Page:Discourses of Epictetus volume 1 Oldfather 1925.djvu/33

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INTRODUCTION

disregard for the things of this world[1] 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.[2]

His influence has been extensive and has not yet waned. Hadrian was his friend, and, in the next generation, Marcus Aurelius was his ardent disciple. Celsus, Gellius, and Lucian lauded him, and Galen wrote a special treatise in his defence. His merits were recognized by Christians like Chrysostom, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Augustine, while Origen rated him in some respects even

  1. "I find in Epictetus," says Pascal, "an incomparable art to disturb the repose of those who seek it in things external, and to force them to recognize that it is impossible for them to find anything but the error and the suffering which they are seeking to escape, if they do not give themselves without reserve to God alone."
  2. "For it is doubtful if there was ever a Christian of the early Church," remarks von Wilamowitz (Kultur der Gegenwart², I. 8, 244), "who came as close to the real teaching of Jesus as it stands in the synoptic gospels as did this Phrygian."

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