Praise God with Your Intellect

These are not the only works of Providence within us. What words are sufficient to praise them? If we understood these things we would sing hymns and bless the deity, and tell of his benefits? Ought we not when we are digging and plowing and eating to sing this hymn to God? "Great is God, who has given us such implements with which we shall cultivate the earth. Great is God who has given us hands, the power of swallowing, a stomach, imperceptible growth, and the power of breathing while we sleep." This is the kind of thing we ought to sing on every occasion. We should sing the greatest and most divine hymn to God for giving us the faculty of comprehending these things. Well then, since most of you have become blind, ought there not to be some man to fill this office, and on behalf of all to sing the hymn to God? For what else can I do, a lame old man, than sing hymns to God? If then I was a nightingale, I would do the part of a nightingale: if I were a swan, I would do like a swan. But now I am a rational creature, and I ought to praise God. This is my work. I do it, and I will not desert this post so long as I am allowed to keep it. I exhort you to join in this same song.

This chapter of "The Discourses" can be summed up in this way: "God created everything. He created it for our dominion. In all this there is a purpose. We should praise God with our greatest faculty, our minds."

Epictetus seems to parallel Old Testament ideas in this chapter: first, with Genesis, in creation and man's dominion over the Earth. He continues the parallel with his comments about God's purpose - even to his example about beards. Finally, his insistence on our praising God reflects the Psalms. But there is a subtle difference in this last point with Epictetus. He insists on our praising God with the faculty of our intellect. We do this in study, in contemplation, in discussion and in prayer. It seems clear that Epictetus would have seen Bible Study as perhaps the highest praise of God because it is a worthy use of His greatest gift to us.

Chapter 16:

  1. Providence Provides
  2. The Self-sufficient Earth (16a)
  3. Women and Men (16b)
  4. Praise God with Your Intellect (16c)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus

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