Skip to main content

Titus: Paul's identification with Epimenides.

For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  - Titus 1:10-16

This passage, in Titus, is one of two places in the New Testament where Paul quotes Cretica (Κρητικά), by the Greek poet Epimenides (the other is in Acts 17:28).

The fact that Paul quotes a work by a Pagan author on two separate occasions is interesting, it means that this work must have made quite an impression on him.  Being the bibliophile I am, I would like to know what he loved so much about that work. 

Looking at the individual citations, you would hardly know that they were taken from the same source. The passage in Acts (In him we live, move, and have our being) is cited to make a connection between the Jewish view of God and the highest views of God in Greco Roman culture. The section here (Cretins are liars, evil beasts, etc. . . ) is cited, not to indict the people of Crete, but specifically to use Epimenides' indictment against Paul's own opponents - the Judaizers.

The he uses Epimenides differently in each passage, means that we have no way of telling, by looking at the New Testament alone, what it is that Paul likes about Cretica. To figure that out, we need to look at  Cretica for ourselves

Here we see that both quotes in the New Testament come from the same passage.
They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.
— Epimenides, Cretica
 I would argue that this passage appeals to Paul, because it speaks so directly to what he experiences in his own life. Evil people killed Jesus, they put him in a tomb. But Paul knows this is not the ultimate truth. He knows that Jesus alive. He has been raised from the dead. Now the mission of Paul's life is to proclaim that "good news" against the prevailing lie that Jesus is dead. So Paul identifies with the speaker in this passage from Cretica on a very personal level. And this personal connection he feels, is the reason these quotations come to mind when he is preaching and writing. He and Epimenides are both defenders of the truth about God.

These kind of things are obvious to us, when we think about ourselves. We have books or movies we feel close too, and that connection causes quotes and examples to spring to mind at appropriate (and inappropriate) moments. But I enjoy getting a glimpse into what someone else is thinking. Especially somebody like Paul, where the cultural and chronological distance seems, at times, to be an insurmountable barrier. At moments like these you feel like you really understand someone.


Popular posts from this blog

Colossians 1:1-14 - Complete

1 Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus, by God's will, and Timothy our brother. 2 To the holy and faithful brothers (and sisters,) in Christ at Colossae,.Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father.
3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying for you, 4 having heard about your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love you have for all the Holy Ones.5 We give thanks, because of the hope that you have, stored up in the heavens, which you'd heard about in the True Word. – the Gospel 6 which came to you.
This is the Gospel that is bearing fruit and increasing in the whole world, just as it is among you, ever since you've heard it and have come to truly know God's grace. 7 As you learned from our beloved, fellow servant, Epaphras, a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8. who has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 That's why, ever since we heard of it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking that you might be filled with the knowl…

Genesis 3: Uncertainty and the Voice of Doubt (The Origin of Evil)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden '?"  The woman said to the serpent, " From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;  but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.  - Genesis 3:1-6

Genesis 3 tells us about the origin of sin. In both Greek and Hebrew the words we call "sin"…

Genesis 1: A God of True Power

What does ultimate power look like? That's a tough question. If you had ultimate power, what would you do with it?  For most of us, I imagine, the only purpose we could think of putting it to is bending the universe to our own desire. To be a tyrant.

That's because our desires are shaped by a nature that is inherently incomplete. We experience need, and want, and constantly strive to use what power we have to meet these ends. It is only natural that we would imagine using even greater power the same way. What else could such miserable creatures think to do with it?

This is also what you find in the gods of the nations surrounding the ancient Israelites, the god's of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Their gods are said to have created human beings to be slaves, to serve them, to feed them. They were terrible and demanding, projections of human imperfection written to monstrous proportions.

The God of Genesis 1 is different. He doesn't need anything from us. He is s…