The Evil-Communication Phrase in Menander’s Thais

face of a prisoner

The evil-communication phrase (1 Cor. 15:33) is attributed to Menander in Euthalian prologues surviving in Syriac. The Euthalian prologue is part of ancient para-textual material accompanying manuscript editions of the Christian Gospels and Pauline epistles. An East Syrian manuscript containing the Peshitta New Testament (an ancient Syriac version of the New Testament) and copied in 767/8 has a Euthalian prologue. It attributes the evil-communication phrase to “a proverb of the divine Menander in the Thais.” Two latter Syriac manuscripts carrying Euthalian prologues attribute the saying to “a maxim of Menander the comic poet in the Thais.”^

The Euthalian material was originally written in Greek. The attribution to Menander is not found in surviving manuscripts of the Euthalian prologue in Greek. However, Henry Estienne, a prominent sixteenth-century printer also known as Stephanus, reported that a marginal note written in Greek in a now-lost New Testament manuscript attributed the evil-communication phrase to a gnome of Menander taken from “Thadia.”^

The biblical scholar Jerome, writing in Greek in the fourth century, also attributed the phrase to Menander. He did not, however, specify which of Menander’s plays. Thais is a plausible source for the phrase among Menander’s plays.

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