Author Topic: 1st century Gnostic Christian, Judaic, and Pagan writings about Christianity  (Read 13832 times)

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Offline Volnutt

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I know all about that tempest in a teapot, yes.
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Wikipedia notes about Mara Bar Serapion's Syriac language letter that may mention Jesus:
Quote
"most scholars date it to shortly after AD 73 during the first century."
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_bar_Serapion_on_Jesus)

The letter sounds like it is referring to Jesus:
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What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king? It was just after that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea and the Jews, desolate and driven from their own kingdom, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates is not dead, because of Plato; neither is Pythagoras, because of the statue of Juno; nor is the wise king, because of the "new law" he laid down.

This part makes it sound like the author wasn't a Christian because Christianity would emphasize that Jesus lived on in His resurrected body: "Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given."

I don't understand the last part of the end of Mara Bar Serapion's letter:
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One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: “Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest.” “I am laughing,” said Mara, “at Time: inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back.”

Wikipedia says: "There were three cases when captives were taken from Samosata, in 72 AD by the Romans, in 161/162 by Parthians and in 256 by Sasanians".
Since Mara says his city was captured by Rome and he was taken captive, it suggests a date of c. 72 AD for the letter.

William Cureton proposes a date of about 162 AD:
Quote
The mention, however, of that island having been covered with sand, as a punishment for the burning of Pythagoras, seems to me to have a direct reference to the Sibylline verses; "I cannot therefore, in my own mind, come to any other conclusion than that this Epistle ought to be assigned to a period when the Sibylline verses were frequently cited, the age of Justin Martyr, Meliton, and Tertullian. This date, too, will perhaps otherwise coincide quite as well with what is read in the letter as the former. The troubles to which the writer alludes as having befallen himself and his city will apply to those inflicted by the Eomans upon the countries about the Tigris and Euphrates which had been excited to rebel against them by Vologeses, in the Parthian war under the command of Lucius Verus, A.D. 162-165. I have not found the name of Samosata especially mentioned as having suffered more than other cities in this war; but it is stated that Seleucia was sacked and burned by the Romans, and five or six thousand slain. The persecution under Marcus Antoninus followed very close upon this war, and as these facts equally agree with the allusions made in this Epistle of Mara, it may perhaps be nearer the truth to assign its date to the latter half of the second century rather than to the close of the first.

If indeed such be the period at which this Letter was written, there is no improbability in supposing, that the Serapion, to whom it is addressed, may be the same as he who succeeded Maximinus as eighth Bishop of Antioch, about the year 190, and who himself also wrote short epistles, similar to this in purpose and tendency, for which indeed his father's might have set him a pattern.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/info/mara.html

Do you agree with Peter Kirby's claim that the 1st to 2nd nonChristian writers who mentioned Christians described them as odd?:

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If there is one impression that we can gather from the references to Christians in our non-Christian sources, one common theme that that runs through Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Epictetus, Lucian, Marcus Aurelius, Galen, Celsus, and Philostratus, it is the inherent oddity they ascribe to the group. The only real exception in the literature of the era that stands out is that attributed to Mara Bar-Serapion
http://peterkirby.com/mara-bar-serapion-fourth-century.html
Josephus is commonly considered a nonChristian writer and as the scholars most commonly interpret the Testamonium, he doesn't describe them as odd.

« Last Edit: June 13, 2018, 12:47:16 AM by rakovsky »
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Offline Volnutt

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Sounds right for most mentions of Christianity, at least. In terms of Josephus, it seems like a lot hinges on just what he meant by "if indeed one could call him [Jesus] a man."
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Some scholars discussed whether Mara Bar Serapion was a pagan or a Christian, and a polytheist or monotheist. It looks to me like he was a monotheist because he writes in his letter:
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When, moreover, a person has left his home, and is able still to preserve his previous character, and properly does that which it behoves him to do, he is that chosen man who is called "the blessing of God," and one who does not find aught else to compare with his freedom.
...
When, moreover, anything untoward befalls thee, do not lay the blame on man, nor be angry against God, nor fulminate against the time thou livest in.

If thou shalt continue in this mind, thy gift it not small which thou hast received from God, which has no need of riches, and is never reduced to poverty. For without fear shalt thou pass thy life, and with rejoicing.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/mara.html


It's interesting what he says here:
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beware lest the gain which many hunger after enervate thee, and thy mind turn to covet riches, which have no stability. For, when they are acquired by fraud, they do not continue; nor, even when justly obtained, do they last; and all those things which are seen by thee in the world, as belonging to that which is only for a little time, are destined to depart like a dream: for they are but as the risings and settings of the seasons.

Can you make sense out of this?:
Quote
"About the objects of that vainglory, too, of which the life of men is full, be not thou solicitous: seeing that from those things which give us joy there quickly comes to us harm. Most especially is this the case with the birth of beloved children. For in two respects it plainly brings us harm: in the case of the virtuous, our very affection for them torments us, and from their very excellence of character we Suffer torture; and, in the case of the vicious, we are worried with their correction, and afflicted with their misconduct."
How do virtuous parents suffer torture from their children's excellence of character?


I like what he said here in his letter:
Quote
But as for thee, my beloved, be not distressed because in thy loneliness thou hast been driven from place to place. For to these things men are born, since they are destined to meet with the accidents of time. But rather let thy thought be this, that to wise men every place is alike, and that in every city the good have many fathers and mothers. Else, if thou doubt it, take thee a proof from what thou hast seen thyself. How many people who know thee not love thee as one of their own children; and what a host of women receive thee as they would their own beloved ones! Verily, as a stranger thou hast been fortunate; verily, for thy small love many people have conceived an ardent affection for thee.
...

For myself, what I am henceforth solicitous about is this-that, so far as I have recollections of the past, I may leave behind me a book containing them, and with a prudent mind finish the journey which I am appointed to take, and depart without suffering out of the sad afflictions of the world. For my prayer is, that I may receive my dismissal; and by what kind of death concerns me not. But, if any one should be troubled or anxious about this, I have no counsel to give him: for yonder, in the dwelling-place of all the world, will he find us before him.

Can you make sense of this ending:
Quote
One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: "Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest." "I am laughing," said Mara, "at Time: inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back."
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 01:27:26 AM by rakovsky »
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Offline Volnutt

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Some scholars discussed whether Mara Bar Serapion was a pagan or a Christian, and a polytheist or monotheist. It looks to me like he was a monotheist because he writes in his letter:
Quote
When, moreover, a person has left his home, and is able still to preserve his previous character, and properly does that which it behoves him to do, he is that chosen man who is called "the blessing of God," and one who does not find aught else to compare with his freedom.
...
When, moreover, anything untoward befalls thee, do not lay the blame on man, nor be angry against God, nor fulminate against the time thou livest in.

If thou shalt continue in this mind, thy gift it not small which thou hast received from God, which has no need of riches, and is never reduced to poverty. For without fear shalt thou pass thy life, and with rejoicing.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/mara.html

He could have been a Monotheist in Plato's sense (there's a Supreme Being that is beyond, and the creator of, any other "god" that might exist and far more important than they are).

Can you make sense out of this?:
Quote
"About the objects of that vainglory, too, of which the life of men is full, be not thou solicitous: seeing that from those things which give us joy there quickly comes to us harm. Most especially is this the case with the birth of beloved children. For in two respects it plainly brings us harm: in the case of the virtuous, our very affection for them torments us, and from their very excellence of character we Suffer torture; and, in the case of the vicious, we are worried with their correction, and afflicted with their misconduct."
How do virtuous parents suffer torture from their children's excellence of character?

My guess would be, "Because the virtuous suffer from this evil world and no parent wants to see their children suffer."

I like what he said here in his letter:
Quote
But as for thee, my beloved, be not distressed because in thy loneliness thou hast been driven from place to place. For to these things men are born, since they are destined to meet with the accidents of time. But rather let thy thought be this, that to wise men every place is alike, and that in every city the good have many fathers and mothers. Else, if thou doubt it, take thee a proof from what thou hast seen thyself. How many people who know thee not love thee as one of their own children; and what a host of women receive thee as they would their own beloved ones! Verily, as a stranger thou hast been fortunate; verily, for thy small love many people have conceived an ardent affection for thee.
...

For myself, what I am henceforth solicitous about is this-that, so far as I have recollections of the past, I may leave behind me a book containing them, and with a prudent mind finish the journey which I am appointed to take, and depart without suffering out of the sad afflictions of the world. For my prayer is, that I may receive my dismissal; and by what kind of death concerns me not. But, if any one should be troubled or anxious about this, I have no counsel to give him: for yonder, in the dwelling-place of all the world, will he find us before him.

Doesn't seem too dissimilar to Mark 10:9 and equivalents, to me. It is a nice passage, yeah.

Can you make sense of this ending:
Quote
One of his friends asked Mara, son of Serapion, when in bonds at his side: "Nay, by thy life, Mara, tell me what cause of laughter thou hast seen, that thou laughest." "I am laughing," said Mara, "at Time: inasmuch as, although he has not borrowed any evil from me, he is paying me back."

Just laughing at the whimsical unfairness of life, I guess. Sometimes you gotta laugh just so you don't cry.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 07:31:11 AM by Volnutt »
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Good answers.
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Stephen Goranson proposes that in Pliny's description of the geography of the Qumran community, Pliny the Elder was talking about Qumran:
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It has frequently been pointed out that Pliny here does use the sense of "downstream" which the North to South movement here suggests, rather than placing them in hills west of Ein Gedi, hills whose existence he does not mention.13 It has also often been noted that, despite intensive archaeological surveys, no site other than the Qumran/Ein Feshkha complex qualifies. I can add yet another indication that Agrippa in Pliny did describe Essenes at Qumran. Of the seventeen cases14 where in the geographic books of N.H., books 3 to 6, where Pliny uses "infra," two of those which use the term to mean "downstream" occur in sections of Pliny's text (4.84 and 6.136) which explicitly name Marcus Agrippa. Though this does not absolutely prove that Agrippa used the word in this sense in his account of Essenes, it does appear that the evidence as a whole makes the link of Agrippa's description with Qumran secure.
http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il/symposiums/programs/Goranson98.shtml

I wonder if Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (Book V, Chapter 19) was referring to the Christian community around Apamea as the "Nazarenes"?
Pliny writes: " Coele Syria has the town of Apamea, divided by the river Marsyas from the Tetrarchy of the Nazerini" (Book 5, Chapter 19)
FOOTNOTE:
"It is suggested, that these are the Phylarchi Arabes of Strabo, now called the Nosairis, who were situate to the east of Apamea. The river Marsyas here mentioned was a small tributary of the Orontes, into which it falls on the east side, near Apamea."

Wikipedia says of Pliny the Elder's Natural History:
Quote
He began it in 77, and had not made a final revision at the time of his death during the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_History_(Pliny))
So at that time the Christians likely were inhabiting the region of Pella. In his Natural History, Pliny says that the Nazarenes were living near Apamea (in Syria), which was also called Pella. He also described the Essenes in detail a few chapters earlier (Chapter 15 of Book 5), so it would fit his style of writing for him to describe the Nazarenes.
In Eusebius' History and the Panarion of Epiphanius, they describe Christian groups in the city of Pella in what is today Jordan:
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The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis cite a tradition that before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Jerusalem Christians had been miraculously warned to flee to Pella (Tabaquat Fahil) in the region of the Decapolis across the Jordan River.

    The people of the Church in Jerusalem were commanded by an oracle given by revelation before the war to those in the city who were worthy of it to depart and dwell in one of the cities of Perea which they called Pella.
    — Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3


    This heresy of the Nazoraeans exists in Beroea in the neighbourhood of Coele Syria and the Decapolis in the region of Pella and in Basanitis in the so-called Kokaba (Chochabe in Hebrew). From there it took its beginning after the exodus from Jerusalem when all the disciples went to live in Pella because Christ had told them to leave Jerusalem and to go away since it would undergo a siege."
    — Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7-8

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_to_Pella
In the New Testament, Paul is accused of being a leader of the Nazarene sect (Acts 24:5), and Tertullian (late 2nd c. - early 3rd c.) says that the Christians were called Nazarenes by the Jews.

However, there are some scholarly objections to equating Pliny's Nazarenes with the Christians. Pliny is often considered to have described a pre-Christian "Nazarene" sect in Syria because his writing on the Levant commonly describes the region as it was in the time of Marcus Agrippa, whose writings formed a major source of Pliny's information.
Besides that, Pliny in the first century describes the Nazarini as living near Apamea/Pella in Syria, whereas Eusebius and Epiphanes in the fourth century describe the Nazarenes as living in Pella in what is today Jordan. It could be that Pliny was mistaken about the location (Syria v Jordan) or else that the fourth century writers were mistaken, or it could be that these really were two different Pellas with two different groups of "Nazarenes".
Another curious feature is how the Nazarenes are ruled by a "tetrarchy", which means that four people rule over them. The term tetrarchy is common for that chapter, wherein Pliny names about 20 other "tetrarchies" in the region.
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In "Pagan Rome and the Early Christians", Stephen Benko wrote about the Stoic philosopher Epictetus:
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Epictetus ... taught first in Rome and then in Nicopolis, Epirus. Both cities had a Christian congregation at a very early date, and, according to Titus 3:12, the apostle Paul spent a whole winter in Nicopolis. Epictetus... had a good opportunity to learn something about the Christians, whom he called Galileans, and he seems to have been particularly impressed by their lack of fear before the authorities.
Josephus talks about the Galileans as a sect and says that they have a leader called Judas the Galilean, but he doesn't equate them openly with Christians. So it's curious to me whether they are the same group.


Peter Oakes writes in "Epictetus and the New Testament":
Quote
Epictetus  can  also  base  relational  ethics  on our  fellow  humans  being,  like  us,  offspring  of Zeus (Diss. 1.13.4).

Conformity to God’s will
Lead thou me on, O Zeus and Destiny,
To that goal long ago to me assigned. 
I’ll follow and not falter; if my will
Prove weak and craven, still I’ll follow on. (Ench. 53)

This  hymn  by  Cleanthes  is  a  favourite  of  Epictetus’   and  points  to  the  centre  of  his  religious  concern,  namely  to  conform  his  will  to  God’s.  God,  for  Epictetus,  is  omnipotent  and  this  is  applied to give the result that whatever happens is God’s will (Frag. 3 [Stobaeus IV.44, 66]).
https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/vox/vol23/epictetus_oakes.pdf

Was "Zeus" a reference to God for the ancient Greeks?

In "Epictetus' Views on Christians", Niko Huutenen writes that "two passages actually refer to [Christians] (Discourses 2.9:19-21 and 4.7.6).

Jules Evans writes in Stoicism and Christianity:
Quote
the Stoics were monotheists – they followed Heraclitus in believing in one Logos. In this they can be compared to the evolving monotheism of Judaism, particularly that of Moses around two centuries earlier. Later Christians would draw on the Stoic concept of the Logos, particularly in the marvelous opening to the Gospel of St John.
http://www.philosophyforlife.org/stoicism-and-christianity/

According to Kevin Vost:
Quote
an anonymous epigram found in the writings of St. John Chrysostom [says]: “Slave, poor as Irus, halting as I trod, I, Epictetus, was the friend of God.”
http://modernstoicism.com/the-porch-and-the-cross-stoicism-and-christianity-by-kevin-vost/


Philip Schaff writes about Epictetus:
Quote
There is a bare possibility that he had a passing acquaintance with him, if not with Paul himself. He came as a slave to Rome with his master, Epaphroditus, a profligate freedman and favorite of Nero (whom he aided in committing suicide), and was afterwards set at liberty.
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc2.v.x.iv.html

I guess that this Epaphroditus is likely the one to whom Paul sent greetings in one of the epistles, and is the one to whom Josephus dedicates writings.


In his Discourses, Book II, Chapter 9, there is a section that is reminiscient of Paul's discussion on being a Jew inwardly vs. having only the rituals of a Jew (like circumcision). What is curious especially for me is how he speaks of himself and his group as being "baptized". Does this reference to baptism and similarity to Paul's philosophy of being an inward Jew suggest that Epictetus, like perhaps his master Epaphroditus, was some version of a secret Christian?
An easy objection could be that Stoic philosophy has known differences from Christianity, yet on the other hand, Christianity was a movement in the process of being born and Paul was trying to spread a wide net to make converts across gentile circles (as when he taught that it was acceptable for Christians to eat food offered to pagan idols, which could occur during shared meals with pagans.).
Here is the passage:
Quote
1925 LOEB TRANSLATION:
Why, then, do you call yourself a Stoic, why do you deceive the multitude, why do you act the part of a Jew,[4] when you are a Greek? 20Do you not see in what sense men are severally called Jew, Syrian, or Egyptian? For example, whenever we see a man halting between two faiths, we are in the habit of saying, "He is not a Jew, he is only acting the part." But when he adopts the attitude of mind of the man who has been baptized and has made his choice, then he both is a Jew in fact and is also called one. So we also are counterfeit "baptists," ostensibly Jews, but in reality something else, not in sympathy with our own reason, far from applying the principles which we profess, yet priding ourselves upon them as being men who know them. So, although we are unable even to fulfil the profession of man, we take on the additional profession of the philosopher —so huge a burden! It is as though a man who was unable to raise ten pounds wanted to lift the stone of Aias.

LOEB FOOTNOTE:
It would appear (especially from the expression "counterfeit 'baptists'" below) that Epictetus is here speaking really of the Christians, who were in his time not infrequently confused with the Jews. (But it should be observed that the text translated here is an emendation, for the MS. says "the part of Greeks when you are a Jew," which may possibly be defended on the understanding that, in the parlance of Epictetus, a Jew is one who does not follow reason as his sole guide.)
The sense of this much vexed passage I take to be: True Jews (i.e. Christians) are a very marked class of men because of the rigorous consistency between their faith and their practice. But there are some who for one reason or another (possibly in order to avail themselves of the charity which the Christians dispensed to the poor, as Schweighäuser suggests,—like the so-called "rice Christians") profess a faith which they do not practise. It is this class, then, which Epictetus has in mind when he bitterly calls himself and his pupils "counterfeit 'baptists.'"

1890 George Long Translation
Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? Why do you act like a Jew, when you are a Greek? Do not you see on what terms each is called a Jew, a Syrian, an Egyptian? And when we see any one wavering, we are wont to say, This is not a Jew, but only acts like one. But, when he assumes the sentiments of one who has been baptized and circumcised, then he both really is, and is called, a Jew. Thus we, falsifying our profession, may be Jews in name, but are in reality something else. We are inconsistent with our own discourse; we are far from practising what we teach, and what we pride ourselves on knowing. Thus, while we are unable to fulfil what the character of a man implies, we are ready to assume besides so vast a weight as that of a philosopher. As if a person, incapable of lifting ten pounds, should endeavor to heave the same stone with Ajax.

1916 Greek text
τί οὖν Στωικὸν λέγεις σεαυτόν, τί ἐξαπατᾷς τοὺς πολλούς, τί ὑποκρίνῃ Ἰουδαῖον ὢν Ἕλλην; [20] οὐχ ὁρᾷς, πῶς ἕκαστος λέγεται Ἰουδαῖος, πῶς Σύρος, πῶς Αἰγύπτιος; καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν ‘οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ᾽ ὑποκρίνεται.’ ὅταν δ᾽ ἀναλάβῃ τὸ πάθος τὸ τοῦ βεβαμμένου καὶ ᾑρημένου, τότε καὶ ἔστι τῷ ὄντι καὶ καλεῖται Ἰουδαῖος. [21] οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς παραβαπτισταί, λόγῳ μὲν Ἰουδαῖοι, ἔργῳ δ᾽ ἄλλο τι, ἀσυμπαθεῖς πρὸς τὸν λόγον, μακρὰν ἀπὸ τοῦ χρῆσθαι τούτοις ἃ λέγομεν, ἐφ᾽ οἷς ὡς εἰδότες αὐτὰ ἐπαιρόμεθα. [22] οὕτως οὐδὲ τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαγγελίαν πληρῶσαι δυνάμενοι προσλαμβάνομεν τὴν τοῦ φιλοσόφου, τηλικοῦτο φορτίον οἷον εἴ τις δέκα λίτρας ἆραι μὴ δυνάμενος τὸν τοῦ Αἴαντος λίθον βαστάζειν ἤθελεν.

1877 Chesterfield society edition footnote:
It has been suggested that Epictetus confounded under the name of Jews those who were Jews and those who were Christians.

Maybe it does not really say that "we", the writer and his circle, are "baptized", and this is a later mistaken "emendation"?
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Welcome back!
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Thanks.
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My guess is that Epictetus got baptized as a secret 1st-early 2nd century Christian because:
1) His master Epaphroditus appears to be an early Christian as mentioned in Phillipians and numerous scholars have suggested (I wrote about this in the 1st century Judaic & pagan writers thread).
2) He seems to write about being a true, inward Jew like Paul talked about and maybe talked about himself and his own group as being baptized. But this could be a mistranslation:

Quote
Why then do you call yourself a Stoic? Why do you deceive the many? Why do you act the part of a Jew,6 when you are a Greek? Do you not see how (why) each is called a Jew, or a Syrian or an Egyptian? and when we see a man inclining to two sides, we are accustomed to say, This man is not a Jew, but he acts as one. But when he has assumed the affects of one who has been imbued with Jewish doctrine and has adopted that sect, then he is in fact and he is named a Jew.7 Thus we too being falsely imbued (baptized), are in name Jews, but in fact we are something else. Our affects (feelings) are inconsistent with our words; we are far from practising what we say, and that of which we are proud, as if we knew it.

Higginson's Footnote:
It is possible, as I have said, that by Jews Epictetus means Christians, for Christians and Jews are evidently confounded by some writers, as the first Christians were of the Jewish nation. In book iv. c. 7, Epictetus gives the name of Galilaeans to the Jews. The term Galilaeans points to the country of the great teacher. Paul says (Romans, ii. 28), 'For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly—but he is a Jew which is one inwardly,' etc. His remarks (ii. 17–29) on the man 'who is called a Jew, and rests in the law and makes his boast of God' may be compared with what Epictetus says of a man who is called a philosopher, and does not practise that which he professes.

1890 Higginson translation, Discourses 2.9


See also page 317 in Religio-Philosophical Discourses in the Mediterranean World, edited by Anders Klostergaard Petersen, George H. van Kooten:
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"One cannot avoid the thought that he is referring to Christian baptism... In section 21, Epictetus says, "we are also counterfeit baptists (parabaptistai); Jews in words, but in deeds something else. ... all the Jews have invalid baptisms (section 21), while real Jews have a valid baptism (section 20). As the valid baptism is the Christian baptism, Epictetus reproduces the Christian and anti-Jewish view.  ... Epictetus' words for Christians, who are the real Jews, undoubtedly reflect a Christian self-understanding. This self-understanding is seen in the New Testament (Romans 9:6-8), not to speak of later Christian literature.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 09:45:33 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline Asteriktos

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Uh... looking at the context, I don't think he's saying that at all...

http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.2.two.html
"Well, do I convince you, that one ought never to despair of the disorders of the soul as incurable? ...For even if thou shouldst despair of thyself ten thousand times, I will never despair of thee" - St. John Chrysostom

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Uh... looking at the context, I don't think he's saying that at all...

http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.2.two.html
Asteriktos,
Thank you for citing the passage with the context. (Here is an excerpt from what you cited):

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But when he has assumed the affects of one who has been imbued with Jewish doctrine and has adopted that sect, then he is in fact and he is named a Jew. Thus we too being falsely imbued, are in name Jews, but in fact we are something else. Our affects are inconsistent with our words; we are far from practicing what we say, and that of which we are proud, as if we knew it.
It sounds based on the above book that I quoted that he was actually using the Greek word meaning "baptise", rather than just "imbue".

You are free to disagree with me on the passage's meaning. What I wrote is my best guess, and I respect your views.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 10:22:31 PM by rakovsky »
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Epictetus was the Stoic slave of Epaphroditus, likely the same one who is mentioned by Paul in Phillipians and was a major servant in Nero's court:
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“I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me” (Philippians 2:25–30).
...
I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God ... All the saints send you greetings, especially those from the household of Caesar. (Philippians 4:18,22)

Wikipedia has an interesting summary of Epictetus' views on martyrdom:
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For our country or friends we ought to be ready to undergo or perform the greatest difficulties.[54] The good person, if able to foresee the future, would peacefully and contentedly help to bring about their own sickness, maiming, and even death, knowing that this is the correct order of the universe.[55] We have all a certain part to play in the world, and we have done enough when we have performed what our nature allows.[56] In the exercise of our powers, we may become aware of the destiny we are intended to fulfill.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epictetus

Oldfather's introduction in the Loeb Edition of Epictetus' works notes similarities with the New Testament:
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The linguistic resemblances, which are occasionally striking, like "Lord, have mercy!" κύριε, ἐλέησον[Kirie Eleison], are only accidental, because Epictetus was speaking the common language of ethical exhortation in which the evangelists and apostles wrote; while the few specious similarities are counterbalanced by as many striking differences In the field of doctrine, the one notable point of disregard for the things of this world[35] is offset by so many fundamental differences in presupposition, if not in common ethical practice, that any kind of a sympathetic understanding of the new religion on the part of Epictetus is inconceivable. A certain ground-tone of religious capability, a fading of interest in the conventional fields of human achievement, a personal kindliness and "harmlessness" of character, a truly pathetic longing as of tired men for a passive kind of happiness, an ill-defined yearning to be "saved" by some spectacular and divine intervention, these things are all to be found in the Discourses, yet they are not there as an effect of Christian teaching, but as a true reflection of the tone and temper of those social circles to which the Gospel made its powerful appeal.

It's interesting how Epictetus speaks of both "God" and "the gods", Theos and Theon. What is the relationship between the two categories?:
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If a man could only subscribe heart and soul, as he ought, to this doctrine, that we are all primarily begotten of God, and that God is the father of men as well as of gods, I think that he will entertain no ignoble or mean thought about himself. Yet, if Caesar adopts you no one will be able to endure your conceit, but if you know that you are a son of Zeus, will you not be elated?

εἴ τις τῷ δόγματι τούτῳ συμπαθῆσαι κατ᾽ ἀξίαν δύναιτο, ὅτι γεγόναμεν ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πάντες προηγουμένως καὶ ὁ θεὸς πατήρ ἐστι τῶν τ᾽ ἀνθρώπων καὶ τῶν θεῶν, οἶμαι ὅτι οὐδὲν ἀγεννὲς οὐδὲ ταπεινὸν ἐνθυμηθήσεται περὶ ἑαυτοῦ.

Discourses, Bk 1, Chp 3
Epictetus calls God "Zeus". In Greek mythology, Zeus was the son of Cronus‎ and ‎Rhea. But I think that for monotheism, God Himself is not a child of another one of "the gods". How does this work in Epictetus' mind? Is Zeus "God", the father of men and gods, and yet Himself the offspring of other gods?
Elsewhere Epictetus speaks of the god Aeolus (the divine keeper of the winds) as distinct from Zeus:
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"What wind is blowing?" we ask. Boreas. "What have we to do with it? When will Zephyrus blow?" When it pleases, good sir, or rather when Aeolus pleases. For God has not made you steward of the winds, but Aeolus.[4] "What then?" We must make the best of what is under our control, and take the rest as its nature is. "How, then, is its nature?" As God wills.
Book 1 Chapter 1
If Epictetus speaks of God (Zeus) and His distinct offspring, the gods, is Epictetus not really a monotheist?

I wonder if Epictetus' comment about bathing as a faithful person is related to the concept of Christian baptism? Maybe the word faithful is a mistranslation?:

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Where, then, is progress? If any man among you, withdrawing from external things, has turned his attention to the question of his own moral purpose, cultivating and perfecting it so as to make it finally harmonious with nature, elevated, free, unhindered, untrammelled, faithful, and honourable; and if he has learned that he who craves or shuns the things that are not under his control can be neither faithful nor free, but must himself of necessity be changed and tossed to and fro with them, and must end by subordinating himself to others, those, namely, who are able to procure or prevent these things that he craves or shuns; 20and if, finally, when he rises in the morning he proceeds to keep and observe all this that he has learned; if he bathes as a faithful man, eats as a self-respecting man,—similarly, whatever the subject matter may be with which he has to deal, putting into practice his guiding principles, as the runner does when he applies the principles of running, and the voice-trainer when he applies the principles of voice-training,—this is the man who in all truth is making progress, and the man who has not travelled at random is this one.

[18] ποῦ οὖν προκοπή; εἴ τις ὑμῶν ἀποστὰς τῶν ἐκτὸς ἐπὶ τὴν προαίρεσιν ἐπέστραπται τὴν αὑτοῦ, ταύτην ἐξεργάζεσθαι καὶ ἐκπονεῖν, ὥστε σύμφωνον ἀποτελέσαι τῇ φύσει, ὑψηλὴν ἐλευθέραν ἀκώλυτον ἀνεμπόδιστον πιστὴν αἰδήμονα: [19] μεμάθηκέν τε, ὅτι ὁ τὰ μὴ ἐφ᾽ αὑτῷ ποθῶν ἢ φεύγων οὔτε πιστὸς εἶναι δύναται οὔτ᾽ ἐλεύθερος, ἀλλ᾽ ἀνάγκη μεταπίπτειν καὶ μεταρριπίζεσθαι ἅμα ἐκείνοις καὶ αὐτόν, ἀνάγκη δὲ καὶ ὑποτεταχέναι ἄλλοις ἑαυτόν, τοῖς ἐκεῖνα περιποιεῖν ἢ κωλύειν δυναμένοις: [20] καὶ λοιπὸν ἕωθεν ἀνιστάμενος ταῦτα τηρεῖ καὶ φυλάσσει, λούεται ὡς πιστός, ὡς αἰδήμων ἐσθίει, ὡσαύτως ἐπὶ τῆς ἀεὶ παραπιπτούσης ὕλης τὰ προηγούμενα ἐκπονῶν, ὡς ὁ δρομεὺς δρομικῶς καὶ ὁ φώνασκος φωνασκικῶς: [21] οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ προκόπτων ταῖς ἀληθείαις καὶ ὁ μὴ εἰκῇ ἀποδεδημηκὼς οὗτός ἐστιν. [22] εἰ δ᾽ ἐπὶ τὴν ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις ἕξιν τέταται καὶ ταύτην ἐκπονεῖ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦτο ἐκδεδήμηκε, λέγω αὐτῷ αὐτόθεν πορεύεσθαι εἰς οἶκον καὶ μὴ ἀμελεῖν τῶν ἐκεῖ: [23] τοῦτο γὰρ ἐφ᾽ ὃ ἀποδεδήμηκεν οὐδέν ἐστιν: ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖνο, μελετᾶν ἐξελεῖν τοῦ αὑτοῦ βίου πένθη καὶ οἰμωγὰς καὶ τὸ ‘οἴμοι’ καὶ τὸ ‘τάλας ἐγὼ’ καὶ δυστυχίαν καὶ ἀτυχίαν καὶ μαθεῖν,

I like what he says in Book 1 Chapter 12:
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But you are impatient and peevish, and if you are alone, you call it a solitude, but if you are in the company of men, you call them schemers and brigands, and you find fault even with your own parents and children and brothers and neighbours. But you ought, when staying alone, to call that peace and freedom, and to look upon yourself as like the gods; and when you are in the company of many, you ought not call that a mob, nor a tumult, nor a disgusting thing, but a feast and a festival, and so accept all things contentedly.

What, then, is the punishment of those who do not accept? To be just as they are. Is one peevish because he is alone? Let him be in solitude! Is he peevish with his parents? Let him be an evil son and grieve! Is he peevish with his children? Let him be a bad father! "Throw him into prison." What sort of prison? Where he now is. For he is there against his will, and where a man is against his will, that for him is a prison. Just as Socrates was not in prison, for he was there willingly. "Alas, that I should be lame in my leg!" Slave, do you, then, because of one paltry leg blame the universe? Will you not make a free gift of it to the whole? Will you not relinquish it? Will you not gladly yield it to the giver? 25And will you be angry and peevish at the ordinances of Zeus, which he defined and ordained together with the Fates who spun in his presence the thread of your begetting? Do you not know how small a part you are compared with the whole? That is, as to the body; for as to the reason you are not inferior to the gods, nor less than they; for the greatness of the reason is not determined by length nor by height, but by the decisions of its will.

Chapter 13 has a good argument against mistreating slaves:
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Slave, will you not bear with your own brother, who has Zeus as his progenitor and is, as it were, a son born of the same seed as yourself and of the same sowing from above; but if you have been stationed in a like position above others, will you forthwith set yourself up as a tyrant? Do you not remember what you are, and over whom you rule—that they are kinsmen, that they are brothers by nature, that they are the offspring of Zeus?5—But I have a deed of sale for them, and they have none for me.—Do you see whither you bend your gaze, that it is to the earth, that it is to the pit, that it is to these wretched laws of ours, the laws of the dead, and that it is not to the laws of the gods that you look?

I really like this in Chapter 18:
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Who, then, is unconquerable? He whom the inevitable cannot overcome. For such a person I imagine every trial, and watch him as an athlete in each. He has been victorious in the first encounter. What will he do in the second? What, if he should be ex- [p. 1066] hausted by the heat? What, if the field be Olympia? And so in other trials. If you throw money in his way, he will despise it. Is he proof against the seductions of women? What if he be tested by fame. by calumny, by praise, by death? He is able to overcome them all. If he can bear sunshine and storm, discouragement and fatigue, I pronounce him an athlete unconquered indeed.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

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This is a funny story about Epaphroditus and his servant in Chapter 19 of the Discourses:
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What then? When men entertain absurd opinions about what lies outside the province of the moral purpose, counting it good or bad, it is altogether unavoidable for them to pay attention to the tyrant. Aye, would that it were merely the tyrants and not their chamberlains too! And yet how can the man suddenly become wise when Caesar puts him in charge of his chamberpot? How can we forthwith say "Felicio has spoken wisely to me"? I would that he were deposed from the superintendency of the dunghill, that you may think him a fool again! Epaphroditus owned a certain cobbler whom he sold because he was useless; then by some chance the fellow was bought by a member of Caesar's household and became cobbler to Caesar. You should have seen how Epaphroditus honoured him! 20"How is my good Felicio, I pray you?" he used to say. And then if someone asked us, "What is your master[3] doing?" he was told, "He is consulting Felicio about something or other." Why, had he not sold him as being useless? Who, then, had suddenly made a wise man out of him? This is what it means to honour something else than what lies within the province of the moral purpose.

I like his humor:
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To-day a man was talking to me about a priesthood of Augustus. I say to him, "Man, drop the matter; you will be spending a great deal to no purpose." "But," says he, "those who draw up deeds of sale will inscribe my name." "Do you really expect, then, to be present when the deeds are read and say, 'That is my name they have written'? And even supposing you are now able to be present whenever anyone reads them, what will you do if you die?" "My name will remain after me." "Inscribe it on a stone and it will remain after you. Come now, who will remember you outside of Nicopolis?"[4] "But I shall wear a crown of gold." "If you desire a crown at all, take a crown of roses and put it on; you will look much more elegant in that."
Chapter 19

In Chapter 20, he makes an interesting argument against Epicurus, who taught that everything was only matter:
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And yet the chief doctrine of the philosophers is extremely brief. If you would know, read what Zeno has to say and you will see. 15For what is there lengthy in his statement: "To follow the gods is man's end, and the essence of good is the proper use of external impressions"? Ask, "What, then, is God, and what is an external impression? And what is nature in the individual and nature in the universe?" You already have a lengthy statement. If Epicurus should come and say that the good ought to be in the flesh, again the explanation becomes lengthy, and you must be told what is the principal faculty within us, and what our substantial, and what our essential, nature is. Since it is not probable that the good of a snail lies in its shell, is it, then, probable that the good of man lies in his flesh? But take your own case, Epicurus; what more masterful faculty do you yourself possess? What is that thing within you which takes counsel, which examines into all things severally, which, after examining the flesh itself, decides that it is the principal matter? And why do you light a lamp and toil in our behalf, and write such quantities of books? Is it that we may not fail to know the truth? Who are we? And what are we to you? And so the argument becomes lengthy.

Do you agree with this statement?:

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if I can change externals according to my own wish, I change them; but if I cannot, I am ready to tear out the eyes of the man who stands in my way. For it is man's nature not to endure to be deprived of the good, not to endure to fall into the evil. Then, finally, when I can neither change the circumstances, nor tear out the eyes of the man who stands in my way, I sit down and groan, and revile whom I can—Zeus and the rest of the gods; for if they do not care for me, what are they to me? "Yes," you say, "but that will be impious of you." What, then, shall I get that is worse than what I have now? In short, we must remember this—that unless piety and self-interest be conjoined, piety cannot be maintained in any man. Do not these considerations seem urgent?
I guess you can say that piety can be conjoined with self interest in that the person's goal is to be conjoined with God (communion) and this is done in self-interest, even if the person suffers. The person loves God and is willing to suffer as His servant. But here is an interesting question. What parent, willing to suffer on their beloved child's behalf, thinks of this in terms of self-interest? It seems to me that maybe piety, respect and love for God, may not really be unsustainable, because the love could be stronger than the focus on self-interest.
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If Epictetus speaks of God (Zeus) and His distinct offspring, the gods, is Epictetus not really a monotheist?
For Stoics, "God" (the "Logos") is the most subtle, fine type of matter, described as "fiery", that organizes and enlivens the cosmos.
If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.