Letter to Titus-What’s Next? 2 Timothy or Titus?

Studies in 1, 2 Timothy, Titus–Lesson 18 (Titus)

by Reta Halteman Finger

Statue of Paul the Apostle in front of St Peter's Basilica on Piazza San Pietro, in Vatican City
Statue of Paul the Apostle in front of St Peter’s Basilica on Piazza San Pietro, in Vatican City

Surprise! I am taking the liberty to do a bit of canonical rearranging. We will study the letter to Titus next, and finish with 2 Timothy.

Why reverse the familiar order? Because 2 Timothy presents the Apostle Paul at the end of his life, it makes sense to include it last. Perhaps the author intended it so. Even though some of the material in 2 Timothy echoes 1 Timothy and Titus, 2 Timothy falls into a category called “testamentary literature” because it is represented as Paul’s “last will and testament” before he dies. In addition, some of the details in 2 Timothy are so specific and personal that this letter may contain fragments (e. g., 4:9-21) that do come from the hand of Paul (see David Barr, p. 195) and not from a later unidentified author writing in Paul’s name.

Actually, there is precedent for rearranging the letters!  Of the eight commentaries currently in my house, four of them discuss the Pastoral Epistles in canonical order, one begins with 2 Timothy, one ends with 2 Timothy, and two others discuss all three letters together by topics.

Comparing 1 Timothy and Titus

If you have been following our lessons on 1 Timothy, you will be well prepared to analyze the much-shorter letter to Paul’s other co-worker, Titus. Instead of letting me first tell you what is there, I suggest you use a Bible and either do some of your own research or find some others to work together in a small group. Read through the three chapters comprising the letter to Titus, and then consider the following questions with chapter and verse.

  1. In what ways does this letter parallel 1 Timothy? Consider authorship, recipients, and geographical location. What roles do the recipients play in the churches in their locations?
  2. The only place the island of Crete is mentioned in the Bible besides Titus 1:5 is in Acts 27:7, 12-14, and 21. Find Crete on a map of the Mediterranean world. (The maps on this site for social studies classes might be helpful.) What might this suggest about date and authorship of this letter?
  3. If the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to his former co-worker, why do you think his introduction of himself in Titus 1:1-4 is so lengthy?
  4. Who is Titus? He is mentioned elsewhere in these texts: 2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6, 13-14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18; Galatians 2:1, 3; 2 Timothy 4:10. What is his character like? What is the nature of his relationship with the Apostle Paul in the undisputed letters of 2 Corinthians and Galatians? How would you compare it with the Paul-Titus relationship in the Titus letter?
  5. Name some theological terms in Titus that are also stressed in 1 Timothy—such as “doctrine,” “godliness,” or “the faith”? How might these differ from Paul’s vocabulary in the undisputed letters?
  6. First Timothy speaks frequently of internal conflict and chaos in the Ephesian churches. What is the most obvious problem in the churches on Crete?
  7. First Timothy assumes that the church in Ephesus is structured like the Roman hierarchical household. Is there similar evidence for this structure in Titus?
  8. What groups of people are specifically addressed in Titus?
  9. Do any texts in Titus sound sexist, classist, and/or racist to you?
  10. Which texts might be harmful if they were lifted out of the late first-century Roman context and applied to a church in a Western democratic country?
  11. Do you think the Apostle Paul personally wrote to Titus sometime before his death around 64 CE? List pros and cons, and your conclusion.

Please feel free to list any insights or questions about this epistle in the comments section below. Your thoughts are always helpful as I write upcoming lessons.

Source used:

Barr, David L. New Testament Story: An Introduction. “The Authorship of Timothy and Titus.” Fourth Edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning; Belmont, CA, 2009. Pp. 195-200.


Reta Halteman Finger
Reta Halteman Finger is a long-time member of EEWC-CFT and is a past Southeast representative on the EEWC-CFT Council. She holds a Ph.D. in theology and religion from Northwestern University, masters of theological studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and Northern Baptist University, and a master of education from Boston University. Reta retired in 2009 from teaching Bible (mostly New Testament) at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and since her retirement from Messiah College has been devoting her time to writing and speaking projects, as well as some part-time teaching at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. For fifteen years, Reta edited the Christian feminist magazine, Daughters of Sarah (no longer published), and is a frequent writer and reviewer for Christian Feminism Today. Using the search box on the homepage of our EEWC-Christian Feminism Today website, you’ll be led to many of her online articles.