Titus 3:9

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

Where do we draw the line between proper hermeneutics and foolish arguments? Is there a set of criteria?

  • 1
    If it's foolish (and unlearned, KJV) it is to be avoided. That's the criterion.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 31, 2021 at 4:37

4 Answers 4


'proper hermeneutics' requires;

  1. an honest reading of the biblical text with a conscious effort to avoid reading into the text that which is not there - eisegesis.
  2. being alert to additions to the text which have altered the original intent.
  3. a resolute pursuit of biblical context which often, quite readily, helps to understand a difficult passage.

'foolish arguments' are those matters and perspectives that are plainly not of the text but can be rendered as simply an opinion which matters little to the Gospel and the purpose of the inspired word - to draw men to God through His son Jesus.

There seem to be very few important matters which are not readily determined to be either, read out of the word or read into the word, by an honest and humble evaluation of a responsible translation.

  • 2
    While I fully agree - that is tricky because that is the human tendency of all of use to engage in foolish argument and not proper hermeneutics. The divine wisdom is to know which is which.
    – Dottard
    Jan 31, 2021 at 3:11
  • 1
    Very good answer +1 Proverbs 1:7 (NASB) " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." Feb 3, 2021 at 14:50

These are the guidelines given to us (I Cor. 4:6):

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.

What should we not think beyond? Paul said, "what is written". Hence, if we are going to discuss and explain what is written, then we should reference what is written, or better put: let the Bible do the explaining, rather than conjecture.

  • 1
    Simple but clear and Bible based.
    – Lesley
    Mar 9, 2021 at 12:01

Background: Paul knew there were some men within the church (known as Judaizers) who insisted that all Christians were bound by the Mosaic Law and must therefore be circumcised if they were to be saved. Titus, a Gentile Christian, was well placed to refute their teachings (Galatians 5:1-6). These men were rebellious deceivers, who had to be silenced because they were ruining whole households for the sake of dishonest gain (Titus 1:10-11).

Paul therefore exhorted Titus to speak about sound doctrine and to refute those who oppose it. He was to avoid “foolish controversies (or questions), and genealogies, and arguments and quarrels about the law, because they are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9).

How to understand Titus 3:9? Elsewhere, Paul repeated the same instructions to Timothy:

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels (2 Timothy 2:23).

The point being made by Paul was to avoid divisive people who promote dissension by propagating extreme views of legitimate Christian truths.

You ask, “Where do we draw the line between proper hermeneutics and foolish arguments?”

There are some questions that are unanswerable because the Bible is silent. For example: Why is the tribe of Dan not mentioned in Revelation chapter 7? Such a question can only produce an opinion-based answer, depending on whether a person subscribes to either a literal or a symbolic translation of Revelation, or whether they pick and choose which parts are literal and which parts are symbolic. Furthermore, it’s a waste of time because it does not affect our eternal future.

Other questions appear to take a verse out of its immediate context thereby doing damage to the intent of the verse. Ignoring the wider context of the chapter and book, or failing to understand the historical/cultural context will also lead to problems. Sometimes there is a genuine appeal for a proper understanding of Scripture, but other times the question becomes controversial and divisive.

Jude urged the early Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”. Discernment is called for in deciding which questions are genuine and which questions are divisive. We should strive to follow the model of the early church in Jerusalem: “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). There was unity in the early church because they were steadfast in studying Scripture and, like the Bereans, held up God’s Word as the blueprint for belief.


I think this is a critical question to be dealt seriously with humility (up-voted). Citing appropriate texts from the Scripture and pulling relevant quotations from various authors, below is my sincere reaction to the question:

  1. Recognize the veracious authority of truth which is always true beyond a shadow of doubt (2Cor. 13:8); to reject truth is to incur judgement “that they all might be condemned who believed NOT the truth ... (2Thess. 2:12).”

  2. Realize that there are key “rules laid down in the Scripture to govern and regulate the teaching of doctrines which, if we would ALWAYS heed and follow, we would never be guilty of telling or preaching “doctrinal lies.” The FIRST one is that no doctrine can be established upon any one, single scripture. Jesus said, “In the mouth of TWO or THREE witnesses every word may be established (Matt. 18:16; John 8: 13-18).”

Then we should never teach and preach everything we believe, while we need to believe all we preach. “How is this,” you say? One can believe things which are not scriptural. Jesus had this to say about what HE taught and testified: “Verily, verily (truly, truly), I say unto thee, ‘We speak that we DO KNOW (not merely what we believe and think is right), and testify that we HAVE SEEN’” (John 3:11). Be sure you are right before you preach doctrine, as it generally pertains to salvation directly or indirectly and has to do with the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women.

Doctrinal lying is a terrible thing for anyone to contemplate doing; but, nevertheless, much of it is being done right over the sacred desk, and elsewhere, pertaining to the plan of salvation, holy living, eternal punishment, etc.”.

[Quoted from the book “The Sin of Lying by Elder. B. E. Echols, p. 42]

  1. Ponder and search out and set in order, search to find just the right words, and what is upright and true (Ecc. 12:9-10); compare spiritual things with spiritual (2Cor. 2:13-15).

  2. “Listen to Your Teacher

It always amazes to recall that God himself wants to be our teacher. His word on the subject is this:

‘And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need to have anyone teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about ALL things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1Jh. 2:27 NASB)’

By this we understand that the Spirit of God, who lives in each believer, is our private tutor. Though God has given us pastors and teachers for our good (Eph. 4: 11, 12), they are in addition to (and no substitute for) the Holy Spirit. This means that the humblest believer in Christ may be taught of God through His word, even when human teachers are lacking.

The Lord Jesus Christ makes it abundantly clear in these words:

‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into ALL truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (Jh. 16: 13, 14)’

Though the primary application of these words is to the eleven disciples whom he was addressing in this upper room scene, our Lord makes it clear that the Spirit’s ministry of teaching would extend to all believers in Christ. For He says:

‘I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word. Jh. 17:20’”

[Quoted from the book “Basics of Bible Interpretation by Bob Smith (Robert W. Smith), p. 24]

  1. Avoid the danger of disregarding literary context

“You have probably heard it said that you can make the Bible say anything you want. That is true only if you disregard the literary context. When you honor the literary context (...), you cannot make the Bible say just anything.

... This usually happens when individuals focus on a single verse without paying attention to how the surrounding verses might affect its meaning. ...

... The way our Bibles have been divided into chapters and verses doesn’t help matters much. The chapter and verse numbers help us find passages quickly, but they can also lead us to believe that each verse stands alone as an independent unit of thought, like a number in a phone book. Just because we attach numbers to the sentences in a paragraph doesn’t mean that we can rip one particular sentence out of its context and disconnect it from what precedes or follows.”

[Quoted from the book “Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall & J. Daniel Hays, pp 119-120].

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