Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Titus 2 Woman Likewise

Sated woman holding a mirror, Attic red-figure
lekythos, c. 5th century BC (Wikipedia)
The word I’ve decided to highlight first in this study is ὡσαύτως (“likewise”), found in Titus 2:3, 6. Its importance is often minimized or overlooked entirely. Consider the usual outline of Titus 2:1-6:

     1. Old men are to be/do A
     2. Old women are to be/do B
     3. Young women are to be/do C
     4. Young men are to be/do D

Now let’s consider an alternative:

     1. Old men are to be/do A
     2. Old women are to be/do likewise
     3. Young women are to be/do A’
     4. Young men are to be/do likewise

What I’ve merely done in the second outline above is highlight the similarities in Paul’s instructions rather than overstating the differences. When a preacher gives a sermon or a scholar a class on Titus 2, much is made about Paul giving different instructions to different groups to highlight their unique roles and responsibilities. Yet this doesn’t appear to be the point of the text at all. You might disagree with the exact way I’ve outlined it, but it should be obvious that each group’s ideal behavior is unmistakably linked to another’s. We get caught up in perceived differences and miss the author’s entire point.

Consider the general context of the letter. Paul is concerned about the conduct of Christians on the island of Crete. He criticizes insubordination, deception, lying, disobedience, and a host of other sins (1:10-16; 3:3, 9-11). Titus is charged with setting things right (1:5; 2:1, 7-8, 15), and instructions are given for elders (1:5-9), for lay members by sex and age (2:2-6), for slaves (2:9-10), and for members of the congregation in general (3:1-2, 8). Two important themes are submission to authority (1:6, 9, 10, 16; 2: 5, 9, 15; 3:1, 10), and self-control or being sensible (1:8; 2:2, 4-5, 6, 11). In summary, Paul wants his audience to put aside their old reputation, and instead become a credit to their faith (2:4, 10; 3:1-2, 8). Put this way, we can see that the Epistle to Titus is far more than lists of rules by demographic. Paul wants to encourage godly conduct in everyone, and that means everyone must develop the same sort of virtues.

So where does that leave us in our discussion about becoming a “Titus 2 Woman.” Well, first, we should recognize that the whole book gives us guidelines for proper Christian conduct, not just three verses. The passage isn’t about different roles, but the right conduct of everyone in the church. Young women should reflect on the instructions to overseers. Old men the instructions to slaves. Etc. Everyone in the church can benefit from the whole letter, not some bit assigned to them.

Second, we should remember that Paul was addressing a social problem as much as an individual one. We can certainly focus inward and work to improve ourselves. However, we need to recognize that it was intended to be a group effort, involving every member regardless of sex, age, social status, or position in the church. I might seem to belabor the point, but we can’t expect to see the sort of improvements that Paul was anticipating in Crete by training up “Titus 2 Woman” if we never care about “Titus 2 Elders,” “Titus 2 Men,” or so on.