1 From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion, 2 and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie 3 and so, in due time, he made known his message by a proclamation which was entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour. 4 To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share. Grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Saviour.

5 The reason I left you behind in Crete was for you to organise everything that still had to be done and appoint elders in every town, in the way that I told you, 6 that is, each of them must be a man of irreproachable character, husband of one wife, and his children must be believers and not liable to be charged with disorderly conduct or insubordination.

7 The presiding elder has to be irreproachable since he is God's representative: never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor avaricious; 8 but hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled; 9 and he must have a firm grasp of the unchanging message of the tradition, so that he can be counted on both for giving encouragement in sound doctrine and for refuting those who argue against it.

10 And in fact there are many people who are insubordinate, who talk nonsense and try to make others believe it, particularly among those of the circumcision. 11 They must be silenced: people of this kind upset whole families, by teaching things that they ought not to, and doing it for the sake of sordid gain.

12 It was one of themselves, one of their own prophets, who said, 'Cretans were never anything but liars, dangerous animals, all greed and laziness'; 13 and that is a true statement. So be severe in correcting them, and make them sound in the faith 14 so that they stop taking notice of Jewish myths and the orders of people who turn away from the truth.

15 To those who are pure themselves, everything is pure; but to those who have been corrupted and lack faith, nothing can be pure -- the corruption is both in their minds and in their consciences. 16 They claim to know God but by their works they deny him; they are outrageously rebellious and quite untrustworthy for any good work.  Version: New Jerusalem Bible



  • Titus is Paul's third surviving pastoral letter.
    • He may be writing from Nicopolis (see 3:12), on the west coast of Greece.
    • Titus is his long-time ministry associate (2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6,13,14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18; Galatians 2:1,3; 2 Timothy 4:10).
    • Unlike Timothy, Titus was a Gentile (Galatians 2:1). Both men were very dear to Paul, though probably the relationship with Timothy was more intimate.
    • Paul had "left [Titus] behind" on Crete, a large Mediterranean island, to make sure the churches were established and secure, especially as they are under threat from false teachers.
      • These are not Gnostics, like the men ravaging the churches of Asia and for which reason 1 and 2 Timothy were written.
      • They are Judaizers, compelling people to become Jews before they become Christians (1:10).
      • They are moving from house to house (house church to house church), re-teaching the churches and spreading their error (v.11).
      • Unlike Ephesus, where eldership had long been established and only needed a reminder about the criteria for spiritual leadership, Crete had no elders. Whereas Timothy is making sure that leadership is qualified and righteous, Titus is charged with appointing leaders "in every town" (1:5).
  • After a warm greeting to his friend (vv.1-5), Paul gets down to business. Elders must be appointed!
    • Every town (every congregation) will be led by its own overseers. These elders are not leading island-churches; all are connected in the bonds of Christian love, communicating and cooperating. Though autonomous (taking responsibility for their own local decisions), they are neither unhealthily independent or dependent, but interdependent.
    • Rather than going down a checklist of qualifications, we should think of prospective elders in terms of the qualities they possess. Click for more o this perspective.
    • The elders must be able to teach (v.9). Otherwise, how will they protect the church from error? Only by reasoning from the Bible can we overcome false arguments that speciously claim to be scriptural.
    • For more on the requirements, see the comments on 1 Timothy 3.
  • The false teachers:
    • Are insubordinate (v.10). They do not respect the church leaders.
    • Promote a Judaized version of Christianity (vv.11,14).
    • Spread their error for the sake of money (v.11) -- a common theme in scripture, from Balaam on.
  • An eminent Cretan poet, Epimenides of Knossos, famously quipped, " Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (v.12).
    • Other ancient writers agree. Polybius wrote "So much in fact do sordid love of gain and lust for wealth prevail among them, that the Cretans are the only people in the world in whose eyes no gain is disgraceful" (Hist. 6.46.3). Callimachus said, "Cretans are always liars. For a tomb, O Lord, Cretans build for you; but you did not die, for you are forever". (The reference is the the tomb of Zeus[!] on the island of Crete.) And Plato himself wrote, "Moral principles are so divergent that the Cretans... consider highway robbery honorable" (Republic 3.9.15).
    • Using this well-known line, Paul reminds Titus that it will be necessary to reprimand the false teachers sharply (vv.13-14).
      • The faith of these troublemakers was contaminated (vv.15-16).
      • Their consciences have been corrupted. See 1 Timothy 1:5,19; 3:9; 4:2. They are warped (Titus 3:11).
      • Though they affect religion, inside they have pagan hearts. They are also well described by Psalm 14 (and 53).


  • When did Paul minister on Crete, eventually moving and leaving Titus to supervise the establishment of elders in every town?
    • This doesn't fit neatly into the chronology of Acts, and this has led some scholars -- and I agree -- to suppose that Paul was released from Roman imprisonment after Acts 28, enjoying a few more years of ministry before being rearrested.
    • This supposition allows sufficient time for further missionary trips, such as that to Crete and Spain (Romans 15:23,28; 1 Clement 5:6.)
    • The translations are divided:
      • "Believers/believing": NIV, NASB, NRSV, NLT, NJB, NAB.
      • "Faithful/steadfast": NKJV, Webster, Douay-Rheims, YLT.
    • For more on this, click here.
  • The children of the elder are to be pista, "faithful" (v.6).
    • This may suggest they are obedient (faithful to their parents).
    • The more natural reading may be that they (or at least some of them, or those still living at home) are Christians (assuming they have children). In the words of John Chrysostom (c.400 AD), "For he who cannot be the instructor of his own children, how should he be the Teacher of others? If he cannot keep in order those whom he has had with him from the beginning, whom he has brought up, and over whom he had power both by the laws and by nature, how will he be able to benefit those outside [the church]?... But if, occupied in the pursuit of wealth, he has made his children a secondary concern, and not bestowed much care on them, even so he is unworthy. For if when nature prompted, he was so void of affection or so senseless that he thought more of his wealth than of his children, how should he be raised [to be an overseer...]?... He then that neglects his own children, how shall he take care of other men's?" (Homily 2)
  • The term "presiding elder" (v.7) is literally the overseer. This translation (NJB) recognizes that the elders are the church leaders. 1 Timothy 5:17 recognizes the same point.
  • The passage by Epimenides of Knossos (c.600 BC) Paul cites (v.12):
    • "They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one / The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! / But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever, / For in thee we live and move and have our being."
    • The famous Cretan denied that the tomb of Zeus, king of the gods, could have been found, since he was immortal. Paul quotes the the last line in Acts 17:28, in his address to the men of Athens.
    • Logically this presents a paradox. Since Epimenides was a Cretan himself, how can he claim that all Cretans are liars? Yet his meaning is clear; he is commenting on the national character, the stereotypical Cretan.

  • For a full study of the three pastoral epistles, click here.

Thought questions:

  • Even if I don't plan to be an elder, do I aspire to have the integrity and character of one?
  • If I am a church leader, do I have a solid grasp of the scriptures? Are there many (any) in the congregation who know the scriptures better than I?
  • Am I keeping my conscience clear? Do I understand the moral and spiritual danger I am placing myself in when I violate my conscience?