This is the final section of the introduction of Plutarch’s Advice to Bride and Groom:
ὧνοὖνἀκηκόατεπολλάκιςἐνφιλοσοφίᾳ παρατρεφόμενοικεφάλαιασυντάξαςἔντισινὁμοιότησιβραχείαις, ὡςεὐμνημόνευταμᾶλλονεἴη, κοινὸνἀμφοτέροιςπέμπωδῶρον, εὐχόμενοςτῇἈφροδίτῃτὰςΜούσαςπαρεῖναικαὶσυνεργεῖν, ὡςμήτελύραντινὰ μήτεκιθάρανμᾶλλοναὐταῖςἢτὴνπερὶγάμονκαὶοἶκονἐμμέλειανἡρμοσμένηνπαρέχεινδιὰλόγουκαὶἁρμονίας·καὶφιλοσοφίαςπροσῆκον. καὶγὰροἱ παλαιοὶτῇἈφροδίτῃτὸνἙρμῆνσυγκαθίδρυσαν, ὡςτῆςπερὶτὸνγάμονἡδονῆςμάλισταλόγουδεομένης, τήντεΠειθὼκαὶτὰςΧάριτας, ἵνα πείθοντεςδιαπράττωνταιπαρʼἀλλήλωνἃβούλονται, μὴ μαχόμενοιμηδὲφιλονεικοῦντες.
I have therefore drawn up a compendium of what you, who have been brought up in the atmosphere of philosophy, have often heard, putting it in the form of brief comparisons that it may be more easily remembered, and I am sending it as a gift for you both to possess in common; and at the same time I pray that the Muses may lend their presence and co-operation to Aphrodite, and may feel that it is no more fitting for them to provide a lyre or lute well attuned than it is to provide that the harmony which concerns marriage and the household shall be well attuned through reason, concord, and philosophy. Indeed, the ancients gave Hermes a place at the side of Aphrodite, in the conviction that the pleasure in marriage stands especially in need of reason ; and they also assigned a place there to Persuasion and the Graces, so that married people should succeed in attaining their mutual desires by persuasion and not by fighting and quarrelling.
Plutarch, vol. 2, Moralia, ed. Frank Cole Babbitt (Medford, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928), 299-301.
Comparison of Plutarch and James:
Plutarch states his intention of offering rational, philosophical advice. He notes that the ancients reason to sexual pleasure in marriage, that there should be persuasion and grace with the end of harmony in the marriage. He uses the concept of harmony repeatedly when portraying the end he seeks for marriage happiness. Harmony and happiness are defined as persuading one another to get what each wants and by not fighting with one-another.
I heard a great lecture by David Powlison in which he discussed this model as “managing your lusts” (I believe that was his phrase) and making your lusts “work for you”. He used a children’s book’s advice to demonstrate the model of psychology at play.
The comment of James, who uses the even a similar word for fighting is appropriate here:
1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:1–3 (ESV)
Plutarch and James see fighting arising from the same cause, but they reach radically different conclusions. Plutarch – like a modern marriage counselor – seeks the end that both parties should get what they want so that they will have pleasure. James says, the problems is that you want something for your own pleasure.
James earlier lays the problem at our desires: We are deceived by our desires (James 1:14-15), rather than receiving the good which an come only from the Father of Lights (James 1:16-17).
For James, good comes from a life of faith toward God which entails actual good work to and for others (James 2). James lays the desire for one’s own end at the very heart and nature of evil, as contrasted with “wisdom” from above:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13–18 (ESV)
Thus, both James and Plutarch are concerned with wisdom, persuasion, desire, harmony, avoiding conflict, reason. Yet, they differ on the deepest point: How do we actually establish the good and receive good? James says that one gives to human beings and seeks good from God. Plutarch says, we must be careful and wise to receive good from one-another.
The interesting thing is that should a marriage follow the model of James (and Peter and Paul), each party will be concerned only with giving good to the other – irrespective of what is obtained. In the end, both will receive good as a gift.
Where the parties seek to obtain good from the other person, there will be a constant negotiation over price, over what has been given and what will is received. When one party becomes convinced that she or he has “overpayed” for what has been received the in marriage, the other has a burden to make up the deficit – which in practice is never paid.
In the biblical model: one is never cheated, because one operates out of grace (such as that received from the Father in the Son). I am owed nothing by my wife, because I am not seek anything from her. Rather, I am obliged to give to her. My duty is ultimately owed to God (who seeks her good); and vice versa. Interestingly then, even the good gifts of marriage have been obtained by and bequeathed by God.
ὧν οὖν ἀκηκόατε πολλάκις: Therefore, what you have often (many times) heard
ἐνφιλοσοφίᾳ παρατρεφόμενοι: being nourished in, brought upon philosophy, i.e., educated in.
Παρατρεφόμενοι: the verb is unusual, being a compound with trefw: in the active, Liddel has, “maintain in addition.” The passive has only references for Plutarch with the meaning, “be educated”
κεφάλαια συντάξας ἔν τισιν ὁμοιότησι βραχείαις: you ordered the chief points into brief comparisons.
κεφάλαια: chief points. See, e.g., Hebrews 8:1
συντάξας: aorist participle: you arranged/were arranging. The English translation makes it seem that Plutarch created the comparisons, but the verb is second person singular: you.
ἔν τισιν ὁμοιότησι: in certain similitudes
βραχείαις: βραχύς means short, little.
ὡςεὐμνημόνευταμᾶλλονεἴη: so that it might be (subjunctive) easy for you to memorize.
κοινὸνἀμφοτέροιςπέμπωδῶρον: I send to you both this common/mutual/joint gift.
εὐχόμενος τῇ Ἀφροδίτῃ τὰς Μούσας παρεῖναι καὶ συνεργεῖν: praying that the Muses would be present and work together with Aphrodite.
εὐχόμενος: means to pray or to wish. Since the wish is directed to the Muses, pray would be more to the point. However, I don’t know how seriously Plutarch would have understood this as a liturgical prayer.
παρεῖναι καὶ συνεργεῖν: to be present and to work together (with). Infinitive of result: I am praying/wishing so that the result will be. Blass and DeBrunner note, “The infinitive without wste is used in a comparable free way to express result” (§391(4)).
ὡς μήτε λύραν τινὰ μήτε κιθάραν μᾶλλον αὐταῖς: so that neither lute nor lyre are a concern for them
ἢ τὴν περὶ γάμον καὶ οἶκον: that concerning to marry (marriage) and house
Peri + accusative: with respect to, concerning
ἐμμέλειαν ἡρμοσμένην παρέχειν: to present a harmonized harmony (the tune of a particular dance).
διὰλόγου καὶ ἁρμονίας: by means of word and harmony. (Wallace, 368, dia, 1.a).
καὶ φιλοσοφίας προσῆκον: and by philosophy, made fitting/suitable.
Φιλοσοφίας: genitive of means (Wallace, 125). “The genitive of means seems to be at times slightly closer to a causal idea than a dative of means is”.
καὶγὰροἱ παλαιοὶτῇἈφροδίτῃτὸνἙρμῆνσυγκαθίδρυσαν: For also the ancients (the old ones) by Aphrodite (location) to Hermes (direct object) they (the ancients) sat down together. Hermes was the messenger of the gods (Acts 14:12), and thus of eloquence and reasoned speech.
ὡςτῆςπερὶτὸνγάμονἡδονῆςμάλισταλόγουδεομένης: for the purpose of/because the pleasure of marriage especially of logos (reason) has need (present middle participle). Because the pleasure of marriage has special need of reason/reasonable words/speech.
τήν τε Πειθὼ καὶ τὰς Χάριτας: and Persuasion and the Graces.
ἵνα πείθοντεςδιαπράττωνταιπαρʼἀλλήλων ἃ βούλονται, in order that [by] persuading they might accomplish from [para + genitive: source, from] one-antoher the things they desire. They refers to the married couple.
μὴ μαχόμενοι μηδὲ φιλονεικοῦντες: neither fighting nor being fond of victory/loving to conquer (hence fight).