on Titus 1 :12
One of themselves, even a prophet of their own - This was Epimenides, who was born at Gnossus, in Crete, and was reckoned by many the seventh wise man of Greece, instead of Periander, to whom that honor was by them denied. Many fabulous things are related of this poet, which are not proper to be noticed here. He died about 538 years before the Christian era. When St. Paul calls him a prophet of their own, he only intimates that he was, by the Cretans, reputed a prophet. And, according to Plutarch, (in Solone), the Cretans paid him divine honors after his death. Diogenes Laertius mentions some of his prophecies: beholding the fort of Munichia, which guarded the port of Athens, he cried out: "O ignorant men! if they but knew what slaughters this fort shall occasion, they would pull it down with their teeth!" This prophecy was fulfilled several years after, when the king, Antipater, put a garrison in this very fort, to keep the Athenians in subjection. See Diog. Laert., lib. i. p. 73.
Plato, De Legibus, lib. ii., says that, on the Athenians expressing great fear of the Persians, Epimenides encouraged them by saying "that they should not come before ten years, and that they should return after having suffered great disasters." This prediction was supposed to have been fulfilled in the defeat of the Persians in the battles of Salamis and Marathon.
He predicted to the Lacedemonians and Cretans the captivity to which they should one day be reduced by the Arcadians. This took place under Euricrates, king of Crete, and Archidamus, king of Lacedemon; vide Diog. Laert., lib. i. p. 74, edit. Meibom.
It was in consequence of these prophecies, whether true or false, that his countrymen esteemed him a prophet; that he was termed ανηρ αθειος, a divine man, by Plato; and that Cicero, De Divin., lib. i., says he was futura praesciens, et vaticinans per furorem: "He knew future events, and prophesied under a divine influence." These things are sufficient to justify the epithet of prophet, given him here by St. Paul. It may also be remarked that vates and poeta, prophet and poet, were synonymous terms among the Romans.
The Cretians are always liars - The words quoted here by the apostle are, according to St. Jerome, Socrates, Nicephorus, and others, taken from a work of Epimenides, now no longer extant, entitled Περι χρησμων· Concerning Oracles. The words form a hexameter verse: -
Κρητες αει ψευσται, κακα θηρια, γαστερες αργαι.
The Cretans are always liars; destructive wild beasts; sluggish gluttons.
That the Cretans were reputed to be egregious liars, several of the ancients declare; insomuch that Κρητιζειν, to act like a Cretan, signifies to lie; and χρησθαι Κρητισμῳ, to deceive. The other Greeks reputed them liars, because they said that among them was the sepulchre of Jupiter, who was the highest object of the Greek and Roman worship. By telling this truth, which all others would have to pass for a lie, the Cretans showed that the object of their highest admiration was only a dead man.
Evil beasts - Ferocious and destructive in their manners.
Slow bellies - Addicted to voluptuousness, idleness, and gluttony; sluggish or hoggish men.
on Titus 1 :12
One of themselves - That is, one of the Cretans. The quotation here shows that Paul had his eye not only on the Jewish teachers there, but on the native Cretans. The meaning is, that, alike in reference to Jewish teachers and native-born Cretans, there was need of the utmost vigilance in the selection of persons for the ministry. They all had well-known traits of character, which made it proper that no one should be introduced into the ministry without extreme caution. It would seem, also, from the reasoning of Paul here, that the trait of character here referred to pertained not only to the native Cretans, but also to the character of the Jews residing there; for he evidently means that the caution should extend to all who dwelt on the island,
Even a prophet of their own - Or, a poet; for the word "prophet" - προφήτης prophētēs - like the Latin word "vates," was often applied to poets, because they were supposed to be inspired of the muses, or to write under the influence of inspiration. So Virgil, Ecl. ix. 32: Et me fecere poetam Pierides ...me quoque dicunt vatem pastores. Varro, Ling. Lat. vi. 3: Vates poetae dicti sunt. The term "prophet" was also given by the Greeks to one who was regarded as the interpreter of the gods, or who explained the obscure responses of the oracles. As such an interpreter - as one who thus saw future events, he was called a prophet; and as the poets claimed much of this kind of knowledge, the name was given to them. It was also given to one who was regarded as eminently endowed with wisdom, or who had that kind of sagacity by which the results of present conduct might be foreseen, as if he was under the influence of a kind of inspiration.
The word might have been applied to the person here referred to - Epimenides - in this latter sense, because he was eminently endowed with wisdom. He was one of the seven wise men of Greece. He was a contemporary of Solon, and was born at Phaestus, in the island of Crete, b.c. 659, and is said to have reached the age of 157 years. Many marvelous tales are told of him (see Anthon, Class. Dic) which are commonly supposed to be fabulous, and which are to be traced to the invention of the Cretans. The event in his life which is best known is, that he visited Athens, at the request of the inhabitants, to prepare the way by sacrifices for the introduction of the laws of Solon. He was supposed to have contact with the gods, and it was presumed that a special sacredness would attend the religious services in which he officiated. On this account, also, as well as because he was a poet, the name prophet may have been given him. Feuds and animosities prevailed at Athens, which it was supposed such a man might allay, and thus prepare them for the reception of the laws of Solon. The Athenians wished to reward him with wealth and public honors; but he refused to accept of any remuneration, and only demanded a branch of the sacred olive tree, and a decree of perpetual friendship between Athens and his native city. After his death, divine honors were paid to him by the Cretans. He wrote a poem on the Argonautic expedition, and other poems, which are now entirely lost. The quotation here is supposed to be made from a treatise on oracles and responses, which is also lost.
The Cretians are always liars - This character of the Cretans is abundantly sustained by the examples adduced by Wetstein. To be a Cretan, became synonymous with being a liar, in the same way as to be a Corinthian, became synonymous with living a licentious life; compare Introduction to 1 Corinthians, Section 1. Thus, the scholiast says, παροιμία ἐστι τὸ κρητίζειν ἐπὶ τοῦ ψεύδεσθαι paroimia esti to krētizein epi tou pseudesthai - "to act the Cretan, is a proverb for to lie." The particular reason why they had this character abroad, rather than other people, is unknown. Bishop Warburton supposes that they acquired it by claiming to have among them the tomb of Jupiter, and by maintaining that all the gods, like Jupiter, were only mortals who had been raised to divine honors. Thus the Greeks maintained that they always proclaimed a falsehood by asserting this opinion. But their reputation for falsehood seems to have arisen from some deeper cause than this, and to have pertained to their general moral character. They were only more eminent in what was common among the ancient pagan, and what is almost universal among the pagan now; compare the notes at Ephesians 4:25.
Evil beasts - In their character, beasts or brutes of a ferocious or malignant kind. This would imply that there was a great want of civilization, and that their want of refinement was accompanied with what commonly exists in that condition - the unrestrained indulgence of wild and ferocious passions. See examples of the same manner of speaking of barbarous and malicious men in Wetstein.
Slow bellies - Mere gormandizers. Two vices seem here to be attributed to them, which indeed commonly go together - gluttony and sloth. An industrious man will not be likely to be a gormandizer, and a gormandizer will not often be an industrious man. The mind of the poet, in this, seems to have conceived of them first as an indolent, worthless people; and then immediately to have recurred to the cause - that they were a race of gluttons, a people whose only concern was the stomach; compare Philippians 3:19. On the connection between gluttony and sloth, see the examples in Wetstein. Seldom have more undesirable, and, in some respects, incongruous qualities, been grouped together in describing any people. They were false to a proverb, which was, indeed, consistent enough with their being ferocious - though ferocious and wild nations are sometimes faithful to their word; but they were at the same time ferocious and lazy, fierce and gluttonous - qualities which are not often found together. In some respects, therefore, they surpassed the common depravity of human nature, and blended in themselves ignoble properties which, among the worst people, are usually found existing alone. To mingle apparently contradictory qualities of wickedness in the same individual or people, is the height of depravity; as to blend in the same mind apparently inconsistent traits of virtuous character, or those which exist commonly, in their highest perfection, only alone, is the highest virtue.
on Titus 1 :12
1:12 A prophet - So all poets were anciently called; but, besides, Diogenes Laertius says that Epimenides, the Cretan poet, foretold many things. Evil wild beasts - Fierce and savage.