[This is the latest in a series of posts on texts to be featured in New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures edited by Brent Landau and I. The material here is incorporated also into the information on the texts provided on my More Christian Apocrypha page].
The Acts of Titus has three parts: his early life (chs. 1-3), his time as a companion of Paul, (chs. 4-6), and his time in office as bishop of Gortyna (chs. 7-12). The text is attributed to a certain “Zenas the lawyer” (from Titus 3:13). The author reveals that Titus grew up in a noble home in Crete (indeed, he is said to be of the lineage of Minos, king of Crete). At the age of 20, a voice tells him that his classical education is of no benefit to him, so he turns to reading Hebrew scripture. His uncle, the proconsul, sends Titus to Jerusalem to investigate the activity of Jesus. There he witnesses the miracles, death, and resurrection of Jesus and becomes a believer. Titus receives ordination from the apostles and becomes Paul’s companion in his missionary endeavours. The two journey to Crete, where Titus encounters his brother-in-law Rustillus who tells Titus not to preach against the pagan gods but becomes a believer after Paul restores his deceased son to life. Together with Luke and Timothy, Titus remains with Paul until the apostle’s execution under Nero. Then Titus returns to Crete, where he destroys pagan temples and establishes churches. Titus dies in peace at the age of 94. The former polytheist temple in which he is laid to rest becomes a healing shrine. The text concludes with a brief chronology of Titus’s life.
Richard Pervo has provided us with a new translation of the text, revising his earlier translation in “The Acts of Titus: A Preliminary Translation, with an Introduction and Notes,” in Society of Biblical Literature 1996 Seminar Papers (SBLSP 35; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996), 455-82. Both are based on the edition of Francois Halkin, “La légende crétoise de saint tite,” AnBoll 79 (1961): 241-56. The text comes in two forms: Menology 1 (the earliest recension), represented by Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, gr. 548 (10th cent.) and Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Ottoboni gr. 411 (copied in 1445), and Menology 2, represented by Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, hist. gr. 45 (11th cent.) and Athens, Benaki Museum, 141 (11th cent.)
The text is surprisingly sparse, so much that Pervo suspects it is a summary of a larger Acts of Titus no longer extant. It is structurally similar to a few other texts in the volume that feature a brief discussion of the saint’s life (usually entailing conflicts with pagans and their gods), then his martyrdom, and finishes with the discovery of his relics and their placement in a particular church or shrine. Acts Titus draws upon the scant mentions of Titus in the New Testament as well as from the Acts of Paul; it’s a creative blend of established canonical and noncanonical accounts and more-recent local traditions.