AN EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF
“te,kna e;cwn pista,”
(tekna eckon pista)
IN TITUS 1:6
In our recent monthly men’s fellowship a discussion arose as to what “having children who believe” (in NAS) in Titus 1:6 means in the context of qualifications of church elders. If one would naturally read the text it seems to imply that an elder must have believing children. But what if an elder does not have any children? Does it also mean that an elder must have children and that of believing children? Also, what if an elder has only one child when the text clearly states te,kna (tekna) or children (plural)? Furthermore, does the text teach that if one is given children (plural), then all children must be Christian children? As you can see Titus 1:6 deserves some explanations. Hence, I will attempt to shed some light.
A Quick Synopsis of Two Primary Positions
View 1: An elder must have believing/Christian children.
The text te,kna e;cwn pista, (tekna eckon pista) is translated to mean believing children in many popular English Bibles – e.g. “his children are believers” (ESV); “having children who believe” (NAU); and “a man whose children believe” (NIV).
John MacArthur, one of the proponents to this view, states the following in his study Bible:
This refers to children who have saving faith in Christ and reflect it in their conduct. Since 1 Ti[mothy] 3:4 requires children to be in submission, it may be directed young children in the home, while this text looks at those who are older. dissipation or rebellion. “Dissipation” connotes debauchery, suggesting, again, that the reference is to grown children. “Rebellion” carries that idea of rebelliousness to the gospel. Here the elder shows his ability to lead his family to salvation and sanctification (1 Ti 3:4,5), an essential prerequisite for leading the church (emphasis mine).
1. A father has no direct control over the outcome of his children’s salvation. Although parents can be instrumental, ultimately salvation is the sovereign work of God.
2. Contextually, this particular condition refers to the family unit in which the father has his direct authority in managing his own household (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4-5). Hence, it cannot refer to any children who live outside of the father’s managing household.
View 2: The word pista, (pista) in this text should take on more neutral translation than a salvific sense.
Although ESV, NAU, and NIV have translated pista, (pista) to believing children, there are other popular English Bibles that have translated it otherwise – e.g., “having faithful children” (KJV); “with faithful children” (NET); “having faithful children” (NKJ), which all have the more neutral translation “faithful” than the salvific term.
The verb e;cwn (eckon) or having denotes “the possession of persons to whom one has close relationships.” Hence, the implication is that this only refers to children who are still directly under the managing authority of their father in his home.
1. Having believing children safeguards “above reproach” standard of 1 Timothy 3:2.
[Stay tune for Part 2]
 Some other proponents include William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, WBC (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 388; Kenneth S. Wuest, “The Pastoral Epistles-First Peter” in Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 2:184; D. Edmond Hiebert, “Titus” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1, 2 Thessalonians, 1, 2 Timothy, and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 204; John Calvin, “Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon” translated by William Pringle in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 292-3.