Friday, June 29, 2007

Godless Epicurus - (apikores?)

As promised, I will try to flesh out the comment by Technician. As a side experiment, it will be interesting to see how interpretation works. Technician knows what he was thinking when he wrote, I only think I know what he was thinking based on what he wrote. I also have my own ideas and thoughts so that when I read Technician words, my interpretation is an amalgam of what I read and know. It will be interesting to see how close I come to technician’s thoughts. So Technician, please comment and correct anything I misread.

Technician wrote: [My comments in brackets]

Premise 1 – People fear God.

[We observe that people need a crutch to explain why some suffer others do not, why certain phenomena happen that they cannot explain and generally the vicissitudes of life compel them to find some outside force that explains all the unknown.]

Premise 2 - Lucretius and the Epicureans- say that all is random and chance based on the movement of atoms.

[You can read about Lucretius et al. here ]

Conclusion – there is no need to fear any gods acting in the natural order.

[Basically, there is no logic to how things happen. Man is alone in the world and does the best he can with what he has. Rambam addresses Epicurus in his discussion on Providence. Here is how puts it in MN3:17 -

There is no Providence at all for anything in the Universe; all parts of the Universe, the heavens and what they contain, owe their origin to accident and chance; there exists no being that rules and governs them or provides for them. This is the theory of Epicurus, who assumes also that the Universe consists of atoms, that these have combined by chance, and have received their various forms by mere accident. There have been atheists among the Israelites who have expressed the same view; it is reported of them: "They have denied the Lord, and said he is not" (Jer. v. 12).”]

As an aside, although Rambam clearly was cognizant of Epicurus, when he comments on the word Apikores in the Mishna Sanhedrin he says as follows:

פירוש המשנה לרמב"ם מסכת סנהדרין פרק י משנה א

ומלת אפיקורוס, היא מלת ארמית ענינה ההקלה והזלזול בתורה או בחכמי התורה, ולפיכך מניחים שם זה בסתם על מי שאינו מאמין ביסודות התורה או מבזה את החכמים או איזה תלמיד חכמים שיהיה או רבו

Paraphrase/Translation as usual:

The Word Apikores is Aramaic, meaning lack of respect and disregard for the Torah or the scholars of Torah. That is why it is used to describe all that do not accept the foundations of the Torah or shames the Scholars or any Talmid Chacham or his Rebbi.

It seems that based on the usage of the word Rambam felt it could not be traced back to Epicurus and his philosophy. I am not sure why not.

Any ideas?


  1. If I remember correctly, Jastrow also indicates that the term derives from "hefqer" and not from the name of the philosopher Epicurus.

  2. Darvinkus. The new name for an Apikores.

    In other news: I am planning on going to LA for 10 days. I may stay over for Tisha b'av but would not like to. Do you have any Bet Knesset to recommend going to?

  3. > Do you have any Bet Knesset to recommend going to?

    Where will you be staying? Email me:

  4. > Do you have any Bet Knesset to recommend going to?

    Where will you be staying? Email me: