Friday, March 07, 2003

The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus

In my study of famous Romans, Dr. Fears spends one entire lecture on the philosopher, Epictetus. I had never heard of him before so I was intrigued. I was also surprised that his teachings appear to parallel teachings and even quotations found in the Bible and was wondering if he had studied the Hebrew Bible in the course of his own education. Since he was born in 55 C.E., it would have been too early to have studied the New Testament. Example:

"What has He given me for my own and subject to my authority, and what has He left for Himself? Everything within the sphere of the moral purpose He has given me, subjected them to my control, unhampered and unhindered. My body that is made of clay, how could He make that unhindered? Accordingly He has made it subject to the revolution of the universe--along with my property, my furniture, my house, my children, my wife. But how should I keep them? In accordance with the terms upon which they have been given, and for as long as they can be given. But He who gave also takes away.
And so, when you have received everything, and your very self, from Another, do you yet complain and blame the Giver, if He take something away from you? (Discourses 4.1.100-3, with omissions, trans. Oldfather)

Another example: "To be instructed is this, to learn to wish that every thing may happen as it does. And how do things happen? As the disposer has disposed them. And he has appointed summer and winter, and abundance and scarcity, and virtue and vice, and all such opposites for the harmony of the whole; and to each of us he has given a body, and parts of the body, and possessions, and companions." (Discourses 1.12.15-17, trans. Long)