On Titus 1:15 and the translation ‘to the pure all things are pure’, and what that verse really means and refers to

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Many bible-versions have in Titus 1:15 such wordings as “to the pure all things are pure”. Those who casually read that translation, might easily misunderstand it, especially if they read that verse without its context. Some might think that the apostle Paul meant that if one just is “inwardly pure”, then it does not matter what one’s “outer actions” are and that one can do whatever one wants. But, anyone who studies all of the New Testament, can easily see that Jesus and his apostles, including Paul, taught that the disciples were to live holy and righteous lives.

Some others have thought that Paul was talking about “foods”, in regard to the Old Covenant’s rules about “clean” and “unclean” meats. But, the context does not mention foods.

Paul was giving Titus instructions in regard to who could be elected as elders, and who not. Here is a part of the context which verse 15 belongs to:

Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and establish elders [a] in each town, as I told you 6 – if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children, not accused of profligacy or loose living. 7 Because, an elder [b] must be above reproach as God’s steward, not arrogant, not choleric, not addicted to wine, not a brawler, not seeking shameful gain 8 but generous, benevolent, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful word taught so that he may be able to both encourage with sound teaching as well as refute those who teach differently. 10 For, there are many confusing and vain talkers and deceivers (especially those of the Circumcision) 11 whose mouths must be closed, men who ruin whole families, teaching for the sake of shameful gain things that should not be taught. 12 One of them, a “prophet” of their own, has said, “Cretans are always liars, savage beasts, not willing to work.” 13 There is truth in that statement. Because of this, admonish them with severity, so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not turning their minds to Jewish fables and precepts of men who turn away from the truth. (BPT)

Again, that is the context which verse 15 belongs to. The matter of electing elders.

a Verse 5, “elders” – the Greek text has presbuterous.

b Verse 7, “elder” – as verse 5 shows, Paul was talking about elders, Greek presbuterous. The Greek text of verse 7 shows that he also called those elders episkopon. Clarification: In NT Greek, all of the words diakonos, episkopos and presbuteros are at times used of elders. The article nea010.htm has more on this.

Is it ‘to the pure, all things are pure’, or ‘with the pure, all things are pure’?

In the first part of Titus 1:15, the Greek text has the wording panta men kathara tois katharois, “all truly pure the pure”. That Greek phrase does not contain any clarifying prepositions. (It is the same in the Latin text of the Vulgate – omnia munda mundis, “all pure the pure”.)

But, the context shows that the meaning obviously is “with the pure, all things are pure”, and, “with the unfaithful and defiled ones, nothing is pure”. Like this:

Titus 1:15 With the pure, all things are pure. But with the defiled and unfaithful ones nothing is pure but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. (BPT)


Again, this was concerning elders. The apostle Paul was giving Titus instructions in regard to who could be elected as elders, and who not. He warned about persons whose motives were not pure, so that they were driven by their lust for money. [c] Only those whose motives and actions were pure, could be chosen as elders.

c “Lust for money” – see the earlier quoted verses 7 and 11. In them, the Greek text has aischrokerdês and aischrou kerdous, referring to lust for shameful gain.

A note: Verse 15 mentions even conscience. There are many kinds of dogmas regarding that subject, but the facts are that if a person has a strong and pure conscience, it will keep that person away from wrongdoing. But, if a person’s conscience is defiled – such as through lust for money – then it is weakened and cannot keep that person away from wrong things. That is what the mention of defiled conscience refers to, in Titus 1:15.

Again, verses 5–14 show that Paul was giving Titus instructions in regard to what kind of persons were fit for election as elders, and who were not. Verse 15 refers to two groups:

A note: Titus 1:5–15 is easier to understand if one knows that among the saints, elders were not paid. – Many bible-versions contain wordings which make it seem that they perhaps were paid, but those who study all of the New Testament with care, will find that that is not true. And, if one looks at what the Greek NT text says, that matter becomes even more clear. For more on this, look under the heading “Money” on the page key42.htm.


Again, the context of Titus 1:15 is that the apostle Paul was giving instructions to Titus, in regard to what kind of persons could be elected as elders.

In that connection, he warned about persons whose minds and consciences were defiled by their love of money – persons who “for the sake of shameful gain teach things that should not be taught”, Titus 1:11.

Titus 1:15, “With the pure, all things are pure. But with the defiled and unfaithful ones nothing is pure but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.”

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm

What does the Bible say about elders? What was their role in the saints’ fellowships? → nea010.htm

What does the Bible say about ordaining or ordination? How did the saints choose their elders? Were those elders “ordained”, and did they function as “priests” of some kind? → nea020.htm

Acts 20:35 – what the apostle Paul meant when he reminded the elders from Ephesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive. → nma020.htm

What is the truth about tithing, the concept of giving “tithes” to a church? → nma010.htm

Some notes on 1 Corinthians 9:14–18. → nma050.htm

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