Monday, September 22, 2008

Was Timothy and Titus the same person?

If you are the type to skip ahead to the conclusion; I will save you the trouble. I think the hypothesis they were two different people solves more questions than the hypothesis they were the same. Still an interesting discussion without a clear cut definitive.

We have all had internet interactions where the other side says, “I will get back to you on this” and never does. I fear, in this regard, I am the guilty party. The biggest problem I have faced is how to present it in reasonably readable fashion, and to come to any sort of conclusion. Instead you are about to get more of a mish-mash, rather than a cohesive wholly-thought out argument. Make you own conclusions.

How did the question even come up? Some time ago (February) I wrote a blog on Why I Don’t Trust Acts. After a bit of debate it scrolled off the radar (as blog entries do) until a much later comment by Richard Fellows. If you link on Mr. Fellows’ site, you will see a number of arguments—one argument being that Titus and Timothy are the same person; Paul changed Titus’ name to Timothy.

I have yet to figure out how Titus and Timothy being the same person affects the historicity of Acts or lack thereof. I was unclear as to how their being the same would resolve some unperceived conflict. If anyone could explain how—I would appreciate it.

One problem is attempting to resolve the chronology of Paul, in relation to his sending Titus/Timothy and their returning to him. Using the letters, we come up with one chronology and using Acts we come up with a completely different and less workable chronology. You may be interested in the Chronological Comparisons of Paul’s letters to book of Acts.

I did not use Acts, since its historical accuracy is in question. Nor did I use the Pastorals, as these were not written by Paul. So, using the genuine Pauline Letters we have the following verses with Timotheos:

1 Thess 1:1: “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thess. 3:2: “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:”

1 Thess. 3:6: “But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:”

1 Cor. 4:17: “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.”

1 Cor. 16:10: “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.”

2 Cor. 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:”

Rom. 16:21 “Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.”

Php 1:1: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”

Php. 2:19:” But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.”

Philemon 1:1; “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,”

And the following verses for Titos:

2 Cor. 2:13, “I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.”

2 Cor. 7:6-7“Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.”

2 Cor. 7:13-14: “Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all. For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth.”

2 Cor. 8:6: “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.”

2 Cor. 8:16-17: “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.

2 Cor. 8:23: “Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.”

2 Cor. 12:18: I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?”

Gal. 2:1-3: Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”

You may notice that Titus and Timothy are never specifically referred to in such a way to affirmatively declare them as separate people. We do not have a verse, “Timothy and I sent Titus to you.” If we take the books in order of writing:

1 Thessalonians: Timothy only.
1 Corinthians: Timothy only.
2 Corinthians: One mention of Timothy, then multiple of Titus.
Galatians: Titus only (referring back to 17 years post-conversion, around 50 C.E. perhaps)
Romans: Timothy only.
Philippians: Timothy only.
Philemon: Timothy only.

This does put Titus in the earlier years of Paul and the reason Galatians uses “Titus” is that was his name they were familiar with when Paul establishes this church. (Note: Acts leaves Titus completely out of the trip to Jerusalem.)

The argument regarding the one book that mentions both—2 Corinthians—is that Paul was making a point by referring to Titus’ old name, as more familiar to the Corinthians. Yet then why not use it in the first instance of 2 Cor. 1:1?

While the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (commonly referred to as “the Pastorals”) were not written by Paul, the fact the author(s) used two different names would indicate two different people. (Albeit, if all three Pastorals were written by the same person, this raised the question as to why they would have used two names?)

Very little is known of what happened to Timothy or Titus. According to legend, Timothy became the Bishop of Ephesus, until martyred at the age of 80 or so. Titus became the Archbishop of Crete, living to the age of 90. If one holds the legends as true, it would have to be two different people. If one holds the legends to be…well…legends, then it could possibly be one.

If they were two different people, it answers the following questions:

1) Why were both mentioned in 2 Corinthians?
2) Why are separate Pastoral books named after them?
3) Why are there different legends as to their legacy and death?

However, the answers are not as weighty as we may think.

In response to the first question, Paul also refers to “Cephas” and “Peter” in Galatians. Assuming they were the same person, he does write two different names for the same person in one letter.

In response to the second question, we can note that 1 Peter and 2 Peter were both named after Peter, yet were not written by the same person. Assigning a name to a book was a choice—not necessarily a designation as to the actual authorship. If Titus and Timothy were the same person, an author could have chosen to use the preceding name for one book, and a later name for another. Assuming one author.

And multiple legends could arise from one person. Consider poor Bartholomew who, as various legends have it, was crucified or beheaded or flayed alive or we don’t know what happened to him.

We do have instances of claimed different names for one person. Saul/Paul. Silas/Silvanus. Peter/Cephas. Many apologetical defenses for claims of inerrancy against contradictory names is that the person had two names.

So I leave it to you.

Was Timothy and Titus the same person?
Does it matter?


  1. Thanks for engaging with the Titus-Timothy question.

    I have recently completed a series of blog posts on Titus-Timothy and there is a user-friendly (I hope) summary here.

    The Titus-Timothy hypothesis matters because it a) confirms the pseudonymity of the the PE, b) sorts out Paul's interactions with the Corinthians, c) removes the need to partition 2 Corinthians, d) demonstrates the accuracy of e.g. Acts 19:22.

    You ask why he is called "Titus" where he is in 2 Corinthians. In Paul's Aegean period the name "Titus" appears only in connection with trips to organize the collection. Paul did not publicly reveal the identities of any of those who helped with the collection, so it seems to me that Paul called him "Titus" precisely because it was not the name by which he was commonly known. See my blog for details.

  2. Different people. 2 tim 4:9-10 basically answers the question

    1. 2 Tim was not written by Paul and is therefore unreliable.

  3. I can add to what I said before. Paul says at 2 Cor 1:24 that he and his co-sender (Timothy) are not lording it over the Corinthians. In such a context it makes sense that he would avoid using Timothy's honorific name (Timothy), but use instead Timothy's praenomen (Titus). Praenomina were used in more intimate contexts and carried less authority. In the genuine letters the name Titus appears only where we would expect references to Timothy and only where we would expect Paul to use Timothy's praenomen.

    I discuss Titus-Timothy in my very recent article in Biblica.

  4. There can be no doubt they are 2 different people Paul had Timothy circumcised Acts 16 Titus was not circumcised Gal 2:3

  5. Anonymous, Gal 2:3-5 says that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised by the Jerusalem church leaders, but [he was circumcised] because of the false brothers who sneaked in to spy... . We have compatible information about "Timothy". He was uncircumcised at the time when Paul went to Jerusalem, and he was later circumcised after people found out that he was uncircumcised. I have written more about this in my 2018 article in Biblica, "Paul, Timothy, Jerusalem and the confusion in Galatia."