A question about πρός in an epigram about friends.

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Stephen Hughes
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Re: A question about πρός in an epigram about friends.

Post by Stephen Hughes »

S Walch wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:
S Walch wrote:Reading it, I would think it parallels John 1:1 more than anything (with regards to the meaning of προς),
You'll need to walk me through the stream here, I can't see a way to make the leap at this point of crossing. I considered that as a parallel, but couldn't find a clear sense of reference or directionaloty after getting to the level of abstraction.
When I first read the passage cited, my initial reaction was reading προς as meaning "with", of which one can only really recall John 1:1 immediately after thinking such - I don't believe there's a more famous passage where προς means "with" than that. That was about as close as the parallel got. :)
"With" (the English word) has quite a broad range of meanings. I suppose you already know, but let me say a few things with food in my mouth - spitting out little bits of half-chewed substance in random directions - anyway; as a general rule of thumb, every different meaning in the (English) dictionary has a different meaning in the Greek. With a word as flexible as a preposition, there are probably a few ways to take each one. "Translation" often becomes a matter, "whereas we would say ...". That sounds like guessing, and it is. The more educated the guess(er), the less likely that we are to make an grave error. Avoiding small misunderstandings is very, very difficult with prepositions. They seems small and benign, but actually, they require a certain skill set to handle.

Are "sit with", "walk with", "work with (a person)" and "work with (a tool) all the same with? If we understood "with" as something like "at the same time or in the same space as" then they are. If, however, we concentrate on things from other points of view, then they are not. Other languages look at things from different points of view, with the result that those 4 may have different prepositions in Greek. There may even be different prepositions in Greek, for the same thing in English, here is an example for "sit with":
Matthew 26:55 wrote:Ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς ὄχλοις, Ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν ἐξήλθετε μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων συλλαβεῖν με; Καθ’ ἡμέραν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐκαθεζόμην διδάσκων ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, καὶ οὐκ ἐκρατήσατέ με.
Revelations 3:20 wrote:Ὁ νικῶν, δώσω αὐτῷ καθίσαι μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ μου, ὡς κἀγὼ ἐνίκησα, καὶ ἐκάθισα μετὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ αὐτοῦ.
Going beyond the equivalances in English is one of the fruits of learning Greek. In this case, I assume, that the πρός was used for the sense of "with" in your John 1:1 to avoid a connotation that μετά may have had, or to stress the meaning of orientation towards (face-to-faceness) that could have been expressed. Whether that is correct or not, discussing it in terms of the Greek makes more sense than discussing it by look at other instances of "with" in the English. It is an accident of language that English uses "with" for both. Whether we believe that accidents of languages like the well-known κύριος convergence are the hand of God revealong truth in history, or whether we think that random accidents of language like how people might now take "let your conversation be..." has allowed religious thought to evolve in response to external stimulii, are part of the meta-dialogue that can sometimes accompany discussions of Greek.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)
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Re: A question about πρός in an epigram about friends.

Post by cwconrad »

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:That is to say, I think that Pherecydes' epigram is intended to express guilelessness.
Rather than ask a "Why didn't he say ....? question, let me ask which Greek word do you think is closest to you idea of what you think he meant by guileless? The words that come to my mind expressing that sort of meaning are; ἁπλοῦς, γνήσιος or εἰλικρινής, but they are in the positive and the two I recognise from an LSJ English search are ἄδολος or ἄκακος with the "-less" expressed by the alpha privative. Do any of those express what you mean by his idea of "guileless". There may probably be better ones.
I'm sorry, Stephen; your concern is lexicological, while mine is semantic; you're looking for items of vocabulary, as if we could hit upon some perfect Greek equivalent of the English word, "guileless." I think of "guileless" as the characteristic recommended by Jesus when he says:
Matt 18:2 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν 3 καὶ εἶπεν· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν
There are several different interpretations of this difficult text; I like to think that "guilelessness" is the quality that Jesus here attributes to "a child."
Pherecydes belongs to a literary tradition of archaic and classical thinking about what it means to be a φίλος.
γνήσιός εἰμι φίλος, καὶ τὸν φίλον ὡς φίλον οἶδα,
τοὺς δὲ κακοὺς διόλου πάντας ἀποστρέφομαι:
οὐδένα θωπεύω πρὸς ὑπόκρισιν: οὓς δ᾽ ἄρα τιμῶ,
τούτους ἐξ ἀρχῆς μέχρι τέλους ἀγαπῶ.
Two selections from the corpus of Theognis, thought to be roughly contemporary with Pherecydes, are somewhat similar:
Theognis 79-82:
Παύρους εὑρήσεις, Πολυπαΐδη, ἄνδρας ἑταίρους
πιστοὺς ἐν χαλεποῖς πρήγμασι γινομένους, 80
οἵτινες ἂν τολμῶιεν ὁμόφρονα θυμὸν ἔχοντες
ἶσον τῶν ἀγαθῶν τῶν τε κακῶν μετέχειν.

Theognis 87-92:
Μή μ' ἔπεσιν μὲν στέργε, νόον δ' ἔχε καὶ φρένας ἄλληι,
εἴ με φιλεῖς καί σοι πιστὸς ἔνεστι νόος.
ἤ με φίλει καθαρὸν θέμενος νόον, ἤ μ' ἀποειπών
ἔχθαιρ' ἀμφαδίην νεῖκος ἀειράμενος. 90
ὃς δὲ μιῆι γλώσσηι δίχ' ἔχει νόον, οὗτος ἑταῖρος
δεινός, Κύρν', ἐχθρὸς βέλτερος ἢ φίλος ὦν.
Or there's the discussion in the first book of Plato's Republic: one suggested definition of "justice" is "doing good to friends and harm to enemies." But that falters on Socrates' raising of the question -- hardly a new one -- how can we tell for sure who's a friend and who's an enemy?

When you first raised this question of the meaning of πρὸς in the epigram of Pherecydes, I was trying to make sense of the phrase, πρὸς ὑπόκρισιν, I'm thinking in terms of an outward show, of play-acting. LSJ attributes that sense to the word ὑπόκρισις in a text from Phocylides, another 6th centery poet.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
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