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Are Titus Two Women REAL?
by Barbara Smith
After his encounter on the road to Damascus Paul met men and women who followed the Risen Savior as they ministered to the bewildered former Pharisee. So, when Paul wrote the young pastor about how to nurture the new church at Crete, did specific people come to his mind? When he described the need for older men who were temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love and perseverance, did the memories of Stephen, Ananias, Barnabas, Peter and James flood his heart? Of course! Paul was forever changed because of each man's faith and practice. When Paul then directed how older women were to behave in the congregation, whose faces spurred the aging apostle to write the following to Titus?
"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored." (Titus 2:3-5)
Just as he may have had real men in mind when he wrote to Titus, Paul may have had a clear picture of real "older" women, too. He knew many gentile women who turned in faith to Jesus Christ and grew up in their faith. Doubtless Lydia and her friends remained dear to Paul's heart; (Acts 16:14-15) as did Damaris who heard and believed when others spurned Paul's sermon on Mars Hill. (Acts 17:34) However, Paul also knew well the women revered in Hebrew Scripture: Deborah, Sarah, Abigail and the unnamed woman of Proverbs 31.
He also knew many godly Jewish women. Whether Paul was widowed, or disowned by his family or wife, we do not know. Nevertheless, we know he met and worshiped with many Jewish women. "Those who were added to the church," before the diaspora included women! How many of these women ministered to Paul in the early days after his conversion? Priscilla, the godly wife of Aquila assuredly left a deep and warmhearted impression on the weary tent-maker. (Acts 18:1-3) Moreover, many of Paul's contemporaries were women who would have walked and talked to the Savior. Paul may have met Mary Magdela, Joanna and Susanna, for Luke knew them. (Luke 8:1-3) Conceivably, Martha and Mary entertained Paul if he had visited their brother Lazarus.
In addition, Paul knew many older women — widows — who had fought the good fight, who were about to lay hold of the crown promised them in glory. When he wrote to Titus, his thoughts may have turned back to Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he described the "older" women's role in the young church. After all, Paul spent many hours with Dr. Luke. Luke's careful documentation of the facts about Jesus Christ's life would have been a welcome tonic on their long journeys together. (Church tradition holds that Luke spent many hours talking to Mary about the Annunciation and birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, some Bible scholars speculate that Titus was Luke's younger brother.)
Had Luke described Mary's reaction to the angel's news to a thoughtful Paul? The knowledge of the humble young girl's response to God surely would have impressed the one who kicked against the goads! (Acts 26:14)
Real Women Were Paul's Pattern for the Titus Two Women
With an understanding now of "whom" was in Paul's memory banks -- real women with real problems -- reconsider then what Paul wrote to Titus about the conduct of "older" women.
What, in this passage, only has meaning for women of Paul's generation; what has direct application to women living in the era of Y2K?
- "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior . . ."
Was Paul thinking about Martha or Lydia? Which busy woman came to Paul's mind when he underscored the need for reverent behavior? Reverence -- devotion to God, worship, consideration and praise takes time. Has anything changed?
Today, women are encouraged to believe we can have it all — do it all — be it all. We can run our homes and our businesses, *homeschool* and still be hospitable and get to church on time. The result is BURN OUT: talented and committed Christian women who are useless — temporarily — because we tried to "do it all." So, our worship and reverence for the Creator and sustainer of the Universe are diminished as we give in to the lie that somehow we are "masters of our destiny."
First century Christian women knew that reverence for the Lord was *foundational* not only for their souls — but also for their mental, emotional and physical health. They sought God in prayer and meditation and allowed the Lord to set the agenda — because they FEARED GOD more than an unfinished to-do-list. Paul wanted the women in the Cretan church to know this! A Titus two woman may be tired — but she can exchange her weariness for God's strength, moment by moment if necessary.
Reverence is a timeless attribute.
- "Not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine . . ."
Was Priscilla the example of a spirit-controlled woman, or did Mary Magdela come to Paul's mind when he wrote this admonition? Paul had seen many women go through real persecution and struggle with doubts and fear in dangerous times. He knew the lethal power of unbridled speech and appetites. (Read 1 Corinthians 11)
A Titus two woman guards her tongue *and* her appetite. The definition of "malicious gossip" transcends cultural and generational boundaries, does it not? Therefore, today we are without excuse, when we consider the content and intent of many conversations we have.
We are also convicted of our failures when we honestly consider our bondage to our "creature comforts." Though wine may never cross a Christian woman's lips — she may seek solace in food or other mind-numbing diversions. Therefore Paul's advice is just as relevant to modern women who are embracing everything but the Cross, as it was to women who were residents of Crete. We must be temperate about how we indulge ourselves.
Maybe we should even wait for God to indulge us?
- "Teaching what is good . . ."
Priscilla did "teach" Paul; what other woman instructed this commanding teacher? Did Martha's sister, Mary, explain Christ's reaction to prayer and generosity to Paul? Did Jesus' mother Mary tutor Paul about the needs of widows? Perhaps Mary Magdela clarified how good deliverance from demon possession felt for Paul?
Whatever their age or marital status, women who have trusted Christ as their Savior, all know what is GOOD. Every Christian woman, young or old, has something to teach; she is never without lesson plans.
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
- ". . . that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind . . ."
Maybe Paul mourned for a departed wife or grieved because of an unforgiving mother-in-law. Whatever his private heartaches, Paul surely saw the need for this exhortation in Christian homes which offered him hospitality. He knew that the foundation of a vigorous church is built upon secure Christian families. Has anything about this observation changed in two thousand years?
Today, all women need to be wary of encouraging discontent when we listen to another woman's griefs! We must pray with the unhappy sister before we let her say a word; we must seek God's direction in any conversation, especially if problems DO trouble a woman's marriage.
"Older" women in the Lord must know, therefore, what God's views are on the common troubles in marriage. (Also, a woman does not have to be "older" or married to know God's commands). We are more fortunate than our predecessors on Crete, for we have several translations of God's words virtually at our finger tips. We don't have to rack our brains trying to remember what Titus taught: we can — and must — counsel with an open BIBLE.
For in the Bible is common sense Christian living. God teaches women how to be "workers" at home. (The sense of this word is "keepers" — guardians, sentries — not simply servants. Note though that "servants" are esteemed in the eyes of the Suffering Servant!) Surely all women, who are filled with the Holy Spirit, must know how to exhort each other to guard their homes.
Now, teaching each other to be "kind" — that is an assignment! I am not naturally "kind," for I am selfish and self-absorbed. Yet, it has been the example of godly women — some older, some younger, who taught me what a "kind" woman looks like. Look up "kind" in the dictionary — the definition will both encourage and challenge you. Then check to see if you are modeling kindness in the Body of believers.
- "Being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored."
Paul's design for "older women" in Crete to model continues to drive us all nuts. This principle of submission fuels many debates among believers. Yet, it is the root of our relationship to out God and Savior. Was this just an unmarried man's pipe-dream, or did Paul see Priscilla gracefully yield to Aquila? More than once, Paul undoubtedly overheard men and their wives "differ!" Did Barnabas' wife explain to Paul how she submitted when her husband gave the church such a gift — or when he took John Mark under his wing?
Get out your dictionary and see if "submission" demeans women. By submissive behavior, who is honored: a man or the word of God? It is the absence of submission, both on men and women's part that dishonors God. When we resist subjection, we are bucking our orders — and this is so painful for some of us who are walking through some awful valleys — but when we reject the principle and practice of submission, we may be rejecting God's plan of escape, too — that is perfect and timely — and which will bring GLORY to HIM.
Were any of the women who were contemporaries of Paul's perfect? No! But they were real -- and Paul knew that each woman he admired had sinned and came short of the Glory of God. Yet Paul also knew that each woman he admired had obeyed her God at critical points in her life. It was this conduct that Paul wanted the mature Christian women in Crete to model. The women Paul admired lived out their faith in their Creator and Redeemer. They were real women who showed how to shine like lights in the crooked and perverse generation of the Roman Empire.
Consequently, women living at the end of the second millennium can learn from the practices that the apostle Paul advised women in the early church to adopt. The power source to become sparkling life-giving lights is the same and just as real as the women who knew Paul -- and the need is just as pressing.
© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
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