Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies.—The “questions” and “genealogies” have been discussed above (1Timothy 1:4). The Apostle characterises them as “foolish,” because they were of an utterly unpractical nature, and consumed time and powers which were needed for other and better things. The “contentions” were disputes and wranglings which arose out of arguments advanced by different teachers upon the “questions” and “genealogies.” The “strivings about the law” were, most probably, arguments suggested by disputed and intricate points connected with the law of Moses. In the Talmud we possess unnumbered instances of all these strange and curious inquiries about which men then gravely disputed and wrangled, but none of which could in any way teach men how to make life more beautiful and loving, more like that fair pattern which St. Paul’s Master loved. St. Paul, well versed—thanks to his early and elaborate training—in all this useless, curious lore, once and for all would expel from orthodox Christian teaching everything which seemed to bear upon this favourite Jewish theology—so called. It had, cancer-like, eaten the life out of Judaism; it should not, if he could prevent it, poison in like manner the young life of Christianity.

Titus 3:9. But avoid foolish questions — Questions of no consequence; and genealogies — See on 1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; and contentions, &c., about the law — About the observance of the ceremonial law, or some little things contained therein; for they are unprofitable, &c. — Not only consuming to no purpose that time which is capable of being much better improved, but also tending to discompose men’s minds, to alienate the affections of Christians from each other, and to render them indifferent to the proper duties of life.3:8-11 When the grace of God towards mankind has been declared, the necessity of good works is pressed. Those who believe in God, must make it their care to maintain good works, to seek opportunities for doing them, being influenced by love and gratitude. Trifling, foolish questions must be avoided, and subtle distinctions and vain inquiries; nor should people be eager after novelties, but love sound doctrine which tends most to edifying. Though we may now think some sins light and little, if the Lord awaken the conscience, we shall feel even the smallest sin heavy upon our souls.But avoid foolish questions and genealogies - See the 1 Timothy 1:4 note; 2 Timothy 2:16, 2 Timothy 2:23 notes.

And contentions, and strivings about the law - Such as the Jews started about various matters connected with the law - about meats and drinks, etc.; the notes at 1 Timothy 1:4; compare the notes at Acts 18:15.

For they are unprofitable and vain - - They disturb and embitter the feelings; they lead to the indulgence of a bad spirit; they are often difficult to be settled, and are of no practical importance if they could be determined. The same thing might be said of multitudes of things about which men dispute so earnestly now.

9. avoid—stand aloof from. Same Greek, as in 2Ti 2:16; see on [2538]2Ti 2:16.

foolish—Greek, "insipid"; producing no moral fruit. "Vain talkers."

genealogies—akin to the "fables" (see on [2539]1Ti 1:4). Not so much direct heresy as yet is here referred to, as profitless discussions about genealogies of aeons, &c., which ultimately led to Gnosticism. Synagogue discourses were termed daraschoth, that is, "discussions." Compare "disputer of this world (Greek, 'dispensation')."

strivings about the law—about the authority of the "commandments of men," which they sought to confirm by the law (Tit 1:14; see on [2540]1Ti 1:7), and about the mystical meaning of the various parts of the law in connection with the "genealogies."

But avoid foolish questions; in the discharge of thy ministry meddle not with idle questions, 2 Timothy 2:23, tending to no godly edifying.

And genealogies; and sifting out genealogies, 1 Timothy 1:4.

And contentions; and strifes about words, or things unprofitable;

perverse disputings, and oppositions of science falsely so called, 1 Timothy 6:4,5,20.

And strivings about the law; particularly questions about the law, the traditions and constitutions of the elders about it.

For they are unprofitable and vain; these things are to no purpose or advantage. But avoid foolish questions,.... Such as were started in the schools of the Jews; see 2 Timothy 2:23

and genealogies; of their elders, Rabbins, and doctors, by whom their traditions are handed down from one to another, in fixing which they greatly laboured; see 1 Timothy 1:4 and contentions and strivings about the law; the rites and ceremonies of it, and about the sense of it, and its various precepts, as litigated in the schools of Hillell and Shammai, the one giving it one way, and the other another; and what one declared to be free according to the law, the other declared forbidden; which occasioned great contentions and quarrels between the followers of the one, and of the other, as both the Misna and Talmud show: and agreeably to this sense, the Syriac version renders it, "the contentions and strifes of the scribes"; the Jewish doctors, who were some on the side of Hillell, and others on the side of Shammai; as well as went into parties and strifes among themselves, and oftentimes about mere trifles; things of no manner of importance; wherefore it follows,

for they are unprofitable and vain; empty things, of no manner of use, to inform the judgment, improve the mind, or influence the life and conversation.

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Titus 3:9. Contrast to the last words.

μωρὰς δὲ ζητήσεις καὶ γενεαλογίας κ.τ.λ.] ζητήσεις, see 1 Timothy 1:4; connected with μωράς also in 2 Timothy 2:23; καὶ γενεαλογίας, see Titus 1:4; the latter refers to the contents, the former to the form.

καὶ ἔριν [ἔρεις] καὶ μάχας νομικάς] ἔρις, like the other words, serves to describe the behaviour of the heretics; it is not therefore ἔρεις τὰς πρὸς αἱρετικούς, as Chrysostom interprets it, but quarrels such as take place among the heretics. The μάχαι νομικαί are disputes about the law and the individual precepts of the law; see 1 Timothy 1:7 and Titus 1:14.

Heydenreich wrongly refers the adjective νομικάς also to ἔρεις. Hofmann even refers it to all the preceding conceptions, arbitrarily explaining νομικαί of the contents of the Pentateuch, i.e. of the Thora; with him, therefore, the ζητήσεις νομικαί are “discussions in which all disputed questions in the Thora are taken up,” and the γενεαλογίαι νομικαί are “investigations into the historical contents of the Thora.”

περιΐστασο] see 2 Timothy 2:16.

With these fables and quarrels that go on among the heretics Titus is to have nothing to do.

Εἰσὶ γὰρ ἀνωφελεῖς καὶ μάταιοι] contrast with ταῦτά ἐστι καλὰ κ.τ.λ.

μάταιος, like ὅσιος, 1 Timothy 2:8, is used as an adjective of two terminations.Titus 3:9. ζητήσεις and γενεαλογίαι are associated together in 1 Timothy 1:4 (where see notes). Here they are co-ordinated; there the γενεαλογίαι are one of the sources whence ζητήσεις originate. The nature of the ἔρεις here deprecated is determined by the context. ἔρεις indicate the spirit of contentiousness; μάχαι the conflicts as heard and seen. On μάχαι, see 2 Timothy 2:23. The μάχαι νομικαί are no doubt the same as the λογομαχίαι of 1 Timothy 6:4. Speaking broadly, the controversy turned on the attempt to give a fictitious permanence to the essentially transient elements in the Mosaical Law.

περιΐστασο: See note on 2 Timothy 2:16.

μάταιοι: Here, and in Jam 1:26, μάταιος is an adjective of two terminations; yet ματαία occurs 1 Corinthians 15:17; ματαίας, 1 Peter 1:18.9. The summary of the other chief topic of the letter; the dealing with the false teaching and evil living of the day. See note above.

avoid foolish questions] The Greek puts the errors first in stronger contrast to the good; ‘questions’ should be ‘questionings’ as in 1 Timothy 1:4. see note there; where also ‘genealogies’ is considered. ‘Genealogies’ would be a special and prevailing theme of the ‘questionings,’ and ‘fightings about the law,’ of the ‘contentions,’ as Bp Ellicott points out, following Wiesinger. Cf. 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; and Introduction on the Gnostic heresy. Keeping the A.V. avoid we may give it the due emphasis at the close, as we cannot with ‘shun’ of R.V. ‘Avoid’ from Fr. vuider, vider, ‘to make empty,’ is used intransitively and transitively, exactly as the Greek word here is also used to ‘give a wide berth,’ ‘to stand off and make a circuit.’ Cf. 1 Samuel 18:11, where R.V. still has ‘David avoided out of his presence twice;’ Proverbs 4:15, ‘walk not in the way of evil men: avoid it, pass not by it.’

unprofitable and vain] ‘Vain’ is added to intensify ‘unprofitable’; from its use here then it should mean ‘vain’ in its results, and be opposed to ‘good,’ which is ‘seen to be good’ above. So in 1 Corinthians 15:17, ‘your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins.’ While above, Titus 3:14, ‘our preaching is void; your faith also is void: we are found false witnesses;’ there is no true basis of fact for preaching or faith; the word there being different. See Bp Ellicott’s note, and references.Verse 9. - Shun for avoid, A.V.; questionings for questions, A.V.; strifes for contentions, A.V.; fightings for strivings, A.V. Shun (περάτασο); see 2 Timothy 2:16. Foolish questionings; as 2 Timothy 2:23. Genealogies; as 1 Timothy 1:4. Strifes (ἔρεις); as 1 Timothy 6:4. Fightings about the Law (μάχας νομικάς); such as St. Paul alludes to in 1 Timothy 1, and are probably included in the λογομαχίαιof 1 Timothy 6:4. Unprofitable (ἀνωφελεῖς); only here and Hebrews 7:18; but it is found in the LXX. and other Greek Versions, and in classical Greek (compare, for the sense, 2 Timothy 2:14). Vain (μάταιοι); compare the use of ματαιολόγοι, "vain talkers" (Titus 1:10), and ματαιολογία "vain talking" (1 Timothy 1:6). The whole picture is unmistakably one of the perverse Jewish mind. Foolish questions, etc.

See on 2 Timothy 2:23. For genealogies see on 1 Timothy 1:4.

Strivings about the law (μάχας νομικὰς)

The phrase N.T.o. Comp. 1 Timothy 1:7. Νομικός mostly in Luke. Everywhere except here a lawyer, with the article or τὶς.

Unprofitable (ἀνωφελεῖς)

Only here and Hebrews 7:18.

Vain (μάταιοι)

Only here in Pastorals. Twice in Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:20, cit.; 1 Corinthians 15:17 (note). Very frequent in lxx. The sense is aimless or resultless, as μάταιος εὐχή a prayer which cannot obtain fulfilment. The questions, genealogies, etc., lead to no attainment or advancement in godliness. Comp. ματαιολογία jangling, 1 Timothy 1:6; ματαιολόγοι vain talkers, 1 Timothy 1:10; ματαιότης vanity, Romans 8:20; Ephesians 4:17; ἐματαιώθησαν were made vain, Romans 1:21; μάτην in vain, Matthew 15:9.

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