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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 16, 2021

Titus 1,12: Epimenides, Ancient Christian Scholars, Zeus’s Death, and the Cretan Paradox

John Granger Cook


Many logicians and exegetes have read Titus 1,12 as an example of the Liar’s Paradox without paying sufficient attention to the nature of ancient oracular utterance. Instead of reading the verse as a logical puzzle, it should be read from its ancient context in the history of religions—a context of which ancient Christian scholars were aware. The Syriac scholars preserved a shocking Cretan tradition about Zeus’s death that probably goes back to Theodore of Mopsuestia. The god responsible for Epimenides’ oracle presumably rejected the Cretan tradition of Zeus’s death and tomb. The truth value of 1,12 consequently depends on the oracle and not the human being (i. e., Epimenides) who delivers the oracle. A reading sensitive to the history of religions preserves the Pauline author’s perspective in Titus 1,13: ἡ μαρτυρία αὕτη ἐστὶν ἀληθής. There is, consequently, a strong analogy between Caiaphas’s words in John 11:49–50 and those of Epimenides in Titus 1,12.


I thank Professor Jan Bremmer and Senior Reader Ian Morton for comments on the article. I am grateful to many who have answered numerous queries: Professors Alberto Bernabé Pajares, Jerker Blomqvist, Sebastian Brock, Basil Lourié, David Hellholm, Frederick Stanley Jones, Gerrit J. Reinink, and Armeniologist Seda Stamboltsyan.

Published Online: 2021-12-16
Published in Print: 2021-12-14

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston