Living by the principles of sound doctrine – Tuesday, 32nd week in ordinary time – Titus 2:1-8, 11-14

Titus 2:1-8 is better read till verse 10. In this list of Christian household codes or household duties (in German nicknamed Haustafeln), the virtues and the vices are stereotypical with respect to the five groups addressed in Titus. The five groups are older men, older women, young women, young men, and slaves. All but one group is called to the cardinal virtue of moderation (temperance). The four cardinal virtues being prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. The word cardinal derives from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge.”

Just before this text, in 1:13. Paul asks Titus to “rebuke the false teachers sharply; so that they may become sound in the faith.” Paul says “their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their action. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work,” These are very sharp words by Paul and he does not mince his intention. As an aside, I wish those in the Episcopacy were as clear as Paul in calling out false doctrine rather than the happy-clappy messages we hear.

In contrast to the false teachers, Paul tells Titus that he must teach what is “consistent with sound doctrine.” He is then instructed to address five groups of people. Our text of today focuses on four groups of the five groups of people mentioned in Titus; slaves being the only one left out.

It begins with the senior men who must be sober, in contradiction to overindulgence of wine. They must be serious, which is not serious in behaviour, as in gloomy. They must be prudent and sound in the faith, in love and steadfastness. Older men in the community, by virtue of their seniority and experience of life, were expected to be examples of reserve, dignity and balanced moderation in their consistent living out of the Gospel. This was to be in contrast to many Cretans, earlier described as “liars, vicious beasts and lazy gluttons”.(2:12)

The older women were to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink. They are to teach what is good so they must encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children and to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, to be kind, being submissive to their husband.” In verses 4 and 5, the stress on domestic virtues is not unrelated to the fact that some of the younger women apparently had become involved in spreading heretical thought. The call to be submissive is characteristic of the socio cultural ideology at that time and should not be understood with alarm or misread by some as a means of domination or discrimination.

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