parmigianino detail
Parmigianino, Circoncisione di Gesù (detail)

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Τὰ μὲν γένη τῶν ἐν εἴδει νόμων, οἱ προσαγορευόμενοι δέκα λόγοι, διὰ τῆς προτέρας ἠκρίβωνται συντάξεως, τὰ δ’ ἐν μέρει διατάγματα κατὰ τὴν τῆς γραφῆς ἀκολουθίαν νῦν ἐπισκεπτέον. ἄρξομαι δ’ ἀπὸ τοῦ γελωμένου παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς. γελᾶται δὲ ἡ τῶν γεννητικῶν περιτομή. πρᾶγμα σπουδαζόμενον οὐ μετρίως καὶ παρ’ ἑτέροις ἔθνεσι καὶ μάλιστα τῷ Αἰγυπτιακῷ, ὃ καὶ πολυανθρωπότατον καὶ ἀρχαιότατον καὶ φιλοσοφώτατον εἶναι δοκεῖ. παρὸ καὶ προσῆκον ἦν παιδικὴν χλεύην μεθεμένους φρονιμώτερον καὶ σεμνότερον ἀναζητῆσαι τὰς αἰτίας, ὧν χάριν ἐκράτησε τὸ ἔθος, καὶ μὴ προεξαναστάντας καταγινώσκειν μεγάλων ἐθνῶν εὐχέρειαν, λογιζομένους, ὡς εἰκός, τοσαύτας μυριάδας καθ’ ἑκάστην γενεὰν ἀποτέμνεσθαι, μετὰ χαλεπῶν ἀλγηδόνων ἀκρωτηριαζούσας τά τε ἑαυτῶν καὶ τῶν οἰκειοτάτων σώματα, πολλὰ δ’ εἶναι τὰ προτρέποντα τὴν εἰσήγησιν τῶν παλαιῶν διατηρεῖν καὶ ἐπιτελεῖν, τὰ δ’ ἀνωτάτω τέτταρα· (…)
(Philo, Peri tōn en merei diatagmatōn 1.1-3)

The Ten Words, as they are called, the main heads under which are summarized the Special Laws, have been explained in detail in the preceding treatise. We have now, as the sequence of our dissertation requires, to examine the particular ordinances. I will begin with that which is an object of ridicule among many people. Now the practice which is thus ridiculed, namely the circumcision of the genital organs, is very zealously observed by many other nations, particularly by the Egyptians, a race regarded as pre-eminent for its populousness, its antiquity and its attachment to philosophy. And therefore it would be well for the detractors to desist from childish mockery and inquire in a wiser and more serious spirit into the causes to which the persistence of this custom is due, instead of dismissing the matter prematurely and impugning the good sense of great nations. Such persons might naturally reflect that all these thousands in every generation undergo the operation and suffer severe pains in mutilating the bodies of themselves and their nearest and dearest, and that there are many circumstances which urge the retention and performance of a custom introduced by the men of old. The principal reasons are four in number. (tr. Francis Henry Colson)

2 thoughts on “Chleuēn”

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