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Titus 1.12-13a-The Apostate Cretan Teachers Reflected Cretan Culture

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Titus: Titus 1:12-13a-The Apostate Cretan Teachers Reflected Cretan Culture-Lesson # 8


Wenstrom Bible Ministries

Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom

Sunday February 2, 2014

Titus: Titus 1:12-13a-The Apostate Cretan Teachers Reflected Cretan Culture

Lesson # 8

Please turn in your Bibles to Titus 1:1.

Titus 1:1 From Paul, God’s servant indeed an apostle of Jesus, who is the Christ for the purpose of producing faith in God’s chosen out ones resulting in an experiential knowledge of the truth, which is for the purpose of producing godliness 2 resulting in the confident expectation of eternal life, which the truthful God promised before eternal ages. 3 However, He has manifested His message at His own appointed time through the proclamation which I myself was entrusted with because of the decree originating from God the Father, our Savior. 4 To Titus, a legitimate spiritual child on the basis of a mutual faith: Grace resulting in peace from God the Father as well as the Christ who is Jesus, who is our Savior. 5 For this purpose, I left you behind in Crete so as to set in order that which is lacking, specifically, so as to appoint in each and every town elders as I myself commanded you. 6 If and let us assume that it is true for the sake of argument that any man is of a good reputation, a one-woman man, possessing faithful children, who are not accused of dissipation or rebellion, then you are to appoint them. 7 For it is, as an eternal spiritual truth, absolutely imperative the overseer as God’s steward be of a good reputation, not arrogant, not prone to anger, not an alcoholic, not violent, not greedy. 8 but rather hospitable, loving what is divine good in quality and character, sound-minded, righteous, holy, self-controlled. 9 He must, as an eternal spiritual truth be characterized as firmly adhering to the trustworthy message which is according to the teaching in order that he would be able to exhort by means of that which is sound doctrine as well as to refute those who oppose. 10 For many are rebellious, empty talkers as well as deceivers, especially those from the circumcision. 11 who must be silenced who because of their evil and sinful character are upsetting whole families by habitually teaching things which are improper for dishonest gain. (My translation)

Titus 1:12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (NASB95)

Here in Titus 1:12, Paul interjects a quotation from a Cretan philosopher and poet for the purpose expressing to Titus and the Cretan church that these apostate Cretan teachers who were Judaized were reflecting Cretan culture.

Paul does not identify who this individual was who the Cretans considered a prophet.

However, it appears to be more than likely Epimenides, who was a sixth century B.C. poet and philosopher.

He was in fact religious teacher and was said to perform miracles.

Clement of Alexandria and Jerome linked this quotation in Titus 1:12 to Epimenides.

Other church fathers attribute the quotation to Callimachus who lived in the third century B.C.

His “Hymn to Zeus” contains the first phrase of the quotation.

None of Epimenides writings are extant and what we have of his is fragmentary and secondary meaning it comes from people quoting from him.

However, it appears Callimachus is quoting a known saying.

Lock says that Callimachus was from Cyrene and not Crete.

Cretan culture was famous for its lack of ethics.

The Cretans had a reputation in the ancient world for stealing.

During the first century B.C. Crete was infamous for housing robbers and pirates. Cicero writes that “the Cretans...consider piracy and brigandage honourable” (Republic 3.9.15; cf. Josephus Ant. 17.5.5; Polybius Hist. 6.46.3).

By calling Epimenides a prophet, the apostle is by no means acknowledging that this individual was a person who was inspired by God as the Old Testament prophets of Israel.

Rather, he is saying that the Cretans considered this individual as inspired by the gods or a god.

The designation “prophet” here would indicate that in the opinion of the Cretan people Epimenides was a great philosopher and teacher.

So Paul is condemning these apostate Cretan pastor-teachers in Crete with the words of an unregenerate Cretan prophet, Epimenides who condemned his own people as being characterized as always liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons.

By rejecting Paul’s apostolic teaching and thus the gospel, these apostate pastors from the island of Crete were conducting themselves in a manner which was in accordance with Cretan standards.

Therefore, by way of implication, Paul is describing these apostate Cretan pastor-teachers in Crete as going back to their pre-conversion lifestyle of being enslaved to the sin nature and Satan.

By quoting Epimenides, Paul is not saying that each and every Cretan person who ever lived and was living during his day including the Cretan Christians whom Titus was serving were always liars, evil beats and lazy gluttons.

It is not a blanket statement but rather a characterization of the majority on the island of Crete.

By using this quote Paul is saying to Titus and the Cretan church that these apostate teachers who he speaks about in Titus 1:10-11 are reflecting the standards of Cretan culture at its worst rather than the standards of the gospel and thus Paul’s apostolic teaching.

Thus, these apostate pastors were being governed by the sin nature and the lies of Satan’s cosmic system.

The Cretans had a reputation of being liars in the ancient world since they claimed to possess a tomb of Zeus who was a god who could not have died because he was a god.

The Cretan apostate teachers were liars because they were rebellious, empty talkers and deceivers as Paul states in verse 10.

These apostate teachers were evil beasts in the sense that they were being governed by their old sin nature and were indoctrinated from the cosmic system of Satan.

They lived perpetually in disobedience to the will of the Father.

Calling someone an evil beast in Paul’s day was equivalent to calling a person a rude and wild person.

Interestingly, unlike most of the ancient world, Crete was noted in fact for its lack of wild beasts.

Paul is thus using irony here meaning that although Crete didn’t have any wild beasts, they were wild beasts themselves.

The apostate Cretan teachers were lazy gluttons in the sense that they were hedonistic who ate as a lifestyle of pleasure, implying they were characterized by voracious greed and idleness.

If you recall, in Titus 1:11, Paul reminded Titus that these apostate pastors must be silenced because they were upsetting whole families by habitually teaching things which are improper for dishonest gain.

These apostate teachers habitually taught doctrine which was in rejection of the gospel message as communicated by Paul and Titus.

They did so because of dishonest gain meaning they received money for their teaching in a dishonest manner since they willfully perverted the truth or taught false doctrine in order to receive money.

Love of money was their motive for teaching false doctrine.

We know from history that the Cretans had a reputation for loving money (Polybius Hist. 6.46.3).

There is irony being used here as well with this final description of the Cretan people since they were never idle because they were always involved in warfare or piracy.

In the ancient world, Cretans were infamous for their lack of self-control and excessive appetites.

They were known for doing anything to turn a profit.

This supports Paul’s contention in verse 11 that these apostate pastors in Crete were teaching false doctrine for dishonest gain.

Therefore, we can see that when Paul employs this quote from Epimenides here in Titus 1:12, he does so because it supports his condemnation of these apostate pastor-teachers in Ephesus who he describes in Titus 1:10-11.

These men were reflecting unregenerate Cretan culture and society.

Those in the Cretan church would not be upset by Paul using this quote from Epimenides which condemns their culture because they understood from the teaching of the gospel that they were delivered from the behavior which characterized unregenerate Cretan society and culture.

So by implication Paul is saying here in Titus 1:12 that these apostate Cretan pastor-teachers who were functioning as overseers in the various house churches on this island embodied all that was despicable about Cretan culture and society.

Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith. (NASB95)

“This testimony is true” affirms that Epimenides’ characterization of the Cretan people is true in the sense that it conforms to reality.

Here in verse 13, the apostle gives his approval of the quote from the Cretan poet and philosopher Epimenides who lived during the sixth century B.C.

Paul affirms Epimenides’ characterization of the Cretan people because he found plenty of evidence of this characterization in the conduct of these apostate Cretan teachers.

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