Kretans: Stereotypes in the letter to Titus (early second century CE)

Citation with stable link: Maia Kotrosits, 'Kretans: Stereotypes in the letter to Titus (early second century CE),' Last modified October 13, 2022, http://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=8938.

Ancient author: Author writing in the name of Paul, Titus 1:5-13 (link to Greek text and full LEB translation).

Comments (by Maia Kotrosits): Kretans are evoked in this epistle ostensibly from Paul to Titus, who is imagined to be living on the island of Krete. The author writing in the name of Paul attempts to describe, by contrast to the stereotyped Kretan, the ideal “overseer” for local towns. This provides an example of how early Jesus adherents might incidentally employ common ethnic stereotypes for particular purposes. In particular, Kretans were among the Greek peoples who were more often marginalized as semi-barbaric by Athenians and others (on which, for instance, see Polybios’ views at this link). The author of the letter to Titus directly quotes Epimenides of Krete, as also cited in Clement of Alexandria, Tapestries 1.14.59 (link).

Source of the translation: Translation by Maia Kotrosits

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This is the reason I left you behind in Krete (or: Crete), so that you might put in order what was left to be done and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not insubordinate. For as God’s steward, an overseer must be blameless; he must not be stubborn or hot tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain, but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined, holding tightly to the faithful word of the teaching, so that he may be able both to encourage with sound instruction and to expose those who contradict it.

There are also many rebellious people, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those among the circumcised. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole households by teaching for shameful gain what it is not right to teach. It was one of them, their very own prophet [i.e. Epimenides of Krete], who said, “Kretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true. . .

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