4But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, 5he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3.4–5)
But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3.9)
Like a number of letters, Titus contains advice to men and women and to slaves and masters. Some of this can feel uncomfortable today.
Titus gives its author as the apostle Paul.
1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are widely thought by scholars not to have been written by Paul despite their introductions. The reason for this is a different style of writing (i.e. different words used and sentence structures) and a different focus.
Like 1 Timothy, Titus is particularly focused on church order and leadership, which suggests that it is written to later church communities, whose concerns have passed beyond the immediate questions of who Jesus was and what he had done for them to questions of how churches relate to each other.
You might like to think about authorship as you read and ask whether the ‘voice’ of the author sounds similar to what you know of Paul from elsewhere.
Paul is probably the best–known of all the early Christians. Before encountering Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he was a zealous Pharisee who sought to maintain the purity of Judaism. After his experience on the Damascus road, he turned his zeal to proclaiming Jesus Christ among the Gentiles. This brought him into conflict with some other early Christians, not least Peter, who thought that followers of Jesus should convert to Judaism. He travelled around the Roman Empire (though primarily in Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey – and Greece) proclaiming the good news and founding communities of Christians as he went. He also wrote a large number of letters, 13 of which are preserved in the New Testament. Titus has traditionally been thought to be one of these.
Titus here not the author but the recipient of the letter. According to Christian tradition, Titus was a Gentile who converted to Christianity and became the first Bishop of Crete. He is said to have come from Antioch and to have studied both Greek philosophy and poetry as a young man. He was a close companion of Paul – in Galatians Paul said he took Titus to Jerusalem for the Jerusalem council. In 2 Corinthians 2.13 Paul stated that he could not proclaim the gospel in Troas because he couldn’t find Titus there, so he was clearly trusted by him.
If the author was Paul then the date, like that of 1 and 2 Timothy, would be around AD 61-64; if not by Paul then it could come from a much later period in the first century AD.
The letter suggests that Titus and his community were anxious about order and leadership.
This is a letter. There are various features that mark it out as a little different from other Pauline letters. One of these is that it is addressed to one person (i.e. Titus) not a whole community (like Galatians or Thessalonians). You don’t have to read for long before it becomes clear, however, that this letter is not just written to Titus but is to be applied to the whole community.
1.1–4 Opening greeting
1.5–16 The importance of good leadership
2.1–10 How to live well as a Christian
2.11–3.11 The importance of good works
There may be names you will not know; don’t worry if you can’t place them all. The key ones are given below.
Apollos, Titus, Tychicus
Intriguingly, Paul in his letter to Titus gives advice aimed at people of different genders and different ages. Look out for it and see if you think it applies generally to, for example, older women or younger men or whether it applied only to the older women in Crete.
Paul is also concerned about sound doctrine. Look out for the occasions when he mentions this, either explicitly or implicitly, and reflect on what you think sound doctrine means to him.
This letter has things to make sure you do and things to make sure you don't do. Look out for them as you read and make a mental list.
There is lots of advice in this letter about what counts as ‘living well’ as a Christian and what counts as the opposite of that. Look out for this as you read. How is it relevant for today?