I really wanted to get through Titus 1:12-14 today, understanding that most blog readers prefer a faster pace than I’ve been giving you. Alas, all weekend and today I’ve struggled physically with my typing, so I managed only to make it through verse 12. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use my meager offering to deepen your understanding of the need for Titus to build up the churches throughout Crete.
Let’s look at verse 12 in context before we begin analyzing it, just to keep ourselves from losing perspective.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~~Titus 1:10-16 (ESV)
You’ll recall, hopefully, that Paul gave Titus rather explicit instructions on the type of men Titus should appoint to govern the churches in Crete. Last Monday we started discussing the problem of false teachers infiltrating the island. Now Paul adds the corrupt condition of Crete’s inhabitants as a whole.
Barnes points out that Paul found problems with native Cretans as well as the Jewish false teachers. Possibly, the negative characteristics of the Cretans had rubbed off on the Jews.
The Cretans acknowledged their own reputation for lying. According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Paul here quotes “Epimenides of Phaestus, or Gnossus, in Crete, about 600. He was sent for to purify Athens from its pollution occasioned by Cylon. He was regarded as a diviner and prophet. ” First Century culture often regarded poets as prophets, so Epimenides may have been considered a prophet for that reason.
Epimenides accused the Cretans of being “always liars.” Vincent’s Word Studies says that the Greek word here translated “always ” means habitually. Their lying was so chronic that it became emblematic of their region, just as sexual immorality was emblematic of Corinth. Not exactly the best reputation. Barnes suggests that their moral deficiency went deeper than lying, as exemplified by the remainder of the quotation.
Crete didn’t have wild animals, so Epimenides used irony in calling the Cretans wild beasts to illustrate their greed and savagery. Apparently, they seldom controlled their passions, but instead used brute force to obtain whatever they wanted.
The term “lazy gluttons” referred to their self-indulgence. Paul used this idea in Romans 16:18 and Philippians 3:19. But their self-indulgence was made even worse by their laziness. Clearly, the selfish, undisclosed people of Crete needed godly elders who could pull them out of the sin that was so emblematic of their culture.