Den monastiska receptionen av Epiktetos Encheiridion
Sammanfattning: From the teachings of the Hellenistic Philosopher Epictetus, we have among other works a Handbook, or an Encheiridion, where some of his most important sayings are collected in 53 short and imperative chapters, guiding the way to a better life. This Encheiridion has a long and broad reception history, including both pagan and Christian elements. Among the Christian elements we find three preserved Christian adaptations of Encheiridion, most probably written in Early Middle Age monastic environments. These three adaptations, in short denoted as Nil, Vat and Par, recently edited by Gerard Boter, each deal with the original text in a different manner, especially when it comes to references to pagan religion and culture. One of them, Par, replaces a lot of pagan content with Christian material.The changes made – and not least the changes not made in these three adaptations have a lot to say about the attitude to ancient Greek-Roman culture in the monastic contexts where they were written, and about the monastic contexts themselves. This study therefore focuses on two questions: What whas the Christian adaptors’ knowledge about and attitude to Greek culture and paideia, and exactly in what contexts did the Christian versions arise? These questions then form the basis for the more general issue why these adaptations were written, and what their existence mean for our understanding of the stoic influence on Christian monasticism. In this study, we have focused on about one third of the text of the original Encheiridion, the choice of chapters motivated by the two questions mentioned above. Then the Greek text of our selection of Encheiridion was compared with the corresponding Greek texts of Nil, Vat and Par, noting and highlighting similaritites and differences.The results are in general accordance with earlier research. All three versions seem to avoid references to specific philosophers and literary characters mentioned in Encheiridion, but Nil and Vat leave general references to philosophers and philosophy mostly unchanged. Nil and Vat also show a higher degree of acceptance when it comes to references to the daily life of pagan Greek-Roman antiquity, while the adaptations in Par on the other hand generally make the context of the text change to a monastic environment. The authors do not seem to admire Greek paideia, nor look for pagan authorization of specific Christian thoughts; they rather feel communion with the ascetic material in Encheiridion, and find the text useful in their struggle for self-improvement. Detailed and qualified information about the specific character of the monasticity of the traditions where the Christian adaptations were written, read and copied is hard to find and easily turns into speculations. But it seems obvious from the very different character of the three versions that they were written for different purposes, most probably in different monastic contexts with different theological focus and diverging attitudes to Greek-Roman ancient culture. The three adaptations must be judged not from our preferences or preconceptions about orthodox Christianity, but from the versions themselves in a broader perspective. Only then is it possible to deduce further implications on the complicated relation between Christianity and Greek-Roman paideia and philosophy.
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