καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ’ ὑποκρίνεται

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bcrowell
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καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ’ ὑποκρίνεται

Post by bcrowell »

I came across this paper: Huttunen, 2017, "Epictetus’ Views on Christians: A Closed Case Revisited," https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004323131_014 (It doesn't seem to be on sci-hub.)

Since I'm not an expert in this field, it's hard to me to evaluate whether they're right or wrong. But their argument rests on a certain crucial passage in Epictetus, and the following struck me as strange.

τί οὖν Στωικὸν λέγεις σεαυτόν, τί ἐξαπατᾷς τοὺς πολλούς, τί
ὑποκρίνῃ Ἰουδαῖος ὢν Ἕλληνας; 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. 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.

My koine isn't very good, but I would translate the italicized portion as:

Don't you see, how each person is called a Jew, a Syrian, or an Egyptian?
And, should we see someone vacillate, we habitually say that he's not a Jew, but he's playing a part.

But Huttunen provides a translation by someone named W. A. Oldfather (!), "slightly revised," like this:

Do 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 Jew, he is only acting the part.”

I'm not clear on certain things like the significance of the subjunctive or whether the first sentence implies disjunction. But isn't the part about "halting between two faiths" way off? The passage does refer to baptism, but in general it seems to be about national and ethnic identity, with cultic ritual seen simply as part of that. I guess "faith" would be πίστις in an author like Paul, but I don't see any reason to imagine that a pagan author like Epictetus would conceive of religion in exclusive terms like this, and AFAIK "the faith" to refer to Christianity is a Christian usage that is later than Paul (deutro-Pauline).
Ben Crowell, Fullerton, California
an innovative, free, and open-source presentation of Homer: https://bcrowell.github.io/ransom/

Herodotean
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Re: καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ’ ὑποκρίνεται

Post by Herodotean »

Oldfather isn't just "someone"; he was a distinguished classical scholar who, among other things, produced the Loeb edition of Epictetus, which Huttunen quotes (I'm not sure what your exclamation mark is intended to imply). You're correct that, strictly speaking, ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα says nothing about "faith," but it's not really fair to critique Oldfather without reading his note (and keeping in mind that his translation faces the Greek text, which in 1925 more readers than now could evaluate for themselves):
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.’ ”
I'm not necessarily endorsing Oldfather's interpretation -- I don't know Epictetus well enough to have an opinion -- but I think this information is worth having on the table.

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bcrowell
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Re: καὶ ὅταν τινὰ ἐπαμφοτερίζοντα ἴδωμεν, εἰώθαμεν λέγειν οὐκ ἔστιν Ἰουδαῖος, ἀλλ’ ὑποκρίνεται

Post by bcrowell »

Thanks, Herodotean, for posting the note. That's very helpful. My exclamation point on Oldfather was simply because the name is so wonderfully Dickensian for a classicist. It's like having a plumber named Mr. Wrentch. Interesting to know about his antifascism.

It sounds to me, based on the translation and the note, like Oldfather was partly just handicapped by the state of the art in his time as to the very early history of Christianity. Knowledge has, after all, advanced over the past hundred years. He was probably working from an old picture of the period according to which Christianity became a standardized, distinct, and recognizable category, separate from Judaism, at a much earlier point than was actually the case. So that's his conceptual framework, and he constructs his translation around it. I guess a certain amount of confusion about the chronology has been inevitable because of things like the pseudoepigraphical nature of a lot of the Christian scriptures, and the presence of late interpolations such as the Corinthian creed in much earlier writings.
Ben Crowell, Fullerton, California
an innovative, free, and open-source presentation of Homer: https://bcrowell.github.io/ransom/

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