August 23, 2023

Titus carried Galatians

  I went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking with me also Titus… But not even Titus, who was with me, being Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. - Galatians 2:1,3

 To support his bold claim that circumcision is no longer necessary for gentile Christians, Paul further claims that the saints in Jerusalem had met Titus without requiring him to be circumcised. For the second claim to support the larger claim effectively, Paul must have expected the Galatians (1) to know who Titus was, and (2) to believe that Paul's claims about Titus were true. The simplest explanation for Paul's apparent expectation is that Paul sent Titus to carry this letter. 

 Supposing Titus delivered Galatians can also explain why Paul references Titus without identifying distinctions. That is, neither "who was with me" nor "being Greek" denotes a unique referent. These phrases do not qualify as identifying remarks because many people could have been with Paul and many people were Greek. I return to the possible meaning of these two phrases below. 

 For context, please observe that Paul has obvious reasons for failing to identify Peter (1:18) and John (2:9), who require no introduction as Jesus's apostles, and also Barnabas (2:1), who requires no introduction because he helped Paul found the Galatian assemblies. As for James, "the Lord's brother" (1:18), Paul's identifying descriptor was undoubtedly mere disambiguation, supposing at least one of the following: e.g., that the Galatians had heard about James the apostle in the same stories they heard about Peter and John, or that James's prominence in Jerusalem was widely known, or that we take Paul to imply that Galatia's other recent visitors from Jerusalem were the same "men from James" who had also disrupted Antioch (2:12). As for Titus, however, we have no cause to suppose that Paul's gentile colleague was himself comparably famous among early Christians in Asia. To the contrary, Paul's acknowledgement that Titus's Gentile status had recently been at issue in Jersualem provides a strong reason to expect the opposite: that Titus was not generally famous among early Christians. This lack of evident fame also refutes the suggestion of F. F. Bruce that Paul was specifically refuting a rumor about Titus previously spread by the 'Judaizers'; if Titus was not famously well known at this point then Bruce's scenario should require Paul to explicitly clarify that he meant the same Titus about whom there were rumors. As noted above, "with me" and "Greek" do not specify one uniquely identifiable person.

 Logically, the above considerations leave us with only two possible reasons why Galatians in four different cities might be expected to know who Titus was without requiring an introduction: either Paul knew that Titus had visited previously, or Paul knew that Titus was visiting concurrently. But if Paul believed Titus was not currently present then we would still expect Paul to clarify which "Titus" (of all the Tituses on earth) was the Titus about whom Paul was speaking. Therefore, the most likely reason, by far, for Paul to avoid identifying this Titus, is because Paul had sent this Titus to Galatia with this letter.

 If we consider the scenario in depth, we find additional reasons to support not just plausibility but strong likelihood. For one, sending Titus offered Paul the strategic advantage of refuting his troublesome opponents by sending an eyewitness who could testify on at least some of the events being narrated in the letter. Instead of merely writing that Titus had met with the "pillars" in Jerusalem and yet remained uncircumcised, Paul could send the Titus himself to corroborate Paul's account. Beyond that, the Galatians could ask Titus questions -about Paul, about his visit to the holy city, about whom he met there - and if any man in Galatia remained skeptical about Paul's claims, then Titus had the option to reveal physical evidence. 

 Finally, supposing this strategic scenario provides a practical purpose for Paul's two ancillary descriptions, imbuing them with additional meaning. First, the phrase "who was with me" now conveys an implicit challenge. I'm telling you what happened, and he was there too. If you don't believe me, ask him. Second, the phrase "being Greek" denotes an ethnic origin that is not merely non-Jewish; for instance, a Samaritan who became Christian would not be "compelled to be circumcised" because Samaritans still considered themselves children of Abraham (cf. Acts 8:5-39). In this light, the most specific denotation in Galatians about Titus is the fact that Titus (like all Greeks) had not been circumcised in his life before turning to Christ. Taken thusly, "being Greek" is not merely Paul adding a detail but emphatically suggesting there is further proof here if you absolutely need it.

 In conclusion, accepting that Titus carried the letter explains why Paul could expect the Galatians to know very little about Titus while also requiring no description of his identity. By sending and naming his eyewitness, Paul's supporting point about his larger claim becomes far stronger through personal testimony and physical evidence. The phrase "who was with me" no longer underscores a geographical coincidence which should have already been obvious (the guy I'm talking about who was there when I was, Titus, he was also with me) but now serves to qualify the man's testimony and commend his presence in Galatia as a trusted colleague. The phrase "being Greek," which also seemed a bit redundant as mere exposition, now finds a situated rhetorical purpose that serves Paul's strategic goals - not just for the epistle but directly for the mission. Paul does not introduce Titus as a co-worker, a trusted friend, or a traveling companion, but as a supporting witness, uniquely qualified to rebut the accusations of Paul's opponents from Jerusalem.


 One final consideration, if Galatians 2:1-10 indeed refers to the conference of Acts 15 (and I agree that it does), is that Titus could have carried TWO LETTERS into Galatia. In other words, if Titus was first present at the council of Jerusalem and then carried Paul's letter to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, then Titus could have brought along a copy of Jerusalem’s letter as well. This would then provide one reason why Paul did not mention that letter in the text of his own letter, not that he necessarily carried or cared for that letter at all. Paul and Titus might even have thought it wise strategy to hold something in reserve.


 It is further likely, in my opinion, that Titus and Luke carried Paul's letter through Galatia together, and then kept going west to their pre-arranged rendezvous point, at a city they could not fail to locate because it stood next to the ruins of the most famous city in Asia Minor ("Troy"), and this would then explain why Paul found Luke in Troas after leaving Galatia and not feeling able to linger near Ephesus.
 in Asia. Also, the fact that Acts never mentions Titus is irrelevant but if Titus and Paul were on Crete at some point, years later, then it was most likely Fair Havens, which would mean Luke deliberately left Titus out of Acts, perhaps for abandoning ship after Paul finagled his way into bringing three friends. In other words, if Titus was at Fair Havens with Paul then Titus could have been in other parts of Paul's journeys according to Acts. Also Paul did expect, after Corinth, to see Titus in Troas, and Paul's second journey he left one man in each city where they planted a new church (Luke in Philippi, Timothy in Thessalonica, Silas in Berea, and Paul himself stayed in Athens. Thus, it stands to reason that Titus was the man they left in Troas, which explains why Luke left out the origin of that church.

 But now I have reeeealllly digressed.

 Anon, then...

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