Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)
This quote has been attributed to Epimenides, a 6th century philosopher and religious prophet. Epimenides, and the quote are actually quite famous.
Epimenides was making the case to the Cretans that Zeus, the pagan God of the Greeks was immortal. He wrote this Poem: “They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one. The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! But thou are not dead: thou livest and abidest forever, for in thee we live and move and have our being.”
This quote isn’t just famous because it is in scripture, but also because it presents a paradox for logic geeks to solve. Epimenides was Cretan. The paradox is that if all Cretans are liars, and Epimenides is one of them, then his words in his poem cannot be believed. Of course, if they cannot be believed, then perhaps all Cretans are not liars, in which case he might possibly be believed…a case that could be made if it can be proved one Cretan is not a liar.
I am not an expert in logic, and these thoughts make me dizzy. But it is safe to assume, Titus would have been very familiar with the quote in this morning’s verse. How do you know when a Cretan is lying?
When their lips are moving, of course…
I must admit, it seems to me as though Paul was being a little harsh. Even though some false teachers were defrauding people and destroying households in their quest for personal gain, that doesn’t mean every Cretan was dishonest. Yet, the stereotype was so well established, he chose to use it to make his point.
In our culture we hate stereotypes. Maybe you are a part of an ethnic group that people associate with certain attitudes, characteristics, or flaws. My father was from Eastern Kentucky, and through the years I have heard his people (my people) called “hillbillies”, and ridiculed for their ignorance, violence and love for moonshine.
Ok, so there are some threads of truth to these statements. But some of our family members also went on to become Governor, Secretary of State, and earn a host of doctorate degrees.
Labels are hard to live down. It’s bad when they become so ingrained in a culture that an apostle of the Lord can use one to illustrate a point.
I guess none of us are immune from stereotypes, but maybe a good goal in life is to live in such a way we never become a negative metaphor. For starters, there are a lot of things in life more important than “keeping up with the Joneses.”
See what I am talking about?
Dear God, help me be a positive metaphor. In Jesus’ name, Amen.