“Evil Beasts, Lazy Gluttons”: A Neglected Theme In The Epistle To Titus -- By: Riemer A. Faber

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 67:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “Evil Beasts, Lazy Gluttons”: A Neglected Theme In The Epistle To Titus
Author: Riemer A. Faber


“Evil Beasts, Lazy Gluttons”:
A Neglected Theme In The Epistle To Titus

Riemer A. Faber

Riemer Faber is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., Canada.

I. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to address two problems in the interpretation of the Epistle to Titus. One concerns the exegesis of ch. 1:10–16, and in particular the function of the classical quotation, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” The other problem, or rather perceived problem, is that of the authenticity of the letter, now commonly ascribed to a pseudonymous, second-century compilator of loosely connected material. The two matters are related, in that examination of the quotation serves to bring to light a theme that courses throughout the letter as a whole, thus deflating the argument that the letter is a composition of unrelated elements.

The history of the exegesis of the citation in 1:12—Κρῆτες ἀει ψεῦσται, κακὰ θηρία, γαστέρες ἀργαί—is marked by the search for its source. The attribution of the dactyllic hexameter to the semi-legendary poet and philosopher Epimenides appears first in several church fathers, most notably Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 1.59.1) and Jerome (Comm. Tit. 707).1 Theodore of Mopsuestia (II, 243) and Theodoret (III, 701 Schulze) ascribe the verse to the Hellenistic poet Callimachus. There is a minor, mainly modern view that the statement was made in a Delphic oracle criticizing Epimenides.2 In the modern era the continued interest in the provenance of this verse has tended to deflect attention away from considering its function within the immediate and general contexts. Moreover, the tendency to link the quotation in the Epistle to Titus to Callimachus’s Hymn to Zeus, in which the phrase “Cretans are always liars” occurs, has led to a disproportionate emphasis upon the element of deceit; the meaning of the words “evil beasts” and “lazy gluttons” has been largely neglected. To be sure, falsehood is an important topic in the Epistle to Titus, and Callimachus’s use informs the function of the verse in Titus 1:10–16.3 This

section of the Hymn to Zeus relates the tradition that Cretans are always liars because they claimed to have a tomb of Zeus. The poet, addressing the god, expresses the orthodox ...

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