Another household code passage in the New Testament is Titus Chapter 2. Titus 1:1-4 says the letter is written by Paul to Titus who is working in Crete. (I’m very much aware that many scholars believe this letter was from the late first century and pseudographical but for the sake of simplicity I will simply refer to the author as Paul.) The people of Crete were known for their licentious unruly behavior. The central focus of the letter is errant doctrine taught by some Jewish teachers . The letter is to instruct Titus on to lead the community with sound instruction into holy living that is beyond reproach. The second chapter is where we find the household code:
1 But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. 2 Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
3 Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.
9 Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, 10 not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you. (NRSV)
Because we are not of this culture, must of us overlook a very important cultural issue at play here. Titus is the teacher. He has four groups of (free) people he must teach. They're listed in this order: older men, older women, younger women, younger men. It was socially taboo for a man to teach young women, especially unmarried women. Titus would have been seen as a womanizer. (According to Kenneth Bailey, it is still true throughout much of the Middle East today.) Therefore, instruction for younger women fell upon elder women. There is no prohibition of women teaching men implied at all in this passage. The implied prohibition is on men teaching young women and thus bringing scandal upon the church. The passage is about four teacher-to-student relationships:
Student: older men (v. 2)
Student: older women (v.3)
Teacher: older women
Student: younger women (vs. 4-5)
Student: younger men (v. 6)
The desire to avoid scandal and licentious behavior is apparent in the instruction on what the older women should teach the younger women:
… 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, ….
Why? Because Eve was created second and to be Adam’s helper? Because women are more easily deceived and need to be under the authority of a man? No!
… so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Paul is similarly concerned about that the young men behave well because:
…then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.
There is a strong missional component to these instructions. We see the same emphasis with the instruction to the slaves.
Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, …
….so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.
In other words, their behavior will ornament and give validity to sound teaching and the new creation.
It is interesting that the word hupotassesthai (be submissive) is used here, as well as in verse 5. (Forms of huppotasso are used in 1 Peter to reflect the attitude toward government (2:13), of slaves toward masters (2:18) and of wives toward husbands (3:1, 5)) This word indicates a person who chooses of their own volition to place them self lower in rank to someone else. According to Greco-Roman household codes, women and slaves did not choose to be lower in rank, they were lower in rank. Thus, it was not necessary to address women and salves, but it was necessary in Christian community where all are siblings in Christ and of the same status.
This household code in Titus differs from others in the Bible in that it is instruction to an instructor on how to teach the household code. Still, the same three contrasts we made between 1 Peter’s code and the Greco-Roman code apply here:
- The code is not based on a desire to protect the social order or gain conformity to some ordained order of the world.
- Nowhere is the paterfamilias told to rule his household.
- Members of the household, like women and slaves, are treated as free moral agents who have the ability to choose how to behave within the household.
The call is to abandon the host culture’s obsession with status seeking in other-centered missional love, so that “the word of God may not be discredited,” “any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us,” and “in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.” The household code is missional.