February 9, 2013

Epimenides' Paradox

"All Cretans are liars"

A Cretan Liar?
Or so the philosopher and poet Epimenides of Knossos (6th century BCE) is reputed to have once uttered. The statement is considered a paradox because Epimenides was himself a resident of the Isle of Crete. If all Cretans are liars then the statement itself would be a lie... or that at least one Cretan is not a liar. This statement would be true only if it was false.

There is biblical reference to Epimenides and this particular paradoxical declaration... albeit one that indicates Paul the Apostle seriously misunderstood the nature of the statement.

600 years after Epimenides was dead and buried, writing in Titus 1:12, Paul is quoted as saying "even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true." Paul obviously considers Epimenides’ to be denouncing his own people, and Paul himself agrees with that low opinion. He was apparently upset with the Cretans obstruction of Titus in his mission to the island.

Like most all of the Bible, Paul misses the point and displays classic religionistic ignorance. Epimenides was not derogating his tribe… he was attempting to demonstrate logical antinomy.

Math and science… baffling the faithful for 6,000 years.