Sunday, August 9, 2015

Explanation of Titus 1:14

This morning our website received the following simple question which we are happy to answer:  “Please explain for me  Titus 1:14.”   To provide a proper, well-rounded response, we begin with Matthew 23 where the scribes and Pharisees were being admonished for their anti-Torah behavior:

Matthew 23: 23. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and you overlook the weightiest things of Torah: Judgment and Mercy and Faith. And these things were necessary for you to have done, and these things you should not have forgotten. 24. Blind guides who strain at gnats and swallow camels. 25. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate but inside they are full of extortion and iniquity.

26. Blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and of the plate, Then the outside will be clean also. 27. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! Hypocrites! For you are like white tombs that appear beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are filled with the bones and all the corruption of the dead. 28. Thus you also appear on the outside as righteous men to the sons of men. On the inside you are filled with iniquity and hypocrisy. 29. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and you adorn the sepulchers of the righteous.

FOOTNOTE: A “marketing strategy” of the Pharisees is to posture themselves as being obedient to YHWH’s Prophets, and thus appear to legitimize their authority regarding Torah and the Prophets. A similar strategy is adopted by Christians who posture themselves as authorities on the Jewish Mashiyach, but who instead promote pagan religious traditions; these “crucify” Mashiyach daily by choosing to willfully neglect the Word of YHWH.
The above ties in with Titus 1 where we see Paul’s instructions to Titus, ordering Titus to “attend to the matters still not in order and appoint congregation leaders in each city.”  These instructions included the following:

Titus 1:  13. And this testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith  14. and may not throw themselves into Jewish fables and into the precepts of men who hate the Truth.  15. For to the pure, everything is pure; but to them who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but their understanding is defiled, and their conscience.  16 And they profess that they know Elohim, but in their works they deny him; and they are odious and disobedient and to every good work reprobates.  (AENT)

What then are these “Jewish fables”?

According to Charles Ryrie: Jewish myths; speculations of a Gnostic sort, supposedly based on OT scripture.  Ryrie Study Bible (NASB), p. 393.  The key is in the highlighted portion of the above passage, “they profess to know Elohim, but in works deny him” for by this very description, Paul has named the heretical sect. “Gnosticism” is derived from the Greek gnosis, “to know.”

What is often overlooked is that Gnosticism did not originate with Christianity, although later adopted by many Messianic themes.  Rather, it began as a Jewish sect with their own “myths and fables.” According to Professor Ryrie: The heresy of Gnosticism had begun to make inroads among churches in John’s day.

Among its teachings were: (1) knowledge is superior to virtue; (2) non-literal sense of Scripture is correct and can only be understood by a select few; (3) evil in the world precludes God being the only creator; (4) the incarnation is incredible because deity cannot unite itself with anything material such as a body (Docetism); and (5) there is no resurrection of the flesh. The ethical standards of the Gnostics were low… (Ryrie Study Bible (NASB), p. 440).

Is it any wonder then why Paul was upset at these false teachers? Even a conventional Pharisee would take great offense to such posturing, and they most certainly did with four of these five articles of belief. These false teachings are, of course, diametrically opposite to Paul’s own teaching as a “ringleader” of the Netzarim, so there should be no surprise when he takes these false teachings to task.

In any case, one can easily see how modern readers, divorced from the historical context, can easily draw the wrong conclusion and not take into account who the speaker is, and who the intended audience is.”


  1. One other comment from the AENT 5th Ed., "Also, since Paul is Jewish and following "all righteousness" it is impossible that Torah is the object of his rebuke as "fables" and "commandments of men"!