On Johannine apples and Epicurean pears

A correspondent on the question of Epicureanism and Johannine Christianity suggests that the conclusions of Fergus King’s book are almost foregone, as this is a comparison between apples and pears.

I have been giving this some thought, not the least since, when I was a country parson, I had an orchard with a variety of trees which gave fruit from June to October. Pears and apples are different, we know, though not as different as, say, apples and bananas. Apples and pears can cross-pollinate.

So let us put ourselves into the shoes of a Wittgensteinian spaceman. On finding my orchard and fruit-cages, he would rapidly determine that these are edible fruits (I leave out my nut trees at this point!). He would rapidly distinguish between fruit on trees, fruit on canes, and fruit growing on the ground. The cherries, peaches, plums, and apricots would also be clearly distinct as soft fruit. The apples and pears, however, growing on similar trees, fruiting at the same time, and each producing a hard fruit, would have a manifest similarity. Our scientific spaceman only then begins to observe the differences. Rightly he concludes that apples and pears are distinct, though this is the result of a closer examination.

In studying early Christianity we are spacemen coming from another planet. There are other spacemen who have suggested that Epicureanism and Christianity are closely related. After all, they are growing in the same ancient Mediterranean orchard. So this is an assertion which needs to be examined, even if the assertion ends up, perhaps obviously in retrospect, as baseless.

The fact that Christianity, like apples, appears in a variety of species, some of which are perhaps closer to other systems of thought and faith, means that the question has to be narrowed down. The absence of evidence of psychagogic practices, and the indications that there is no aspect of memorializing in the Johannine ritual meal, means that there is less overlap between this form of Christianity and, say, the Pauline. But even then, Johannine and Pauline Christianity are apples… Epicureanism is a pear. Or perhaps a banana.



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2 responses to “On Johannine apples and Epicurean pears

  1. Pingback: On Johannine apples and Epicurean pears | Talmidimblogging

  2. At the risk of having a conflict of interest…..
    The apples and pears which prompt this are not so straightforward.
    After historically ancient and modern commentators have, on occasion, viewed Christians and Epicureans as kindred spirits. Both described as “atheoi” in ancient times, and, of course, Norman DeWitt in the modern period. So, while the apples and pears analogy might serve as a simple dismissal, things might be a tad more complicated.

    And that is before we sneak an Asian pear tree in Dr Stewart’s garden…. For an Asian pear looks like a cross between the two, but is actually something else ….

    Fergus King


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