Was Paul aware of the Epimenides paradox when he wrote in Titus 1:

12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13a This saying is true.

Was this a hyperbole? Paul seemed so set on its literal truth.

agarza's comment points out the presence of Cretans in Acts 2:

10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

These Cretans spoke in tongues.

  • Why is this a hyperbole? Different regions are ruled by different spirits and clearly the lying spirit was characteristic of Cretans. Grandfathered in from father to son, generational curse. BTW exaggeration is deception and a form of lying. You’d be accusing Paul of lying if you claim Paul was being hyperbolic. Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 14:39
  • 1
    Thanks for your honest comment ;) Are there instances of hyperbole in the psalms?
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 14:47
  • Are there hyperbole in the psalms? Is this a psalm? No. And it also depends how you read the psalm, streams of tears to an English read is a hyperbole but to a native it just means a continuous flow of tears. So no, there are no hyperbole in the original language. Invoking hyperbole is done on the basis of incredulity based on a modern understanding and inference to the text. Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 0:40
  • Is there one instance of hyperbole in the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures?
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 13:11
  • 1
    Good point. I modified :)
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 16:49

5 Answers 5


Epimenides was himself a Cretan who was born in Knossos and died on the island. Apparently he lived in a cave that was sacred to Zeus. I visited that cave almost 40 years ago and was impressed by the extravagant claims surrounding the various myths. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimenides

If all Cretans are liars, then Epimenides was also a liar. If Epiminedes was a liar, then the statement that “all Cretans are liars” must be a lie, which would mean all Cretans tell the truth, which means Epimenides tells the truth, which means the statement “all Cretans are liars” is both true and false.

When Epimenides wrote “all Cretans are liars,” he was using a literary technique called hyperbole, or over-exaggeration, in order to make a point about Cretan society. He was saying Cretan society is characteristically dishonest and lazy.

It’s similar to the well-known suggestion that all Scottish people are tight-fisted and very careful with how they spend money. As a Scottish person I can vouch for the fact that SOME Scottish people are slow to part company with their money, but plenty more are generous and even extravagant when it comes to hospitality or helping those less fortunate than themselves. It’s a bit of a joke, not to be taken literally.

Paul was a highly educated man. He was trained as a Pharisee and knew the Jewish Scriptures and history, and he was also apparently trained in Greek philosophy and thought. In his epistle to Titus, Paul writes, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:12). Here, Paul quotes Epimenides. It seems there was some truth to this claim so Paul told Titus to fight against those lies and instruct the believers in Crete according to God’s truth.

The fact that Cretans are mention in Acts 2 as having been converted to Christianity suggests that not all Cretans were lazy liars and that the power of the gospel can transform people’s lives for good.

  • 1
    Its still prejudice to consider that "ethnic group X" always shows positive characteristics. Saying "Scots have a Presbyterian work ethic" could be as prejudiced as Paul saying "Cretans are liars". What about Scots Catholics? Are they by implication lazy and spendthrift?
    – James K
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 7:29
  • 3
    "...the statement that 'all Cretans are liars' must be a lie, which would mean all Cretans tell the truth..." No. If 'all Cretans are liars' is a lie, that only means that at least one Cretan tells the truth. Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 17:38
  • 3
    Not to mention that a liar doesn't always lie -- if you call someone a liar, you're usually referring to a particular statement they made. And non-liars may sometimes lie.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 20:21
  • 1
    @Joshua: the negation would still be "not all Cretans have the nature of being a liar," or equivalently "at least one Cretan does not have the nature of being a liar." Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 13:36
  • 1
    "the statement that “all Cretans are liars” must be a lie, which would mean all Cretans tell the truth" This is incorrect logic. Some Cretans may be liars even if all Cretans are not. This is a false dichotomy that is used to deny the antecedent (both are logical fallacies).
    – TylerH
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 13:50
  1. The statement is prejudicial. Whomever said it should have taken the knee.

  2. If you ask a Cretan if they always lie, and they say "no", you have no new information.

  3. If you ask a Cretan if they always lie, and they say "yes", then they have contradicted themselves.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 23:52

“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

This is a succinct but accurate commentary on the character of Cretian society of that time as a whole. Those of first century Crete represented a culture that was completely opposite the moral standards of revealed truth. Cretans were practiced in the art of lies and deception, and Paul confirms this to be a true statement. He likens them to “wild beasts” who gorge themselves on their prey. Ellicott points out that the term κρητιζειν, (kratidzine) meaning to talk like a Cretian, came to be a proverb for lying in the same way that κορινθιαζειν (korinthiadzine) meaning to live like a Corinthian, referred to one who lived in luxury and debauchery. Remember, Titus was on the island of Crete at that time, and this was the atmosphere in which he was working. This was the culture within which the Church struggled. Apparently, the Cretian culture was having its effect on the Church at Crete, as were the Jewish influences. The Church was being assailed from all sides.

Decisive action had to be taken against the influence of Cretian culture within the Church. The duty and obligation of the elders is to stop the mouths of such as these. Paul says, “rebuke them sharply.” This does not call for gentleness. This requires boldness to challenge these types of influences. These were not to be tolerated, not then and not now.

The desired goal is not to destroy them or drive them from the Body. The desired goal is to educate them more perfectly in the word of God, to lead them to repentance, to make them “sound in the faith.” Of course when this fails, the duty of the elders is to remove them from the Body. But the ultimate goal is to protect and preserve the integrity and cohesion of the Body.

  • 1
    Appreciate the reference to Ellicott and the insights as to the time when Titus was on the island and what he was up against.
    – Lesley
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 16:09

Cretans are always liars?

This does seem rather odd for the apostle Paul to say. Notice this excerpt from the Questions From Readers in the Watchtower May 15, 1989 issue, entitled Was the apostle Paul showing ethnic prejudice in agreeing with a blanket criticism of the Cretan people?:

Many Bible translators let Paul’s comment “this witness is true” continue right after what he quoted from a Cretan prophet. Others begin a new paragraph with verse 13.*

He certainly was not agreeing with any all-encompassing racial or ethnic slur against the Cretans. We can be sure of that, for Paul knew that on Crete there were fine Christians whom God had approved and anointed with His holy spirit. (Acts 2:5, 11, 33) There were enough devoted Christians to make up congregations in “city after city.” While such Christians were not perfect humans, we can be sure that they were not liars and lazy gluttons; otherwise they would not have continued to have Jehovah’s approval. (Philippians 3:18, 19; Revelation 21:8) And as we today find in all nations, likely there were on Crete honesthearted people who were saddened by the low moral standards around them and were ready to respond to the Christian message.​—Ezekiel 9:4; compare Acts 13:48.


*See The New Berkeley Version as well as the translations by R. F. Weymouth, F. A. Spencer, K. S. Wuest, and Abner Kneeland.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]


Yes, all Cretans are liars. Basically everyone is a liar, except for Jesus.

It's a pretty basic point of Christian doctrine that all humans sin. We all fall short of perfection; there is no such thing as a "good person". That's why we all need Jesus to save us.

So, when Paul says "All Cretans are liars," he's not engaging in stereotyping or hyperbole. Basically everyone is a liar. The Cretans aren't special in that regard. Who hasn't ever told a lie at least once in their lives?

The only person who has ever lived a perfect life free of sin is Jesus.

  • Your assertion "everyone is a liar" doesn't explain anything or answer the question. Also, your answer seems to be more preachy and lacking any proper hermeneutics. Go through the site tour to know the purpose and guidelines of the site and this thread hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/441/…
    – Michael16
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 17:47
  • @Michael16 The question asked if it hyperbole. My answer is that no, it was not.
    – nick012000
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 18:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.