This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Timothy" as Titus's other name

I have argued that we should expect to find Titus mentioned under another name in Acts, and in Romans and perhaps 1 Corinthians. So who can he be? Since he was from the east (Gal 2:1-3), the only options are Luke/Lucius and Timothy. Now, Titus cannot have been Luke/Lucius because a) there would be no reason for Titus to have two Latin Praenomina (first names), and b) Luke/Lucius was probably a Jew, whereas Titus was a Greek. Therefore Titus was probably Timothy.

In this post I will present two arguments that confirm that Titus was Timothy.

The meaning of the name "Timothy"
Titus was a Gentile believer at a time when the presence of uncircumcised Gentiles in the church was controversial (Gal 2:1-5; Acts 15:1-2). At about this time Philo of Alexandria wrote:
the "proselyte" is one who circumcises not his foreskin but his pleasures and desires and the other passions of the soul. ... But what is "the soul of the proselyte," if not alienation from the polytheistic belief and familiarity with the honoring (ΤΙΜΗΣ) of the one God and Father of all. (Questions and answers on Exodus 2.2).
Paul and Barnabas, who favored the inclusion of Gentiles, no doubt presented Titus as someone who, while not circumcised, nevertheless honored God and should therefore be accepted. So, what better name to give to Titus than "Timothy", which means "honoring God"?

A close parallel to the case of Titus-Timothy can be found in Ignatius. He, like Titus, was an early Gentile believer from Antioch. He took the name "Theophorus", which means "bearer of God". The name relates to the carrying of images of gods in religious processions to honor the deity. A Theophorus is therefore one who honors God. "Timothy" and "Theophorus" are therefore almost synonyms.

Phonetic similarity
The names "Titus" and "Timothy" in the first century were closer in pronunciation than they are in the English speaking world today. It seems that the ι in each name had the same pronunciation ("ee" as in "feet"). Furthermore the θ of "Τιμόθεος" echoes the second τ of "Τίτος", since the two letters were sometimes interchangeable. An example of this is known from Masada where the name "Δωσίθεος" was written "Δωσίτεος".

It was common for Jews to be given a new name that had a phonetic similarity to the old name. In the Old Testament we have Abram-Abraham, Sarai-Sarah, and Hoshea-Joshua. In the New we have Paul-Saul, Silvanus-Silas, Jesus-Justus, Joseph-Justus, Simeon-Simon, and Mary-Magdalene. Note also the case of Jesus-Jason (Josephus Ant 2.5.1) and Bar Kosiba who was named, "Bar Kokhba". Other cases of near-homophonic naming include Amelius-Amerius, and perhaps Peregrinus-Proteus-Phoenix.

The similarity in sound of the names "Titus" and "Timothy" therefore increases the probability that they were held by the same person.

"Timothy" is therefore a very fitting name for Titus. I challenge anyone to find a name that works better.

In my next post I hope to present new evidence that Titus was the co-sender of 2 Corinthians.


  1. Hi! I know this was posted nearly four years ago, but I thought I'd post a quick comment anyway.

    I'm doing some research on Titus, and came across this post. I am not looking to cause any conflict, but I am only interested in learning and better understanding the Word of God (as well as the people who's work we see therein!). I have a major difficulty in believing that Titus was Timothy because of this one fact:

    Timothy was circumcised (Acts 16:3); Titus was not (Galatians 2:3-5). Your thoughts?

    1. Anonymous (whoever you are), you can find the answer to your question (and other questions on Titus-Timothy) by going to the blog post here and following the links.