“Savior” in Titus

In my Bible reading a couple of days ago, I was struck by Paul’s use of Savior (σωτήρ) in Titus. Several things stood out to me. First, it occurs 6 times in the small letter of only 46 verses—twice per chapter. It occurs only 24 times in the whole NT. So it’s significant that 25% of the NT occurrences are in Titus.

Second, it occurs three times with reference to the Father and three times with reference to the Son. Paul alternates consistently between calling the Father then the Son our Savior. The occurrences in chapters 1 and 3 even occupy the same main thought.

Titus 1:1–4

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Titus 2:9–14

9 Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 3:4–7

4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

I’m sure I’m not the first to take note of this, but it is always exciting to spot little things like this for the first time.

What are the implications of this? Two come to mind.

  1. It highlights the equality and oneness of the Father and Son. They are not two separate Saviors. Paul doesn’t refer to God, one of our Saviors, and Jesus, our other Savior. The singular expression, our Savior, applies equality to both, yet does not result in more than one Savior.
  2. It underscores the unity of the Father and Son in the work of redemption. Jesus didn’t undertake the work of redemption against the will of the Father, who wanted nothing more than to pour out His wrath on us. The Father and the Son acted in a shared love to bring about our salvation.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the other occurrences of σωτήρ in the NT. Here are the data:

References to the Father (8x)

Lk 1:47; 1 Tim 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Tit 1:3; 2:10; 3:4; Jude 25

References to the Son (16x)

Lk 2:11; Jn 4:42; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Eph 5:23; Phil 3:20; 2 Tim 1:10; Tit 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Pet 1:1; 2:20; 3:2, 18; 1 Jn 4:141

I am in the habit of using Savior exclusively of the Son. I am going to make a concerted effort to refer to both the Father and the Son as our Savior.

Footnotes

  1. Tit 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 are examples of the Granville Sharp rule. Cf. Daniel Wallace’s excellent discussion.

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7 Responses to “Savior” in Titus

  1. Tom February 5, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    I usually think of him as my “saviour” but to each his own ;-) Thanks for this interesting post.

  2. Joe Miller February 5, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    hi Phil, I maybe I am missing it. Where does this book reference “Father” as savior?

    I see

    Jesus = Savior
    God = Savior

    But where is the reference to Father?

  3. Phil Gons February 5, 2008 at 8:01 pm #

    In the NT God is usually a reference to the Father.

    In Titus 1:1 Paul calls himself “a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” The most natural reading is that Paul has two different people in view. In verse 4, God refers to the Father (i.e., “God the Father”). The reference to God immediately preceding (i.e., the end of verse 3) is most naturally a reference to the Father.

    In Titus 3:4–7, we have *God our Savior* saving us by the “renewal of the *Holy Spirit*, whom *He* poured out on us richly through *Jesus Christ our Savior*.” Here God clearly does not refer to Jesus or the Spirit, so the most natural understanding is that the Father is in view—a beautiful Trinitarian text.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Joe Miller February 5, 2008 at 10:18 pm #

    hmmm.. I see what you are saying. I did a quick Logos “Bible Speed Search” and noticed that Paul almost exclusively says “God and Father.”

    One more question though, if you don’t mind. I think your 2nd point makes absolute sense. But, If these passages teach an equality of Jesus as God (your point one), then why do you suppose Paul never refers to Jesus as “God/”

    PS
    I came across your site from the Logos news group. I am a trinitarian, and ordained pastor. So please don’t misunderstand my question as someone trying to come in here to “trap” you. I just am looking for a comprehensive understanding of the specific text.

  5. Nick Norelli February 5, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    Joe,

    In a few disputed passages Paul does refer to Jesus as God (e.g., Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13). But I think that the simple answer is that it would have been too confusing for those living within a first century Jewish/monotheistic paradigm (Paul of course being a first century Jewish author).

    I think Paul’s way of including Jesus in the “divine identity” (to steal Richard Bauckham’s term) was much more subtle but just as potent. You’ll notice that Paul uses the term “Lord” (κυριος) something like 200 times in his epistles. I believe (and this is without doing a search) 180 of these uses are in reference to Jesus. This has significance because of course κυριος was the dominant translation of YHWH (יהוה) in the Septuagint.

    Many scholars (e.g., Martin Hengel, Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham) see 1Cor. 8:6 as Paul’s reinterpreted Shema (Deut. 6:4), in which he equates the one Lord, Jesus with the one God, the Father. Of course the Shema was Israel’s foundational confession of faith in YHWH as their God alone.

    If I might suggest a few books that you might be interested in (if you haven’t already read them):

    Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity – Larry Hurtado

    God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament – Richard Bauckham

    Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study – Gordon D. Fee

    Putting Jesus In His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ – J. Ed Komoszewski & Rob Bowman, Jr.

    All of these books address your question with much more detail than I have above. You might also be interested in some of these papers:

    Christological Resources Online

    Trinitarian Resources Online

  6. Phil Gons February 6, 2008 at 7:37 am #

    Hi, Joe,

    You asked,

    If these passages teach an equality of Jesus as God (your point one), then why do you suppose Paul never refers to Jesus as “God?”

    As Nick mentions, Titus 2:13 is an example of where Paul does refer to Jesus as God—if you accept the Granville Sharp rule. Here’s the text:

    τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

    The article governs both God and Savior, which function as a unit, and Jesus Christ is an appositive.

    2 Peter 1:1 is another example:

    τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

    Other possibilities include:

    • John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    • John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
    • John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
    • Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
    • Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”
    • 1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
  7. Joe Miller February 6, 2008 at 1:57 pm #

    Thanks to both of your for the responses. Lots of good references. I will read on :-)

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