Friday, 1 June 2018
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Titus 1:12
Here we have an interesting verse. Paul has been speaking to Titus on the island of Crete about those who teach things contrary to the truth. Now, speaking specifically of those on Crete, he cites a hexameter line by a Cretan poet – whom he calls “a prophet” – Epimenides, of Knossus. As he was from Crete, Paul rightly notes that he was “One of them, a prophet of their own.”
Epimenides lived around 600BC and was considered by Plato to be a divine man. The reason for calling him a prophet here is because the word “prophet” was quite often applied to poets. Poets were considered to have a breath of inspiration in them that elevated their thoughts to oracles, or prophecies. In this case, Epimenides said that “Cretans are always liars.”
This is known as the Epimenides Paradox. It is a problem of logic. Epimenides was from Crete. The problem, or paradox, then rests on what he said. If what he says is true, then he is also describing himself, as he is from Crete. Thus, he is a liar. But if he is describing himself (being a liar), then his statement must be false because he says that Cretans are “always” liars. It is therefore false. But if the statement is false, then it must be true because he is from Crete and he is a liar. This may seem trivial, but all our words must square with logic or we are not really making sense. Paul understood this, and so he included the words of Epimenides this verse.
The state of man is confusion. We don’t normally think clearly. We attribute design to evolution, but then we confirm that we believe the laws of logic, physics, and the other such principles and laws which deny order can come from chaos. So even in our attempt to deny God, we think in a confused way. Paul is carefully warning Titus (and thus us!) that man must rely on the word of God and the absolute truth which stems from it. This verse then, which describes those Paul has been warning against in verses 10 & 11, is given in contrast to verses 1 & 2 which spoke of “the truth which accords with godliness,” and which stem from “God, who cannot lie.”
Along with being liars, Paul then continues the quote concerning those in Crete by saying they are “evil beasts.” Crete is an island that was without wild beasts, and so Epimenides, in a most sarcastic way, says that what is lacking in Crete, in reality, is made up for by the human occupants of the island. Instead of being civilized, they ran amok and lived in a ferocious, animal-like way.
Finally, he finishes the line with, “lazy gluttons.” Here, two vices are combined into one description. Despite being evil beasts, they were slothful in their work. A beast that will not work for its food will perish. But being gluttons they were “all stomach” in their motivation. Again, it is almost a paradoxical thought for an evil beast to be a lazy glutton. The two ideas contradict. A lazy evil beast cannot survive, even though he lives for his stomach.
Paul will explain the reason for quoting Epimenides in the next verse, but it is already obvious that there was a moral lack in those on Crete which necessitated Titus being all the more ready to refute those who came against the truth of the gospel.
Life application: The world is full of contradictions, and man can devise words which produce confusion in logic and order. As this is so, it will naturally be man’s desire to produce confusion in the thoughts and minds of those who pursue God by calling God’s word into question. They can do this by attempting to find contradictions in the Bible, or they can do this by proclaiming doctrines which are contrary to the Bible while calling them correct. Either way, we must be on guard against such attacks. In God, there is no contradiction, and thus in His word there is no contradiction. The people of God are to be logical, think rationally, and rightly divide the word at all times.
Lord God, you have created man to be a logical being who thinks rationally, and who is to pursue that which is morally correct. And yet we certainly fail in this. Our thoughts are often illogical, we do not think in a rational manner, and our morals fail. However, the cure is found in a careful study and right application of Your word. Help us to emulate You by applying this precious gift to our lives. Help us to emulate You as we walk this path of life. Amen.