Paul wrote to Titus to exhort him to sound teaching (or doctrine). He said this 5 times in the first 26 verses (1:9, 13-14, 2:1, 7, 10). Then he follows with a statement whose meaning is disputed:

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 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 2:13-14)

There are three ways the phrase our great God and Savior Jesus Christ may be interpreted:

  1. There is one referent: Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. That is, Jesus is both great God and the Savior of us.
  2. There is one referent who had two natures: The great God and Our Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us. That is Jesus is the great God and by nature of becoming human is the Savior of us.
  3. There are two referents: The great God [i.e. the Father] and Our Savior Jesus Christ

In addition to the grammatical arguments in favor one #1, lexicons state great (μεγάλου) applies to Christ and means "being relatively superior in importance."1 So in this context Paul encourages Titus to teach Jesus Christ is a great God and Savior, superior in importance (to His Father) because He gave Himself for us (similar to Philippians 2:6-11).

In terms of #3, if Paul was intent on saying Jesus was not God, he could have done so simply by using his first or last reference to our Savior:

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (1:4)
Τίτῳ γνησίῳ τέκνῳ κατὰ κοινὴν πίστιν χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν

whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (3:6)
οὗ ἐξέχεεν ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς πλουσίως διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν

Either could have been used with the great God to indicate two different were intended:

Actual: τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Two different referents: τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
Two different referents: τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν

In terms of sound teaching if two referents are intended the actual text raises questions:

  • What advantage does his actual text offer over those which clearly state that?
  • Why use "great" a word which is unnecessary for "the Father" and more appropriately in this context applied to Christ?

Note, this is not specifically about whether the text is has 2 referents in mind. Rather, assuming that to be true, what is the added meaning from the actual text over the others?

  1. Fredrick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 2000, p. 624 [Also William F. Arndt F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 1957, p. 499]
  • See also Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40.
    – Lucian
    May 5, 2020 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


Two Thoughts:

(1) One thought is perhaps it might help to answer this hypothetical question by trying to answer the less hypothetical question of why Clement of Alexandria gives thanks τῷ μόνῳ πατρὶ καί υἱῷ, "to the only Father and Son"——Paedagogus 3.12.101——in reference to two persons. (I'm presuming he was not a Modalist.)

One reason I suppose that might explain the wording of both passages would be to imply the unity of Father/great-God and the Son/Savior, though they are different persons.

(2) Another thought is perhaps we should understand Titus 2:13 differently. Maybe the sense of Titus 2:13 is "Awaiting the blessed hope and the appearance of the great God's glory namely our Savior Jesus Christ." To the defense of this reading compare the phrase "Grace of God" in reference to Jesus in v. 11 and Jesus being likened to glory in Jn. 1:14; 2 Cor 4:6; and Heb 1:3. Admittedly, the distance between "glory" and "Savior" makes this reading questionable. Although there is a similar distance between "Father" and "God" in 2 Cor 1:3, for example, there is also an evident parallelism that isn't evident here in Titus 2:13.

  • The underlying problem with the actual text is the ability to apply simple and obvious rules of grammar which leads to a single person, Jesus Christ who is the great God and Savior because He gave Himself for us and except for equating God, this is a historically accurate understanding. Jesus gave Himself for us and that action was superior to the Father sending Him. Moreover, the use of another article (as in 1:4) would clearly convey either of the meanings you suggest. So the grammatical "gymnastics" are required to negate the simple and historically accurate literal text. Jun 5, 2020 at 17:53
  • Also if you are going to cite church Fathers, you have to recognize the overwhelming number of writings which clearly state the deity of Jesus, usually in response to heretics who claimed otherwise. Thus these writings are in effect a two-fold confirmation of how Titus should be understood. Jun 5, 2020 at 18:00

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