Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011.07.11

Pelling on Bar-Kochva on Wyrick on Bar-Kochva. Response to BMCR 2011.06.29

Response by Christopher Pelling (chris.pelling@classics.ox.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

I comment only on the meaning of the Greek at Josephus contra Apionem 1.181–2, quoting Clearchus. The passage is describing Aristotle's encounter with a certain Jewish philosopher. The Greek reads ὁ ἄνθρωπος [i.e. the Jew] . . . ὡς δὲ πολλοῖς τῶν ἐν παιδείᾳ συνῳκείωτο, παρεδίδου τι μᾶλλον ὧν εἶχεν.

Bar-Kochva is clearly right to maintain that the subject of εἶχεν must be the Jew, not Aristotle, and also to say that this is not evidence that Aristotle was 'bested' by the barbarian. The difficulty, and it is a mild one, concerns the interpretation of μᾶλλον. Bar-Kochva says that there are only two possibilities: (a) 'he transmitted to us (i.e., to Aristotle and his followers), somewhat more than he (the Jew) held [himself]', which, as he says, does not make sense; or (b) 'μᾶλλον appears in the absolute sense, meaning "rather" ... The correct translation should therefore be: "he (the Jew) was imparting [to us] (Aristotle and his disciples) somewhat of the [things (learning, wisdom)] at his disposal"'.

Surely there is an easier interpretation: once the Jew became more at ease with his new companions and recognised their education, 'he passed on to them a little more of the wisdom he had' than he had done before. That is quite enough for Josephus' point: such wisdom was worth having, but was not something to impart lightly.

[For a response to this review by Bezalel Bar-Kochva, please see BMCR 2013.10.03.]

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