🔼The name Crete: Summary
- Reject, Outcast
- Judge, Critique
- From the Hebrew verb כרת (karat), to round up and cut off.
- From the Greek noun κριτης (krites), a judge, from the verb κρινω (krino), to separate or to distinguish.
🔼Crete in history
The name Crete belongs to the large island directly south of Greece's mainland, which has been peopled since deep (very deep) antiquity. From the 4th millennium BCE until 1420 BCE Crete was home to the Minoans (called Caphtor in the Old Testament) who developed a highly advanced civilization in the eastern Mediterranean basin. Their dominance ended when a string of natural disasters and attacks from rising powers from Anatolia had weakened them, and this gave opportunity to the Greek Mycenaeans to enter Crete and establish their presence there.
By 1200 BCE the Minoan civilization had been eradicated from Crete, and anywhere else for that matter, but here at Abarim Publications we suspect that their final remnant crossed over to Canaan (possibly via Egypt) and overwhelmed indigenous tribes there and became the Philistines. The author of Acts provocatively places a harbor named Phoenix on Crete, by which he suggests that the Phoenicians too had descended from the Minoan civilization (Acts 27:12).
The Bronze Age Collapse of around 1200 BCE meant the end for many cultures of the ancient world, including the Mycenaeans, and Crete joined Greece in its descent into a largely unchronicled dark age. During that time the peoples of Europe were restless and on the move and pushed each other out of the way by violence or social pressure. Crete became the recipient of waves of refugees who were pushed off the Greece mainland.
Renaissance and stability came with the Iron Age, which led to the familiar Golden Age that gave the modern Western world its sciences, arts and philosophies. Crete evolved culturally on a par with Greece, complete with a federation of city states, but seems to have eluded the interests of early Greek rulers. This is curious because Crete has excellent farm lands and an enviable strategic position. An explanation might be provided by the Gortyn Code (a.k.a. the Great Code), which was a huge body of law equaled only by that of Athens. But where Athens also excelled in other genres of text, the Cretans appear to have concentrated their literary energies solely upon the legal convention in which their society was grounded.
Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that Crete played a similar role during the Bronze Age Collapse as the Netherlands did in the 16th century, and the United States of America from the 17th to the early 20th century, namely to be a catch-all for refugees. All societies have washouts and losers, but the difference between a society's natural underclass and one formed by forcibly displaced foreign refugees is that, after a period of recovery and familiarization, the latter turns its shared indignation and sudden freedom into a massive thrust of creativity and wealth accumulation.
Both the Netherlands and the United States began to be separate entities long before anybody contemplated independence, and these identities came about from the influx of large numbers of refugees from a wide variety of source societies. This diversity and variety resulted in an increased cultural liquidity in the host cultures, which in turn caused a boom in technology, communication, trade and international relations. Both the Netherlands and the United States took about a century from the first beginnings of their distinct identities to being interlocked societies that could withstand the greatest military forces in their respective worlds. Both the Netherlands and the United States declared their independence while halfway a massive economic upswing that would culminate in a golden age first and then a debilitating civil conflict. Both civil conflicts were due to a bi-polarization upon (a) the synthetic power of lawyers and politicians on one end, and (b) the natural power of businessmen on the other. And in both cases the winning side got to dominate the reconstruction era, and thus determine the most intimate nature of the new nation.
A civil conflict as the result of bi-polarization upon synthetic law and organic trade in the wake a golden age appears to be the rule rather than the exception. It happened when Rome's republic destabilized and Rome's business (or military predation) defeated the legal government and determined the character of the Empire. The rise of Athens, conversely, coincided when the favor of the poleis shifted from military Sparta to talkative Athens. Crete appears to have gone through a similar evolution and suffered a similar fate. Despite or perhaps because of Crete's meticulous federal legal structure, the aristocrats of the city states began to squabble and dragged Crete into a civil war that lasted pretty much from the 4th century BCE until the Romans made Crete a province in 69 BCE.
🔼Cats and dogs
In the second half of the last millennium BCE, a great deal of thought went into the contemplation of statecraft, or more broadly, into the meditation on how a human society works, how it could be made to work most effectively, and with what effect the gods would be most pleased — which is a pious version of the question of how a society can be made to last. A society that keeps going maintains its legacy in its cultural memory, and this ancient legacy is perpetuated in the liberal use of archetypal themes by living authors. If a society stops, its entire living history dies with it, and all its famous deeds of all its heroes may just as well never have happened.
Post-Mycenaean Crete appears to have bet on hyper-legalization. Hyper-legalization happens when a civil war between politicians and businessmen is won by the politicians and they proceed to regulate any and all economic liquidity into a complex pipework of rules. This has a stifling effect on commerce and promotes the formation of an elite class of lawyers with immaculate etiquette and form, who view the merchant class in derogatory terms and pass that preference onto chroniclers and scribes. Ultimately, such a society evolves into a joyless collective of chagrinned nitpickers who see fault in everything and who allow only the trade of goods and services that support their ever waxing poverty and frustration.
The polar opposite of hyper-legalization is hyper-liberalization. This happens in a society where the businessmen have wholly overcome the politicians and society is deregulated to the point where anything goes. This leads to hyper-liquidity where nothing is certain and people are forced to form impromptu militia to protect their assets from unchecked plunder. Form and etiquette are out, gang loyalty is everything and vice of all variety proliferates.
By the time of the New Testament, the latter societal extreme appears to have had its proverbial representative in Arabia. The Hebrew word for Arabia, namely ארב ('arab) is closely similar to the word for raven, ערב ('oreb), and both come from the verb ארב ('arab), meaning to criss-cross, to be a nomad, to have no permanent home or foothold. Ravens in the Bible usually occur over water, most strikingly in the account of Noah, whose raven remains free and airborne until dry land appears (Genesis 8:7). Another scene that prominently features ravens is the one in which during a draught (a period of diminished liquidity), YHWH sends the prophet Elijah to the brook Cherith (spelled like Crete in Hebrew) where he is fed by ravens (unsubstantiated rumors that trickle in on the grapevine; 1 Kings 17:3-4). Ravens are associated with hearing and have their counterpart in doves, which are associated with sight and eyes (see our article on περιστερα, peristera, dove).
Further symbolism connects legalism and formal government to felines and commerce and the military to canines. That is why God's natural law is depicted as a lion (Revelation 5:5) and a human legal code that is at odds with God's law as a satanic lion (1 Peter 5:8). Canines can be domesticated, in which case they are dogs and man's best friend: the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name Jesus is Joshua, and Joshua's best friend was named Caleb, which means dog and thus represents a properly housebroken military. But if canines are not domesticated they are ravenous wolves who hunt in packs and show no mercy (Matthew 10:16). A society in which the government has the mind of a man in God's image, the canine is a dog and the feline is a cat and all live happily in the same house. A society in which the government has no sense of natural law, the plains are dominated by feral wolves and satanic lions and every other creature is terrified.
🔼The name Crete in the Bible
The picture of Jerusalem that is painted in Acts 2:5-11, right after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, goes far beyond a mere list of foreign visitors. In stead it lists societal structures whose governing wisdom elites were genuinely searching for ways to apply natural law to statecraft; to have their society run on the same laws that govern the universe, so as to have eternal life. Men from Crete — a single Cretan is a Κρες (Kres) — are mentioned almost as an afterthought, along with the Arabs (Acts 2:11). Much later, Paul leaves Titus on Crete (Titus 1:5) and explains that Cretans are "always liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12). The name Titus, of course, is also the name of the general who would sack Jerusalem in 70 CE, and Paul's position reminds of that of Jesus when he accuses the hyper-legal Pharisees of uttering long and vain prayers, being sons of hell and devouring widows' houses (Matthew 23:13-15).
Crete is also mentioned in Acts 27:7, 27:12-13 and 27:21, but the story of Paul's arrest and journey to Rome goes far beyond the adventures of a single pioneering evangelist. The Gospels discuss the same topic as the rest of the Bible does, namely how the Word of YHWH (that's natural law) could have gotten human form (the formalization of natural law in a common standard language or convention). This is why the Old Testament is concentrated on the development of human speech and writing and the invention of systemic correspondence, narration, fiction and allegory, and hence discusses the invention of international trade along established routes, their military protection and ways for societies to fund it all.
The Gospel genre obviously concentrates on the period from the Hasmoneans to the Sanhedrin's move to the Galilee after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and includes commentaries on events as far afield as the Illyrian Revolt. The story of Paul clearly originated separately from the story of Jesus' disciples, and was only later joined with it to form the Book of Acts. This too keeps with tradition since all Books of the Old Testament are compilations of loosely dependent narratives.
The story of Saul the Pharisee who becomes Paul the evangelist concerns government, and particularly the kind of government that secures the freedom to pursue and develop the convention that makes a formalization of natural law possible. The prophet Isaiah speaks of making a highway along which most people may freely travel, and via which one day the ransomed will return (Isaiah 35:8-10) and the glory of YHWH will be revealed (40:3-5). The gospels speak of a manger around which domesticated animals gather to eat (Luke 2:7), but also connect the effort of highway-making to John the Baptist (Mark 1:3-4) and Elijah (Matthew 11:14, Malachi 4:5). John the Baptist relates to Jesus the way king Saul relates to David.
John baptized in the Jordan but criticized king Herod and was beheaded in prison. Elijah pronounced a drought to king Ahab and ended up in hiding at the brook Cherith. Paul preached all over Asia and Europe and ended up at Caesar's court where he was beheaded (according to extra-Biblical tradition).
The Bible tells the story of humanity that has always yearned for communion with the Creator (Genesis 4:26). It tells how long ago, some folks realized that communion with the Creator comes with embodying the Creator's law, which in turn comes from studying observable reality with as many people as possible (Romans 1:20). That led them to invent a kind of script that was easy to learn, and to create schools which all men could attend. The story of Jesus tells of the struggle of men with humanity's intellectual, creative and imaginative limitations. The stories of Elijah, Mordecai and Esther, John the Baptist and Paul tell of the struggle of those same men with governments.
🔼The Long Voyage
The account of Paul's arrest in Jerusalem and subsequent sea voyage to Rome as a prisoner follows the deterioration of the dialogue between academia and heads of state — not chronologically, but as consecutive stations of discourse wherever and whenever they might have occurred in recorded history. The journey starts out in occupied Jerusalem, with Paul in chains, and ends in Rome with Paul a celebrated hero surrounded by friends (Acts 28:15).
Around 1000 BCE kings David and Solomon were focused solely on the formalization of natural law, and the temple in Jerusalem was a joint venture with the Phoenicians. This temple was both a global center of academic learning (1 Kings 10:23-25, see Revelation 21:24) and an allegorical representation of the alphabet. The alphabet allowed human thoughts to be perpetuated, which in turn prevented the body of God's Holy One to see decay (Psalm 16:10, 49:9, Acts 2:27).
The first half of the journey, away from Jerusalem, happens in a ship from Adramyttium, which was a city in Aeolis, in Anatolia (modern Turkey), and the second half, toward Rome, in a ship from Alexandria, which was in Ptolemaic Egypt. With this the author seems to indicate that despite its advanced early civilization, Egypt was never very conductive to creative thought (which might also explain why artistic expression barely changed over thousands of years). In stead, the Minoan northlings guaranteed a much greater civil liberty and their culture was much more diverse and fruitful. The Minoans were also wise enough to realize that their entire culture was a mere egg shell, which could be discarded when the chick had hatched. The Egyptians and the Greeks after them made sure that whatever shape God's Holy One would finally assume, everybody knew that they were its bones. The author of Acts made Paul's journey a journey from a Semitic paradise into a bone strewn pagan hell (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Matthew 27:33, 27:52-53).
In the Alexandrian ship, the journey becomes troubled at once. With difficulty the travelers make it to a Crete port called Kaloi Limenes, near Lasea. There Paul advises to wait out the storm but the harbor isn't suited for winter living and the sailors insist on heading back out and try to make it to the Cretan port of Phoenix. Before they can get there, the Euroclydon sweeps them off and away from Crete, past a small island called Clauda and into a fourteen day ordeal that lands them finally on Malta.
The ship is destroyed and the men winter on Malta, in the care of chief Publius, until another Alexandrian ship takes them to Syracuse (of Archimedes fame), then to Rhegium and then to Puteoli and finally Rome.
🔼Etymology of the name Crete
Crete's earlier name Caphtor didn't refer to the island so much as to the Minoan civilization, which at its zenith extended far beyond the island. The name Caphtor died with the Minoan culture, and the new name Crete appears to have been brought along with the Mycenaean invaders, who were actually refugees from the Greek main land. If the recent past is any indication, the crisis of the Bronze Age Collapse probably inspired the remaining elite to identify the usual suspects and hold them responsible for society's trouble. Whether they were sent there by their overlords or whether they went voluntarily, the chances are excellent that the Mycenaean invaders who ultimately extinguished the dwindling Minoan culture on Crete were Mycenaean outcast: folks who had trouble fitting in or for whatever reason failed to adhere to the Mycenaean norm.
That suggests that Crete was pretty much the Bronze Age equivalent of British Australia, and since the Mycenaean outcast probably required a few generations to settle in and develop an independent social identity, the changes are excellent that the name Crete didn't come from themselves but was given to them by outsiders. All this yields a high likelihood that the name Crete came from the Semitic verb כרת (karat), meaning to round up and cut off:
The verb כרר (karar) is one of a few that describes a circular motion, and particularly a repeated circular motion: a swirl. This verb has the added nuance of amassing something within the circle so formed.
Noun כר (kar) means pasture, a defined region where herds roam and are kept. Identical noun כר (kar) describes a [male] lamb, probably literally as a "unit of herd." Similar noun כר (kor) is a unit of volume. Noun כרכרה (kirkara) is a diminutive and feminine version of כר (kar) and describes some domesticated animal. Noun ככר (kikkar) refers to any "round thing," from a large region to a circular lid or loaf of bread.
Verb כור (kar) means to contain by surrounding or winding about (like a turban). Noun כר (kar) appears to describe a bundle upon a pack animal. Noun כור (kur) describes a smelting pot or furnace; noun כיר (kir) refers to a cooking-furnace, and noun כיר (kir) or כיור (kiyor) describes a cooking pot or laver.
The noun כר (kar) was also used to describe an instrument of war, probably a device that could bundle or leverage force; perhaps a catapult of some sort.
Noun מכרה (mekora) or מכורה (mekurah) literally describes location or agent of the verb כור (kar). In practice it describes the contracting of nomadic social groups into a defining shared cultural identity and ultimately the emergence of a formal nation. Similar noun מכרה (mekera) describes the effect of a sword: probably a forced compliance to a dominating convention.
Verb כרה (kara) emphasizes the accumulative clause of our root. It may describe digging a grave, well or pit but with the understanding that something will be deposited in these holes. This verb may also be used to describe acquisition by means of international trade, or even the concentration of people, goods and merriment in a feast. Noun כרה (kara) refers to the structure created to collect in, and noun מכרה (mikreh) to the act or result of it.
Verb כרת (karat) describes the cutting off what was first rounded up and isolated. This verb may simply describe a cutting down of trees, but it also describes the "cutting" of a covenant. It also describes the social principle by which weaker members of society are isolated and driven out, often to be adopted by another society which not rarely elevates these rejects to an elite class. Noun כריתות (keritut) means dismissal or divorce.
When a few generations had passed and the Bronze Age Collapse began to subside, the people to the north of Crete morphed their Mycenaean language into Greek and probably passed that onto the Cretans. When the Cretans began to feel the desire to proclaim their collective identify, they must have taken a liking to the name their Semitic neighbors had given them, and applied it to the proto-Indo-European root krei, to separate or distinguish. Homer appears to have liked the same root as he gave the founding king of Aeolis the name Cretheus (κρηθευς), which shares its second element with the name Prometheus (Προμηθευς). What that second part means isn't quite clear, but many scholars believe it means "thought," which in turn suggests that the name Cretheus means "discerning thought." Cretheus' nephew was Jason of Argonaut and Golden Fleece fame, and the ship of Paul's first half of the journey came from Adramyttium, which was a city in Aeolis.
Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that the name Crete was preserved due to its proximity to the Greek verb κρινω (krino), to separate or distinguish and its derived noun κριτης (krites), judge:
The verb κρινω (krino) means to separate or to distinguish. It relates to the Latin verb cerno and thus to the English verb "to discern." It ultimately stems from the proto-Indo-European root krei, to sieve or distinguish, which is also the root of words like "certain, secret, secrete" and "secretary" (someone who handles one's secrets).
The derived noun κριμα (krima) means a judgment; hence the English word "crime," which also in English is not a wrong deed done by a perpetrator but a wrong deed found guilty of by a judge or jury of peers. Sibling noun κρισις (krisis) also means a judgment but describes the difficult deliberation and uncertainty that necessarily precedes the formation of a κριμα (krima), that is the decision of who did what.
The noun κριτης (krites) means a judge: someone whose task involves formally discerning between parties and sorting out any available κριτηριον (kriterion), that is "a means for judging" (hence our English word "criterion").
The name Crete initially appears to have described an undesirable underclass of misfits whose members were categorically rounded up and expelled: Rejects, Misfits. But in Greek times this name began to mean Judge, Discernment, Critique.