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Arrian's Discourses of Epictetus
That when we cannot fulfil that which the character of a man promises, we assume the character of a philosopher.
What is the matter on which a good man should be employed, and in what we ought chiefly to practise ourselves.
2 It is the possession of reason, he says, by which man has com- munion with God; it is not by any external means, or religious ceremonial. A modern expositor of Epictetus says, “Through reason our souls are as closely connected and mixed up with the deity as though they were part of him” (Epictet. i. 14, 6; ii. 8, 11, 17, 33). In the Epistle named from Peter (ii. 1, 4) it is written: “Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises that by these (see v. 3) ye might be partakers of the divine nature (γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως), having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Mrs. Carter, Introduction, § 31, has some remarks on this Stoic doctrine, which are not a true explanation of the principles of Epic- tetus and Antoninus.
3 So Jesus said, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Cleanthes, in his hymn to Zeus, writes, ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμέν. Compare Acts of the Apostles, xvii. 28, where Paul quotes these words. It is not true then that the “conception of a parental deity,” as it has been asserted, was unknown before the teaching of Jesus, and, after the time of Jesus, unknown to those Greeks who were unacquainted with His teaching.
4 In our present society there are thousands who rise in the morning and know not how they shall find something to eat. Some find their food by fraud and theft, some receive it as a gift from others, and some look out for any work that they can find and get their pittance by honest labour. You may see such men everywhere, if you will keep your eyes open. Such men, who live by daily labour, live an heroic life, which puts to shame the well-fed philosopher and the wealthy Christian. Epictetus has made a great misstatement about irrational animals. Millions die annually for want of sufficient food; and many human beings perish in the same way. We can hardly suppose that he did not know these facts.Compare the passage in Matthew (vi. 25–34). It is said, v. 26: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” The expositors of this passage may be consulted.
5 The old man is Epictetus.
6 He means, as Wolf says, “on account of the necessities of the body seeking the favour of the more powerful by disagreeable compliances.”
7 Upton refers to Cicero, Tuscul. i. 30, Cato Major, c. 20; Somnium Scipionis, c. 3 (De Republica, iv. 15); the purport of which passage is that we must not depart from life without the command of God. See Marcus Antoninus, ii. 17; iii. 5; v. 33. But how shall a man know the signal for departure, of which Epictetus speaks?
8 Upton has referred to the passages of Epictetus in which this expression is used, i. 24, 20; i. 25, 18; ii. 1, 19, and others; to Seneca, De Provid. c. 6, Ep. 91; to Cicero, De Fin. iii. 18, where there is this conclusion: “e quo apparet et sapientis esse aliquando officium excedere e vita, quum beatus sit; et stulti manere in vita quum sit miser.” Compare Matthew vi. 31: “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things,” &c.
9 This passage is founded on and is in substance the same as that in Plato's Apology, c. 17.
10 Schweighaeuser has a long note on this passage, to “receive from another.” I think that there is no difficulty about the meaning; and the careful reader will find none. Epictetus was once a slave.
11 The meaning is obscure. Schweighaeuser thinks that the allusion is to a defeated enemy asking permission from the conqueror to bury the dead. Epictetus considers a man as a mere carcase who places his happiness in externals and in the favour of others.
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