Preface to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus
It is strange, that of a person who must have attained considerable eminence in the Christian Church, and one to whom a canonical epistle has been written by the great apostle of the Gentiles, we should know so very little. That Titus was a frequent companion of St. Paul in his journeys we have evidence from his epistles; and although this was the case, he is not once mentioned in the book of the Acts of the Apostles!
That he was a Greek, and brought up in heathenism, we learn from Galatians 2:3 : "But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be Circumcised." As he was uncircumcised, he was neither a Jew nor a proselyte of justice, and probably was a mere heathen till he heard the Gospel preached by St. Paul, by whose ministry he was converted to the Christian faith; Titus 1:4 : "To Titus, my own son, (γνησιῳ τεκνῳ, my genuine son), after the common faith;" which words sufficiently indicate that St. Paul alone had the honor of his conversion. That he was very highly, and consequently deservedly, esteemed by St. Paul, is evident from the manner in which he mentions him in different places: "I had no rest in my spirit till I found Titus, my brother;" 2 Corinthians 2:13. "Nevertheless, God, that comforteth those who are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you: therefore, we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all; and his inward affection is more abundant toward you whilst he remembereth how with fear and trembling ye received him;" 2 Corinthians 7:6, 2 Corinthians 7:7, 2 Corinthians 7:13, 2 Corinthians 7:15. "But thanks be to God, who put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow helper concerning you;" 2 Corinthians 8:16, 2 Corinthians 8:23. "Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? 2 Corinthians 12:18.
Though St. Paul's preaching the Gospel in Crete is not expressly mentioned anywhere, yet it may be plainly inferred from Titus 1:5 : "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city." It is supposed that this was some time in the year 62, after the apostle was released from his first imprisonment in Rome. But not being able to spend much time in that island, he left the care of the Churches to Titus, and sailed into Judea in the beginning of 63, taking Timothy with him. Having spent some time in Jerusalem, he proceeded to Antioch, comforting and establishing the Churches whithersoever they went. From Antioch he set out on his fifth and last apostolical journey, in which he and Timothy traveled through Syria and Cilicia, and came to Colosse in Phrygia, early in the year 64. On this occasion it is supposed he wrote his Epistle to Titus, in which he desires him to meet him in Nicopolis, as he had intended to spend the winter there; Titus 3:12. From Colosse he went with Timothy to Ephesus, where he left him to regulate and govern the Church; from thence he passed into Macedonia, and probably visited Philippi, and different Churches in that province, according to his intention, Philippians 2:24; and thence to Nicopolis, where he intended to spend the winter, and where he had desired Titus to meet him. See above.
Whether Titus ever left Crete we know not; nor how, nor where, he died. Some traditions, on which little dependence can be placed, say he lived till he was 94 years of age, and died and was buried in Crete. He appears to have been a young man when intrusted with the care of the Churches in this island. In such an extensive district, an aged or infirm man would have been of little service.
Crete, where Titus was resident, to whom this epistle was sent, is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea; it lies between 22 and 27 long. E., and between 35 and 36 lat. N. According to Strabo, it is 287 miles in length; Pliny makes it 270, and Scylax 312. Pliny also states that its greatest breadth is 55 miles; and, as its length was so disproportionate to its breadth, it is called, by Stephanus Byzantinus, the long island. It has the Archipelago to the north, the African sea to the south, the Carpathian to the east, and the Ionian to the west. It is now generally computed to be about 250 miles long, about 50 broad, and 600 in circumference. It was anciently called Aeria, Cthonia, Curete, Idaea, and Macaris; but its most common name was Crete. Of it Homer gives us the following description. Odyss., lib. xix. v. 172-179: -
Κρητη τις γαι' εστι, μεσῳ ενι οινοπι ποντῳ,
Καλη και πιειρα, περιρῥυτος· εν δ' ανθρωποι
Πολλοι, απειρεσιοι, και εννηκοντα ποληες.
Αλλη δ' αλλων γλωσσα μεμιγμενη· εν μεν Αχαιοι,
Εν δ' Ετεοκρητες μεγαλητορες, εν δε Κυδωνες,
Δωριεες τε τριχαικες, διοι τε Πελασγοι.
Τοισι δ' ενι Κνωσσος μεγαλη πολις· ενθα τε Μινως
Εννεωρος βασιλευς Διος μεγαλου οαριστης.
Crete awes the circling waves, a fruitful soil;
And ninety cities crown the sea-born isle.
Mix'd with her genuine sons, adopted names
In various tongues avow their various claims.
Cidonians, dreadful with the bended yew,
And bold Pelasgi, boast a native's due:
The Dorians plumed amidst the files of war,
Her foodful glebe, with fierce Achaians, share.
Cnossus, her capital of high command,
Where sceptred Minos, with impartial hand,
Divided right; each ninth revolving year
By Jove received in council to confer.
Though in the above quotation Homer attributes to this island only ninety cities, εννηκοντα ποληες , yet In other places he gives it the epithet of ἑκατομπολις, hundred cities. And this number it is generally allowed to have had originally; but we must not let the term city deceive us, as in ancient times places were thus named which would rate with villages or hamlets only in these modern times. Few places in antiquity have been more celebrated than Crete: it was not only famous for its hundred cities, but for the arrival of Europa on a bull, or in the ship Taurus, from Phoenicia; for the Labyrinth, the work of Daedalus; for the destruction of the Minotaur, by Theseus; for Mount Ida, where Jupiter was preserved from the jealousy of his father Saturn; for Jupiter's sepulchre; and above all, for its king, Minos, and the laws which he gave to his people; the most pure, wholesome, and equal, of which antiquity can boast.
Their lawgiver, Minos, is said by Homer to have held a conference every ninth year with Jupiter, from whom he is reported to have received directions for the farther improvement of his code of laws; though this be fable, it probably states a fact in disguise. Minos probably revised his laws every ninth year, and, to procure due respect and obedience to them, told the people that he received these improvements from Jupiter himself. This was customary with ancient legislators who had to deal with an ignorant and gross people, and has been practised from the days of Minos to those of Mohammed.
According to ancient authors, Crete was originally peopled from Palestine. Bochart has shown, Canaan, lib. i. c. 15, col. 420, that that part of Palestine which lies on the Mediterranean was by the Arabs called Keritha, and by the Syrians, Creth; and the Hebrews called its inhabitants Kerethi כרתי or Kerethim כרתים which the Septuagint have translated Κρητας. Thus Ezekiel 25:16, we find והכרתי את כרתים vehicratti eth Kerethim, which we translate I will cut off the Cherethims, translated by the Septuagint και εξολοθρευσω Κρητας, I will destroy the Cretans; and Zephaniah 2:5 : "Wo unto the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites, (גוי כרתים goi Kerethim, The nation of the Kerethim;") παροικοι Κρητων, Sept., The sojourners of the Cretans. That these prophets do not speak of the island of Crete is plain from their joining the Kerethim with the Pelishtim as one and the same people. "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will stretch out my hand upon the Philistines, and will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the seacoast;" Ezekiel 25:16. "Wo unto the inhabitants of the seacoasts, the nation of the Cherethites; the word of the Lord is against you: O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee;" Zephaniah 2:5. Accordingly it appears that the Kerethim were a part of the Philistines. The Kerethim in Palestine were noted for archery; and we find that some of them were employed by David as his life guards, 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 20:23; 1 Kings 1:38; 1 Chronicles 18:17; in all which places they are called, in our translation, Cherethites; but the Hebrew is כרתי Kerethi, which the Chaldee paraphrase renders קשתיא kashtia, or קשתייה kashtaiyah, archers. See the Targum of Rab. Joseph. It is very likely that the Kerethi or Kerethim of Palestine had their name from their successful use of their favourite instrument the bow, as by it they destroyed many; for כרת carath, in Hebrew, signifies to destroy or lay waste; and hence the paronomasia of the prophet, quoted above, Ezekiel 25:16 : "I will cut off the Cherethims (והכרתי את כרתים literally, I will destroy the destroyers.")
Idomeneus, who assisted Agamemnon in the Trojan war, was the last king of Crete. He left the regency of the island to his adopted son Leucus, who, in the absence of the king, usurped the empire; the usurper was however soon expelled, and Crete became one of the most celebrated republics in antiquity. The Romans at last, under Quintus Metellus, after an immense expenditure of blood and treasure, succeeded in subduing the island, on which he abolished the laws of Minos, and introduced the code of Numa Pompilius. Crete, with the small kingdom of Cyrene, became a Roman province; this was at first governed by proconsul, next by a quaestor and assistant, and lastly by a consul. Constantine the Great, in the new division he made of the provinces of the empire, separated Crete from Cyrene, and left it, with Africa and Illyria, to his third son Constans. In the ninth century, in the reign of Michael II., it was attacked and conquered by the Saracens. About 965, the Emperor Nicephorus Phocas, in the following century, defeated and expelled the Saracens, and reunited the island to the empire, after it had been under the power of the infidels upwards of 100 years. It remained with the empire until the time of Baldwin, earl of Flanders, who, being raised to the throne, rewarded the services of Boniface, marquis of Montferrat, by making him king of Thessalonica, and adding to it the island of Crete. Baldwin, preferring a sum of gold to the government of the island, sold it to the Venetians, a.d. 1194, under whose government it was called Candia, from the Arabic Kandak, a fortification, the name which the Saracens gave to the metropolis which they had built and strongly fortified. In 1645, in the midst of a profound peace, it was attacked by the Turks with a fleet of 400 sail, which had on board an army of 60,000 men, under the command of four pachas, to oppose whom the whole island could only muster 3, 500 infantry, and a small number of cavalry; yet with these they held out against a numerous and continually recruited army, disputing every inch of ground, so that the whole Ottoman power was employed for nearly thirty years before they got the entire dominion of the island. In this long campaign against this brave people the Turks lost about 200,000 men! Since about the year 1675, the whole island has been under the government of the Turks.
The island of Crete is perhaps one of the most salubrious in the world. The soil is rich, and it produces no ferocious or poisonous animal. The present number of its inhabitants may amount to about 350, 200, of whom about 200 are Jews, 150,000 Greeks, and 200,000 Turks. This is a large population for a place under Turkish despotism; but had it the blessings of a free government, it could support at least treble the number.
The island is divided into twelve bishops' sees, under the patriarch of Constantinople; but though the execrable Turks profess to allow to the Christians the free exercise of their religion, yet they will not permit them to repair their churches. It is only by the influence of large sums of gold, paid to the pachas, that they can keep their religious houses from total dilapidation. The Mohammedans have indeed converted most of the Christian temples into mosques. In Candia, the metropolis, they have left two churches to the Greeks, one to the Armenians, and a synagogue to the Jews. Candia is about five hundred miles from Constantinople. Is it not strange that the maritime powers of Europe have not driven those oppressors of the human race from this and every inch of Christian ground which they have usurped by treachery and violence, and which they continue to govern by despotism and cruelty?
Many have observed the affinity that subsists between the First Epistle to Timothy and this to Titus. Both epistles are directed to persons left by the writer to preside in their respective Churches during his absence. Both epistles are principally occupied in describing the qualifications of those who should be appointed to ecclesiastical offices; and the ingredients in this description are nearly the same in both epistles. Timothy and Titus are both cautioned against the same prevailing corruptions; the phrases and expressions in both letters are nearly the same; and the writer accosts his two disciples with the same salutations, and passes on to the business of his epistle with the same transition.
For example: -
Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith - as I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, etc.; 1 Timothy 1:1-3.
If Timothy was not to give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister questions, 1 Timothy 1:4;
This verbal consent is also observable in some very peculiar expressions, which have no relation to the particular character of Timothy or Titus.
The phrase πιστος ὁ λογος, it is a faithful saying, occurs thrice in the First Epistle to Timothy, once in the second, and once in that to Titus; and in no other part of St. Paul's writings. These three epistles were probably written towards the close of his life, and are the only epistles written after his first imprisonment at Rome.
The same observation belongs to another singularity of expression, viz. the epithet sound, (ὑγιαινων), as applied to words or doctrine. It is thus used twice in the First Epistle to Timothy, twice in the second, and thrice in the Epistle to Titus; besides two cognate expressions, ὑγιαινοντας τῃ πιστει, sound in the faith, and λογον ὑγιη, sound speech. And the word is not found in the same sense in any other part of the New Testament.
The phrase God our Savior stands in the same predicament. It is repeated three times in the First Epistle to Timothy, and thrice in the Epistle to Titus; but does not occur in any other book of the New Testament, except once in the Epistle of Jude.
Similar terms, though intermixed with others, are employed in the two epistles, in enumerating the qualifications required in those who should be advanced to the station of authority in the Church; compare 1 Timothy 3:2-4 with Titus 1:6-8.
The most natural accounts which can be given of these resemblances, is to suppose that the two epistles were written nearly at the same time, and whilst the same ideas and phrases dwelt in the writer's mind.
The journey of St. Paul to Crete, alluded to in this epistle, in which Titus was left in Crete to set in order the things which were wanting, must be carried to the period which intervened between his first and second imprisonment. For the history of the Acts, which reaches to the time of St. Paul's imprisonment, contains no account of his going to Crete, except upon his voyage as a prisoner to Rome; and that this could not be the occasion referred to in this epistle, is evident from hence, that when St. Paul wrote this epistle he appears to have been at liberty; whereas, after that voyage, he continued at least two years in confinement.
It is agreed that St. Paul wrote his First Epistle to Timothy from Macedonia; and that he was in these parts, i.e. in the Peninsula, when he wrote the Epistle to Titus, is rendered probable by his directing Titus to come to him in Nicopolis. The most noted city of that name was in Epirus, near to Actium; but the form of speaking, as well as the nature of the case, renders it probable that the writer was in the neighborhood of this city when he dictated this direction to Titus.
Upon the whole, if we be allowed to suppose that St. Paul, after his liberation at Rome, sailed into Asia, taking Crete in his way; and that from Asia, and from Ephesus its capital, he proceeded to Macedonia, and, crossing the Peninsula in his progress, came into the neighborhood of Nicopolis; we have a route which falls in with every thing. It executes the intention expressed by the apostle of visiting Colosse and Philippi, as soon as he should be set at liberty at Rome. It allows him to leave "Titus at Crete," and "Timothy at Ephesus, as he went into Macedonia;" and he wrote to both not long after from the Peninsula of Greece, and probably the neighborhood of Nicopolis; thus bringing together the dates of these two epistles, and thereby accounting for that affinity between them, both in subject and language, which has been above pointed out. Though the journey thus traced out for St. Paul be in a great measure hypothetical, yet it is a species of consistency which seldom belongs to falsehood, to admit of an hypothesis which includes a great number of independent circumstances without contradiction. See Paley's Horae Paulinae, p. 321
The apostle's statement of his character, his hope, and his function, Titus 1:1-3. His address to Titus, and the end for which he left him in Crete, Titus 1:4, Titus 1:5. The qualifications requisite in those who should be appointed elders and bishops in the Church of God, Titus 1:6-9. Of false teachers, Titus 1:10, Titus 1:11. The character of the Cretans, and how they were to be dealt with, Titus 1:12-14. Of the pure, the impure, and false professors of religion, Titus 1:15, Titus 1:16.
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;Paul, a servant of God - In several places of his other epistles St. Paul styles himself the servant of Jesus Christ, but this is the only place where he calls himself the servant of God. Some think that he did this to vindicate himself against the Jews, who supposed he had renounced God when he admitted the Gentiles into his Church. But if thus to vindicate himself was at all necessary, why was it not done in his Epistle to the Romans, the grand object of which was to prove that the Gentiles came legally into the Church on believing in Christ, with out submitting to circumcision, or being laid under obligation to observe the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law? This reason seems too fanciful. It is very likely that in the use of the phrase the apostle had no particular design; for, according to him, he who is the servant of Christ is the servant of God, and he who is God's servant is also the servant of Christ.
The faith of God's elect - The Christians, who were now chosen in the place of the Jews, who, for their obstinate rejection of the Messiah, were reprobated; i.e. cast out of the Divine favor.
The acknowledging of the truth - For the propagation of that truth, or system of doctrines, which is calculated to promote godliness, or a holy and useful life.
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;In hope of eternal life - In expectation of a state of being and well being which should last through eternity, when time should be no more. This includes, not only the salvation of the soul and its eternal beatification, but also the resurrection of the body. This was a point but ill understood, and not very clearly revealed, under the Mosaic law; but it was fully revealed under the Gospel, and the doctrine illustrated by the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Which God, that cannot lie, promised - We have often seen that the phrase, the foundation of the world, means the Jewish economy, and, before the foundation of the world, the times antecedent to the giving of the law. This is evidently the meaning here. See 2 Timothy 1:9-11.
Supposing the word αιωνιων in this verse to signify eternal, says Dr. Macknight, the literal translation of προ χρονων αιωνιων would be, before eternal times; but that being a contradiction in terms, our translators, contrary to the propriety of the Greek language, have rendered it before the world began, as Mr. Locke observes on Romans 16:25. The true literal translation is before the secular times, referring us to the Jewish jubilees, by which times were computed among the Hebrews, as among the Gentiles they were computed by generations of men. Hence, Colossians 1:26, The mystery which was kept hid απο των αιωνων και απο των γενεων, from the ages and from the generations, signifies the mystery which was kept hid from the Jews and from the Gentiles.
But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;But hath in due times - Καιροις ιδιοις· In its own times. See 1 Timothy 2:6; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:7. God caused the Gospel to be published in that time in which it could be published with the greatest effect. It is impossible that God should prematurely hasten, or causelessly delay, the accomplishment of any of his works. Jesus was manifested precisely at the time in which that manifestation could best promote the glory of God and the salvation of man.
Manifested his word - Τον λογον αὑτου· His doctrine - the doctrine of eternal life, by the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Which is committed unto me - That is, to preach it among the Gentiles.
According to the commandment of God our Savior - This evidently refers to the commission which he had received from Christ. See Acts 9:15 : "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles." For, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee; to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light," etc,; Acts 26:16, etc. This is the commandment; and according to it he became the apostle of the Gentiles.
God our Savior. - As the commission was given by Jesus Christ alone, the person whom he terms here God our Savior must be Jesus Christ only; and this is another proof that St. Paul believed Jesus Christ to be God. This eternal life God had promised in a comparatively obscure way before the foundation of the world, the Jewish dispensation; but now under the Gospel, he had made it manifest - produced it with all its brightness, illustrations, and proofs.
To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.To Titus, mine own son - Him whom I have been the instrument of converting to the Christian faith; and in whom, in this respect, I have the same right as any man can have in his own begotten son. See the preface; and see on 1 Timothy 1:2 (note).
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:For this cause left I thee in Crete - That St. Paul had been in Crete, though nowhere else intimated, is clear from this passage. That he could not have made such an important visit, and evangelized an island of the first consequence, without its being mentioned by his historian, Luke, had it happened during the period embraced in the Acts of the Apostles, must be evident. That the journey, therefore, must have been performed after the time in which St. Luke ends his history, that is, after St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, seems almost certain.
Set in order the things that are wanting - It appears from this that the apostle did not spend much time in Crete, and that he was obliged to leave it before he had got the Church properly organized. The supplying of this defect, he tells Titus, he had confided to him as one whose spiritual views coincided entirely with his own.
Ordain elders in every city - That thou mightest appoint, καταστησῃς, elders - persons well instructed in Divine things, who should be able to instruct others, and observe and enforce the discipline of the Church. It appears that those who are called elders in this place are the same as those termed bishops in Titus 1:7. We have many proofs that bishops and elders were of the same order in the apostolic Church, though afterwards they became distinct. Lord Peter King, in his view of the primitive Church, has written well on this subject.
In every city. - Κατα πολιν. This seems to intimate that the apostle had gone over the whole of the hecatompolis or hundred cities for which this island was celebrated. Indeed it is not likely that he would leave one in which he had not preached Christ crucified.
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.If any be blameless - See the notes on 1 Timothy 3:2, etc.
Having faithful children - Whose family is converted to God. It would have been absurd to employ a man to govern the Church whose children were not in subjection to himself; for it is an apostolic maxim, that he who cannot rule his own house, cannot rule the Church of God; 1 Timothy 3:5.
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;Not self-willed - Μη αυθαδη· Not one who is determined to have his own way in every thing; setting up his own judgment to that of all others; expecting all to pay homage to his understanding. Such a governor in the Church of God can do little good, and may do much mischief.
Not soon angry - Μη οργιλον· Not a choleric man; one who is irritable; who is apt to be inflamed on every opposition; one who has not proper command over his own temper.
But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;A lover of hospitality - Φιλοξενον· A lover of strangers. See the note on 1 Timothy 3:2. Instead of φιλοξενον, one MS. has φιλοπτωχον, a lover of the poor. That minister who neglects the poor, but is frequent in his visits to the rich, knows little of his Master's work, and has little of his Master's spirit.
A lover of good men - Φιλαγαθον· A lover of goodness or of good things in general.
Sober - Prudent in all his conduct. Just in all his dealings. Holy in his heart.
Temperate - self-denying and abstemious, in his food and raiment; not too nice on points of honor, nor magisterially rigid in the exercise of his ecclesiastical functions. Qualifications rarely found in spiritual governors.
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.Holding fast the faithful word - Conscientiously retaining, and zealously maintaining, the true Christian doctrine, κατα την διδαχην, according to the instructions, or according to the institutions, form of sound doctrine, or confession of faith, which I have delivered to thee.
That he may be able by sound doctrine - If the doctrine be not sound, vain is the profession of it, and vain its influence. It is good to be zealously affected in a good thing; but zeal for what is not of God will do no good to the souls of men, how sincere soever that zeal may be.
To exhort - Them to hold the faith, that they may persevere.
And to convince - Refute the objections, confound the sophistry, and convert the gainsayers; and thus defend the truth.
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:There are many unruly - Persons who will not receive the sound doctrine, nor come under wholesome discipline.
Vain talkers - Empty boasters of knowledge, rights, and particular privileges; all noise, empty parade, and no work.
Deceivers - Of the souls of men by their specious pretensions.
They of the circumcision - The Judaizing teachers, who maintained the necessity of circumcision, and of observing the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law, in order to the perfecting of the Gospel.
Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.Whose mouths must be stopped - Unmask them at once; exhibit them to the people; make manifest their ignorance and hypocrisy; and let them be confounded before the people whom they are endeavoring to seduce.
Subvert whole houses - Turn whole Christian families from the faith, attributing to the broad way what belongs only to the strait gate; ministering to disorderly passions, and promising salvation to their proselytes, though not saved from their sins.
One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.One of themselves, even a prophet of their own - This was Epimenides, who was born at Gnossus, in Crete, and was reckoned by many the seventh wise man of Greece, instead of Periander, to whom that honor was by them denied. Many fabulous things are related of this poet, which are not proper to be noticed here. He died about 538 years before the Christian era. When St. Paul calls him a prophet of their own, he only intimates that he was, by the Cretans, reputed a prophet. And, according to Plutarch, (in Solone), the Cretans paid him divine honors after his death. Diogenes Laertius mentions some of his prophecies: beholding the fort of Munichia, which guarded the port of Athens, he cried out: "O ignorant men! if they but knew what slaughters this fort shall occasion, they would pull it down with their teeth!" This prophecy was fulfilled several years after, when the king, Antipater, put a garrison in this very fort, to keep the Athenians in subjection. See Diog. Laert., lib. i. p. 73.
Plato, De Legibus, lib. ii., says that, on the Athenians expressing great fear of the Persians, Epimenides encouraged them by saying "that they should not come before ten years, and that they should return after having suffered great disasters." This prediction was supposed to have been fulfilled in the defeat of the Persians in the battles of Salamis and Marathon.
He predicted to the Lacedemonians and Cretans the captivity to which they should one day be reduced by the Arcadians. This took place under Euricrates, king of Crete, and Archidamus, king of Lacedemon; vide Diog. Laert., lib. i. p. 74, edit. Meibom.
It was in consequence of these prophecies, whether true or false, that his countrymen esteemed him a prophet; that he was termed ανηρ αθειος, a divine man, by Plato; and that Cicero, De Divin., lib. i., says he was futura praesciens, et vaticinans per furorem: "He knew future events, and prophesied under a divine influence." These things are sufficient to justify the epithet of prophet, given him here by St. Paul. It may also be remarked that vates and poeta, prophet and poet, were synonymous terms among the Romans.
The Cretians are always liars - The words quoted here by the apostle are, according to St. Jerome, Socrates, Nicephorus, and others, taken from a work of Epimenides, now no longer extant, entitled Περι χρησμων· Concerning Oracles. The words form a hexameter verse: -
Κρητες αει ψευσται, κακα θηρια, γαστερες αργαι.
The Cretans are always liars; destructive wild beasts; sluggish gluttons.
That the Cretans were reputed to be egregious liars, several of the ancients declare; insomuch that Κρητιζειν, to act like a Cretan, signifies to lie; and χρησθαι Κρητισμῳ, to deceive. The other Greeks reputed them liars, because they said that among them was the sepulchre of Jupiter, who was the highest object of the Greek and Roman worship. By telling this truth, which all others would have to pass for a lie, the Cretans showed that the object of their highest admiration was only a dead man.
Evil beasts - Ferocious and destructive in their manners.
Slow bellies - Addicted to voluptuousness, idleness, and gluttony; sluggish or hoggish men.
This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;This witness is true - What Epimenides said of them nearly 600 years before continued still to be true. Their original character had undergone no moral change.
Rebuke them sharply - Αποτομως· Cuttingly, severely; show no indulgence to persons guilty of such crimes.
That they may be sound in the faith - That they may receive the incorrupt doctrine, and illustrate it by a holy and useful life.
Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.Not giving heed to Jewish fables - See on 1 Timothy 1:4 (note); 1 Timothy 4:7 (note).
Commandments of men - The injunctions of the scribes and Pharisees, which they added to the law of God.
That turn from the truth - For such persons made the word of God of none effect by their traditions. Sometimes the verb αποστρεφομαι signifies to be averse from, slight, or despise. So, here, the persons in question despised the truth, and taught others to do the same.
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.Unto the pure all things are pure - This appears to have been spoken in reference to the Jewish distinctions of clean and unclean meats. To the genuine Christian every kind of meat proper for human nourishment is pure, is lawful, and may be used without scruple. This our Lord had long before decided. See on Luke 11:39-41 (note).
But unto them that are defiled - In their consciences, and unbelieving, απιστοις, unfaithful both to offered and received grace, nothing is pure - they have no part in Christ, and the wrath of God abides upon them. Their mind is contaminated with impure and unholy images and ideas, and their conscience is defiled with the guilt of sins already committed against God.
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.They profess that they know God - He still speaks concerning the unbelieving Jews, the seducing teachers, and those who had been seduced by their bad doctrine. None were so full of pretensions to the knowledge of the true God as the Jews. They would not admit that any other people could have this knowledge; nor did they believe that God ever did or ever would reveal himself to any other people; they supposed that to give the law and the prophets to the Gentiles would be a profanation of the words of God. Hence they became both proud, uncharitable, and intolerant; and in this disposition they continue till the present day.
But in works they deny him - Their profession and practice were at continual variance. Full of a pretended faith, while utterly destitute of those works by which a genuine faith is accredited and proved. Dio Cassius represents Caesar as saying of his mutinous soldiers: Ονομα Ῥωμαιων εχοντας, εργα δε Κελτων δρωντας. "Having the name of Romans, while they had the manners of the Gauls." How near are those words to the saying of the apostle!
Being abominable - Βδελυκτοι. This word sometimes refers to unnatural lusts.
And disobedient - Απειθεις· Unpersuadable, unbelieving, and consequently disobedient. Characters remarkably applicable to the Jews through all their generations.
Unto every good work reprobate - Αδοκιμοι· Adulterate; like bad coin, deficient both in the weight and goodness of the metal, and without the proper sterling stamp; and consequently not current. If they did a good work, they did not do it in the spirit in which it should be performed. They had the name of God's people; but they were counterfeit. The prophet said; Reprobate silver shall men call them.
1. Though the principal part of this chapter, and indeed of the whole epistle, may be found in nearly the same words in the First Epistle to Timothy, yet there are several circumstances here that are not so particularly noted in the other; and every minister of Christ will do well to make himself master of both; they should be carefully registered in his memory, and engraven on his heart.
2. The truth, which is according to godliness, in reference to eternal life, should be carefully regarded. The substantial knowledge of the truth must have faith for its foundation, godliness for its rule, and eternal life for its object and end. He who does not begin well, is never likely to finish fair. He who does not refer every thing to eternity, is never likely to live either well or happily in time.
3. There is one subject in this chapter not sufficiently attended to by those who have the authority to appoint men to ecclesiastical offices; none should be thus appointed who is not able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convince the gainsayers. The powers necessary for this are partly natural, partly gracious, and partly acquired.
1. If a man have not good natural abilities, nothing but a miracle from heaven can make him a proper preacher of the Gospel; and to make a man a Christian minister, who is unqualified for any function of civil life, is sacrilege before God.
2. If the grace of God do not communicate ministerial qualifications, no natural gifts, however splendid, can be of any avail. To be a successful Christian minister, a man must feel the worth of immortal souls in such a way as God only can show it, in order to spend and be spent in the work. He who has never passed through the travail of the soul in the work of regeneration in his own heart, can never make plain the way of salvation to others.
3. He who is employed in the Christian ministry should cultivate his mind in the most diligent manner; he can neither learn nor know too much. If called of God to be a preacher, (and without such a call he had better be a galley slave), he will be able to bring all his knowledge to the assistance and success of his ministry. If he have human learning, so much the better; if he be accredited, and appointed by those who have authority in the Church, it will be to his advantage; but no human learning, no ecclesiastical appointment, no mode of ordination, whether Popish, Episcopal, Protestant, or Presbyterian, can ever supply the Divine unction, without which he never can convert and build up the souls of men. The piety of the flock must be faint and languishing when it is not animated by the heavenly zeal of the pastor; they must be blind if he be not enlightened; and their faith must be wavering when he can neither encourage nor defend it.
4. In consequence of the appointment of improper persons to the Christian ministry, there has been, not only a decay of piety, but also a corruption of religion. No man is a true Christian minister who has not grace, gifts, and fruit; if he have the grace of God, it will appear in his holy life and godly conversation. If to this he add genuine abilities, he will give full proof of his ministry; and if he give full proof of his ministry, he will have fruit; the souls of sinners will be converted to God through his preaching, and believers will be built up on their most holy faith. How contemptible must that man appear in the eyes of common sense, who boasts of his clerical education, his sacerdotal order, his legitimate authority to preach, administer the Christian sacraments, etc., while no soul is benefited by his ministry! Such a person may have legal authority to take tithes, but as to an appointment from God, he has none; else his word would be with power, and his preaching the means of salvation to his perishing hearers.