Resistance to Rome in Titus

The letter to Titus, and the Pastoral Epistles more broadly, are frequently viewed as advocating a position vis-à-vis the ambient culture termed by Dibelius as christliche Bürgerlichkeit, wherein the community of believers is encouraged to seek extreme accommodation to and uncritical appropriation of the world’s power structures (Dibelius and Conzelmann, Pastoral Epistles, Hermeneia [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972], 8, 41). A key text for Dibelius’s development of his framework of christliche Bürgerlichkeit is Titus 2:11-15 because it grounds the Haustafel of 2:2-10 in the Christ event, giving theological justification for the lines of subordination found therein. In this paper, I will examine Titus 2:11-15 in light of the terminology it uses to describe God and Jesus (e.g., ἐπιφαίνω, τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν) which is also used elsewhere to describe the Roman Emperor in the imperial cult, and Zeus—to which the Roman Emperor was connected and the major deity of the island to which Titus is keyed (1:5, 12). I will contend that this appropriation of cult terminology is used as a means of resistance to the Roman Empire, contra Harry Maier’s recent argument against such an interpretation (Picturing Paul in Empire [London: Bloomsbury, 2013], 166). However, the context in which it is placed—between the Haustafel in 2:2-10 and the command to submit to authorities in 3:1—indicate ways in which Titus encourages emulation of power structures within the empire. I will analyze this tension between resistance and accommodation in Titus through the lens of postcolonial theory, suggesting that Titus encourages a hybrid identity for its readers.