Amplified: But avoid stupid and foolish controversies and genealogies and dissensions and wrangling about the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
Phillips: but mind you steer clear of stupid arguments, genealogies, controversies and quarrels over the Law. They settle nothing and lead nowhere. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But stupid questionings and genealogies and wranglings and contentions about laws turn away from and shun, for they are without profit and in vain. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about law, stand away from -- for they are unprofitable and vain.
BUT AVOID: periistaso (2SPMM): (Titus 1:14; 1Ti 1:3, 4, 5, 6, 7; 4:7; 2Ti 2:23)
The word can also mean to turn oneself about or to be a "bystander". The figurative meaning is to turn oneself about for the purpose of avoiding something. The action called for is to be aloof and keep oneself away from being involved in some activity. This figurative use pictures one actually going around something in order to avoid it. Phillips translates it "steer clear". Another source renders it "give them a wide berth".
Paul is telling Titus as well as the other church leaders on Crete to stand aloof so that he will avoid foolish unprofitable and worthless speculations. Those who taught these things listed below not only polluted and corrupted the churches but, by their sinful lifestyles hindered the credibility of the gospel. How does this type of leaven corrupt the church? The NT gives several effects of false teaching -- It unsettles the soul (Acts 15:24), shipwrecks faith (1Ti 1:19), leads to the ruin of the hearers (2Ti 2:14-note), produces ungodliness (2Ti 2:16-note), and spreads “like gangrene” (2Ti 2:17-note).
Periistemi is used 4 times in the (Jn 11:42; Acts 25:7; 2Ti 2:16; Titus 3:9) and 3 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Jos 6:3; 1 Sam 4:15; 2 Sam 13:31) and is translated: avoid, 2; standing around, 1; stood around, 1.
Periistemi is used with the literal meaning in John and Acts…
Paul used periistemi figuratively in his command to Timothy to…
In both Titus 3:8 and 2Ti 2:16-note periistemi is a command in the present imperative which calls for a continual action on the part of Titus and Timothy. The charge is to shun these things, deliberately and habitually avoiding them. "Turn yourself about so that you will avoid these things". "Continually place yourself at a distance from these and stand aloof from them."
The middle voice speaks of a reflexive action, one in which the subject initiates the action and participates in effect of the action. The idea of "reflexive" is that it expresses action directed on oneself. You yourself do this is the idea.
This command is specifically given to Titus but obviously applies to believers because no one is completely exempt from the corruptive influence of falsehood. Just as a doctor cannot help being exposed to a dangerous disease he is treating, a godly preacher or teacher cannot help being exposed to dangerous ideas. But just as a doctor keeps exposure to the minimum and concentrates on destroying the disease, so the godly preacher or teacher must keep exposure to falsehood at a minimum, while opposing and seeking to exterminate it with the truth. The spiritual plight of many denominations and Christian institutions that once were solidly biblical is abundant proof of the pernicious and pervasive destructiveness of false doctrine.
Now Paul "lists" 4 things Titus (and every believer) is to "steer clear of". Each of these nouns lacks the definite article in the Greek ("the") which stresses the quality of these things (as opposed to a specific controversy that may have arisen… he is to shun foolish controversies in general, and the same for genealogies, strife, and disputes about the law). The same sort of problems also existed at Ephesus (cf. 1Ti 1:3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
Spurgeon comments that…
FOOLISH CONTROVERSIES: moras de zeteseis:
Foolish (3474) (moros) is always used as term of reproach and conveys the meaning of that which is mentally dull, sluggish, stupid or moronic (English = “moron”). Void of understanding. Unwise. Imprudent. Acting without discretion. Marked by folly. Describes one who lacks good sense and/or good judgment.
In secular Greek moros meant a weakness of understanding or judgment, sometimes through stupidity, sometimes through confusion, but always demanding censure. In English that which is foolish is lacking in sense, judgment or discretion and thus is ridiculous, absurd and not worthy of consideration. The idea of "foolish" in Scripture speaks more of moral than intellectual deficiencies. It is used to picture people who live life as if God and His will were of no consequence.
What Paul is saying is that wasting time discussing these controversial, contentious matters is foolish behavior for God’s people to be involved in. It wastes time that should be spent proclaiming and expounding the gospel by which men enslaved to sin are set free in this life and the one to come.
Moros -12 times in the NT - Mt. 5:22 (note); Mt 7:26 (see note); Mt 23:17; 25:2, 3, 8; 1Co 1:25, 27; 3:18; 4:10 (Paul uses moros to describe himself and his fellow-workers as “fools” in the eyes of opponents); 2Ti 2:23 (see note); Titus 3:9.
Moros - 7x in the Septuagint (LXX) - Dt 32:6; Job 16:7; Ps 94:8; Is 19:11; 32:5, 6; Je 5:21.
Zetesis -7x times - John 3:25; Acts 15:2, 7; 25:20; 1Ti 6:4; 2Ti 2:23; Titus 3:9) and not in the Septuagint (LXX)
NAS = controversial questions, 1; controversies, 1; debate, 2; discussion, 1; how to investigate, 1; speculations, 1.
The most common meaning of zetesis refers to the exchange of words for the purpose of disputing, engaging in contentious, controversial questions. Zetesis denotes the preoccupation with pseudo-intellectual theorizing. It pictures one engaging in debates rather than the carrying out of a genuine search for information…
AND GENEALOGIES: kai genealogias:
Genealogies (1076) (genealogia from genealogeo [word study] = recount a family's origin and lineage, trace ancestry in turn from genea = generation + légo = reckon) literally refers to accounts of an ancestry, such as seen in a "genealogical tree".
In the context ("surrounded by" foolish controversies on one side and strife on the other) these genealogies were far more than a family's genealogical record, which by itself would be an innocent thing. While one cannot be absolutely dogmatic, it clearly the genealogies were not treated primarily as historical documents, but according to some commentators they were subjected to a highly symbolic interpretive scheme. Names, dates and places supposedly contained hidden meanings which became the basis for esoteric doctrines.
The only other NT uses of genealogia is found in first Timothy…
Paul is not referring to the genealogies found in Scripture, for these are critical for determining the lineage of the Messiah, as noted in the opening of Matthew 1:1ff ("The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.") and in Luke 3:23-38. Paul is referring to the many fanciful interpretations of such genealogies which could easily degenerate into controversial speculation and strife.
AND STRIFE: kai ereis:
Strife (2054) (eris) means contention, wrangling, quarrels. It refers to engagement in rivalry, especially with reference to positions taken in a matter, such a belief in the meaning of a genealogy! strife, a general term that carries the ideas of all kinds of self-centered rivalry and contentiousness about the truth. Strife is an expression of enmity with bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension. It refers to persistent contention, bickering, petty disagreement, and enmity. It reflects a spirit of antagonistic competitiveness that fights to have its own way, regardless of cost to itself or of harm to others. It is produced by a deep desire to prevail over others, to gain the highest prestige, prominence, and recognition possible. Strife is characterized by self-indulgence and egoism. It has no place even for simple tolerance, much less for humility or love.
Barclay writes that strife (eris) "is the contention which is born of envy, ambition, the desire for prestige, and place and prominence. It comes from the heart in which there is jealousy. If a man is cleansed of jealousy, he has gone far to being cleansed of all that arouses contention and strife. It is God-given gift to be able to take as much pleasure in the successes of others as in one’s own… Eris is the spirit that is born of unbridled and unholy competition. It comes from the desire for place and power and prestige and the hatred of being surpassed. It is essentially the sin which places self in the foreground and is the entire negation of Christian love… (Eris) is a word of battles. It denotes rivalry and competition, discord about place and prestige. It is the characteristic of the man who has forgotten that only he who humbles himself can be exalted. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)
Strife is typical of those who are unsaved (Ro 1:29-note) and of who are who are of the night (Ro 13:13-note), is productive of divisions (1Cor 1:11), is one of the deeds of the flesh (1Co 3:3, 2Co 12:20), it characterized those who preached Christ from selfish motives (Php 1:15-note) and which if constantly practiced strongly suggests that person is an unbeliever (Gal 5:20).
Paul explains the relationship between controversial questions (zetesis = controversies here in Titus 3:9) and strife recording that…
AND DISPUTES ABOUT THE LAW: kai machas nomikas:
Disputes (3163) (mache from machomai = to fight - this word is used for physical combat, especially military) when used literally refers to physical combat or a contest fought with weapons = battle, conflict, fight. The idea is a serious clash or conflict, and can be either physical or non-physical. It pictures violent personal relationships.
The antithesis of mache is the derivative Greek word amachos which according to Vine originally meant "invincible" (incapable of being conquered, overcome or subdued) but then came to mean a "non fighter", one who is reluctant to fight and who is not always looking for a fight (especially of a verbal nature). Not quarrelsome (not apt or disposed to quarrel in an often petty manner = stresses an ill-natured readiness to fight without good cause). This person is not contentious and so does not exhibit an often perverse and wearisome tendency (even a fondness) for arguing, quarreling and disputing. You usually know who these folks are! Amachos refers not so much to physical violence as to a quarrelsome person. To have a contentious person in leadership will result in disunity and disharmony, seriously hindering the effectiveness of that leadership team. Wuest says that amachos describes a person "who does not go about with a chip on his shoulder."
Amachos is in the list of qualifications of an overseer, where Paul records that a candidate should
All the NT uses of mache are figurative and in the plural referring to battles fought with words not weapons (although the tongue can certainly be a vicious weapon of sorts!) - disputes, fightings, quarrels, strife.
Mache is thought by some lexicons to be the source of the word machaira (“sword”).
NIDNTT writes that
Mache is used only 4 times (here in Titus 3:9) in the NT…
Mache - 17x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Ge 13:7-8; Jos 4:13; Jdg 20:38; 2 Sam 22:44; Job 38:23; Pr 15:18; 17:1, 14, 19; 25:8, 10; 26:20, 21; 30:32, 33; Isa 58:4). The LXX uses refer to both physical or non-physical conflicts.
A related Greek word, polemos, from which we get the English “polemics (an aggressive attack on or refutation of opinions or principles of another)” relates to general, prolonged, and serious disputing or combat and is often rendered “war". In comparison, mache represents the separate conflicts or battles of the war in general. (cf use of both words in James 4:1 below).
These word fights are over the Law of Moses presumably as it relates to Christians, a battle which was settled on the Cross, when Jesus took upon Himself the curse that the Law decreed for sin.
FOR THEY ARE UNPROFITABLE AND WORTHLESS: eisin (3PPAI) gar anopheleis kai mataioi: (Job 15:3; 1Corinthians 8:1; 13:2; 2Timothy 2:14)
These things listed above produce no spiritual benefit. They are useless and morally fruitless, and hence unworthy of time and serious consideration.
For (gar) - always ponder this term of explanation.
Unprofitable (512) (anopheles from a = without + opheleo = to profit) serving no purpose. It describes that which does not offer any special benefit and thus is without advantage, is useless and is unprofitable. In Titus 3:9, anopheles describes the "disputes about the law" which serve no purpose, and hence are noxious and even injurious.
The only other NT use is in Hebrews describing the old covenant …
The Septuagint (LXX) uses anopheles to describe idols:
In Isaiah after asking and answering the rhetorical question
God then asks
Worthless (3152) (mataios from maten = groundless, invalid) (see related logomacheo) means vain, empty, devoid of force, lacking in content, nonproductive, useless, dead, fruitless, aimless, of no real or lasting value. This adjective describes an ineffectual attempt to do something or an unsuccessful effort to attain something. Mataios emphasizes aimlessness or the leading to no object or end and thus is used to describe false gods or idols in contrast to the true God (see below).
NIDNTT comments that…
Mataios therefore describes unbelievers, whose lives sadly are futile because they lack divine insight and are thus are unable to live a life filled with eternal purpose and everlasting effect (see contrast of the eternal impact of the life of a believer disciplining himself or herself for godliness ). Unbelievers lead a futile life, in that it does not measure up to that for which human life was created, that ultimate purpose being to glorify God. How grateful the redeemed should be (Ps 107:2-note) that we have been ransomed from a futile existence by such a tremendous transaction… delivered from slavery to the world, flesh and devil by the blood of the Lamb.
TDNT adds that…
The idea behind mataios brings to mind pictures like building a house on sand (Mt 7:24;25;26;27 see note on Jesus' warning in Mt 7:24; 25; 26; 27), chasing the wind, shooting at stars, pursuing one’s own shadow. The spiritual plight of many denominations and Christian institutions that once were solidly biblical is abundant proof of the pernicious and pervasive destructiveness of false and therefore worthless doctrine.
Mataios - 6 times in the NT - NAS = futile, 1; useless, 1; vain things, 1; worthless, 3
Luke quotes Paul who uses mataios as a synonym for idolatry declaring
Here are the other uses of mataios in the NT…
Mataios is used about 75 times in the Septuagint (LXX) (Ex 20:7; 23:1; Lev 17:7; Deut 5:11; 1Ki 16:2, 13, 26; 2Ki 17:15; 2Chr 11:15; Esther 4:17; Job 20:18; Ps 5:9; 12:2; 24:4; 60:11; 62:9; 94:11; 108:12; Pr 12:11; 21:6; 26:2; 30:8; 31:30; Isa 1:13; 2:20; 22:2; 28:29; 29:8; 30:7, 15, 28; 31:2; 32:6; 33:11; 44:9; 45:19; 49:4; 59:4; Jer 2:5; 8:19; 10:3, 15; 51:18; Lam 2:14; 4:17; Ezek 8:10; 11:2; 13:6, 7, 8, 19; 21:29; 22:28; Hos 5:11; 6:8; 12:1; Amos 2:4; Jonah 2:8; Mic 1:14; Zeph 3:13; Zech 10:2; 11:17; Mal 3:14) where it is used several times for the Hebrew word habal (01891) which is rendered vanity or vanities, and frequently is used to describe to idols which are vain, empty, dead, useless and fruitless! For example in 2Ki 17:15 we read the tragic explanation of why Israel was taken captive into Assyria…
Wiersbe comments on this section writing that…
In Morning and Evening Spurgeon writes the following devotional entitled "Avoid Foolish Questions"…
Amplified: [As for] a man who is factious [a heretical sectarian and cause of divisions], after admonishing him a first and second time, reject [him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him], (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;
Phillips: If a man is still argumentative after the second warning you should reject him. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: A schismatic (sectarian) individual, after one or two admonitions be rejecting, knowing that he that is of such a character, is turned inside out, and keeps on constantly sinning, being self-condemned. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: A sectarian man, after a first and second admonition be rejecting,
REJECT: paraitou (2SPMM): (Romans 16:17; 1Corinthians 5:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; Galatians 5:12; 2Th 3:6,14; 2Ti 3:5; 2Jn 1:10)
Paul now passes from the reprehensible opinions to their perverted advocates.
Reject (3868) (paraiteomai from pará = aside and in this word gives a nuance of aversion or repudiation + aitéo = ask, beg) is literally to ask along side. To seek to turn aside by asking. As in Mark 15:6, this verb can mean to beg or request (a prisoner to be freed on the occasion of the Passover). In Luke 14:18, it conveys the sense of to beg off or of wanting to be excused from a positive response, in this verse one excusing himself for not accepting a wedding invitation. Finally, in the pastoral epistles (1,2 Timothy, Titus - see below), the meaning is to decline, refuse, to refuse to pay attention to, to shun, to avoid, to reject.
In secular Greek a wrestler was declared the victor when his opponents declined to engage him upon seeing his unclothed physique.
Present imperative means to make it your habit to stop associating with these individuals who cause schisms or divisions. In a parallel use in his second letter to Timothy Paul commanded his protégé to
Whereas God judges those who are not a part of the church, He has delegated responsibility to the church to exercise its own discipline. Exercising the ban or excommunication is the method of discipline, provided the attempts described in Matthew have been executed first (Mt 18:15, 16, 17). The ban should be the decree of the whole church together (v4).
CHURCH DISCIPLINE 101
A study of the NT reveals a number of habitual (emphasize this word), visible unrepentant acts which clearly call for church discipline:
A FACTIOUS MAN AFTER A FIRST AND SECOND WARNING : haretikon anthropon meta mia kai deuteran nouthesian : (1Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20; 2Pet 2:1) (Matthew 18:15, 16, 17; 2Co 13:2)
Spurgeon comments that…
Factious (141) (hairetikos derived from verb haireo = to take, to take for one’s self, to choose, prefer) describes a person who is able choose, which came to mean one who is schismatic, contentious or divisive. Thus this man chooses for himself and takes a certain position on a given issue, be it doctrine or standard of behavior, etc. In secular Greek there is no inherently evil meaning suggested, but simply a marked difference from a standard teaching. A "heresy" only becomes wrong when it substantially contradicts a clear doctrine of Scripture (theistic evolution, denial of the virgin birth).
As used in this verse Paul is clearly giving a negative connotation to the word hairetikos. In context this is a person who is quarrelsome and stirs up factions through erroneous opinions, a man who is determined to go his own way and so forms parties and factions. His self-chosen opinions are those described in verse 9.
A heretic as we commonly use in English is one who refuses to accept true doctrine as it is revealed in the Bible, and prefers to choose for himself what he is to believe. He is one who willfully chooses for himself and sets up a faction (1Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20). Our responsibility is to reprimand such a person twice and then avoid him if he does not change. Compare to Jesus teaching in Matthew 18…
Although not the same Greek word the idea is similar in Romans 16 where one still belongs to the fellowship, but whom the fellowship eventually had to exclude.
Warning (3559) (nouthesia from noutheteo [see word study] = literally "put in mind" from noús = mind + títhemi = to place or put -- it describes exertion of influence upon nous implying resistance) is any word of encouragement or reproof which leads to correct behavior. It conveys the idea of giving one counsel about avoiding or ceasing an improper course of conduct. Nouthesia can mean advise given concerning dangerous consequences of a happening or action.
TDNT writes that the related verb noutheteo…
Nouthesia stresses “training by word,” whether of encouragement, or, if necessary, by reproof or remonstrance. Paideia stresses training by act and discipline (see use of both together in Eph 6:4 below). Nouthesia is the milder term without which paideia would be incomplete. In both words there is the appeal to the conscience, will, and reasoning faculties. A synonym is epanorthosis translated "correction" (2Ti 3:16-note) was used of setting upright an object that had fallen down and of helping a person back on his feet after stumbling.
Titus is to reprimand this factious man once and then again, administering a word of remonstrance, rebuke, and censure, always with a view to reclaiming him (cf to Mt 18:15, 16, 17 above). However, if these attempts to "rehabilitate" the man fail, Titus is to "refuse" him, and have nothing to do with him. He is to refuse to be bothered with him. All further attention is to be withdrawn from the factious man leaving him to himself.
As Harvey has written…
There are only 2 other NT uses (none in the Septuagint - LXX) of nouthesia…
Amplified: Well aware that such a person has utterly changed (is perverted and corrupted); he goes on sinning [though he] is convicted of guilt and self-condemned. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
Phillips: You can be sure that he has a moral twist, and he knows it. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: knowing that he that is of such a character, is turned inside out, and keeps on constantly sinning, being self-condemned. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: having known that he hath been subverted who is such, and doth sin, being self-condemned.
KNOWING THAT SUCH A MAN IS PERVERTED AND IS SINNING: eidos (RAPMSN) hoti ezestraptai (3SRPI) o toioutos kai hamartanei (3SPAI): (Titus 1:11; Acts 15:24; 1Timothy 1:19,20; 2Timothy 2:14; Hebrews 10:26)
Knowing (1492) (eido) intrinsically inherently knowing the truth about such a man and perfect tense speaks of the permanence of the knowledge. Titus you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man is warped, continuing to sin, and is actually participating in a sense in his own condemnation.
Hiebert - The reason for the attitude lies in what the man is. "Knowing that" means that his refusal to listen to the admonitions administered has shown Titus what the man is. As to his character he is shown to be "perverted." (Hiebert, D. Edmond: Titus and Philemon. Moody. 1957)
Perverted (1612) (ekstrepho from ek = out + strépho = to turn) turn out of a place, as for a tree or post from the earth, to turn inside out as a garment. Figuratively as used in this verse (only NT use) ekstrepho means a change for the worse, to subvert or to pervert.
Perverted is in the perfect tense indicating the permanence or settled state of their perversion. These men at some point in time have been turned out of place, away from the Way, the Truth, the Life and they are still in that state. The passive voice indicates the turning out of place is produced in the subject by a force from without the subject.
Used metaphorically meaning to change for the worse. Turned or twisted out and medically referred to twisted ankles, turned knees, etc. Vincent says: “More than turned away from the right path: rather, turned inside out!” ( turn inside out as a garment)
Hiebert -The tense of the verb (perfect passive) indicates that he is in a state of being twisted, turned out of the right way. His refusal to heed the admonition shows that his is not so much an error of the mind as of the heart. (Ibid)
Sinning (264) (hamartano) means literally to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), to err, to sin, to offend, to trespass. To act contrary to the will and law of God. To commit that which is wrong.
Hamartano is used 43 times in the NT - Matt. 18:15, 21; 27:4; Lk. 15:18, 21; 17:3f; Jn. 5:14; 8:11; 9:2f; Acts 25:8; Rom. 2:12; 3:23; 5:12, 14, 16; 6:15; 1 Co. 6:18; 7:28, 36; 8:12; 15:34; Eph. 4:26; 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 3:11; Heb. 3:17; 10:26; 1 Pet. 2:20; 2 Pet. 2:4; 1 Jn. 1:10; 2:1; 3:6, 8f; 5:16, 18. The NAS renders it -- commit sin(1), committed offense(1), committing (1), sin(11), sinned(17), sinning(4),sins(8).
This individual is continually (present tense) "missing the mark" (so as not to share in the prize) that God has for his life. He is continually erring, swerving from the Truth (Jesus ultimately), going the wrong way. Specifically in this context he is continuing to sin both by his factiousness and his refusal to listen to admonition.
BEING SELF-CONDEMNED: on (PAPMSN) autokatakritos: (Matthew 25:26, 27, 28; Luke 7:30; 19:22; John 3:18; Acts 13:46; Romans 3:19)
Self-condemned (843) (autokatakritos from autos = himself + katakrino = to condemn) means condemned by one’s own decision, passing sentence upon oneself so to speak! It is a person who shows by his own actions that he is wrong or guilty. The factious person, who is twisted by his constant sinning, will manifest his wicked condition by his own words and actions, there by becoming self-condemned. Stated another way, this factious man having refused correction, actually participates in his own condemnation since he is without excuse.
Warren Wiersbe offers a practical application of this section suggesting that…