Titus 2:13 - God and Savior

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ(Titus 2:13 - ESV)

What Trinitarians Say

Trinitarians often employ a contested theory about Greek grammar to prove that the "God" and "Savior" of this verse are Jesus Christ.  Alternative translations which use "glory" as an adjective describing Christ's appearing are used to support this idea.

What We Say

Various translators have provided divergent renderings of this verse.  Some read as if it is the glory of Jesus that is appearing, while others read that Jesus, the glory of God, is appearing.  There is both grammatical and exegetical evidence to support the interpretation of Titus 2:13 which portrays the second coming of Jesus Christ, who is himself described in the New Testament as the manifestation of God’s glory (Heb 1:3).

Further explanation:

Debate exists over the correct translation of this verse, even amongst Trinitarians.  Some employ problematic translations of the passage in order to substantiate the deity of Christ such as that offered by the NIV: “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  This interpretation is sometimes arrived at via the application of a linguistic rule theorized in a 1798 book of grammar (the Granville Sharp rule), which was produced to evidence that the “God” and the “Savior” in this verse are referring to the same person.  However, this “rule” of Greek grammar has been highly criticized as unstable and inconsistent, even by Trinitarians.[1]

Another point of confusion concerns how “the glory” is meant to be applied in translation.  Several mainstream translations follow the grammatical choice of the NIV, such as the Amplified Bible and the KJV, which apply the word ‘glory’ as an adjective to describe “the glorious appearing.” 

However, the NASB version is more typical of how most translators view the passage:

looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” (NASB)

In the NASB we can see that the “glory” is what is appearing, whereas in the Amplified/NIV it is the appearing that is “glorious”.  Interestingly, the 2011 version of the NIV seems to have ‘corrected’ a their earlier version, and now renders it:

while we wait for the blessed hope--the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,” (2011 NIV)

We agree with the majority of translations that Jesus himself is the glory of God that is appearing.  The New Testament elsewhere supports this notion:

And he (Jesus) is the radiance of his (God’s) glory and the exact representation of his (God’s) nature” – Hebrews 1:3a (NASB)

  • “He is the reflection of God’s glory” – ISV
  • “The Son is the radiance of his glory” – NET
  • “Who being the brightness of his glory” – KJV2k

Similarly, we see that in 1 Corinthians 11:7: “For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”  If these may be called “the glory” of God because they are in his image, then surely Christ who is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Col 1:15) may be described this way.

The “Savior” referent in Titus 2:13 is ascribed to God in this passage, not Jesus.  God certainly may be called “our savior” as He saves us through the means of his Son, Jesus.  In Luke 1:47, when Mary learns about God’s miraculous conception of the child within her, sings: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”  While Jesus is our savior due to his sacrifice on the cross, his work would not have come to pass without God’s plan for redemption.  The Bible actually calls God our “Savior” many times (Isaiah 43:11, Jude 25), and far from being a title reserved only for Jesus, many others are also called “savior” in the Bible (2 Kings 13:5). 

Therefore, in Titus 2:13 we may understand that Jesus is the glory of the saving God.  It is Jesus’ appearing that we are eagerly hoping for.

In conclusion, we find that even Trinitarian translators concede that the difficulty of the Greek in Titus 2:13 (and other versus which contain these grammatical constructs) that prevents us from attaining an “unquestionable” translation in English.  However, given that Paul never calls Jesus “Theos” (God) in any other letters, but does consistently make a distinction between them, even calling the Father “the God of Jesus” (2 Cor 1:3), we find little reason to adhere to the NIV or the Amplified Bible’s insistence that Paul believes Jesus is “our God and Savior.”  Mainstream translators have demonstrated that there are other widely acceptable ways to translate this passage that do not require Jesus to be God.  One scholar writes that:

 “No one will doubt that if these two verses [Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1] afford instances of a Christological use of theos, such usage is exceptional in the NT… Any NT use of theos as a Christological title will produce certain linguistic anomalies and ambiguities, for in all strands of the NT, theos generally signifies the Father.”[2]