Problem: The Epimenides paradox
Verses: Titus 1:12-13; Status: Weak

Paul apparently had a low opinion of the people of Crete. This is Titus 1:12-13:

One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (ESV)

The man Paul is talking about is Epimenides, and his statement is sometimes called the "Epimenides paradox". The supposed problem here is this: if the statement Epimenides made was true, then he wasn't lying... but he himself was a Cretan... so Cretans aren't always liars...

But this is an overly literal way of interpreting the phrase "always liars". There's nobody on Earth whose every statement is false. Indeed, such a person would be a very ineffective liar, since you could just assume that the opposite of what he said was the truth. Rather, someone who is "always a liar" lies only when he thinks it's in his interests to do so.

A more serious problem is the idea that a whole society can be as dishonest as Paul seems to think. But Paul also took a dim view of humankind generally, and so was not being much more harsh on Cretans than he would be on anyone else.

Updated: Summer 2008

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