New Testament

Pseudo-Paul and Epimenides

Epimenides is supposed to have been a prophet from the island of Crete around the end of the 7th century BCE.  One of the stories told about Epimenides is that he was called to purify Athens from the Kylonian curse.  He directed that black and white sheep, who would have naturally been hungry during the pestilence, should be released to wander off.  If they lay down rather than seek food, an unmarked altar was to be built on that spot, and this was how the curse was removed.  Later it is said that numerous unmarked altars were still present around the Greek Empire and that these were from this incident.  A similar altar in Rome looks like this:

Epimenides is also said to have written a poem dedicated to the immortality of Zeus, which I will return to in a moment.

But in the meantime, let’s go to a couple of references from the Bible.  One of these is from Acts, supposedly quoting Paul.  The other is from Titus, falsely attributed to Paul.  Neither were likely representative of Paul’s words, but of those who “used” his authority after his death.  I will start with the reference from Titus.

“For there are many people who are rebellious, especially those who are converts from Judaism. They speak utter nonsense and deceive people. They must be silenced, because they are the kind of people who ruin whole families by teaching what they should not teach in order to make money in a shameful way. One of their very own prophets said, “Liars ever, men of Crete, Savage brutes that live to eat.” That testimony is true. For this reason, refute them sharply so that they may become healthy in the faith”
(Titus 1:10-13)

The unknown author of Titus, claiming to be Paul, makes this statement while apparently talking about Jewish-Christian philosophers of Crete;  “One of their very own prophets said, “Liars ever, men of Crete, Savage brutes that live to eat.””  That is a reference to the poem of Epimenides, titled “Cretica”.  That statement would also later become known as the “Epimenides Paradox”, although that paradox was probably not the original intent of the author.  Just remember that the quotation from Titus comes from Epimenides poem “Cretica” which will be discussed further in a moment, and be thinking about what Epimenides was talking about when he called his fellow Cretans liars and brutes that live to eat.

The next reference is from the Acts of the Apostles, in which the unknown author places Paul among the philosophers of Greece, trying to convince them that his religion was true.  It’s more likely fiction than a historical event.  But here’s how it begins:

(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
(Acts 17:21-25)

The altars to an unknown God is thought to be a reference to these unmarked altars placed under the direction of Epimenides around Greece.

Now what was it that Epimenides was talking about when he called all his fellow Cretans liars?  They denied the immortality of Zeus, and the poem is dedicated to Zeus’ immortality, put in the mouth of Minos; and it goes like this:

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.
Epimenides, Cretica

Epimenides was convinced that Zeus was immortal and those unmarked altars were possibly altars to Zeus.  Pseudo-Paul apparently adopted them for his own deity.

BUT here is one other novel little tidbit.

Remember the last line quoted from Epimenides’ “Cretica”, a poem about the immortality of Zeus, thought to have been written at the end of the 7th century BCE?  “For in thee we live and move and have our being.”  Sounds a bit familiar, don’t it?  It is entirely possible that if you have been in a Christian worship service, you may have sung a song that has those very lyrics within the song.  Well, here’s where it came from:

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
(Acts 17:28)

It’s a part of the same story, just a few verses later, where Pseudo-Paul is addressing the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, not talking about Zeus, but now trying to claim that these were references to his deity.

Pagan mythology is being adopted by Christianity, right before your very eyes.

Links for Epimenides:



9 thoughts on “Pseudo-Paul and Epimenides

  1. I agree with what Simon said earlier in the sense that it was a way of teaching the unknown through knowledge of the known. If, for example, you’re going to talk about theories of science to someone who is unfamiliar with them, you would obviously begin with what they do know and from there teach them what they don’t. It’s the application of existing customs to teach new beliefs. This concept is used in Development communication as well.
    And yes, ED-M, the Christians did base a lot of teachings on Judaism for the simple reason that it is the same Yahweh both Jews and Christians (and I would say that the Muslim’s Allah is also the same) worship. Which is not to say that all our beliefs tally, they don’t, but that we’re all on different sides of the Same coin.
    The reason also so much of Judaism is borrowed is because (as we believe) Christ was a Jew, and we believe Him to be the Messiah that was prophesied in Old Testament times. In fact, since virtually all the early apostles were Jews, you could say it’s more a case of certain Jews adopting a different belief and branching off into a religion that would ultimately become fairly different, but still keeping many of their beliefs and practices.
    As for the stealing of statues etc, you are completely right that the Church has a history of corrupt and horrible practices, like the Crusades and the Inquisition, to mention a few, apart from what some people of the Church did in the colonies. HOWEVER, the people who acted this way WERE NOT TRULY PRACTICING THEIR RELIGION or being faithful to a God who we believe is good. Just like when ISIS commits horrendous crimes, it is not the fault of Allah or of the religion, but of a few corrupt people who claim to practice it.

    Xcentrik, your article was quite interesting :-) and I’m glad it brought up these discussion points, but I’m asking you not to dismiss people who have a different view as disseminators of ‘mythology’ and instead think about what they have said and debate with them if necessary, because after all, we’re all trying to find out the truth! :-)
    Speaking of which, I’m interested to find out why you say Paul did not write the letter of Titus. I know some critics say so, but for what reason do you think so? And have you done much study on the subject?

    Sorry for the super long comment! Hope you take the time to read it!! :D

    P.S. – As a student of archaeology and the classics, just saying, but Wikipedia isn’t the most accurate source because it can be edited.

    Posted by Timaandra Wijesuriya | October 30, 2016, 11:33 pm
  2. what is mythology? what is history? by what do you differentiate each or either?

    Posted by Rhonda Somers-Harris | June 23, 2012, 4:18 pm
    • Definitions for both of those words can be found in a dictionary. Don’t ask someone else to do your homework.

      Posted by Xcntrik | June 24, 2012, 1:03 pm
      • It’s not as easy as dictionary definitions though, xcntrik. They both are much wider and more complex concepts than they seem, and, in many cultures intermingle. Take the Odyssey and the Iliad of the Greeks for example, which would you categorize it as? Probably mythology, from this point of view, and yet the Greeks accepted it as history. And do we not find out about past ways of life, which history technically is? And there is archaeological evidence for the siege of Troy, although it may not have happened exactly as the epic states.

        If you go into technicalities, I think what Paul is adopting to get his message across is more ‘pagan’ philosophy than mythology, though.

        Posted by Timaandra Wijesuriya | October 30, 2016, 11:40 pm
  3. Christianity didn’t borrow the belief of an eternal God in whom ‘we live move and have our being’ as it says in Acts 17:28 from “pagan” mythology, that beleif was covered in the first chapters of the Bible. Even if that exact quote was from a poem used for gods that were believed in in Athens, couldn’t Paul have simply made the point that the people were wrongly applying a Godly attribute to a false god. If I saw a group of people claiming that a false god is a certain attribute that I know the real God is in fact, I would tell that group of people they have the right attribute but the wrong god. Its looking at your audience, knowing what they believe, and using it to teach them about something they are incorrect about. In education its called constructivism “building off of prior knowledge”. It was a good way to reach out to this people group and Paul did it very well. You can also look back in this chapter and see that Paul knew that this group of people was very religious 17:22. And right after he uses the quote from the poem Paul writes “therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver..etc” Paul didn’t borrowe anything from other mythology, in this instance he was merely using a quote from a poem that those people were attributing to a different god (one made out of stone, silver, etc..) and applied that to the God spoken about in the Bible.

    Posted by simon | June 7, 2012, 8:49 am
  4. Is there anything the Christians haven’t stolen? They stole the Tanakh and the concept of the Messiah from the Jews and revoked over 99 percent of the Torah to add insult to injury, they stole the identities of an insurgent and a popular Jewish rabbi for their God-man then replaced what Josephus said with downright forgery to cover up their crimes, they stole Hellenic philosophies and pagan traditions and called them Christian, they stole temples, they stole marble, they stole statues… in short, they stole everything.

    Posted by Ed-M | August 25, 2011, 1:48 pm


  1. Pingback: Pseudo-Paul and Epimenides | My Blog - January 18, 2012

  2. Pingback: Pseudo-Paul and Epimenides | My Blog - January 18, 2012

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