One of themselves, even a prophet of their own
This was Epimenides, in whose poems stand the words here cited; the apostle rightly calls him "one of themselves", since he was a Cretian by birth, of the city of Gnossus; it is reported of him, that being sent by his father to his sheep in the field, he by the way, at noon, turned aside into a cave, and slept fifty seven years
F13 and he is very properly called a "prophet" of their own; for in Crete Jupiter had his prophets F14, and he might be one of them: the priests among the Heathens were called prophets; so Baal's priests are called the prophets of Baal, and the prophets of the groves, ( 1 Kings 18:19 ) . Besides, Epimenides was thought to be inspired by the gods: he is called by Apuleius F15, a famous fortune teller; and is said by Laertius F16 to be very skilful in divination, and to have foretold many things which came to pass; and by the Grecians were supposed to be very dear to the gods; so Balaam, the soothsayer and diviner, is called a prophet, ( 2 Peter 2:16 ) . Add to this, that the passage next cited stands in a poem of this writer, entitled, "Concerning Oracles"; and it is easy to observe, that poets in common were usually called "vates", or prophets; so that the apostle speaks here with great propriety. Now concerning the inhabitants of Crete, Epimenides, a native of the place, and a person of great character and repute among them,
said, the Cretians are always liars:
living is a sin common to human nature, and appears in men as early, or earlier than any other; and all men are guilty of it, at one time or another; but all are not habitually liars, as it seems these Cretians were: lying was a governing vice among them; they were not only guilty of it in some particular instances, but always; not only for saying that Jupiter's sepulchre was with them, when it was the sepulchre of Minos his son, which they had fraudulently obliterated; and for which F17 Callimachus charges them with lying, and uses these very words of Epimenides; though he assigns a different reason from that now given, which is, that Jupiter died not, but always exists, and therefore his sepulchre could not be with them: but this single instance was not sufficient to fasten such a character upon them; it was a sin they were addicted to: some countries are distinguished by their vices; some for pride; some for levity, vanity, and inconstancy; some for boasting and bragging some for covetousness; some for idleness; some for effeminacy; some for hypocrisy and deceit; and others, as the Cretians, it seems, for lying; this was their national sin F18; and this is said by others, as well as Epimenides. Crete is, by Ovid F19, called "mendax Creta", lying Crete. Hence, with the Grecians, to "cretize", is proverbially used for to lie; this is a sin, than which nothing makes a man more like the devil, or more infamous among men, or more abominable to God. The Ethiopic version, instead of Cretes, or Cretians, reads "hypocrites". Other characters of them, from the same Heathen poet, follow,
evil beasts: slow bellies;
by evil beasts are meant beasts of prey, savage and mischievous ones; see ( Genesis 37:20 Genesis 37:33 ) and are so called, to distinguish them from other beasts, as sheep, and the like, which are not so; and perhaps Crete might abound with such evil beasts; for the Cretians are said F20 to excel in hunting; and to these they themselves are compared, by one of their own prophets, for their cruelty, and savage disposition: so cruel persecutors are compared to beasts, ( 1 Corinthians 15:30 ) and the false teachers, the apostle has respect to in citing this passage, were cruel, if not to the bodies, yet to the souls of men, whom they poisoned and destroyed. And the Cretians are called, by the poet, slow bellies partly for their intemperance, their gluttony and drunkenness: which suited with the false teachers, whose god was their belly, and which they served, and not the Lord Jesus; and partly for their sloth and idleness, eating the bread of others without working.
F13 Laert. l. 1. Vita Epimenidis.
F14 Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier, l. 4. c. 17.
F15 Florida, sect. 15.
F17 Hymn. l. in Jovem, v. 8.
F18 Alex. ab Alex. l. 4. c. 13.
F19 De Arte Amandi, l. 1.
F20 Alex. ab Alex. ib.