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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


In this chapter, the Apostle, after the salutation (1, 2–4), which is an epitome of the entire Epistle, reminds Titus of his command, when leaving him, to appoint Pastors over each city in Crete (5), and he describes the virtues which should distinguish a chief Pastor or Bishop (6–9). He assigns a reason why a Bishop should be learned (10), and particularly so, in dealing with the Cretans (12, 13). He refutes the errors of the Heretics, and describes their morals (15, 16).


1. Paul, a servant of God, that is to say, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, sent for the purpose of announcing to the elect of God, the true faith whereby they may be brought to the knowledge of that saving doctrine which promotes the true worship of God.

2. Which imparts to us the hope of eternal life promised or decreed from eternity, to be given us by God, the unerring, unchangeable truth.

3. But this decree or promise of his, though hidden from eternity, God has made known at the period destined by him, through the ministry of preaching, which had been confided and entrusted to me by the delegation of God, our Saviour.

4. (Writes) to Titus, his genuine son, begotten by him spiritually, by imparting to him the faith common to both; grace and peace be to thee, from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus our Saviour.

5. My object in leaving thee in Crete, and giving thee charge over the entire island, was, that thou shouldst correct the things that remained to be corrected, and appoint pastors over each city, according to the rules which I had prescribed for thee.

6. The qualifications necessary for the persons entrusted with pastoral charge are, to be irreprehensible, only once married; as regards their children also, to be free from reproach, by having them brought up in the Christian faith, and of such temperate, sober habits, as not to be chargeable with luxurious excesses of any kind—obedient to their parents.

7. For, a bishop should be a man of blameless life, as becomes a steward, a dispenser of the treasures of God’s household, he should be exempt from the vices of arrogance, anger, intemperance, violence, and base avarice;

8. Adorned with the virtues of hospitality, benignity, or love for good men, sobriety in regard to himself, justice towards all men, sanctity and holiness in regard to God, continence.

9. He should tenaciously adhere to the faithful word which is conformable to the sound doctrine of the Gospel, so as to be enabled by it to exhort the faithful to sanctity of life, and refute the heretical gainsayers.

10. For, there are many amongst them refractory, vain-talkers, and seducers, particularly the converted from among the Jews.

11. Who must be silenced by arguments; who pervert entire families by their errors, teaching false and erroneous doctrines, from the base motives of filthy lucre.

12. One of the Cretans themselves, well acquainted with them, one whose testimony they cannot question, for he was regarded as their own prophet, said of them, “the Cretans are always liars, evil beasts,” ever ready to injure, “slothful bellies,” ever addicted to sloth and gluttony.

13. This testimony (of the poet Epimenides regarding the Cretans) is true. Wherefore, admonish them severely, and rebuke them sharply for these vices, and see that they preserve intact the integrity of sound faith.

14. Not giving heed to Jewish fables and purely human traditions of men, who turn away from, and hate, the truth of the gospel.

15. All things are clean for Christians, no food is unclean for them, either of its own nature or in virtue of the prohibition of the law; but for the unclean and unbelievers, no food is clean, in consequence of their infidelity and erroneous conscience.

16. These profess that they know God, but they deny him by actions quite opposed to their verbal professions, being abominable on account of their immorality; incredulous, on account of their stubborn obstinacy; and, through their own fault, unfit for any good work.


1. “A servant of God.” This is a most honourable title, since “to serve God is to reign.” The following words, “and an Apostle,” &c., clearly express the servitude to which he refers, that special engagement in his service, in quality of Apostle. “According to the faith,” &c. The Greek word for “according,” κατὰ, shows that the object of his Apostleship was to announce to the elect, the faith, which is expressed in other words. “The acknowledging of the truth,” which truth is “according to godliness,” i.e., promotes the true worship of God. Wherefore, it excels philosophy, which only regards natural truths, but no way promotes the worship of God.

2. This piety or godliness has annexed to it the hope of eternal life, unlike the law of Moses, which held out only temporal hopes, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” “Hath promised,” i.e., decreed. This decree is as certain in its actual execution, as would be the fulfilment of a promise on the part of one who would certainly accomplish it. On this account, this decree is called, a promise. “Before the times of the world,” i.e., before all ages, all time; hence, in SS. Scripture, it is used to denote, eternity.—2 Tim. 1:9.

3. “His word” refers to the promise of decree (verse 2). In Greek it means, “his own word,” τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ, and the article prefixed to “word,” shows that it refers to the preceding. The manifestation of his promise on the part of God challenges our eternal love and gratitude. This exordium is rather long, but it is an abstract of the entire Epistle and of all the duties of a pastor of souls, who should preach the word, and by this spiritual seed, beget faith (verse 1) hope (verse 2), charity (verse 3), in the souls of his people.

4. “My beloved (in Greek, γνησιω, genuine, true) son.” He shows how he is his son, in having spiritually begotten him by imparting to him the faith common to them both. “Grace and peace.” The present Greek copies add, mercy, but it is not found in the best manuscripts, nor in the Greek version of St. Chrysostom, nor in the ancient Greek or Latin Fathers. Hence, it was probably inserted from the Epistles of Timothy.

5. He now enters on the subject of the Epistle. “For this cause I left thee at Crete,” making him chief Bishop, with jurisdiction over the entire island. “That thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting.” In Greek, ἵνα τὰ λείποντα ἐπιδιορθώση, that thou shouldst rectify the things which remained, which were left to be rectified by the Apostle, for want of time to tarry there. The Apostles laid the foundations of the different Churches; the superstructure, in many cases, was to be reared by their disciples. “And appoint priests in every city.” That under the word “priests” are included bishops, is clear from verse 7. The word “bishop,” according to Apostolic and Ecclesiastical usage, refers to the first order of the clergy only, superior to the others, who are merely priests, both in point of orders and jurisdiction; while the word “presbyteri,” or “priests,” comprises the clergy as well of the first, as of the second, order. It is likely, the word here extends to both, and that Titus was instructed to appoint pastors over each of the hundred cities of Crete (hence called “HECATOMPOLIS”), priests over some, and bishops over others, according to their relative importance and the wants of the faithful. This commission given to Titus, shows, that from the very infancy of the Church, certain bishops in some localities enjoyed Primatial and Archiepiscopal jurisdiction over others. St. Jerome confines the meaning of “priests” to bishops only, who were to be appointed over the principal cities of the very populous island of Crete. It is an article of Catholic faith that bishops, who are the successors of the Apostles, are superior to priests.—(Council of Trent, SS. 23, cap. 4, canon 7.) Though not of faith, it is universally believed, that this superiority is of divine institution. In his commentary on this passage, and in his Epistle to Evagrius, St. Jerome would appear to hold, that this superiority was the result of Ecclesiastical usage or arrangement. All, however, that would follow, at most, from his words is, that the bishops, in course of time, vindicated the superiority which they had over the priests; and that, in order to put a stop to the insolent encroachments of some priests, the functions of the bishops came to be exercised more distinctly than before, when they governed the Church “with common counsel.” And in his Commentary on this passage, he employs a rhetorical hyperbole, when referring to the dignity of priests, in consequence of the tyrranical domination of some bishops over the priests; among other instances, John of Jerusalem treated St. Jerome himself and his followers with excessive severity. (See his Epistles, 60, 61, 62). In the Epistle to Evagrius, already referred to, St. Jerome asserts for the bishop alone the power of conferring orders.

6. “Without crime.” The Greek word, ἁνεγκλήτος, means, irreproachable, not liable to be accused of serious crimes, and even irreproachable in his children whose vices might reflect discredit on their parents, who could not freely exercise the right of correction towards others, if their own household were disorderly. “Not accused of riot,” i.e., their children should not be chargeable with luxury either in the violation of temperance or chastity.

7. “For a bishop must be without crime.” This shows, that in the word, “priests,” verse 5, are included “bishops,” which latter word is common v confined to the clergy of the first order alone. “Without crime,” as in verse 6—(See also 1 Tim. chap. 3 verse 2). A bishop should be exempt from the vices here enumerated, so unbecoming his state; “not given to wine;” intemperance is opposed to chastity. I shall never believe a drunkard to be chaste.—St. Jerome. “Not proud,” i.e., not arrogantly adhering to his own opinion, which is the meaning of the Greek word, αυθαδη. No men inflict so much injury on the Church, or stand so much in the way of the salvation of souls, as those placed in high authority, when, from a spirit of pride, here condemned by the Apostle, they pertinaciously adhere to and carry out their own opinions, reckless of consequences, here and hereafter. The government of the pastors of the Church should not, in the remotest degree, savour of arrogance or domination. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, … not so you.”—(Luke. 22:25).

8. “But given to hospitality,” (see 1 Tim. 3) “gentle.” The Greek, φιλαγαθον, means a friend or lover of good men. “Sober,” σωφρονα, is rendered by some, prudent, by others, and among them, St. Jerome, chaste. “Continent,” particularly refers to one who restrains the indulgence of all carnal lusts and passions.

9. “Embracing that faithful word,” &c. It is not sufficient for a bishop to be pious, he must be also learned, to discharge properly his primary duties, of exhorting the faithful to piety and refuting the enemies of truth. The first and most indispensable duty of a bishop is to preach the word of God.—(Council of Trent, SS. 24, c. 4). It was to suffer no interruption in this holy employment, that the Apostles, whose successors they are, appointed the first deacons.—(Acts, 6:4).

10. He shows the necessity of a bishop being learned, particularly in dealing with the Cretans. “For there are many disobedient,” i.e., refractory, impatient of Christian doctrine and discipline among them. “Vain-talkers,” teaching vain, fabulous trifles, &c.; this especially applies to those converted from the Jewish faith.

11. “Who must be reproved.” The Greek word, επιστομιζειν, means, to close their mouths, of course, by argument. Our version expresses the meaning of the word; hence, they should be treated with great severity, to serve as a caution to others whom they might seduce.

12. “A prophet of their own.” He refers to the poet, Epimenides, who is called “a prophet of their own,” because the Cretans regarded him as a prophet, and he also treated of oracles, and professed an acquaintance with secret things. “The Cretans are always liars,” &c. These words are expressed by Epimenides in a single line of Greek hexameter verse. In them, the Cretans were charged with three vices for which they were notorious—viz., falsehood, ferocity, and sensuality. They were proverbial for their lying.

13. This testimony of the poet Epimenides, though before of human authority, is affirmed by the Apostle to be true; and so, now, has the weight of divine authority, and entitled to the firm assent of faith. The same is to be seen (1 Cor. 15:33), where the words of the poet Menander, before only conveying a natural truth, become, in consequence of being quoted by St. Paul, a portion of divine faith.

“Wherefore,” as such are their dispositions, they must be rebuked with sharpness and severity. The Greek word for “sharply,” ἀποτόμως, contains an allusion to the operations of surgeons cutting off putrescent flesh. Of course this is not opposed to his command to Timothy (2 chap. 3), where a bishop is told to be mild in his rebuke; because, he there only prescribes the disposition to lenity, while in reality, severity must sometimes be exercised, with which he himself menaces the Corinthians.—(1 Epistle 4) “Quid vultis, in virga veniam?”

14. “The commandments of men.” By these are understood the false Jewish traditions, to an instance of which there is an allusion made, verse 15. In this, of course, there is nothing said derogatory to the precepts of fasting and abstinence, or of observing holidays, or the other ordinances of the Catholic Church. As well might you reject all civil laws, to which we are commanded by the Apostle to be obedient under pain of damnation (Rom. 13), and of the Church it is said, “he who hears you, hears me.” The Apostle would, for the same reason, act wrongly in commanding the Gentiles to abstain from blood, &c.—(Acts, 15) St. Paul here refers to false and corrupt commandments of men, “who turn themselves away from the (gospel) truth.”—(See Coloss. 2:22).

15. In this verse, the Apostle refutes one of the fables and purely human commands of the false-teaching Jewish zealots. They inculcated the legal distinction between clean and unclean meats. The Apostle says there is no such distinction now, this as well as the other Jewish ceremonies having long since ceased; all meats are, therefore, clean, of themselves, and, so far as the law of Moses is concerned, perfectly indifferent for all Christians, who are cleansed in the blood of Christ and freed from the servitude of the law of Moses. “But to them that are defiled, and to unbelievers, nothing is clean,” i.e., no food is clean. He refers to the unbelieving Jews, of whom he has been speaking throughout; for them none of these meats prohibited by the law of Moses is clean; because, in partaking of them, they act against conscience, according to the dictates of which, although erroneous, they are bound to observe the law of Moses; and thus “their conscience is defiled,” while in abstaining from them, they act against faith, and so “their mind is defiled,” by infidelity.

16. They profess that they know and serve God, but their acts contradict their professions; they deny God by their actions, being “abominable” on account of their impurity; “incredulous,” on account of their stubborn, obstinate indocility; and unfit for any “good work” conducive to salvation; since they reject Christ and his grace, the principle of every good work, and seek justice from a source that cannot confer it, viz., the law of Moses.

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