Translation commentary on Titus 3:1

Paul starts off by defining the proper attitude of Christians toward those in authority.

Remind implies that what follows is not new information but is already known by those who are being addressed. Sometimes this is expressed by a statement like “Continue to bring these matters to their attention.” See further on 2 Tim 1.6 and 2.14.

Them refers to the Christians in Crete, including and especially all the classes of people mentioned in chapter 2; it is these people who are the object of Titus’ teaching as mentioned in 2.15, to which the present verse is logically connected. Since this is the first verse of a new chapter, it will be helpful in many languages to render Remind them as “Remind the Cretan Christians” or “You should counsel the believers to….”

For submissive see 2.5.

Rulers translates a word that in certain contexts refers to rulers and those who have authority, whether human or nonhuman. In the present context the word definitely refers to those who have authority or power in government, including the emperor and governors. So one may also translate as “people who have power to rule over others.”

Authorities translates the plural form of the word that means “authority,” or “power.” In this context it is not authority as a governing principle that is referred to but the people who hold such authority.

In the New Testament the two Greek terms for rulers and authorities appear together ten times, always in the order found in this verse. Taking into account the way these terms are used in other places, we can conclude safely that rulers and authorities do not refer to the leaders of the Christian movement but to political rulers and government officials. These two terms are almost synonymous in meaning in this context. In fact, the construction here can be treated as a hendiadys, with one term modifying the other; for example, “authorities who rule” or “powerful rulers.” Another possibility, of course, is for translators to find two words, one concentrating on the aspect of “ruling over others,” and the other “the right or authority to rule.” In some languages rulers will be the equivalent of “high chiefs,” and authorities will be “minor chiefs” or “government officials.”

Obedient translates a compound word composed of the word for “obey” and the word for “ruler,” hence King James Version “obey magistrates.” Interpreted in this manner, it is parallel to submissive to rulers …. In some cases it will be possible to say “and not be disobedient” or “and not be rebellious” (so Contemporary English Version).

Ready is “fully prepared.” Honest work is literally “good work,” for which see “good deeds” in 1 Tim 2.10. This may be related to what precedes, in which case it is an expression of obedience and submission to the government authorities; it is more likely, however, that this is related to what follows, in which case honest work here refers to any good deed that is done for the benefit of others. If this latter option is valid, then it is only submission and obedience that defines the Christian’s behavior toward government leaders, while the Christian’s conduct and attitude toward others includes good works and the four items mentioned in the next verse.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• You must counsel the Christians there to obey those who have the power to rule (or kings, or high chiefs) and government officials, and not be disobedient. They [the Christians] must always be ready to do good deeds.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 1:8

This verse enumerates the six virtues that elders must possess. As in the previous case, only those not mentioned in 1 Timothy will be discussed.

For hospitable see 1 Tim 3.2 and elsewhere,

Lover of goodness appears only here in the whole New Testament. It describes someone who not only loves good things but likes to do them as well (so Jerusalem Bible “a friend of all that is good,” Phillips “a genuine lover of what is good,” Contemporary English Version “enjoy doing good things”).

Master of himself is the same word translated “temperate” in 1 Tim 3.2. The word is derived from a verb that means “to behave in a sensible manner”; hence “self-controlled” (Good News Translation), “discreet” (Phillips). A related meaning is being moderate and balanced in one’s behavior; hence “temperate” (Revised English Bible), “self-restrained” (Translator’s New Testament).

Upright is literally “righteous,” here used to refer either to morally and ethically acceptable behavior, or to fairness in dealing with others (so Phillips “fair-minded,” Contemporary English Version “fair”). See further on 1 Tim 1.9, where Revised Standard Version has “just” and Good News Translation has “good people.” Since the ethical aspects are covered by the traits that come immediately before and after upright, it seems best to follow the second alternative, and therefore “fair,” “impartial,” or “unbiased” are all good models.

Holy is used here in an ethical sense, referring to an attitude of complete dedication to everything that is good and acceptable to God. See further on 1 Tim 2.8.

Self-controlled translates a word that is derived from the verb that means “to exercise self-control” or “to have self-discipline,” especially in relation to sinful desires.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 3:13

For Do your best see previous verse.

There is nothing else known about Zenas, since he is only mentioned here. He is identified as a lawyer, but it is not known whether he specialized in Roman, or Greek, or Jewish law. At any rate, since lawyer only functions to identify Zenas, it is not necessary to include any further explanations about it. Apollos is also mentioned in the book of Acts (18.24; 19.1) and in the Corinthian correspondence (1 Cor 1.12; 3.4; 16.12); it is possible that these references are talking about the same person, but of course it is difficult to be certain.

Speed … on their way can mean “to accompany,” “to escort”; but “to aid in travel” seems to be the meaning here. This same verb occurs in other parts of the New Testament in similar contexts (see, for example, Acts 15.3; 21.5; Rom 15.24; 1 Cor 16.6, 11; 2 Cor 1.16; 3 John 6), which seems to indicate that aiding Christian travelers was a usual practice at that time. Such aid was necessary since travel was quite difficult, and Christian travelers would feel much more at home with fellow Christians. In the present case, presumably Zenas and Apollos would have stayed in Crete for some time, and the instructions are for the time when they are ready to leave and go on with their journey. Their destination is not mentioned in the letter.

See (Good News Translation “see to it”) is literally “in order that,” the sense being that Timothy should give all aid and assistance to the two travelers to guarantee that they have everything they need to continue on in their journey. Lack nothing is literally “nothing is lacking,” which refers to the things they need for their journey, including provisions. The idea may be expressed positively; for example, “they have everything they need” (Good News Translation) or “everything they need for the journey.”

The very fact that Paul knows that Zenas and Apollos are in Crete has led some interpreters to infer that these two men must have been with Paul (wherever he was), and that when Paul had found out they were going through Crete, he requested them to take along his letter to Titus. Ingenious and attractive as this theory may be, it is at best speculative; it may or may not be true, but then, what difference does it make in the proper translation of this passage?

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• When Zenas the lawyer and Apollos get ready to leave, help them in every way you can, so that they will have everything they need for the journey.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 2:4 – Titus 2:5

These two verses deal with the young women. But, as contrasted with the other groups, the young women are not supposed to get their instruction from Titus but from the older women.

And so is literally “in order that” (compare Good News Translation), indicating purpose or goal. This may relate to the last part of verse 3 (“to teach what is good”) but more likely refers to the whole of verse 3, which means that the purpose for training the older women to be good teachers is to enable them to be effective when they teach these younger women. With this in mind, one may translate “so that they are able to train the younger women….”

The word translated train is literally “to make of sound mind” and means to instruct or train someone to behave wisely and properly.

Young women translates the feminine form of the word “new” but which has the meaning of “young” when used of age. For further discussion see 1 Tim 5.2 and 5.11.

What follows are seven qualities, some of which are quite similar to those mentioned in the instructions to young widows in 1 Tim 5.14.

To love their husbands translates a word that is found only here in the New Testament. It is a compound word that combines the verb “to like” or “to love” with the “man” or “husband.” In a society of arranged marriages, where women did not have a say at all on the choice of their husbands, this quality is very important and needs to be emphasized.

Likewise, the word for to love their … children combines “to like” or “to love” with “child.” This reminder is quite significant in a society where children are given very little importance. These two qualities (loving husbands and loving children) are mentioned together, since it is assumed in this passage that the younger women are not only married but have children as well.

For sensible see 1 Tim 3.2. This is also one of the traits for older men in verse 2 of this chapter.

For chaste see 1 Tim 5.22, where the same word is translated “pure.” This word has a ritual or ceremonial origin but is used here in a moral sense to refer to being free from any moral defect in thought, word, and deed.

The term for domestic occurs only here in the New Testament. It is a compound word that can literally be rendered as “one who works at home,” hence a housekeeper (compare Good News Translation “housewives,” Contemporary English Version “a good homemaker”).

Kind is the feminine form of “good,” for which see 1 Tim 1.5. There is some question as to whether this is intended to be a separate quality (as in Revised Standard Version) or to be taken as an adjective qualifying domestic, with the resulting translation “a good housekeeper” (compare Good News Translation “good housewives”). Either one is possible, but an argument against this latter option is that it would not follow the pattern of the list, in which none of the other qualities have qualifiers. Contemporary English Version follows the first interpretation but lists kind after sensible, omitting the equivalent of chaste. It is also possible to translate the beginning of verse 5 as “Each of the younger women must be self-controlled, free of moral defects, and kind, as well as being good homemakers who….”

Submissive derives from a verb that includes the elements of recognition of authority (“accept the authority of someone”), subordination, and obedience. This means that these younger women should willingly subject themselves to their husbands, whether they are believers or not. This idea of wives submitting to husbands is found in other parts of the New Testament (see, for example, 1 Peter 3.1; Col 3.18; and Eph 5.22). One should note, however, that the Ephesians passage is preceded by a call for all members of the household (including husbands, children, and slaves) to “be subject to one another” (Eph 5.21), which means that the husband also is commanded to submit to the wife.

The purpose of having all these qualities (and not simply the last trait mentioned, that is, being submissive to husbands) is so that the word of God may not be discredited, in other words, to enable non-Christians to appreciate the Christian message, or at least to give them no reason to despise it. For word of God see 1 Tim 4.5 and 2 Tim 2.9. Discredited comes from the verb that means “to blaspheme,” for which see 1 Tim 1.20 and especially 1 Tim 6.1, where a similar statement appears, using “defamed” for the same verb.

Alternative translation models for verse 5 are:

• These younger women must be taught to be self-controlled, free of moral defects, and kind to others. They should also be taught to be good homemakers who are obedient to their husbands, so that no one can say evil things about God’s message.


• They must teach these younger women to be self-controlled and free of moral defects, to be good housewives who submit themselves to their husbands, so that….

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 3:2

Paul continues to define the Christian’s behavior and attitude toward people in general, including and especially non-Christians. This consists of four items, two negative and two positive.

Speak evil is literally “blaspheme,” for which see 1 Tim 1.13 and 20. In the New Testament the usual meaning of the verb is to speak evil against a spiritual being, as, for example, God, or the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it also means to insult and slander other people, which is the case in the present context. In many languages it will be expressed as “say bad (or, evil) things about.” No one coupled with all men at the end of the verse stresses the fact that Christians should act in an appropriate manner toward all people.

The word for avoid quarreling is a combination of a negative prefix and a word that comes from the verb “to fight, to quarrel,” either by words or by actions. This negative focus can be retained (as, for example, New English Bible “not to pick quarrels”); however, it is also possible to translate the word positively (for example, Good News Translation “peaceful,” New International Version “peaceable”). See further on “not quarrelsome” in 1 Tim 3.3.

For gentle see 1 Tim 3.3. The word describes a person who is not only gentle but fair, patient, and considerate in dealing with others (so Jerusalem Bible “courteous,” Phillips “reasonable”).

For show see 1 Tim 1.16, where it is translated “display.”

For perfect courtesy see 1 Tim 6.11, where the word is translated “gentleness.” There is an overlap of meaning between this and the preceding term gentle, as the following translations show, arranged according to Revised Standard Version equivalents of gentleperfect courtesy:
“friendly – show a gentle attitude” (Good News Translation)
“considerate – show true humility” (New International Version)
“courteous – always polite” (Jerusalem Bible)
“show forbearance – show a consistently gentle disposition” (New English Bible)
“reasonable – showing every consideration” (Phillips)

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 1:9

The qualification of being “an apt teacher” in 1 Tim 3.2 is expanded here into a description of the teaching ministry that the elder is expected to perform. This teaching role is in three parts: faithfulness to the true message, competence in teaching it to others, and ability to refute those who oppose it.

Hold firm denotes adherence and faithfulness to something; so Phillips “takes his stand,” New Revised Standard Version “have a firm grasp,” Contemporary English Version “stick to.” Sure word is literally “faithful word” (or trustworthy, so Good News Translation “which can be trusted,” New International Version “trustworthy message”). Word here perhaps refers to the gospel message, especially as it was taught in the church and became the basis for a body of teaching that was considered as true doctrine by the Christian community. Other ways of saying hold firm are “hold on steadfastly to,” “hold on without moving,” “always follow,” or even “don’t ever abandon (or, give up).” Other translation models for hold firm to the sure word are “he must faithfully follow the sure message” or “… the message in which he can place his trust.”

Taught is the same word that is translated “teaching”; see 2 Tim 4.2. The expression as taught means in agreement with what was established as true teaching (so Phillips “the true faith,” Jerusalem Bible “unchanging message of the tradition,” New English Bible “true doctrine,” Good News Translation “which agrees with the doctrine”). Another way of saying this is “the sure message that agrees with what people taught them (or, they were taught).”

After being sure of what to believe and knowing what to teach, the elder then performs a twofold task, one positive and the other negative. Positively he is expected to be able to give instruction in sound doctrine. The verb translated give instruction is the same word translated “preaching” in 1 Tim 4.13, for which see discussion there. Here it can mean “to encourage” others through sound doctrine, “to admonish,” to build up Christians by means of the proclamation of the true message.

For sound doctrine see 1 Tim 1.10.

For confute see 1 Tim 5.20, where the same word is translated “rebuke”; but in this context it probably means “to correct.”

The word contradict is literally “speak against” something or someone; in the present context the subject of their opposition is sound doctrine.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• He must faithfully follow (or, hold to) the message in which he can place his trust, and which agrees with the doctrine that people taught him. He will help others through his good teaching and correct those who oppose the Christian doctrine.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 3:14

And (Greek “and also”) marks the relation of this verse with what immediately precedes, namely, providing for the needs of the two travelers, Zenas and Apollos. Paul takes this opportunity to once again inculcate into the minds of the Cretan Christians the overarching theme of the letter, which is to do good. The meaning seems to be that, as Titus is urged to help the two travelers, so the Cretan Christians must also learn to help others.

Our people refers to the Cretan Christians; the our should be translated as inclusive, with the exception of languages where the dual form exists, in which case it should be used here to give the meaning “your people and mine.” In some languages it will be helpful to translate our people as “Cretan Christians” or “the believers in Crete.” Learn is in the present tense, which indicates a continuing process; moreover, what is meant here is perhaps not formal instruction but learning from actual practice and experience; hence “have the habit of,” “be in the habit of,” “practice regularly.”

For to apply themselves to good deeds, see 2TI.3.8 of this chapter. As already noted, engaging in good deeds is a theme that frequently occurs in the letter (see, for example, 1.16; 2.7, 14; 3.1). Regarding the RSV footnote, namely “enter honorable occupations,” see 3.8b. (Phillips in fact reflects this position: “learn to earn what they need by honest work”; this justifies him to translate the last clause as “and so be self-supporting.”) It does seem, though, that since the expression “doing good deeds” is used in a generic way in previous occurrences in the letter, it would be logical to expect the same generic meaning here, in which case the Revised Standard Version footnote would not be necessary. It should be noted that this note is omitted in New Revised Standard Version.

One purpose of these good deeds is “to meet urgent needs” (New Revised Standard Version). The word for urgent can also mean “necessary,” which means that these needs are “real” (Good News Translation), “genuine” (Translator’s New Testament). These may refer to the needs of the Cretan Christians themselves (compare New Jerusalem Bible “for their practical needs,” Phillips “what they need,” New International Version “daily necessities”), or more likely needs in general (compare New English Bible “the necessities of life,” also Revised English Bible).

A further purpose of doing good deeds is so that they may not be unfruitful (“unproductive” [New Revised Standard Version]). This continues to refer to the Cretan Christians. “Unproductive” may be another way of expressing the Greek figure, which is literally “without fruit,” an appropriate figure for a useless life, and in many languages it will be translated that way. Both Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation do not clearly mark this as purpose; in fact it can interpreted as a negative restatement of the first part of the verse; this is made clear by putting the two parts together: let our people learn to apply themselves to good deeds … and not to be unfruitful. Or Good News Translation “Our people must learn to spend their time doing good … they should not live useless lives.” Other translations reflecting this position include New International Version “and not live unproductive lives,” Jerusalem Bible “and not to be entirely unproductive,” New Jerusalem Bible “and not to be unproductive,” also Revised English Bible. This may be a valid rendering of the text. However, since in the Greek this clause starts with “so that” (New Revised Standard Version), it is probably better to regard this as a purpose of doing good deeds.

Alternative translation models for this verse are:

• The Cretan Christians must be in the habit of doing good deeds in order to provide for the real needs of people. This will help them [the Christians] to have productive lives.


• The believers in Crete should lead productive lives (or, lives that bear fruit). So they must be in the habit of doing good deeds in order to provide for the daily necessities of others.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Titus 2:6 – Titus 2:7

Urge is a verb that is often translated “exhort” or “encourage,” for which see 1 Tim 1.3 and 2.1.

Younger men is the comparative masculine form of the word translated “young women” in the verse 4.

To control themselves is the verb form of the word translated “sensible” in 2.2 and 2.5. The verb can literally be translated “to keep one’s head” and refers primarily to controlling the activities of one’s mind, resulting in sobriety and sensibleness. See further on 1 Tim 3.2.

In much the same way that Paul appealed to Timothy to be an example to the believers (1 Tim 4.12, 13), he urges Titus to play the same role particularly for the young men, and since he is one of them, the qualities he is encouraged to exhibit are also meant for the group as a whole.

In the Greek text in all respects (literally “in all things”) is at the beginning of verse 7 and may be interpreted as going with what precedes; hence “self-controlled in all things”; this is in fact the way the UBS Greek text is punctuated and is the option followed by some translations (for example, New Jerusalem Bible “be moderate in everything that they do”; Revised English Bible “to be temperate in all things”). It can, however, be taken as going with what follows, as Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation have done. This Handbook recommends that translators take the phrase in all respects as agreeing with what follows. Other ways to express this are “And you yourself must always set an example of good conduct for others to follow” or “You should always do good deeds as an example for others to follow.”

Show translates a verb that means “to exhibit,” “to present.” Model translates the same word rendered “example” in 1 Tim 4.12, for which see discussion there. It may not be natural to literally translate the Greek here; it may be much more appropriate to say “you must be an example” (for example, Good News Translation) or “Set them an example” (Revised English Bible; compare New Jerusalem Bible “you yourself set an example”).

Deeds may be taken to refer to specific acts, or to conduct or behavior in general (for example, Good News Translation “good behavior,” Revised English Bible “good conduct,” Phillips “good living”).

For teaching see 1 Tim 1.10. The focus here is on Titus’ activity as a teacher rather than on the content of his teaching.

The word for integrity appears only here in the New Testament; when used of content it ascribes to it the qualities of moral soundness, purity, and being devoid of any corruption. Here, however, it denotes the quality of Titus’ way of teaching and includes the elements of honesty, sincerity, and purity of motivation. In certain languages this will be expressed idiomatically as “with a true heart.”

Gravity translates the same word used in 1 Tim 2.2 and 1 Tim 3.4, where it is translated “respectful in every way.” Here the accent is perhaps on a particular way of teaching; hence “serious” (Good News Translation), “dignified.” An alternative translation model for the final sentence is “When you teach, do it in a sincere and serious way.”

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to Titus. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1995. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .