This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology. You can visit my web pages here, but note that they are not kept up-to-date.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Von Lips on Titus-Timothy

Hermann von Lips (Timotheus und Titus 2008 p129-130) defends the theory that Titus and Timothy were different people. This is the only rebuttal of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis in print and is therefore very valuable. In this post I will lay out Hermann's arguments and respond to them.

Hermann starts by acknowledging that equating Titus with Timothy solves the mystery of why the name "Titus" does not appear in Acts. However, he does not discuss any of the other arguments for Titus-Timothy.

Point 1
Hermann refutes the view of Udo Borse that "Titus" and "Timotheos" were short and long name-forms for the same person:
Allerdings muss festgestellt werden, dass Paulus nicht zwishen Kurz- und Langform wechselt, sondern bei einer Form bleibt: generell Priska (Rom 16,3; 1Kor 16,19; vgl. In paulinischer Tradition 2Tim 4,19) und generell Silvanus (2Kor 1,19; 1Thess 1,1; vgl. In paulinischer Tradition 2Thess 1,1 sowie 1Petr 5,12), dagegen die Apostelgeschichte ebenso konsequent jeweils die andere Form: Priszilla (Apg 18,2.18.26) und Silas (13-mal von Apg 15,22 bis 18.5). Diese Lösung scheidet also aus.  (p129)
Hermann's point is that Paul consistently uses the names Prisca and Silvanus for people whom Luke consistently calls Priscilla and Silas, and so could not have used different names for Titus-Timothy.

My response
I do not argue that "Titus" was a short form of the name "Timothy", but I see "Timothy" as Titus's new name. In any case, we do have evidence that Paul, like other ancient (and modern) writers, used more than one name for the same person, according to context. Paul switched between Cephas (Gal 1:18; 2:9,11,14) and Petros (Gal 2:7-8). Also, a strong case can be made that he used diminutive name forms in Philemon 24 (Mark, Demas, Epaphras, and Luke) and that elsewhere he calls the last two "Epaphroditus"  and "Lucius". Also, there are strong arguments that Paul used two names for the same person in the cases of Crispus-Sosthenes, Gaius-Stephanas, and probably Jason-Aristarchus. I have explained here why Paul uses the name "Titus" where he does.

Point 2
Hermann points out that Paul could have sent both Titus and Timothy to Corinth. For example, Timothy might have been one of those whom Paul says that he sent to Corinth in 2 Cor 12:17, and he may have been the 'brother' of 2 Cor 8:18-19.

My response
This is interesting speculation, but in the absence of evidence, it does not constitute an argument against Titus-Timothy. Nor does this speculation weaken any of the arguments that I have put forward.

Point 3
Hermann writes,
Nach Apg 19,22 und Phil 2,23 schickt Paulus von Ephesus aus Timotheus voraus nach Makedonien, bevor er selbst dorthin aufbricht. Dass er ihn dann in Makedonien trifft, kann dann ja wohl keine Überraschung sein, wie es im Blick auf Titus zutraf. (p130)
This was not clear to me, so Hermann kindly clarified:
"I read 2Cor 7,5-6 in the sense, that Paul is surprised and glad to find Titus in Macedonia. But he could not be surprised to find there Timothy whom he sent to Macedonia (Acts 19,22 and Phil 2,23). Therefore Titus is not the same as Timothy."
It should be noted that Hermann argues that Philippians was written from Ephesus and that the journey of Timothy to Macedonia anticipated in Phil 2:19-24 is the same as his journey from Ephesus to Macedonia reported in Acts 19:22 (p76-79).

My response
According to the Titus-Timothy hypothesis Timothy's journey from Ephesus to Macedonia, indicated in Acts 19:22 (and Phil 2:19-24), took place before 1 Corinthians. This journey was the first leg of Timothy's journey by land to Corinth, which is anticipated in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 4:17, 16:10-11). Perhaps I was not clear enough about this in my paper. Paul's consolation/relief/surprise at Titus's arrival in Macedonia tells us nothing about which route Titus had taken to Corinth, so I don't see the relevance of Hermann's point. Paul's consolation does perhaps indicate that Titus had been away for a long time and/or that his delay had been serious enough to cause Paul to worry. This fits the Titus-Timothy hypothesis well.

The two-person theorists generally suppose that Timothy went to Corinth via Macedonia, and then returned to Ephesus. This return to Ephesus is problematic because it requires them to hypothesize that Paul sent Timothy from Ephesus to Macedonia a second time (Acts 19:22 & 2 Cor 1:1). This proposed second journey looks suspiciously like a duplicate of the journey to Corinth, especially as Timothy's travel companion (Erastus) was a Corinthian.

In 1 Cor 16:10-11 and Phil 2:19 Paul expects Timothy to return to him (in Ephesus) before he (Paul) travels to Macedonia, but Acts 19:22 suggests that Timothy did not return to Paul before Paul went to Macedonia. The texts are reconciled if we suppose that Timothy was delayed such that he could not reach Paul before Paul went to Macedonia. This is precisely what happened to Titus.

Point 4
Herman points out that the council of Gal 2:1-10 was before the events of Acts 16:1-3. He then writes,

Also kann Timotheus, der erst auf der zweiten Reise als Paulusmitarbeiter berufen wird, nicht schon zuvor als “Titus” zur Begleitung des Paulus beim Apostelkonzil dabei gewesen sein. (p130)
His point is that Titus was already a traveling companion of Paul at the time of the Jerusalem council (Gal 2:1-10), which was before Timothy became a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:1-3).

My response
Many commentators  assume that Timothy was a native of Lystra, on the grounds that it is there that Paul finds him in Acts 16:1, while others admit that we are not told where Timothy was from. No-one has really looked into this issue until now, since (until now) nothing has been at stake.

I have argued on this blog, here, that Timothy (whether he was Titus or not) was a native of Syrian Antioch, not of Lystra. The evidence does not support the assertion that Timothy was a new find for Paul at the time of Acts 16:1. I have also argued here, that he was in Lystra at the time of Acts 16:1 because Paul had sent him there to organize the collection for Judea in response to the  request of Gal 2:10. With this understanding of events we see a natural progression in Titus-Timothy's role: he was a travel companion of Paul (Gal 2:1-3), then he was an envoy to south Galatia (Acts 16:1), then he was promoted to full missionary partner.

Point 5
Hermann writes:

Zuletzt ist noch auf die Entstehung der Pastoralbriefe, also die Briefe an Timotheus und Titus, Bezug zu nehmen. Sie müssten dann an einem Ort entstanden sein, in dem der wichtigste Paulusmitarbeiter Timotheus = Titus unbekannt war. Nur dann hätte man in Unkenntnis der nur einen Person aus den Paulusbriefen zwei verschiedene Personen entnommen. Aber die naheliegende Entstehung der Pastoralbriefe im paulinischen Missionsgebiet würde dann ausscheiden. Und man müsste auf eine sehr späte Entstehung der Pastoralbriefe folgern, wo es eben gar keine mündliche Erinnerung mehr über die Mitarbeiter des Paulus gegeben hätte. (p130)
He kindly gave me some further commentary:

I think, it would be a great problem when the Pastorals were written in a region where Paul was the sole apostle but his most important co-worker Timothy=Titus was unknown as only one person. I think there were two different traditions: one about Timothy and Ephesus and one about Titus and Crete.
My responseI have already answered this objection here. I argued that the Pastoral Epistles were written in a community that had little memory of Titus/Timothy, whether he/they was/were one person or two. I will now add just one further point. Even if the author of the Pastoral Epistles knew that Timothy's former name had been "Titus" (and I doubt that he did), he could easily have assumed that the "Titus" of 2 Corinthians was a different Titus. The name was common enough. In 2 Corinthians Paul calls Timothy "Titus" in connection with his missions to organize the collection. This, and the anonymity of the three 'brothers' of 2 Cor 8:18-22; 12:18, served to protect the collection from interception (see here). The author of the PE might not have realized this, and would then have concluded that a second Titus is in view, especially as Paul has already called Titus-Timothy "Timothy" at 2 Cor 1:1; 1:19. If, as I argue, Paul called him "Titus" where he did in 2 Corinthians to protect his identity, it would not be surprising that the author of the PE would be similarly misled. It is possible, of course, that there was a second Titus among Paul's co-workers, but I do not find this conjecture at all necessary for the viability of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis.

I am not aware of any evidence that there was a genuine tradition connecting "Titus" with Crete. Titus 1:5 cannot be fit into Paul's itinerary in Acts (which we can trust), and Acts 20:25, 38 makes it hard to believe that Paul returned to the east after a hypothetical release from captivity in Rome. The 'tradition' connecting Titus to Crete in the Pastoral Epistles is therefore probably not accurate. So why must we suppose that there is any genuine remembrance in it? Isn't it simpler to suppose that the author made the whole thing up?


When Hermann wrote his book he was aware of Borse's work on Titus-Timothy and my 2001 JSNT paper, but he did not have the benefit of my more recent arguments.  Apart from point 3, his rebuttals are fair criticisms of our printed presentations of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis. However, these criticisms
are not applicable to the Titus-Timothy hypothesis in its present form.

The Titus-Timothy question is very important for sorting out important issues, such as Pauline chronology, the north/south Galatia debate, the unity of 2 Corinthians, the accuracy of Acts, and the spuriousness of the PE. It is therefore vital that there be more debate on the Titus-Timothy hypothesis, and Hermann's contribution is a welcome start. It is unfortunate that it did not occur in Borse's lifetime.

Let me know of any further arguments against Titus-Timothy that I should address.


  1. Mr. Fellows,

    I much enjoy this series on the possible identification of Timothy as Titus. Have you compiled your theory into a single paper/book? If so I would enjoy obtaining a copy for careful consideration.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, David. This series of blog posts is the most up-to-date presentation of the Titus-Timothy hypothesis. There is also some material on my web site. Also take a look at my 2001 JSNT paper, though note that I no longer partition 2 Corinthians or see "Titus" as his praenomen. This paper is available here for free online until 15th October.

    Enjoy, and do let me know what you think.