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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A biography of Titus-Timothy

Timothy and Titus
The image on the right represents the conventional reconstruction of Timothy and Titus, including their backgrounds, movements, and interaction with the churches. The picture is  incomplete and consists of two distinct halves that have no inter-connections. For example, the commentators simply place the mission of Titus to Corinth (and the related events of 2 Corinthians) after the mission of Timothy to Corinth (and the related events of 1 Corinthians), without any over-lap or causal relationship between the two. This is no clever trick. Every piece of data seems to require a fresh assumption. This picture works as a picture, but it is nevertheless wrong because a much more compact picture can be constructed from the same pieces. Look carefully, and you will see that pieces in each half fit neatly with each other and combine to give a complete image of a single individual, Titus-Timothy. Once we have seen that a compact solution to the puzzle is possible, we are no longer entitled to propose that the solution that involves a large picture with missing pieces.

Here is a biography of Titus-Timothy. I believe it connects the pieces neatly together without forcing, but you must decide. I have presented the evidence for this reconstruction in about 15 earlier posts.

Jews and Greeks intermingled freely in Antioch, and it was there that Titus was born to a Greek father and a Jewish mother. He was probably not a Roman citizen, and was probably younger than Paul. Titus was converted by Paul, and his mother also became a believer. Titus was uncircumcised but his Jewish heritage created the expectation that he could or should be circumcised. He was therefore chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to address the circumcision issue. He was able to pass as a Jew, but presented himself as a Greek on that occasion. The Jerusalem church leaders, though they knew he was uncircumcised, did not compel him to be circumcised, though they may have preferred it. Titus was presented as an example of a convert who, though uncircumcised, honored God. It was perhaps at this time that Titus was renamed, "Timothy", which meant "honoring God", and was phonetically close to "Titus". It was the Sabbatical year of 48/49 and Titus-Timothy saw first hand the poverty among the believers in Jerusalem, caused by the recent famine and the ban on agricultural activity that was in force. James, Peter, and John asked Paul to remember the poor, so he eagerly sent Titus-Timothy to south Galatia to organize a collection there. Titus-Timothy arrived in south Galatia and instructed the believers there to lay aside some money for Judea on the first day of each week. Paul himself arrived in south Galatia and met Titus-Timothy in Lystra. The believers in Lystra and Iconium attested that Titus-Timothy had fulfilled his mission well, so Paul decided to take him with him on the on-going journey. Titus-Timothy had passed himself off as a Jew but some false brothers had sneaked in and discovered that he was a Greek. The Jews in the region, who were more strict than those of Titus-Timothy's home town, Antioch, thus got to know that his father had been a Greek. Paul therefore circumcised him.

Saul-Paul, Silas-Silvanus, Lucius-Luke, and Titus-Timothy received three pieces of divine guidance, the purpose of which, they finally understood, was to get them to Macedonia without stopping to preach along the way. After visiting Philippi and Thessalonica, Paul left Beroea for Athens, sending Titus-Timothy back to Thessalonica. There Titus-Timothy encouraged the believers in their faith and then traveled, perhaps with Silas-Silvanus, to Corinth, where they met Paul (in A.D. 50). After their arrival in Corinth, Paul was able to devote his time to evangelism. Titus-Timothy and Silas-Silvanus also helped to proclaim Jesus in Corinth.

About 4 years later Paul was probably in prison in Ephesus. He, with Titus-Timothy, wrote to the Philippians at that time, promising to send Titus-Timothy to them so that he might receive news from them. Paul, with Titus-Timothy, probably wrote to Philemon at that time also. Paul received troubling news about the Corinthian church from Chloe's people. Paul decided to postpone his own announced visit to Corinth. Instead he wrote a letter in tears and gave it to Titus-Timothy, who was to deliver it on his way back to Ephesus from Macedonia. Titus-Timothy and the letter were to remind the Corinthians of Paul's Christian ethos so that they recognized their zeal for him as their founder, and thus prepare the Corinthians for Paul's (delayed) visit. The plan was that, after Titus-Timothy's return to Ephesus, Paul would visit Corinth on his way to Macedonia, and would then visit them again before traveling to Jerusalem with a collection for the poor. He was not willing to visit them until his emissary had prepared them for the visit. Paul was confident that the Corinthians would respond favorably to the letter, but Titus-Timothy was apprehensive about the mission. So, Titus-Timothy, carrying the tearful letter, travelled to Macedonia with Erastus (the Corinthian Treasurer), but he was delayed and had to over-winter there. He may have started the collection in Macedonia. This delay had repercussions on Paul's own travel plans. Meanwhile Stephanas arrived in Ephesus from Corinth in the spring (55 or 56). Paul would have used Stephanas to prepare the Corinthians for his planned visit, but there was no longer time for that visit. He therefore decided to cancel that visit and visit them only after going to Macedonia. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, in which he give the new travel plan, instructions for the collection, and commended Titus-Timothy. When Titus-Timothy finally arrived in Corinth he was warmly received, and he began the collection there. The letter was successful, but the shock tactics that Paul used in the letter to prepare for his visit, and the absence of that visit, were not understood by the Corinthians. Also, some "super-apostles" created new problems for Paul. Titus-Timothy was too late to be able to meet Paul in Ephesus or even to head him off in the Troad, so he traveled directly to Macedonia and met Paul there. Paul had been worried that Titus-Timothy's delay indicated a problem with the reception of the tearful letter, so he was relieved to receive Titus-Timothy's good report. Paul, with Titus-Timothy, wrote 2 Corinthians. He mentioned three people who helped with the collection, but left them anonymous to protect the funds. He also referred to Titus-Timothy by his lesser-known name, "Titus", for the same reason. He sent Titus-Timothy back to Corinth, with 2 Corinthians, to finish the collection. Titus-Timothy was to focus on the collection and therefore needed to stay on good terms with the Corinthians. Paul therefore placed his criticisms of the Corinthians in the final four chapters of the letter, which were written in Paul's name alone. So Titus-Timothy traveled to Corinth (with two other collection helpers), and completed the collection there. Paul later arrived in Corinth and wrote to the Romans, sending greetings from Titus-Timothy and others (spring 56 or 57). Threats to the collection required that it take a circuitous route to Judea. Titus-Timothy, Sosipater-Sopater, Jason-Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus and Trophimus took the collection to Troas, while Paul and Lucius-Luke sailed independently from Philippi to Troas. As far as we know, the whole group successfully delivered the collection to Jerusalem.

Finally, Titus-Timothy was imprisoned and released at least once, but we don't know when. He was Paul's loyal partner and envoy, and was spoken well of by Paul, and the believers in Lystra, Iconium, Philippi, and Corinth. He lived up to his name, "honoring God".


  1. Richard,

    This is interesting stuff I have enjoyed following.


  2. Thanks, John.

    I intend soon to discuss the objections to the Titus-Timothy hypothesis and then to give an overview of the evidence. Do let me know if if you can think of any particular objections that I should address, or any other aspect of the hypothesis that should be discussed.

  3. Far out! but take another step: consider that Luke/Lucius met Paul in Troas and guess who might have accompanied him from Syrian Antioch. How about Barnabas? [Mark, too?] Or at what juncture could Barnabas have rejoined Paul in order to work with him in Corinth? And when would Mark have begun to establish his value to Paul? Check Acts 16:10- Luke counts himself as one of the "us" persons who concluded that God called them to preach the gospel- he could not have been a newbie, some freelance chiropracter Paul engaged strolling on the boardwalk by the Aegean. They all knew each other. The point of all this? Acts could not be pseudographic and Luke's i.d. and account would be first-hand.

  4. jck, I don't think we have much evidence that Barnabas ever went to Corinth. We know only that the Corinthian believers had heard of Barnabas. Nor do I think that Mark ever re-joined Paul. See my comments here.

    Your point about Acts 16:10 is well made. I have argued that the author of Acts was Luke and Lucius of Rom 16:21 and Lucius of Acts 13:1. See here and follow the links. It is odd, isn't it, that so many commentators assume that Timothy and Lucius were newbies whom Paul picked up in Lystra and Troas, while Paul and his readers valued experienced converts (see 1 Cor 16:15, Rom 16:5).

  5. Mr. Fellows,

    Thank you for taking the time to blog about the apostles Timothy and Titus.

    Kindly, where in the Bible to do you see that Timothy and Titus are one and the same? I don’t find any indication of that. They appear to be separate men.

    I am in my fourth year in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). We are currently studying the Book of Acts and specifically Timothy and Titus.


    Bob Brett
    Olympia, WA

  6. Bob, there is a summary of the evidence for Titus-Timothy here.