"Titus" as "Timothy"

 

The absence of Titus from Acts

Nearly all the prominent believers named in Paul’s letters, and many of the minor

characters, are also mentioned in Acts. These include the names Peter, Barnabas,

James, John, Timothy, Prisca/Priscilla, Aquila, Crispus, Sosthenes, Apollos,

Gaius, Erastus, Jason, Sosipater/Sopater, and Aristarchus. However, the names

‘Silvanus’, ‘Cephas’, and ‘Titus’ are conspicuously absent from Acts. Most

commentators agree that Silvanus and Cephas are known in Acts by other names

(Silas, and Peter). This strongly suggests that "Titus" is also known by a different

name in Acts. "Timothy" is the only serious candidate.


Relationship to Paul

Titus appears in Galatians and 2 Corinthians. He is Paul's "partner and co-worker"

(2 Cor. 8:23) and "brother" (2 Cor. 2:13). Timothy is likewise described as Paul's

"brother" and "co-worker of God" (1 Thess. 3:2). Both "Timothy" and "Titus" were

subordinates of Paul. Timothy was sent by Paul to Corinth and Thessalonica, and

was to be his emissary to Philippi. Similarly Paul sent Titus to Corinth, and "took"

him to Jerusalem. Paul's relationship with Titus is therefore entirely consistent with

his relationship with Timothy.


Phonetic resemblance

The names "Titos" and "Timotheos" begin with the same two latters. Only 1.4% of

people began their name with "Ti". The "i" in the two names was pronounced

identically or very nearly identically in the first century and was probably close to

the "ee" sound in "feet".(1) Furthermore, Hebrew and Aramaic had no "th" sound. In

any event "Theta" and "Tau" are close, and were sometimes interchangeable in

Greek inscriptions.(2) Therefore the names would have been pronounced something

like "Teetos" and "Teemoteos" to Palestinian Jews. Timothy would have been given

his name by Paul, who had been brought up in Jerusalem from childhood (Acts

22:3), or by the Jerusalem church leaders during the time of Gal 2:1-10. The two

names would therefore have been particularly close for the name giver(s). The

similarity in sound of the two names increases our suspicion that they belonged to

the same person. When Palestinian Jews were given a new name, for whatever

reason, it was often chosen for its similarity in sound to the original name. In the

New Testament we have Paul-Saul, Silvanus-Silas, Jesus-Justus, Joseph-Justus,

Simeon-Simon, Mary-Magdalene, and perhaps BarJohn-BarJonah. Note also the

case of Bar Kosiba who was renamed Bar Kokhba. In this case the new name was

chosen both for its meaning and because it was a near homophone to the original

name. In the Old Testament we have Abram-Abraham, Sarai-Sarah, and

Hoshea-Joshua.


(1) See the discussions by Carl Conrad here, and Randall Buth here.


(2) The Greek name "Dositheos" was written "Dositeos" in Greek letters in an

inscription at Masada. (Rachel Hachlili, "Names and Nicknames at Masada" in

These are the Names. Studies in Jewish Onomostics Vol.3, Ed Aaron Demsky,

Bar-Ilan University Pres, Ramat Gan p97).

Generally Theta was used to transliterate Tav, and Tau was used to transliterate

Tet, but there are a significant number of variations (see Lexicon of Jewish Names

in Late Antiquity p. 19).


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