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Ὑμνεῖν με δεῖ τὸν θεόν | “I Must Praise God,” excerpted from the Discourses of Epictetus by Rabbi Morrison David Bial

Source (Koine Greek) Translation (English)

ταῦτα μόνα ἐστὶν ἔργα ἐφ᾽ ἡμῶν τῆς προνοίας; καὶ τίς ἐξαρκεῖ λόγος ὁμοίως αὐτὰ ἐπαινέσαι ἢ παραστῆσαι; εἰ γὰρ νοῦν εἴχομεν, ἄλλο τι ἔδει ἡμᾶς ποιεῖν καὶ κοινῇ καὶ ἰδίᾳ ἢ ὑμνεῖν τὸ θεῖον καὶ εὐφημεῖν καὶ ἐπεξέρχεσθαι τὰς χάριτας; οὐκ ἔδει καὶ σκάπτοντας καὶ ἀροῦντας καὶ ἐσθίοντας ᾁδειν τὸν ὕμνον τὸν εἰς τὸν θεόν; ‘μέγας ὁ θεὸς, ὅτι ἡμῖν παρέσχεν ὄργανα ταῦτα δι᾽ ὧν τὴν γῆν ἐργασόμεθα: μέγας ὁ θεός, ὅτι χεῖρας δέδωκεν, ὅτι κατάποσιν, ὅτι κοιλίαν, ὅτι αὔξεσθαι λεληθότως, ὅτι καθεύδοντας ἀναπνεῖν.’ ταῦτα ἐφ᾽ ἑκάστου ἐφυμνεῖν ἔδει καὶ τὸν μέγιστον καὶ θειότατον ὕμνον ἐφυμνεῖν, ὅτι τὴν δύναμιν ἔδωκεν τὴν παρακολουθητικὴν τούτοις καὶ ὁδῷ χρηστικήν. τί οὖν; ἐπεὶ οἱ πολλοὶ ἀποτετύφλωσθε, οὐκ ἔδει τινὰ εἶναι τὸν ταύτην ἐκπληροῦντα τὴν χώραν καὶ ὑπὲρ πάντων ᾁδοντα τὸν ὕμνον τὸν εἰς τὸν θεόν;
And what words can truly express our praise of the works of Providence? If we had understanding, ought we not incessantly sing hymns to the Deity to rehearse His benefits? Ought we not as we dig or we plow or eat, sing a hymn to God? Great is God who has given us the strength and skill and tools to till the ground! Who has given us limbs and power and organs! And that which should be the subject of the greatest and most divine hymn: that He has granted us the faculty of apprehending his gifts!

τί γὰρ ἄλλο δύναμαι γέρων χωλὸς εἰ μὴ ὑμνεῖν τὸν θεόν; εἰ γοῦν ἀηδὼν ἤμην, ἐποίουν τὰ τῆς ἀηδόνος, εἰ κύκνος, τὰ τοῦ κύκνου. νῦν δὲ λογικός εἰμι: ὑμνεῖν με δεῖ τὸν θεόν. τοῦτό μου τὸ ἔργον ἐστίν, ποιῶ αὐτὸ οὐδ᾽ ἐγκαταλείψω τὴν τάξιν ταύτην, ἐφ᾽ ὅσον ἂν διδῶται, καὶ ὑμᾶς ἐπὶ τὴν αὐτὴν ταύτην ᾠδὴν παρακαλῶ.
What else then can I, a lame old man, do but chant the praise of God? If I were a nightingale, I would sing as a nightingale; if a swan, as a swan. But as I am a rational creature, I must praise God. This is my task and I will do it. Nor will I leave this duty so long as I live; and I exhort you all to join in this same song.

This excerpt from the Discourses of Epictetus was included (in English translation) in Rabbi Morrison David Bial’s An Offering of Prayer (1962). The original text in Koine Greek comes from the Perseus database. In some editions, this teaching can be found in Epictetus’ Discourses, Book IV Chapter III.

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