Prophetic Momentum

Jon Cressey writing mostly about church, prophets & prophecy...


EpimenidesWhen I’m driving solo, I’ve got a routine where I play an audio Bible, sped up a bit to 1.6x. I don’t just let it run, though. I repeat the same chapter, starting over each time, until I really soak in the words.

Recently, I’ve been digging into Paul’s letter to Titus. It’s a short one, just three chapters, but I must’ve looped through it about twenty times. Chapter 1, verses 12 to 13, really caught my attention. I paused my routine to delve deeper into those lines, and wow, what I discovered was fascinating!

A Cretan Paradox

In a passage from Titus, Paul draws on the words of a well-known figure from Crete, highlighting a peculiar saying: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” It’s said that this comes from Epimenides, a Cretan poet known for his wisdom. The quote is a bit of a mind twister because if a Cretan is saying all Cretans lie, does that include his own statement? Paul cleverly uses this to illustrate a point to Titus about the character of the people he’s working with and the importance of building a church based on truth.

Epimenides’s Enigma

It’s quite fascinating that Paul should choose to do this. Epimenides, according to tales, had a rather mystical nap in Zeus’s cave (which I have been in-and it’s cold, dark and damp!), waking up after fifty-seven years with the power of prophecy. Whether that’s a divine miracle or just an epic case of oversleeping, we can’t be sure. But we do know that he lived at a time when biblical prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel were sharing their visions. During this period, Epimenides was making his own ‘spiritual‘ contributions, albeit to a different audience, yet Paul chooses, under the divine inspiration of the Spirit, to cite Epimenides.

Paul’s Cultural insight

Paul, known for his broad knowledge (as mentioned in Acts 26:24), brings in Epimenides’s words to make a point about truthfulness. He even nods to Epimenides in a speech in Athens, saying, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)—though he tweaks the line a bit.

Paul’s way of blending cultural insights to speak to a diverse audience really is something special. It shows his genuine grasp of different backgrounds and his heartfelt dedication to meeting people right where they are. As I drove, I pondered on the idea of a modern-day message of hope, one that might echo the reassurance that even in our toughest years—those times that feel like an ‘Annus Horribilis’, as the Late Queen Elizabeth put it—there’s a presence with us, a comforting whisper that we’re not alone in our struggles. It’s a powerful thought that, through all the challenges, there’s a constancy in the divine, a steady hand through the ups and downs of life.

Resonating Messages Across Time

Paul’s mention of the Cretan prophet’s harsh words about his own people isn’t just for shock value. It’s a heartfelt call for self-examination among the Cretan Christians, urging them to rise above negative stereotypes and embrace a life of truth and goodness. This isn’t just an ancient lesson; it resonates even now, doesn’t it?

Using the quote from a Cretan about Cretans being untrustworthy is a poignant way for Paul to emphasize sincerity and honesty, especially among those leading the church. And yes, it does leave us pondering whether Epimenides himself was speaking truthfully, which adds a layer of complexity to the message. The description—liars, brutes, gluttons—is quite a heavy label to carry. The danger with labels is once applied, they are hard to remove.

Theologically, this passage gently reminds us that sin is a common thread in humanity, and cultural practices can sometimes clash with divine principles. Yet, there’s hope in this message, too—the beautiful possibility of change through Christ’s love and grace.

And moving forward…

Stepping into the well-worn sandals of Titus, we might pause for a moment of introspection. Could it be that our daily routines, innocuously absorbed from the world around us, are subtly nudging our values away from the core of our faith? This is the gentle prod of a timeless message that still rings true: to create a community grounded in truth and to embody the virtues that Christ exemplified.

If Paul were to write an email to us, subject line “A Modern Titus”, would it be flagged as spam because we’ve grown too accustomed to the daily barrage of less-than-uplifting news? Or would we open it, only to find ourselves squirming in the glow of our screens as we read his ancient yet uncannily apt observations?

And let’s don’t forget to take a moment to get lost in the philosophical argument of Epimenides’s conundrum: “Cretans are always liars.” If he were around today, he’d be the meme that broke the internet, wouldn’t he? Picture the tweets: “If you’re calling your own bluff, are you still bluffing?” #philosophicalparadox.  It’s the kind of thing that has us scratching our heads, wondering if we’re not all a bit Cretan sometimes, echoing untruths we’ve heard without a second thought.

Let’s not be spiritual snoozers, napping away like Epimenides (though perhaps not for fifty-seven years). Instead, let’s wake up to our own epiphanies, shall we? Let’s sift through the cultural noise and tune into the frequency of truth, integrity, and those Christ-like values.

Finally, the next verse carries a statement by the apostle Paul that leaves us with much to ponder! This testimony is true.

Oh dear!


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