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In Titus 1:5-6, Paul writes the following to Titus (NKJV, emphasis added):

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.

Titus should appoint elders in every city "if a man is [...] having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (NKJV). What does this mean? Here are two interpretations of which I'm aware:

  1. As long as a man has faithful children at all, it doesn't matter if he also has rebellious children. For example, if a man has four children--Ron, John, Dawn, and Louie--but Ron and John become ungodly rebels, the man would still have "faithful children" who are "not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (NKJV)--namely, Dawn and Louie. Thus, the father would meet the qualification.
  2. "This verse teaches that a man must have at least one child 'that believes' (ASV) and he must not have even one child 'accused of riot or unruly.'" This position is quoted from a commentary written by Marshall Patton and published by Guardian of Truth. From how I understand this view, the aforementioned father would meet the "having faithful children" part of the qualification due to Dawn and Louie but would fail to meet the need for his children to "not [be] accused of dissipation or insubordination" (NKJV) due to Ron and John. Thus, the father would not fully meet what Titus 1:6 has in mind.

Which of the interpretations above, if either, is correct? For clarification, I'm not asking about candidates for the eldership who lack children. Rather, I'm asking about fathers who have some faithful children and some insubordinate children.

Note: As a reminder, this is a site for hermeneutics. Therefore, although outside sources are permitted to supplement our understanding of the text, the answers given should primarily reflect the meaning of Titus 1:6 itself, preferably by examining its grammar and syntax.

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  • (+1) There are several relevant answers in Did Paul in 1 Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6 require potential elders to already have children?. The question hits a different nuance, but it's likely that a very good answer would address both. Still, a great question.
    – Steve can help
    Oct 10, 2022 at 14:47
  • This is the same question as "does Titus verse require elders to have children". A Father shall not be condemned for son's sin. The interpretation makes no sense. The qualifications apply to all that all must manage their household perfectly, but the meaning of the instruction is that "choose the best man" for these jobs, he should especially be a honourable man, not an ordinary believer.
    – Michael16
    Oct 11, 2022 at 8:24
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    @SteveTaylor As you said, this addresses a different nuance. I'm not concerned with fatherless candidates at this point. I'm talking about fathers who have some unfaithful children and some faithful children. I just edited my question to explicitly make this distinction.
    – The Editor
    Oct 11, 2022 at 15:15
  • @Michael16 It isn't the same question since the linked question deals with fatherless candidates. My question deals with fathers, specifically fathers whose children are mixed in their faithfulness. Some prove faithful while others prove insubordinate and unfaithful. These are two related but separate questions dealing with different scenarios. I just edited my question to explicitly make this distinction.
    – The Editor
    Oct 11, 2022 at 15:17
  • *Don't know why I said "fatherless," lol; I meant "non-father," candidates without children.
    – The Editor
    Oct 12, 2022 at 12:54

2 Answers 2

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The Greek of Titus 1:6 reads literally (BLB):

if anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife, having believing children, not under accusation of debauchery, or insubordinate.

Let me present this in point form as follows. The Elder must have the following characteristics:

  1. blameless,
  2. the husband of one wife,
  3. having believing/faithful children,
  4. not under accusation of debauchery,
  5. nor insubordinate.

There are thus five requirements here: three are positive and two are negative. it is not immediately obvious which requirements apply to whom. However, by matching the grammatical number and gender of the nouns we have:

  • "faithful" is matched with "children" (both neuter plural)
  • "accusation of debauchery" is matched with "wife" (both feminine singular)
  • "insubordinate" is matched with "children" (both neuter plural)
  • "blameless" is matched with "husband" (both masculine singular)

[It is in V7 that the longer series of requirements for elders/overseers appears that set out a series of words that are all masculine singular: blameless, not self-willed, not quick tempered, not given to wine, not a striker, not greedy of base gain.]

Therefore, "not under accusation of debauchery" applies to the wife; and "believing/faithful" and "not insubordinate" both apply to the children.

There have been other questions on this site asking whether this effectively means that elder/overseers must be:

  • married
  • have children
  • male

For example, See Did Paul prohibit a woman from being an elder of a church? Whatever one says about being "male" also applies to having children or even being married.

My view is that an elder, IF married, the elder must have a good wife and children; BUT if a person is unmarried, that does not preclude being an elder any more that not having children precludes a person from being an elder.

ALL or SOME?

My view of the Greek grammar in Titus 1:6 is simple - it applies to all children if they exist in the elder's family. If half are rebellions and half are faithful, then that precludes the person as a candidate. See appendix below.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The Greek word τέκνα (plural) applies to children, young children, below the age of adulthood and thus still living at home. If a person had progeny that we adults, then by the principle of Eze 18, the father cannot be held responsible for the adult decisions of his adult descendants.

This further reinforces the idea that the requirements of children do not apply where that do not exist else the only people capable of being elders would be those with children living at home.

APPENDIX - Gill's comments about Titus 1:6

Objection. But why must none be put into the ministry that have such children? The fathers may be good men, though the children be bad.

Solution.

  1. Because the honour and repute of the church is more to be regarded than the interest of any private person.

  2. Because it is an ill sign that the parents of such children have not ruled their own houses well, keeping their children in all subjection and gravity under authority, and are therefore very unfit to rule the greater society of a church.

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  • + 1 for a thorough and convincing answer. It does beg the question as to whether the mere accusation of debauchery would be sufficient for disqualification. Hard to accept that "guilty until proven innocent" would be the biblical standard... but that does seem to be what is implied. Oct 10, 2022 at 21:52
  • @DanFefferman - good point - I would argue that it must be a valid accusation of debauchery to preclude candidature.
    – Dottard
    Oct 10, 2022 at 21:56
  • Can I get a clarification? In your version, does the debauchery issue pertain to the candidate, his wife, or his children? Most translators go out of their way to apply it to the children, not the candidate or his wife. Oct 11, 2022 at 3:31
  • @DanFefferman - the accusation of debauchery is feminine singular and so must apply to the wife.
    – Dottard
    Oct 11, 2022 at 10:00
  • @Dottard Thanks for your reply. Regarding debauchery, no translations or commentaries I've read argue it applies to the wife; rather, they apply it to the children. Could it be that, since it's a noun, the concept ("debauchery") can be feminine even though the ones who must not be accused of it ("children") are? For example, faith ("pistis") is feminine, but that didn't prevent Stephen (masculine) from being "a man full of faith [pistis, feminine] and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5, NKJV). In the same way, couldn't the fact that debauchery is feminine still allow for the children to be in view?
    – The Editor
    Oct 13, 2022 at 17:50
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In 1 Timothy 3:2, we see that the qualities of such men are given as absolutes. These absolutes are represented by Paul in the word Δεῖ – “must”. This properly suggests something that is absolutely necessary and binding, something that cannot be otherwise. Therefore, these qualities are NOT subject to human approval, human compromise, or human dismissal. We are never permitted to marginalize these qualities in the choosing of men to serve as elders. The man who serves in the capacity of an elder MUST possess ALL of these qualities.

An elder MUST have children who are πιστά – faithful / believing. This means he must have children of sufficient age to have become believers – children who are faithful Christians. This is the man who has successfully instructed his children well in the ways of the Lord.

• He must have believing children because,

“if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” I Timothy 3:5.

If he cannot instruct his own children in the way of the Lord so as to produce faith in them, how can he be trusted to do this for the Body of Christ? The proper rearing of children in the home becomes a training ground for the greater task of caring for and instructing the larger family of the “Church of God.”

• Having faithful children proves the uncompromising nature of the man. The expectation is that if the man can properly and successfully manage his own home in such a way, he should also be able to do the same with the family of God. Such a man can be trusted with God’s household.

 Does this mean all of his children or only some of his children? I have heard this argued in churches who were in the process of selecting men as elders. The answer is in what follows. His children cannot be accused of “dissipation or insubordination.”

• I find it interesting that the translators of the NKJV selected the word dissipation. This is an old middle English term that actually means ‘complete disintegration.’ An elder cannot have children who have completely disintegrated. I think this is a most fitting word. It refers to any sort of deviant, self-indulging behavior such as sexual immorality, drunkenness, depravity, lewdness, and you can fill in the blank. It seems every English translation uses a different word here. The Greek word is 'asotias' meaning 'unsaveable'. This is one who simply cannot be brought to repentance.

• He also cannot have children who are insubordinate or rebellious. This is from 'anypotakta' meaning not under God’s arrangement. Thus, he cannot have children who do not submit to God’s authority. This properly describes one who is non-submissive, having a defiant attitude towards duly-appointed authority. This is the antinomian, the child who has abandoned all restraint. This is the rebellious child.

The man who would serve as an elder of the Lord’s Body cannot have children of such character. An elder must have children who reflect the character of their father. This gives strength to the charge, “having believing children.” This means ALL of his children. None of his children can be of this type. He cannot have children who are unredeemable or unruly. The Elder stands as a reflection of Christ. His relationship to his family must reflect the relationship of Christ to his Church.

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  • Thank you for your reply. How would you respond to the alternative interpretation I offered in my question? In the example, if a man has four children--Ron, John, Dawn, and Louie--but Ron and John become ungodly rebels while Dawn and Louie stay faithful, wouldn't the man still have "faithful children" who are "not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (NKJV)--Dawn and Louie? Wouldn't the man still have "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (NKJV)--two, in fact? (I feel there's a problem with this argument somewhere, but I don't currently see where it is.)
    – The Editor
    Oct 13, 2022 at 17:56
  • But he also has children who are rebellious. If he is to serve as an elder he is not permitted to have children of this type.
    – oldhermit
    Oct 14, 2022 at 13:33
  • To explain the view some allege, the text doesn't say an elder must not have unfaithful children who are accused of dissipation or insubordination. Instead, it only says what kind of children he should have —"having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination." Thus, as long as the man in the scenario has "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination," then he meets the children qualification. And he does, since Dawn and Louie are "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" and he "has" them—they're his—right?
    – The Editor
    Oct 14, 2022 at 14:23
  • It is very simple. If an elder MUST have children of the first type and he CANNOT have children of the second type, then this only offers one possibility. All of his children must be of the first type.
    – oldhermit
    Oct 14, 2022 at 14:39

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