Friday, June 6, 2014

Meet Me in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12)

Where did Paul hope to spend the winter if he was released from the Roman prison? Nicopolis (Titus 3:12)

Titus is a letter from Paul to the epistle’s namesake, his protégé, Titus (Titus 1:1-4). As such it is commonly categorized (along with the letters to Timothy) as a Pastoral Epistle. Following the standard epistolary format of the era, Paul closes with personal concerns (Titus 3:12-15). He begins these remarks by expressing his desire to rendezvous with Titus in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12).

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. (Titus 3:12 NASB)
Clyde E. Fant (b. 1934) and Mitchell G. Reddish (b. 1953) assess:
In many ways, this is a curious text. Nowhere is any previous contact by Paul with Nicopolis mentioned in the New Testament, nor is there any reference to any church at Nicopolis or, indeed, anywhere west of the heavily populated eastern coastline of Greece. On the other hand, Paul’s mission strategy seems to have been to plant churches in newer, vigorous, Romanized cities in strategic trade areas. (A more traditional, older Greek city such as Athens, for example, seems to have received less attention, and no church at Athens is ever mentioned in the New Testament.) Probably the greater openness and dynamism of such cities coupled with the greater likelihood of a new movement spreading from these more cosmopolitan places, influenced his thinking. (Fant and Reddish, A Guide to Biblical Sites in Greece and Turkey, 87-88)
Much like concluding contemporary communication with “(hope to) see you soon!”, ending with a travel itinerary is customary in New Testament epistles. W. Hulitt Gloer (b. 1950) and Perry L. Stepp (b. 1964) inform:
As in other letters, Paul’s final instructions give details about his travel plans and companions. He usually mentions his desire to visit the recipients (Romans 1:11, 15:22-24, 28-29; I Corinthians 11:34; II Corinthians 1:15-16, 12:20-21, 13:10; Philippians 2:24; I Thessalonians 2:17-18; Philemon 1:22) and occasionally gives specific details of his travel plans (Romans 15:22-29; I Corinthians 16:5-9). His instructions to Titus here are in keeping with his practice of sending trusted coworkers to act in his stead when he is not able to visit. (Gloer and Stepp, Reading Paul’s Letters to Individuals: A Literary and Theological Commentary on Paul’s Letters to Philemon, Titus, and Timothy, 123)
Paul plans to spend the winter in Nicopolis and the Greek text demonstrates that his decision is final (Titus 3:12). George W. Knight III (b. 1931) explains:
Titus is to come “because” (γάρ) Paul “has decided” (κέκρικα, from κρίνω) “to winter there,” the perfect tense expressing a settled decision. The infinitive παραχειμασαι with ἐκεί, “to spend the winter” “there,” indicates the decision that Paul has reached. (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 357)
Paul instructs Titus to do everything within his power to make an appearance in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Philip H. Towner (b. 1953) explicates:
Once relief had arrived, Titus was to travel to Nicopolis to be with Paul for the winter. The language of this instruction is identical to that given to Timothy in II Timothy 4:9: “Do your best to [hurry/hasten to] come to me.” The versions opt for the sense of determination (II Timothy 2:15) rather than for speed (II Timothy 4:21), but the time frame probably suggests that, once relieved, Titus is to make his move without delay. (Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 800)
The ministers are to meet in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). The name of this destination appears only here in the New Testament. George W. Knight III (b. 1931) investigates:
Paul wants Titus to join him at Νικόπολις (a New Testament hapax; see James M. Houston [b. 1922], Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible IV, 436; Gerald L. Borchert [b. 1932], International Standard Bible Encyclopedia III, 534f.). Although several places were known by that name (see Theodor Zahn [1838-1933], Introduction to the New Testament II, §35, n. 3), the capital of Epirus best fits the time framework of the letter and the reference in II Timothy 4:10 to Titus being in Dalmatia, which was just up the coast from Epirus. Nicopolis was on the coast of Greece about two hundred miles northwest of Athens on the gulf of Ambracia (now known as Arta) near the Adriatic Sea (cf. Strabo [64 BCE=24 CE] 7.7.5. It was founded and named by Augustus [63 BCE-14 CE] in 31 BC and established as a Roman colony (cf. Dio Cassius [155-235] 51.1; Strabo [64 BCE-24 CE] 7.7.5). (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 356-57)
The name Nicopolis was common in the era. William D. Mounce (b. 1953) surveys:
There were seven cities with the name Nicopolis in the ancient world (see Ceslas Spicq [1901-1992], 2:690-91). Most agree that Paul refers to the Nicopolis in Epirus on the western coast of Achaia on the Ambracian Gulf off the Adriatic Sea. It was two hundred miles northwest of Athens and was the largest city on the coast. It was two hundred miles across the sea from Brindisi, Italy, from which the Via Appia went to Rome. It was also a stopping place for north-south travel. It had better weather than the Nicopolis in Cilicia (J.N.D. Kelly [1909-1997], 257; the Nicopolis in Thrace was north of Philippi)...This Nicopolis was established by Augustus [63 BCE-14 CE] on his campsite after his defeat of Mark Anthony [83-30 BCE] at Actium in 31 B.C. Nicopolis means “city of victory” (νίκη, “victory” + πόλις, “city”), which explains its popularity as a city name. This Nicopolis was an ideal location for Paul to continue meeting people and spreading the gospel. Its location west of the lands Paul had evangelized may signal his intention to travel west, perhaps to Spain. (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (Word Biblical Commentary), 457-58)
Though the city was relatively new, it had gained prominence. Raymond F. Collins (b. 1935) educates:
Known as Nicopolos in Epirus (see Tacitus [56-117], Anallas 2.53 or Nicopolis of Achaia (see Ptolemy [90-168], Geography 3.13), the city was a natural site for maritime transportation between Achaia and Italy. As the terminus of a trade route, it became an important commercial center and the site of the quadrennial athletic games. Epictetus [55-135], the Stoic philosopher, arrived in the city as an exile in 89 C.E. (see Gellius [125-180], Attic Nights 15.11.5)...This port city was a natural place for a person to pass the winter were he or she intending to take a sea voyage in the early spring when travel conditions became less treacherous than they would be in winter (see I Corinthians 16:6; Acts 27:9-12). The Achaian port is probably the city that the Pastor had in mind when he composed Titus 3:12. (Collins, I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary (New Testament Library), 371-72)
The route corresponds with other Pauline references to travel. Philip H. Towner (b. 1953) connects:
The location corresponds to Paul’s statement about the extent of his ministry (as far as Illyricum [Romans 5:19], which was to the north of Epirus), as well as the later note that Titus was in Dalmatia (II Timothy 4:10). (Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 800)
Jouette M. Bassler (b. 1942) concurs:
There were a number of cities in the ancient world named Nicopolis (“Victory City”). It is likely that the author had in mind the Nicopolis on the western coast of Greece. It lay close to Paul’s known travel circuit, though there is no other evidence that he ever visited that city. It was, however, customary to avoid sea travel in the winter, when seasonal storms made sailing particularly dangerous (Acts 27:12, 28:11; II Timothy 4:21). (Bassler, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries), 213)
There is no confirmation that Titus meets his mentor or even whether Paul makes it to Nicopolis as planned. But there can be no doubt that Paul desires a reunion. He wants to see Titus in the flesh, not merely correspond in writing. Letters (and virtual communication in general) are blesings but there is no substitute for a face to face encounter.

Why does Paul desire to see Titus so resolutely? Is the visit more for Paul or Titus? Is this trip for business or pleasure? Or both? What are the advantages of face to face meetings over written or virtual correspondence? With the rise of social networking, which mode of communication do you utilize more; which do you prefer? Has social networking changed the way that we communicate?

The city of Nicopolis has become formally attached to the epistle in some strands of the Christian tradition. Raymond F. Collins (b. 1935) reveals:

A codicil to the epistle of Titus, first appearing in the sixth-century Codex Coislinianus (H), says that the epistle “was written by Paul the apostle to Titus, the first bishop of the Church of the Cretans upon whom hands had been laid, from Nicoplis to Macedonia.” This note appears in most manuscripts of the Byzantine tradition. An eleventh-century minuscule (81) adds to the epistle an alternative form of the note: “Written to Titus from Nicopolis in Crete.” Two earlier manuscripts, the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus and the ninth-century Codex Porphyrianus, append a simple notation, “written from Nicoplis.” (Collins, I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary (New Testament Library), 372)
The subscription is inaccurate as Paul indicates that he has not yet reached Nicopolis. William D. Mounce (b. 1953) corrects:
By saying that he had decided to winter ἐκει, “there,” and not ὠδε, “here.” Paul implies that he was not yet in Nicopolis. If Paul was making plans for winter, this might suggest he was writing in midsummer, allowing Titus sufficient time to travel from Crete to Nicopolis. It might also suggest that he currently was somewhere in Achaia or Macedonia. But anything beyond this is overly speculative. Subscriptions of some manuscripts to both I Timothy and Titus incorrectly identify Nicopolis as the location of writing. (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (Word Biblical Commentary), 458)
Philip H. Towner (b. 1953) supports:
At the time of writing, Paul had not yet reached Nicopolis (“I have decided to winter there [Titus 3:12]”). And we are to assume that decisions about his future plans made this busy port town (known for harsh winters) a strategic spot to spend the winter. The size of the town would have afforded sufficient ministry opportunities among those who were similarly laid up until the passing of the winter months opened up sea travel again. But what Paul had in mind for Titus is not divulged. Presumably, he was to assume another such posting or to assist Paul directly. In either case, the time left to Titus in Crete was apparently sufficient for him to accomplish his duties (Titus 1:5; etc.); once his replacement came, however, he had (because of the onset of winter?) to make his way to Nicopolis with speed. (Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 800-01)
This note on planning sheds light on the situation in which the letter was written (Titus 3:12). William D. Mounce (b. 1953) reconstructs:
This is an important verse in ascertaining the situation of the epistle...The epistle...except for the salutation and conclusion (and Titus 2:7-8) quite impersonal, containing few personal remarks to Titus such as are found in I Timothy (especially I Timothy 4:6-16) and throughout II Timothy. Now the situation becomes clear. Titus was left in Crete with the task of setting things right (Titus 1:5). After an undeterminable span of time, Zenas and Apollos (Titus 3:13) brought the letter with specific instructions for the Cretan church, and soon after that Titus was replaced by either Artemas or Tychicus. Therefore, the epistle is not so much for Titus as it is for the church. There is no contradiction between Titus 1:5 and Titus 3:5 (contra Victor Hasler [1920-2003], A.T. Hanson [1916-1991]). (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (Word Biblical Commentary), 457)
Robert L. Cate (b. 1932) speculates:
The only reason for Paul’s being at Nicopolis would be if he were on his way to Philippi but had refrained from crossing the intervening mountains during the winter season. (Cate, One Untimely Born: The Life and Ministry of the Apostle Paul, 130)
Given the time of year of the reunion, meeting in Nicopolis is advantageous. Hayne P. Griffin, Jr. (b. 1947) infers:
His assertion “I have decided to winter there” [Titus 3:12] reveals that he was a free man, not imprisoned as he wrote. Concerning Paul’s intention to winter in Nicopolis, C.K. Barrett [1917-2011] observes: “It would be natural for Paul to confine his longer journeys to the summer, and to use the winter to consolidate work in an important centre; but it must be admitted that we have no definite evidence to prove that this was his regular practice, and II Corinthians 11:25f suggests that he took risks. (Thomas D. Lea [1938-1999] and Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (New American Commentary), 331-32)
George W. Knight III (b. 1931) adds:
Travel on the sea was difficult or impossible during the winter (cf. II Timothy 4:21), and Paul’s experiences (Acts 27:12, 28:11) made him keenly aware of the need to make plans for the season. Use of παραχειμαζω by Paul or in connection with Paul [Acts 27:12, 28:11; I Corinthians 16:6; Titus 3:12] shows that he sought to spend his winters with Christians in strategic locations for gospel ministry. His choice of Nicopolis put him and Titus one step further west of the area where most of his labors had been concentrated and was most likely taken with a view to fulfilling his desire to go where the gospel had not been preached and, ultimately, to Spain (cf. Romans 15:20-24). (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 357)
Paul is acting almost like a bishop, dictating the trajectory of Titus’ ministry. Doing so in the letter to Titus provides a rare glimpse into the apostle’s planning (Titus 3:12). Though he travels frequently, Paul’s mission is not haphazard. It is judicious and planned in advance.

What are the advantages to selecting Nicopolis for a winter summit? Where would you most like to spend the winter? How much planning do you feel went into Paul’s ministry? How much planning goes into your church’s ministry? How far in advance does Paul plan? How far in advance should plans be made? How important is planning to success?

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)