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Epikoros (or Apikoros or Apikores; Hebrew: אֶפִּיקוֹרוֹס, romanizedˌʾeppikoˈros, lit.'Epicurus', pl. Epikorsim; Yiddish: אַפּיקורס, romanizedapiˈkoyres) is a Jewish term figuratively meaning "a heretic", cited in the Mishnah, referring to one who does not have a share in the world to come:

כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. וְאֵילּוּ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא הָאוֹמֵר אֵין תְּחִייַת הַמֵּתִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה וְאֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶפִּיקוּרוֹס.
All of Israel have a part in the World to Come. But the following have no part in the World to Come: One who says that the resurrection of the dead is not biblical, or that the Torah is not from Heaven, or the Epicurean.

— Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10:1

כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה ס) וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים לְעוֹלָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ נֵצֶר מַטָּעַי מַעֲשֵׂה יָדַי לְהִתְפָּאֵר. וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, הָאוֹמֵר אֵין תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה, וְאֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמָיִם, וְאֶפִּיקוֹרֶס.
All of the Jewish people have a share in the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “And your people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, for My name to be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21). And these [are the exceptions,] the people who have no share in the World-to-Come [...] One who says: There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah, and one who says: The Torah did not originate from Heaven, and an epikoros[.]

— Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 10:1

The rabbinic literature uses the term Epikoros, without a specific reference to the Greek philosopher Epicurus, yet it is apparent that the term is derived from the Greek philosopher's name,[1] a philosopher whose views contradicted Jewish scripture, the strictly monotheistic conception of God in Judaism and the Jewish belief in the world to come; see Epicureanism § Philosophy.

The Talmudic interpretation is that the Aramaic word is derived from the root-word פק"ר‎ (PQR; lit. licentious), hence disrespect, and accordingly:

אפיקורוס: רב ור' חנינא אמרי תרוייהו זה המבזה ת"ח רבי יוחנן ור' יהושע בן לוי אמרי זה המבזה חבירו בפני ת"ח § [The mishna teaches that those who have no share in the World-to-Come include] an epikoros. Rav and Rabbi Ḥanina both say: This is one who treats a Torah scholar with contempt. Rabbi Yoḥanan and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi say: This is one who treats another with contempt before a Torah scholar.

— Babylonian Talmud, Nezikin, Sanhedrin 99b:14

According to Maimonides, scorning a Talmid Chakham (Hebrew: ת"ח, romanizedtalmiḏ ḥaḫām, lit.'Wise Student' "Torah scholar") is actually a singular case of disrespecting the entire Torah or its rabbinic scholar-sages. In his work Mishneh Torah (Yad, Teshuvah 3:8), Maimonides rules that an Epikoros is a person who denies that God communicates with humans through prophecy, or one who denies the prophecy of Moses, or one who denies God's knowledge of the affairs of humans[2][3] (i.e., one who maintains there is no divine providence). Maimonides probably encountered the name of Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, some time after composing his commentary on the Mishnah and before composing The Guide for the Perplexed. In the first source, he erroneously states that the rabbinic term epikoros is an Aramaic word, but in the Guide, he has already become aware of the atheistic doctrine of the philosopher by that name. He cites the source of his information as Alexander of Aphrodisias' treatise On Providence.[4]

Following the Christian censorship of the Talmud, starting with the aftermath of the Disputation of Barcelona and during the Roman Inquisition and the Spanish Inquisition, the term spread within the Jewish classical texts. Censors shunned expressions like minim ("sectarian"), which they viewed as referring to the Christian faith, and replaced them with the term Epikoros or Epicurus, hence a heretic, since the church would also fight the heretics. The censors also replaced terms that refer to Christians with the word Hebrew: עכו"ם, romanizedʿakum, an abbreviation of Hebrew: עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וּמַזָּלוֹת, romanizedʿəvoḏ koḫānim umazzāloṯ, lit.'worshiper of stars and constellations', a belief that both Jews and their Christian censors abhorred.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jewish Encyclopedia". Funk and Wagnalls. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
  2. ^ "heresy" – Definition from Answers.com, including the content of Encyclopedia of Judaism
  3. ^ "Teshuvah - Chapter Three". www.chabad.org.
  4. ^ "Gadi Charles Weber, "Maimonides and the Epicurean Position on Providence," Review of Metaphysics 68:3 (March 2015): 545-572". The Review of Metaphysics. Retrieved 2015-04-17.