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MH ΓENOITO in the Diatribe and Paul

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Abraham J. Malherbe
Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT 06510


Rudolf Bultmann's dissertation is still the best general description of diatribal style and remains the authority on the subject for most NT scholars. Bultmann draws attention to the dialogical element in the diatribe in which a speaker or writer makes use of an imaginary interlocutor who asks questions or raises objections to the arguments or affirmations that are made. These responses are frequently stupid and are then summarily rejected by the speaker or writer in a number of ways, for example by οὐδαμῶς (“by no means”), οὐ πάντως (“not at all”), οὐ μὰ Δία (“indeed not”), or minime (“by no means”). The limited purpose of this paper is to examine the way in which μὴ γένοιτο (“by no means”) is widely used in the diatribal literature, usually thought to be represented in Greek by the Dissertation of Epictetus, certain Moralia of Plutarch, various works of Philo, and by Bion, Teles, Musonius, Dio Chrysostom, Lucian, and Maximus of Tyre. In fact, however, this particular rejection, as it appears as a response in a dialogue without being part of a larger sentence, is unique to Epictetus and Paul. Bultmann's interpretation of the diatribe is heavily dependent on Epictetus despite the latter's peculiar development of the style, and the generalization about the use of μὴ γένοιτο in the diatribe is made on the basis of Epictetus.

Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1980

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1 Bultmann, Rudolf, Der Stil der paulinischen Predigt und die kynisch-stoische Diatribe (FRLANT 13; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910).Google Scholar

2 For a more extensive treatment, see Stowers, Stanley K., “A Critical Reassessment of Paul and the Diatribe: The Dialogical Element in Paul's Letter to the Romans” (Ph.D. Diss., Yale University, 1979).Google Scholar

3 Dio Chrysostom 23.6; 26.6, Epictetus 1.6.13; 11.17.22. The edition of Epictetus used is that of Schenkl, H., Epictetus: Dissertationes ab Arriano digestae (editio maior; Leipzig; Teubner, 1916)Google Scholar. The translations are indebted to Oldfather, W.A., Epictetus: The Discourses as Reported by Arrian (LCL; 2 vols.; Cambridge: Harvard, 1925).Google Scholar

4 Epictetus 4.8.2

5 Dio Chrysostom 14.14; Maximus of Tyre 6. Id.

6 Seneca Epp. 36.4; 60.3.

7 Stil, 12 n. 1, 33 n. 4. See Stowers (“Critical Reassessment,” 75–122) for a discussion of the sources for the diatribe.

8 In Epictetus, it is used in this manner in 1.1.13; 2.35; 5.10; 8.15; 9.32; 10.7; 11.23; 12.10; 19.7; 26.6; 28.19, 24; 29.9; 2.8.2, 26; 23.23; 3.1.42, 44; 7.4; 23.13, 25; 4.7.26; 8.26; 11.33, 36. In Paul it appears in Rom 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7,13; 9:14; 11:1, 11; 1 Cor 6:15; Gal 2:17; 3:21. Gal 6:14 and Luke 20.16 are not diatribal and will be left out of consideration. It does not appear in the representatives of the diatribe listed above.

9 Capelle, Wilhelm(Epiktet, Teles und Musonius [Bibliothek der alien Welt; Zurich: Artemis, 1948] 6768) and Stowers (“Critical Reassessment,” 40–46, 82–90) discuss Epictetus’ peculiar form of the diatribe.Google Scholar

10 See Bultmann, Stil, 11 on the pagan diatribe, Stil, 66–68 on Paul.

11 Ibid., 10.

12 Ibid., 12. ϕησί in 2 Cor 10:10 is not diatribal; it introduces an assessment of Paul by real opponents.

13 See Stil, 13–14 on transitions.

14 Ibid., 10–11.

15 Ibid., 67–68.

16 Ibid., 11.

17 Ibid., 67–68.

20 Stil, 11 n. 4, 33.

21 Billerbeck, Margarethe, Epiktet: Vom Kynismus (Philosophia Antiqua 34; Leiden: Brill, 1978) 94.Google Scholar

22 See Döring, Klaus(Exemplum Socratis [Hermes-Einzelschriften 42; Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1979] 4379) for Epictetus’ use of Socrates as a model, and in the present connection, cf. 3.23, 25–26.Google Scholar

23 Stowers (“Critical Reassessment,” esp. 263–76) argues for the schoolroom as the social setting of Epictetus’ and other moral philosophers’ diatribes.