The Language of Ethical Instruction in the Letter to Titus

Ethics-in-Titus-001So, probably around 18 months ago, the strangest thing happened.

I was invited to give a paper at a conference in Germany. Like, for real. The conference theme was “Ethics in Titus.” (Conference flyer) It seemed right in my wheelhouse.

I actually thought the invite was a phishing attempt, but after checking with my friend Ray Van Neste who was also on the invitation, I figured it was genuine.

Talk about imposter syndrome — the list of invitees read like a who’s who of people who have written on the Pastoral Epistles. And then me (with “Prof. Dr.” prepended to my name) right there with the rest of them. And my topic? “Ethics and Language in Titus.” Again, right in my wheelhouse, mostly.

So I said I’d write a paper (available here) and attend. I mean, who wouldn’t? Turns out they obtained funding, and my trip would be paid for (reimbursed).

I started writing the paper earlier this year. I did some research on the folks putting on the conference and found out that speech act theory was a tool used in other writings associated with these people, so started to dig in — especially since colleagues at Faithlife had recently completed a speech act analysis of the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament, and used that analysis to arrive at a specialized analysis of commands (which can be viewed as “ethical instructions”) as well.

Here’s the abstract:

This paper uses an application of speech act theory to identify ethical instruction (commands) in the letter to Titus. A further structural analysis of the letter according to the principles of Discourse Grammar segments the letter, grouping the ethical instruction into larger units. Each ethical instruction is examined individually to determine the nature and purpose of the instruction.

So I wrote the paper. But as the time of the conference approached, it became clear that it would not be best for my home life to be gone for 5–7 days (if you know me and my family, you know our schedules and needs of our kids are pretty crazy). So I had to back out attending, but they still wanted the paper, and since it was mostly done, I was able to provide a copy that they could hand out to attendees and it still has a chance to make the conference volume.

I’ve uploaded the paper to my “Papers” page, or you can directly download it:

If you happen to read it, please let me know what you think.

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