5

The letter to Titus has a much debated verse:

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) [ESV]

προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

For example, questions like this: Does Granville Sharp's Rule indicate that “God” and “Savior” share a referent in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1? highlight the issue. Does Paul mean one or two?

  • One: the great God and Savior Jesus Christ
  • Two: the great God (who is the Father) and Savior Jesus Christ

I am interested in the phrase μεγάλου θεοῦ which is with few exceptions translated as "great God." Where does this come from? Is this a proper way to refer to the Father? Or would it be more appropriate to use this phrase to describe the Son?

One candidate I found is in Isaiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

כִּי־יֶלֶד יֻלַּד־לָנוּ בֵּן נִתַּן־לָנוּ וַתְּהִי הַמִּשְׂרָה עַל־שִׁכְמֹו וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמֹו פֶּלֶא יֹועֵץ אֵל גִּבֹּור אֲבִיעַד שַׂר־שָׁלֹֽום

Which the LXX translates using μέγας as in Titus:

because a child was born for us, a son also given to us, whose sovereignty was upon his shoulder, and he is named Messenger of Great Council, for I will bring peace upon the rulers, peace and health to him.

9:6 (LXX 9:5) ὅτι παιδίον ἐγεννήθη ἡμῗν υἱὸς καὶ ἐδόθη ἡμῗν οὗ ἡ ἀρχὴ ἐγενήθη ἐπὶ τοῦ ὤμου αὐτοῦ καὶ καλεῗται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελος ἐγὼ γὰρ ἄξω εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας εἰρήνην καὶ ὑγίειαν αὐτῷ

Obviously the LXX deviates from the Hebrew, but using μέγας to render "Mighty God" as μεγάλης βουλῆς (Mighty counsel) suggests the correct way to express the Hebrew אֵל גִּבֹּור would be similar to μεγάλου θεοῦ as found in Titus.

Does μεγάλου θεοῦ, great God, in Titus come from Isaiah 9:6?

  • 1
    Interesting possible connection. Thank you for posing this question. – Ruminator Feb 11 at 19:31
  • I agree - excellent question. – Dottard Feb 11 at 20:45
  • "God" and "Mighty One" may be considered separate, just as may be "Counselor" and "Wonderful" (which in Hebrew means marvelous, mysterious, unknownable, miraculous, remarkable), not 'he's just great, you know?' – Sola Gratia Feb 11 at 20:50
  • (+1) Thought provoking. – Nigel J Feb 11 at 21:01
1

The phrase appears in the LXX, Josephus, and Philo. None of these occurrences that I found are Messianic references. They all appear to be in reference to the Father. There are three occurrences where there is an exact match in inflection (i.e., μεγάλου θεοῦ). They are preceded by an asterisk (*) in the references below. In the rest of the occurrences, μέγας is in the superlative and the phrase is either in the genitive, accusative, or dative case.

LXX: 2 Macc 3:36; 3 Macc 1:9, 16; 3:11; 4:16; 5:25; *7:2, 22.

Josephus: Antiq 6.86 (6.5.5); 7.353 (7.14.5); *8.319 (8.13.1); 9.133 (9.6.6); 9.211 (9.10.2); 9.288, 289 (9.14.3); 10.68 (10.4.5); 11.90 (11.4.4); 12.257 (12.5.5); 13.64, 67 (13.3.1); 15.385 (15.11.1)

Philo: Dreams 1.72, *94; Abr 235

Below are the three occurrences with an exact match in inflection for those who might not be able to access the texts otherwise:

*3 Macc 7:2 (NRSV):

“We ourselves and our children are faring well, the great God (τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ) guiding our affairs according to our desire.

*Antiq 8.319 (8.13.1) (William Whiston):

There was now a prophet of God Almighty (τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ), of Thesbon, a country in Gilead, that came to Ahab, and said to him, that God foretold he would not send rain nor dew in those years upon the country but when he should appear. And when he had confirmed this by an oath, he departed into the southern parts, and made his abode by a brook, out of which he had water to drink; for as for his food, ravens brought it to him every day;

*Dreams 1.94 (C. D. Yonge):

These are the opinions and notions of men who have never had the least conception or comprehension of the virtue of the almighty God (τοῦ … μεγάλου θεοῦ), and who, contrary to all human and divine law, impart the triviality of human affairs to the uncreate and immortal nature, which is full of happiness, and blessedness, and perfection;

| improve this answer | |
  • Welcome to the S.E. Q&A forum. Thank you for contributing. – Steve11235 Apr 16 at 13:44
  • @Steve11235 thank you for the warm welcome! – Ryan Stephen Apr 17 at 2:45
  • Thank you for the research. I doubt Paul looked to either Philo or Josephus. The deuterocanonical books are possible. Do you have any evidence Paul cited them? Also, a Jewish references to a great God is not really a reference to the Father. The term God the Father as such is New Testament. – Revelation Lad May 4 at 5:14
  • @ThomasPearne Do you have evidence that understanding came from the Old Testament directly or was it fueled by New Testament revelation? No. Because the OT concept of Father is plural as Sons of God or to the nation, Israel is my son. The idea of a singular Son (which is in conflict to the plural) is distinctly NT. – Revelation Lad May 4 at 16:13
  • @RevelationLad, I am not suggesting that the author is alluding to any of these above passages. You asked,"Is this a proper way to refer to the Father?" These passages indicate that this was indeed the case. You also asked "Where does this come from?" It appears to have been a known general expression for God in the late Second Temple period, though usually in superlative form. If the author is referring to the Father, then this description would not be unusual. This would apparently be expected. – Ryan Stephen May 13 at 21:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.