Re: Titus 1:6 PISTA

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Sat Feb 26 2000 - 15:37:06 EST

>From: "Mark Markham" <>
>To: Biblical Greek <>
>Subject: Titus 1:6 PISTA
>Date: Sat, Feb 26, 2000, 11:36 AM

> 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 parents.
> 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."


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

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