Titus 1:6

Titus 1:6

[bible passage=”Titus 1:6″]

What is the precise meaning of PISTA in Titus 1:6? Faithful, believing,
full of faith, trustworthy? Would you agree with the commentator below? Is this
an accurate conclusion based on NT usage etc.?

Pistos is a verbal adjective that passively means
“trustworthy”, or “faithful” (as KJV), and actively means to believe,
as rendered here. Some commentators believe that Paul is using only the
passive sense here and is simply referring to children who are
well behaved, who can be trusted to do what is right and are faithful to their

In the New Testament pistos is used
passively of God’s faithfulness (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18), of
Christ’s faithfulness (see e.g., 2 Thess.3:3; Heb. 2:17; 3:2), of the
faithfulness, or trustworthiness, of God’s words (see, e.g., Acts 13:34; 1 Tim.
1:15; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 1:9; 3:8). It is also used passively many times of
people in general. But it is significant that, except for this sometimes
disputed text (Titus 1:6), it always is used of people whom the context clearly
identifies as believers (see e.g., Matt. 25:21,23; Acts 16:15; 1 Cor. 4:2, 17;
Eph. 6:21; Col. 1:7; 4:7; Rev. 2:10, 13; 17:14). Unbelievers are never referred
to as faithful. That fact alone argues strongly for the rendering here of
children who believe, that is, who have placed their faith in
Jesus Christ. Even if the idea were that of faithfulness to parents, the use of
pistos in those other passages would argue for its referring to the
faithfulness of believing children.”


Mark Markham
Heidelberg, Germany

2 thoughts on “Titus 1:6”

  1. Mark,
    There is a kind of circularity of argument that crops up all the time in
    discussions of lexical semantics. The argument runs, signifier X never
    points to signified Y in corpus Z, therefor this instance of signifier X
    which is in corpus Z cannot point to signified Y.
    There are significant problems with this sort of reasoning. One is that
    each individual instance of signifier X within corpus Z must be
    semantically unambiguous for this argument to carry any weight.
    Semantically unambiguous uses of a given signifier might crop up once in
    a while but it would be very odd to find a common word like PISTA being
    semantically unambiguous across the entire corpus Z (e.g. New
    In a corpus as small as the NT, instances of a given signifier in a
    given context having semantic properties which are statistically
    irregular within the NT corpus are legion. In simple language, there are
    plenty of examples of common NT words which show up once and only once
    with a semantic property unattested elsewhere in the NT. The whole idea
    that the NT has a distinct vocabulary which is used with a sort of
    mechanical precision is IMHO wrong. For this reason I am very
    unimpressed by arguments of this sort, since they rest on the assumption
    that the NT is a unified corpus with regard to questions of lexical
    Only the detailed analysis of the immediate context can serve as a final
    arbitrator in cases like this and if the immediate context does not
    settle the question then the question remains unsettled.

    Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
    Three Tree Point
    P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

    I agree with your observations:
    > There is a kind of circularity of argument that crops up all the time in
    > discussions of lexical semantics. The argument runs, signifier X never
    > points to signified Y in corpus Z, therefor this instance of signifier X
    > which is in corpus Z cannot point to signified Y.
    I guess my question is one of preponderance of evidence. Do the NT writers
    (esp. Paul) seem to limit the use of this word to believers only? Would this
    be the linguistic exception?
    Secondly, the use of PISTA in a verbal fashion seems to mean believing as
    the more modern translations bear out. Are there any clues in the context
    that I have missed? Also what would the object of the belief be? Or are no
    answers to be found?
    Mark Markham
    Heidelberg, Germany

    In Titus 1:6 are found some of the qualifications for being an elder. It


    The phrase TEKNA ECWN PISTA has been translated to mean “children that are
    believers”. Since PISTA is the adjective PISTOS could the translation mean
    “children that are trustworthy”?


    Doug Paul

    Yes; actually there’s a whole range of possible senses, including
    “faithful, trustworthy, believing (in Christian doctrine), etc.

    The little glossary by B.Newman accompanying the UBS4 offers this range:

    PISTOS, H. ON faithful, trustworthy, reliable; believing (often believer,
    Christian; hO EK PERITOMHS. Jewish Christian Ac 10:45); sure, true,
    unfailing (TA P. sure promises or blessings Ac 13:34).

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
    Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
    cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
    WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

  2. Thanks for the comments, Malcom. While your point about the overall
    thrust of Paul’s remark is certainly on target, what I’m really
    interested in at this point is the precise significance of EN KATHGORIAi
    (ἐν κατηγορίᾳ). Is it this construction in particular that warrants
    Zerwick’s notion of being liable to an accusation as opposed to being
    merely the target of an accusation?

    Looking at the uses cited in LSJ (at least those to which I have
    access), I don’t find another example of the preposition EN with
    KATHGORIAi. While Zerwick’s comment certainly seems to make sense in the
    context of Titus 1:5ff, I’d like to see a more compelling case made than
    the mere fact that it seems unfair to me for a man to be disqualified by
    any accusation at all against his children, with or without merit.

    What I’d really like to know is simply if anyone on the list can verify
    that when it is said someone was EN KATHGORIAi of something, did that
    indicate the KATHGORIA had some credibility, that a man who is said to
    be EN KATHGORIAi of something is more clearly indicated to be open to an
    accusation than a man who is merely said to have been the object of a

    To put it another way, we say someone “stands accused” of something. But
    we don’t generally say that if the consensus is that the accusation is
    baseless. The expression “stands accused” suggests the verdict remains
    an open question. What I’m wondering is if “EN KATHGORIAi of something”
    carried a similar import.

    Jeff Smelser

    To any interested,

    I notice the NIV has “open to the charge” for EN KATHGORIAi (ἐν

    And for the sake of accurate sourcing, where I had previously mentioned
    “Zerwick’s notion of being liable to an accusation as opposed to being
    merely the target of an accusation,” I should have cited Mary Grosvenor.
    If I understand the prefaces, Zerwick passed away before volume II of An
    Analysis of the Greek New Testament was completed, and Grosvenor, who
    had “translated, revised, and adapted” volume I in collaboration with
    Zerwick, finished the 2nd volume.

    Jeff Smelser

    Dear Jeff,

    Your point is well posed. In light of the other occurences of KATHGORIA in the NT (Jn 18:9; 1 Tim 5:19) it would appear that KATHGORIA is a general unbiased term that may or may not be groundless. The term BLASFHMIA is generally groundless – but not exclusively cf Jude 9 KRISIN …BLASFHMIAS.

    I think 1 Tim 5:19 requires some sort of reliable substantiated proof of any KATHGORIA. Zerwick may be pressing the point too far here grammatically – although the caution and care that is required to take necessary precautions to avoid any pitfalls that KATHGORIA might entail are wholesome examples of prudent Christian conduct.

    Paul may have had in mind what developed into a later semantic sense (in addition to the sense of accusation) when he used EN KATHGORIAi. This will have to be determined both by a synchronic and diachronic analysis of the use of the word.

    A search of Thesaurus linguae graecae (TLG) produced a number of results for EN KATHGORIAi. I have listed a few below.

    Demosthenes Orat. Pro Megalopolitanis sect. 19.3


    Plato Phil. Phaedrus (Stephanus) pg 267 sect a line 2


    Julius Pollux Gramm. Onomasticon Bk 8 sect 66 line 7


    Later writers and commentators use and understood KATHGORIA as *a category.* Hence such examples as EN KATHGORIAi TIQETAI or OUDE TIQETAI EN KATHGORIA ORQWS.

    Joannes Chrysostomus wrote in Greek and produced comments on 1 Cor and Titus. You might profit from a perview there and how he understood Paul.

    Cordially in Jesus,

    Malcolm Robertson


    You have understood my question exactly. Thanks for the references. I’m
    eager to have a look at them, but it will be a few days before I’ll have
    access to them. EN KATHGORIAi FONOU ACRI KRISEWS looks especially

    Jeff Smelser

    I don’t know whether the use of EN with KATHGORIAi is significant or not, but (and I can’t remember whether or not this has already been mentioned) the other three ‘appearances’ of KATHGORIA in the New Testament (Luke 6:7, John 18:29 and 1st Timothy 5:19) all seem to point to the idea of a FORMAL accusation, as opposed to a PERSONAL, NON-OFFICIAL accusation. Is that supported by other literature?

    Andrew J. Birch
    Palma de Mallorca, Spain

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