World of the New Testament
September 20, 2007
In the world of the New Testament, scholarly philosophers, including the likes of
Diogenes and Plato, preserved their words of wisdom within the infamous chreia. On the surface
level, a chreia means a “useful saying” that refers to some person, generally in anecdotal form.
However, the chreia can vary in its styles. The chreia can take on three forms: saying, action, and
mixed. The sayings, or verbal chreia, reveals its useful message by means of saying. For
example, when Diogenes was asked to locate his runaway slave he replied, “It is ridiculous if
Manes (his slave) can live without Diogenes, but Diogenes cannot live without Manes.” Here,
Diogenes emphasizes the need for a simpler lifestyle by stating that the runaway slave is an
unnecessary luxury he can live without. On the other hand, an action-chreia delivers the message
through an account of an action. An action chreia is depicted when Diogenes decides to use the
inadequate storage container as a means of lodging rather than choosing a more comfortable
option. Once again, Diogenes underscores the importance of the simple life through his actions,
specifically by settling for the inferior lodging. And finally, the mixed chreia combines the
elements of both the sayings and action chreia.
This version is typified when Diogenes throws
his own cup away after seeing a child drinking from his hands and says, “A mere child has
defeated me in simple living.” In this situation, Diogenes voices his opinion by stating how the
child has surpassed him in leading the most basic of lifestyles. However, he also expresses his
disgust for the horrid realization through action by throwing his own cup away. Through this
chreia, Diogenes highlights the significance of the simple life and how it should pertain to even
the most basic of actions.