« EdellinenJatka »
JOSEPHUS, who after twenty years' friendship and co-operation in the same great cause, thus writes in the introduction to his Antiquities. "There were some, who from their love to this subject have encouraged me to undertake it, and beyond all others Epaphroditus, a man who excels in every branch of literature, and especially in the knowledge of historical facts; as having been himself engaged in the management of important affairs, and having experienced various vicissitudes of fortune; in all which he has displayed a mind wonderfully powerful, and an inflexible adherence to virtue. By the admonition of this man, whose example and persuasion call upon all who have the power to engage in whatever is honourable and useful, I prosecuted this undertaking with more alacrity and decision, being at the same time not unmindful of my ancestors, who cheerfully imparted the knowledge of these things, nor of those Gentiles, who are eager to know the customs established among us *
* Ησαν δε τινες, οι ποθω της ιστορίας επ' αυτην με προὔτρεπον, και μαλιστα δε παντων Επαφροδιτος, ανη απασαν μεν ιδεαν παιδειας ηγαπηκως, διαφεροντως δε χαίρων εμπειριαις πραγματων· οτε δη μεγαλοις αυτος όμως λησας πραγμασι και τυχαις πολυτροποις, εν απάσι δε θαυμαστην επιδειξαμενος αγαθης φυσεως ισχυν, και προς
This must be deemed a paragraph singularly beautiful and important, as it presents us with a fine portrait of the man, who at the hazard of his life and fortune sided with the Apostle in the court of Nero. Such a character, drawn by the impartial pen of the Jewish historian, is itself an eloquent volume in favour of St. Paul and of the sacred cause, in which he was engaged. Bat the words of Josephus have a peculiar propriety, if considered, in reference to the situation, which Epaphroditus occupied in the household of Cæsar. See Phil. iv. 23. As the Secretary or Minister of Nero, and perhaps of the succeeding emperors, he was himself engaged in important affairs. As he had been brought a slave from Colossi to Rome, where by his unspotted integrity and splendid talents, he reached a place of great trust and eminence, where, after he had been disgraced by persecution, he was again restored to honour; he had truly experienced various vicissitudes of fortune. He displayed an inflexible
αίρεσιν αρετής αμετακινητον. Τούτω δη πειθομένος, αίες τοις χρησιμον ή καλού τί πράττειν δυναμένοις συμφιλο καλοῦντι προθυμότερον επερρώσθην. Ετι κακεινο προς τοις ειρημένοις λογισάμενος του παρεργώς περί τε των ημε τερων προγόνων, οι μεταδίδοναι των τούτων ηθέλον, και περί των Ελλήνων, εν τινες αυτών γνωναι τα παρ ημιν εσπούδασαν.
adherence to virtue; as in circumstances which menaced his fame, his property, and even his life, he embraced the gospel, and remained attached to it, displaying its happy influence on his temper and conduct, in the most cruel and profligate court, unawed by the terrors of ignominy and persecution on one hand, and unseduced by the allurements of pleasure on the other. The pagan historians Suetonius, Tacitus, and Dion, envying Christianity the fame of this man's talents, and the lustre of his character, have not even hinted that he was a believer in it; though this was a fact, of which they could not possibly have been ignorant, and their apprehension of it appears evident from the context, in which they speak of his death.
It remains, after these noble testimonies to the character of Epaphroditus, to consider what an enemy has said of him. He is said to have been the master of the celebrated Epictetus; and in this relation his name has been handed down with obloquy. Arrian represents Epictetus, c. 1. as treating Epaphroditus with great contempt, when interrogating him about a certain conspiracy against Nero; "If I have a mind,” replied he, "to say any thing, I will tell it to your master." In c. 26. the same writer farther says, "I once saw a person weeping and embracing the knees of Epaphroditus, and deploring his hard fortune
that he had not fifty thousand pounds left." What said Epaphroditus then? did he laugh at him as we should do? No; but he cried out with astonishment, " poor man! how could you be silent? you bear it?" Again in c. 19. we read, Epaphroditus had a slave that was a shoemaker, whom, because he was good for nothing, he sold. This very fellow, being bought by a courtier, became shoemaker to Cæsar. Then you might have seen how Epaphroditus honoured him." To these malicious representations may be added the following well-known story told by Celsus, that when his master (meaning Epaphroditus) tortured his leg, he, smiling, and not at all discomposed, said, you will break it: and when it was broken, he said, "Did not I tell you that you would break it?" These stories have been gravely believed by modern critics: and Epaphroditus has been roundly called a brute and a monster, of whom nothing is known worthy of remembrance, but that he was once the master of so renowned a slave.
The early believers regarded slavery with the utmost abhorrence, as utterly repugnant to the dictates of nature and of the gospel. Epaphroditus must therefore have given Epictetus his freedom, as soon as he had embraced Christianity. As Epaphroditus was a grammarian, and a man of learning, Epictetus owed to him probably not
only his liberty, but also his education, and the elements of his reputation as a philosopher.
Moreover, as Epictetus was brought up under a master who was a Christian, he must through him have been made acquainted with the doctrines of the gospel: he must have been taught, and invited to read its records, and study the character of its Founder, not to mention that he must have seen and heard the Apostle Paul, who was the bosom friend of his master. These particulars will account for a leading feature, which distinguishes the discourses of Epictetus. They abound not only with the virtues and the sentiments, but even with the fundamental doctrines respecting God and Providence, which were taught by Christ and his apostles; though he continued to the last an enemy to them, and to their
And here two questions may be asked: If Epictetus was under such obligations to Epaphroditus, how came he, and he alone, to place his character in such false and invidious light? and if he was so deeply indebted to the Jewish and Christian scriptures, how came he not to acknowledge it, nor even to take any notice of those scriptures? The reply to these questions, if it should appear to be founded in truth, will draw aside the thick veil, which has hitherto concealed the deformities of Epictetus's character; and he will henceforth