I saw a couple of essays yesterday arguing that some teachings in Avot may have been directed specifically against the Greek philosopher Epicurus* and his teachings. I was wondering whether any of the Rishonim reference Epicurus and/or his teachings?

*Some say Epicurus is where the term Apikoros comes from.

  • the word Apikoros comes from an aramaic root Jul 17, 2020 at 22:24
  • @KapinKrunch I specifically wrote some say, because, like a great many things in Judaism, it's a machloket.
    – Harel13
    Jul 18, 2020 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


Rambam refers explicitly to Epicurus’ views a number of times in his Guide of the Perplexed:

On the eternity of atoms (I 73):

These atoms, they believe, are not, as was supposed by Epicurus and other Atomists numerically constant: but are created anew whenever it pleases the Creator: their annihilation is therefore not impossible.

On the non-existence of G-d (II 13):

But it would be quite useless to mention the opinions of those who do not recognize the existence of God, but believe that the existing state of things is the result of accidental combination and separation of the elements, and that the Universe has no Ruler or Governor. Such is the theory of Epicurus and his school, and similar philosophers, as stated by Alexander [Aphrodisiensis].

On the non-existence of providence (III 17):

There are five different theories concerning Divine Providence...

First Theory -- There is no Providence at all for anything in the Universe; all parts of the Universe, the heavens and what they contain, owe their origin to accident and chance; there exists no being that rules and governs them or provides for them. This is the theory of Epicurus, who assumes also that the Universe consists of atoms, that these have combined by chance, and have received their various forms by mere accident.

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