Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Quoting the Greeks to the Athenians

Today's first reading is Acts 17:15, 22-18:1, Paul speaking to the Athenians. In his speech, he quotes ancient poets twice: 'In him we live and move and have our being,' and 'For we too are his offspring.'

Brandon Watson wrote a series two years ago about St. Paul's pagan quotations, in which he covered both of these quotes. The first quote seems to come from Epimenides, but the source, the Cretica, is lost. However, Brandon, referencing an account about Epimenides offering a sacrifice of sheep to save Athens from the plague, says:
So there were altars in Athens that were "without names" that came about because Epimenides, reputed for prophecy, let sheep go in the Areopagus to determine where they should be placed ; and we have Paul mentioning altars to the unknown God, and quoting Epimenides in a speech in the Areopagus. This seems like considerably more than coincidence.
The second quote is from the introduction to Phaenomena, by Aratus of Soli, a book of descriptions of the night sky and constellations, and signs to predict the weather. Brandon provides the quote:

From Zeus let us begin; him do we mortals never leave unnamed; full of Zeus are all the streets and all the market-places of men; full is the sea and the havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring; and he in his kindness unto men giveth favourable signs and wakeneth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood. He tells what time the soil is best for the labour of the ox and for the mattock, and what time the seasons are favourable both for the planting of trees and for casting all manner of seeds. For himself it was who set the signs in heaven, and marked out the constellations, and for the year devised what stars chiefly should give to men right signs of the seasons, to the end that all things might grow unfailingly. Wherefore him do men ever worship first and last. Hail, O Father, mighty marvel, mighty blessing unto men. Hail to thee and to the Elder Race! Hail, ye Muses, right kindly, every one! But for me, too, in answer to my prayer direct all my lay, even as is meet, to tell the stars.

(Aratus's weather information also attests to the antiquity of the saying: Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

But if without a cloud he dip in the western ocean, and as he is sinking, or still when he is gone, the clouds stand near him blushing red, neither on the morrow nor in the night needst thou be over-fearful of rain. But fear the coming rain when on a sudden the Sun’s rays seem to thin and pale – just as they often fade when the Moon overshadows them, what time she stands straight between the earth and Sun; nor are the fields unwetted on that day, when before the dawn, as the Sun delays to shine, reddish clouds appear here or there. )

1 comment:

Banshee said...

Well, the Gospels also have the thing about red sky at morning, in Mt. 16:1-3 --

"And there came to him the Pharisees and Sadducees tempting: and they asked him to shew them a sign from heaven.

"But he answered and said to them, 'When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering." You know then how to discern the face of the sky; and can you not know the signs of the times?"