'Cretans Are All Liars But Select A Blameless One As An Elder'
Steve Schlissel, an orthodox Reformed pastor from NYC, notes the incongruity about Paul's words on Cretans:
I read two verses: “Even one of the Cretan’s own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true” (Titus 1:12-13). Clearly, Paul makes a comprehensive, categorical statement that all Cretans are liars. “I have a witness of not only myself and my experience,” Paul says, “but one of their own prophets says that the Cretans are bad news, and the Holy Spirit speaking through me now tells you that this is true.” So, here is a proposition, here are the verses, and here is the proof. That’s the end of the matter. The only problem is that there are other verses in the Bible. In this very chapter Paul tells Titus, “The reason I left you in Crete is that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. An elder must be blameless.” How is Titus supposed to find a “blameless” lying creep? They are all stinking liars. One verse says that all Cretans are liars, but another tells Titus to find one who isn’t; yet, if all Cretans are liars, there are none that are not. So we have a problem. (Schlissel, Covenant Thinking (Auburn 2002 Pastor's onference) PDF at 7.)
Schlissel then says this proves we cannot take the Bible literally. There must be a solution -- although he does not offer a solution. His answer is:
Let’s hear what Paul is actually saying. Let’s give him the latitude that we give
to one another in our speech. Let him speak like he’s from New York City—which he tends to do with extreme statements to make a point [as] hyperbole—rather than demand that he be taken so literally. We don’t know how to interpret anything, but we line up our verses to prove our points!
Schlissel's point is to use this as proof that in Romans when Paul says "no, none are righteous," we should not take this literally because we cannot take Titus 1:12-13 literally either.
Really? I'd say it means something else. We cannot believe everything Paul says as if it were literally God speaking.
Email Criticism by Vic 8/4/2015
Even a surface reading of this text of Titus 1:12-13 reveals Paul is telling Titus to sharply review people who are making these statements about the Cretans. He was merely quoting some of the ugly things their own prophets had said. I don't understand how you purposely contrived to make Paul look so bad. Even an early Bible student can decipher the text. Because of this I now question much what you say.
“Even one of the Cretan’s own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true” (Titus 1:12-13)
Thus, Paul affirmed as true that Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, etc. Paul was not merely quoting "ugly things their own prophets said." Paul specifically affirms "this testimony is true."
Hence, if Paul is inspired in this, then we are not free to "decipher" the text so as to negate its universality. God would be cursing this entire people for all time. We would have to accept this as true.
If an "early" Bible student knows he can disregard an unquestionably true statement of an absolute fact given by God, then human intellect is used to "decipher" what God is thinking. I doubt that would be a good Bible student. God says he made the universe out of nothing. Sounds nonsensical, but we must accept as true, and not "decipher" it with human intellect. (It turns out science proves what God said that didn't make any sense.)
However, we are free to decipher statements of Paul if we thought he were a human being writing without inspiration. But you are not free to Decipher his statement if he's inspired, you contend. But that is my point. Is Paul writing under inspiration?
If so, you are not free to decipher God's meaning with the notion that it is so nonsensical that it is God speaking absurdly. If Paul is uninspired, well of course, Paul can speak nonsensically to make a rhetorical point, and you are free to "decipher" Paul's meaning. We are not to take him seriously even though Paul is being emphatic. Paul is not God speaking a curse over this people, and we can relax in reading Paul's words and look for their rhetorical point.
This passage in Titus 1:12-13 proves the point in Second Peter. Second Peter tells us in 3:16 that Paul speaks of some things "hard to be understood." This is more correctly translated as that Paul speaks some "nonsensical" things. The Greek word is "dysnoetas." This is a term typically used as ridicule meaning "nonsensical." The Greek dysnoetas was used this very way by another Christian early 'father' -- Lucian -- referring to a false prophet who replied to Lucian's inquiries with multiple responses which Lucian said were "silly and nonsensical" (dysnoetas) -- every one." (Lucian's work Alexander the False Prophet, para. 54.)
Hence, Second Peter tells us indirectly to treat Paul as an ordinary "writing" which the unstable can wrest to their destruction because it has "nonsensical" things in it. So Second Peter warns us not to treat Paul as inspired, if you are reading with ears to hear.