Paul’s Letters

There is treasure hidden in Paul’s thirteen letters, but the path to find it is not obvious. Here is a tip: in the Bible, Paul’s letters are not sequenced in chronological order.

The Bible rarely gives us specific dates about events it addresses, which can be frustrating for modern readers. As an example, this is a very brief timeline of the first four decades of Christianity that is probably correct to within a few years:

27 AD to 30 AD           Ministry of Jesus

30 AD to 39 AD           Death, resurrection of Jesus; Christianity spreads among the Jews

40 AD to 48 AD           Christianity spreads increasingly to non-Jews

48 AD to 57 AD           Paul’s three missionary journeys

58 AD to 70 AD           Paul’s imprisonment; Paul’s death; Temple destroyed

Paul wrote his letters within the two decades of 48 AD to 68 AD. His thirteen generally accepted letters are arranged in the New Testament in two blocks: the nine written to churches, then the four written to individuals. The nine written to churches are generally placed in order by length. (This also assumes Hebrews was not written by Paul.)


The first mention of Titus is in Galatians 2:1-3, when he accompanied Paul on the “famine visit” to Jerusalem. At the time, Titus was uncircumcised but was still accepted as a Christian. For nearly the next twenty years, Titus was a faithful assistant of Paul. There was probably little new in this letter that Titus had not heard many times before.

At the time of the writing of this letter, Titus was in Crete and Paul was spending the winter in Nicopolis, a major city on the west coast of Greece.  Paul wanted Titus to get things in order with the many churches in Crete before joining him in Nicopolis. Paul is nearing the end of his life, and you can sense the urgency in his words.

One of the reasons Paul left Titus in Crete was to appoint elders in the many towns, and the qualifications Paul describes for elders are similar to those inFirst Timothy. Based on Titus 1:6-9, it was not going to be easy for Titus to find qualified elders.

One of the requirements was for elders to be capable of teaching true doctrine and refuting false doctrine. This requirement ties to Paul’s insistence that Titus also refute the false teachers. Paul writes about the correlation between bad doctrine and bad behavior; he does not specify the false teaching, but it appears to have elements of myths about angels and philosophical teachings about the inherent evils of physical things.

Paul spends much of this letter writing about ways Christians are to behave. Rather than providing long lists of things to do and not to do, Paul instead gives them guidelines about doing good. He summarizes his desires in Titus 3:14, where he says Christians should concentrate on doing good so they can meet important needs and live productive lives.

Paul writes the letter to Titus, but knows it will be circulated among the churches, which is why he ends the letter by wishing grace on everyone.

As you read this letter, try to put yourself in Titus’s shoes. He has been working alongside Paul for almost two decades, and knows Paul is nearing the end of his life. He surely wants to do a good job on Crete, but knows he is facing immense obstacles.

Cretan elder
Primary Scriptures:
Titus 1-3
Story Summary:
Paul’s letter to Titus, while Titus was in Crete
Roman Empire; Greece; Crete
AD 30 Jesus crucified and resurrected; Pentecost; Holy Spirit arrives AD 48 Paul’s “famine visit” to Jerusalem; First Missionary Journey starts AD 50 Council at Jerusalem; Start of Second Missionary Journey. AD 53 Start of Third Missionary Journey AD 66 Paul writes Titus