Mark Ward comments on the (otherwise excellent) conference speaker who, referring to Titus 2:4, said that because phileo is ‘friendship love’, it’s important for husbands and wives, and parents and children, to be friends. Although there may well be some truth in this (Ward remarks), as far as the text in Titus is concerned, it is reading too much into the word; it is ‘overspecifying’ the text. Husbands and wives are to be lovers, and not just friends. And parents should be figures of kindly authority towards their children, not just friends. To guard against such overinterpretations, Ward recommends:-
(a) Check the translations. Translations uniformly render this word as ‘love’ in this verse (not ‘friend’).
(b) Ask if this method of interpretation works in the rest of the Bible. Ward offers a sample:-
- When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they are friends with standing and praying in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. (Matt 6:5)
- The Father is friends with the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. (John 5:20)
- Whoever is friends with his life loses it. (John 12:25)
- If anyone is not friends with the Lord, let him be accursed. (1 Cor 16:22)
- In the last days . . . people will be friends with themselves, friends with money, proud, arrogant, abusive . . . (2 Tim 3:1–2)
Clearly, the phil- word group is not exclusively about friendship. Look at usage and context.
(c) Check the commentaries. Mark Ward says that of the commentaries he consulted (including Towner (NICNT), Knight (NIGTC), Griffin (NAC), Calvin, Yarbrough (PNTC), Mounce (WBC), Marshall (ICC), Guthrie (TNTC), Stott (BST)), not one suggested that Paul’s teaching here had a friendship component. This, says Ward, should give pause for thought.
More positively, we should look at what the text does say, and then consider how it might be applied. How might older women today fulfil Tit 2:4? Given that ‘training’ wives to love their husbands was particularly significant in cultures where wives did not choose their husbands, how might this apply to Western marriages today? (Might it mean, for example, that young wives should be willing to take advice and accept offers of help from older women?)