Titus 1:12

This passage is an extremely interesting passage. The Greek reads like this:

 εἶπέν τις ἐξ αὐτῶν, ἴδιος αὐτῶν προφήτης, Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται, κακὰ θηρία, γαστέρες ἀργαί.

The English reads like this: “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.'” Paul then goes on to say that this statement is true in the next verse.

First of all, we have to recognize the humor in this situation. A Cretan says that Cretans always lie. Is his statement true or not? I do think that there is a bit of a philosophical dilemma in what this Cretan (probably Epimenides of Crete) says. If a certain class of people always lie, and then one of that group says that they always lie, is he telling the truth or not? So Paul is probably laughing when he says that this statement is true.

However, as Riemer Faber (WTJ 67.1 Spring ’05) notes, there is a lot more going on here. The above interpretation has the danger of placing too much emphasis on the deceit aspect of the verse, and not enough on the phrases “evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Given the context of church office, this verse must be read in the light of elder qualifications. Faber notes that “the poetic line of Epimenides, in which lying and improper behavior are linked, is cited as illustration of the union of teaching and practise” (143). The “purpose is to show that doctrinal error is accompanied by moral corruption” (145). That his interpretation is correct is born out by verse 10’s “For.” That word connects the bad characteristics listed in verses 10ff. with the elder qualifications. It is in that context that the famous quotation comes in. I do not think that Faber’s interpretation is exclusive of the philosophical dilemma interpretation. But it is a very interesting passage.

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4 Comments

  1. theologian said,

    December 22, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I find it interesting that this verse about Cretans is bookended by verses about Jews. Verse 10’s “especially those of the circumcision party” and verse 14’s “not devoting themselves to Jewish myths”

  2. greenbaggins said,

    December 22, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    It would seem to me that verse 14 would indicate that Paul is talking about Cretan Jews. What do you think?

  3. Pastor Jason said,

    January 27, 2007 at 10:15 am

    I don’t think he’s referring specifically to Cretan Jews. We know there was a large problem with judaisers telling gentiles they also needed to follow Mosaic law as well as believe in Christ to be saved. It would seem there was a contingent on Crete that fell into that belief, a belief Paul spent much time combating.

    The use of Epimenides Paradox has confused or concerned people almost since it was written. Our mother church had a discussion on this verse during Bible Study the other week. Epimenides was a poet. He’s speaking hyperbolically. By saying “all cretans…” he’s making a statement about the Cretan culture in general. That, I believe, is the assertion Paul is making. The same could be said for modern America.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I could go along with that interpretation, Jason. Thanks for commenting, by the way.


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