Poet (ποιητής, a doer, as often translated) occurs but once in this sense in the Bible. Paul quotes the poet Aratuls, a native, as well as himself, of Cilicia (Ac 17:28): "We are the children (the race) of God." This is part of a longer passage, whose import is, "We must begin from Jupiter, whom we must by no means forget. Everything is replete with Jupiter. He fills the streets, the public places, and assemblies of men. The whole sea and its harbors are full of this god, and all of us in all places have need of Jupiter." It was certainly not to prove the being or to enhance the merit of Jupiter that Paul quotes this passage. But he has delivered out of bondage, as we may say, a truth which this poet had uttered, without penetrating its true meaning. The apostle used it to prove the existence of the true God, to a people not convinced of the divine authority of the Scriptures, and who would have rejected such proofs as he might have derived from thence. SEE ARATUS.
The same apostle gives a pagan poet the name of prophet ('it. 1, 12, "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said," etc.), because, among the heathen, poets were thought to be inspired by Apollo. They spoke by enthusiasm. Oracles were originally delivered in verse. Poets were interpreters of the will of the gods. The poet quoted by Paul is Epimenides, whom the ancients esteemed to be inspired and favored by the gods. SEE EPIMENIDES.
The son of Sirach, intent on praising eminent men, enumerates bards or poets; who were, he says, "Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people; wise and eloquent in their instructions: such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing" (Ecclus. 42:4). It is evident that he considered them as of great importance to the community; and we know that they were of great antiquity for Moses, himself a poet, refers to those who spoke in proverbs (Nu 21:27), of which he inserts a specimen. Jacob was a poet, as appears from his farewell benediction on his sons. It appears extremely probable that the honorable appellation Nebi equally denoted a prophet, a poet, and a musician, as the poets principally were. SEE POETRY.