In giving the qualifications for an eldership, the apostle Paul instructs Titus:

…if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge ofdebauchery or insubordination. (Titus 1:6; ESV)

Let me begin by saying that I hate (HATE) the ESV translation here with the phrase “his children are believers.” This translation removes the other possibility that it recognizes in its study notes of the ESV Study Bible:

ESV Study Bible:

His children are believers can also be rendered “his children are faithful” (Gk. pistos). The primary argument for rendering it as “believers” is that in the letters to Timothy and Titus, this word almost always refers to saving faith. Those who think it should be rendered “faithful” would argue that no father can guarantee the conversion of his own children, but he can ordinarily ensure that they act in a “faithful” way. Also, the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 3 says only that the children must be well-behaved, not that their conversion is a requirement for their father to be an overseer. The concern in the passage is that the children behave appropriately and are not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. The word “children” (plural of Gk. teknon) would apply only to children living at home and still under their father’s authority.

NLT Study Bible:

Nothing. Just the words: children: see 1 Tim 3:4-5,12.

There is no discussion in the notes about the debate between believing children and faithful children. I think this is terrible because the NLT translates “and his children must be believers….”

Here is the problem with saying that Paul is commanding Titus to appoint elders who have children who are believers (Christians): Paul did not give such a command to Timothy. Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to appoint elders in 1 Timothy 3. Read 1 Timothy 3 carefully and there is no word, not even a hint, of the idea that an elder must have children who are Christians. None.

So we have two options:

1. Paul gave two different sets of qualifications for elders. Paul wrote to Timothy and gave one set of instructions, but wrote Titus and gave a different set of instructions for the eldership. Thus, different local churches had elders appointed based upon different qualifications. I do not think this option is viable because it simply leaves the local churches in chaos, not having any absolute standard for churches to follow when appointing elders.


2. “Believing children” or “faithful children” does not mean having children who are Christians because Timothy did not receive such a qualification from Paul. Therefore, Paul is telling Titus that the children must be faithful to the father, not to God. This answer would match what Paul instructed Timothy, that the children must be submissive to the father (1 Timothy 3:4).

I am disappointed that the study notes did not go through these options in more detail. At least the ESV Study Bible does point out the two possibilities reasonably and hopefully will generate some thought for students. I believe we are creating a standard for elders in the churches that God did not command when we expect men to have all of their children be Christians. If people chose to reject Jesus, the perfect teacher, then there will be children who reject the teachings of the father, no matter how good of a job he may do in teaching God’s word to them. Further, the teaching penalizes men who raise children who are submissive, but choose not to follow God.

Only the HCSB does a good job with this phrase, in my opinion:

…someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithfulchildren not accused of wildness or rebellion. (Titus 1:6)

“Faithful children” can go in either direction. Faithful children can refer to being faithful to God or faithful to the father. Let the student decide. Translations must not decide for us.


  1. The majority of the new translations seem to have gone with the “who are believers” route. Most that I have spoken too are more than happy with the choice though, it backs up the traditional teachings I guess.

    Just as it does not specifically say who they are to be faithful to, could we not also say it does not specifically say that they have followed through with repentance and baptism? We’re told about those who believed but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it. And the word used is the same one used in the accounts of conversion in Acts.

    I’m rambling ;-)

    Please don’t change this in your revision HCSB!

  2. The NKJV likewise allows the reader to decide for themselves:

    “if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.”

  3. They pretty much all render 1 Tim 3:11 as their wives must be…faithful/trustworthy(Gk. pistos) in all things.

  4. Thanks, Mark. I completely forgot to check the NKJV. A blunder on my part.

    Good point, Joe. Faithful works in one place, why not here also?

  5. I thought I better add that one other newer translation also has faithful.

    NETBible) Titus 1:6 – “An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who cannot be charged with dissipation or rebellion.”

    Note: Or “believing children.” The phrase could be translated “believing children,” but the parallel with 1 Tim 3:4 (“keeping his children in control”) argues for the sense given in the translation.