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Crete, Cretans

See also Crete

CRETE, CRETANS (Gr. Krētē, Krētes, Acts.2.11; Titus.1.12). An island in the Mediterranean Sea with Cythera on the NW and Rhodes on the NE, forming a natural bridge between Europe and Asia Minor. Crete is about 156 (260 km.) miles long and from 7 to 30 miles (11 1/2-50 km.) wide. Despite its enviable geographical position, Crete has never attained a prominent place in history, partly because of internal dissensions and, in more modern times, because of its acceptance of Turkish rule and the Islamic faith until a.d. 1913, when it was formally incorporated into Greece in which the Orthodox church predominates.

In mythology, Mount Ida is the legendary birthplace of Zeus, the head of the Greek Pantheon. King Minos, a half-historical and half- mythological character, alleged son of Zeus, was an early ruler of Crete. Both Thucydides and Aristotle accepted the existence of King Minos and claimed that he established maritime supremacy for Crete by putting down piracy. Aristotle compares the institutions of Crete to those of Sparta. Crete is said to have been colonized by the Dorians from Peloponnesus. The most important of the ancient cities of Crete are Knossos, excavated by Arthur Evans; Gortyna near the gulf of Messara; and Cydonia. Around 140 b.c. the Jews established a large enough colony on this island to be able to appeal successfully to the protection of Rome.

In the OT the Kerethites (1Sam.30.14; Ezek.25.16), held to be a group of Philistines, are identified as Cretans. In the NT a number of Cretans are represented as being present on the Day of Pentecost. Paul visited Crete and left his assistant Titus in charge. In the opinion of the apostle Paul, even the Christians in Crete were not of high moral character: “Cretans are always liars....” (Titus.1.12). The first words of this quotation are to be found in the hymn to Zeus by Callimachus. The particular lie of which the Cretans were always guilty was that they said the tomb of Zeus, a nonexistent personage, was located on their island. Laziness and gluttony also characterized them. Titus is charged sharply to rebuke them (Titus.1.13). A storm on his journey to Rome forced Paul’s ship into the port of Cnidus (Acts.27.17). The narrative does not specifically indicate that Paul actually landed on the island.