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6 Posts

Posted - 17 Sep 2009 :  22:35:35  

Hello, I am trying to translate a passage credited to Origen where he used, gnôseôs, eidenai, and epistêmê. All these words relate to knowledge and am wondering what the best English equivalents would be.

My initial guess based on Heidegger's foray into this question, would be to leave gnôsis as knowledge, eidenai as intiution (something that you simply know by seeing or experiencing and not really thinking too deeply about) and epistêmê as expertise (a special knowledge).

I know that gnôsis has been argued as "knowledge by acquaintance", eidenai "knowledge -about", and epistêmê "science", but using these in an English translation is very awkward and confusing. The last one "science"does not convey the proper meaning for the modern English mind.

I would like to know what others have done in translating into English with these concepts and what the current consensus is.



615 Posts

Posted - 18 Sep 2009 :  07:17:25  


Hi Charles!

Considering such passages as www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/fathers/origen/john-commentary.asp" target="_blank">Origen's commentary to John (33), and his commentary to the Epistle to Corinthians (49), I believe that he uses the words as synonyms.

Beyond Origen, we can say that eidenai is related with eye-sight, immediate knowledge and consciousness, suggesting a knowledge that has been internalized (recall the Greek aorist of Orao - eidon = "I saw", which makes the words related in root, something that doesn't happen in the English "I see" - "I understand", recall also www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/aristotle/metaphysics.asp" target="_blank">Aristotle's beginning of the metaphysics, that all men by nature desire to "eidenai", recall the word Syneidesis = Consciousness). Episteme goes closer to analyzed and deducted truth.

In translating Origen I believe you must not be scholastic. Interpret according to the context of a word, without caring that much for the general identity of this word as this can be (with or without certainty) approached through etymology and through observation of its use in several authors and times.

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6 Posts

Posted - 18 Sep 2009 :  17:39:07  


The Origen text I am working with is from Corinthians, header 49 and it reads:

"Τίς δὲ ἡ διαφορὰ τῆς γνώσεως καὶ τῆς τῶν μυστηρίων εἰδήσεως; περὶ δύο γὰρ πραγμάτων ὁ ἀπόστολος λέγει. ἡγοῦμαι τοίνυν τὸ μὲν περὶ τῶν φανερῶν εἰδέναι τὴν γνῶσιν εἶναι͵ γενικωτέραν οὖσαν τῶν μυστηρίων· ἐν μέρει γὰρ τῆς γνώσεως ἡ τῶν μυστηρίων ἐστὶν ἐπιστήμη· τὸ δὲ περὶ τῶν ἀπορρητοτέρων καὶ θειοτέρων εἰδέναι τοῦτ΄ εἶναι τὸ μυστήριον γινώσκειν͵ ὡς εἶναι γενικὸν μὲν λόγον τῆς γνώσεως, οὐκέτι δὲ πάσης τῆς γνώσεως εἶναι τὴν κατάληψιν μυστηρίων, περὶ ὧν λέλεκται, Ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ͵ τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην͵ ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν ἀιώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν. ὅταν γὰρ εἰδῶ ταῦτα͵ τότε ἔχω τὴν γνῶσιν τῶν μυστηρίων."

It is clear here that Origen is not using them as synonyms, because if I translate it that way, it makes no sense:

"For what is the distinction between knowledge and knowledge of the mysteries?" Here Origen is making the case of different kinds of knowledge according to Aristotalian theory and how it works within the Corinthian text. It doesn't convey that if I literally translate the text.

The Greek is clear. It is the English that is a problem. In French, I could use something like connaître and savoir but in English, I don't know of something similar.

Furthermore Origen goes on to believe that ειδησεως is not sufficient for understanding mysteries but επιστημη is more accurate. I believe επιστημη here to mean a special knowledge or skill, not simply having a typical impersonal knowledge, ειδησεως, about mysteries.

My question is not so much of the Greek. Origen is quite clear, but that it is difficult to translate in such a way for the English reader to comprehend.

What would you suggest in this context as good English equivalents?

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615 Posts

Posted - 19 Sep 2009 :  01:44:45  


If he did not use different words for the same things, we couldn't be talking about him using synonyms. Of course, you too have to use different words.

That he treats these words as synonyms is I believe apparent from the context. E.g. in the first sentence one may guess that there is a difference between gnosis and eidesis, yet in the very next phrase www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/fathers/origen/default.asp" target="_blank">Origen equals gnosis with eidenai, as a form of eidenai, then assings episteme to mysteria, then uses for mysteria the verb ginoskein, out of which comes gnosis, and finally speaks about gnosis of mysteria.

I would translate: "What is the difference between knowledge and the learning of mysteries? Because the Apostle speaks about two things. I think, then, that knowledge is about learning the apparent things and refers to a range of knowing wider than that of mysteries, because the science of the mysteries is a part of knowledge, etc.

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