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December 28, 2004


Mrs Tilton

אתאיסט would seem to be a straight borrowing from the Greek. A modern and neutral borrowing too, I'd guess. One word you might like, itself a Greek loanword but of rather venerable vintage, is אפיקורס, obviously derived from 'Epicurus'. It means atheist or freethinker, but in an intra-Jewish religious context can also mean something like 'heretic' or 'moderniser' (much the same thing, to a certain way of thinking).

Mrs Tilton

I should add that the word would be pronounced (by those speaking in the Ashkenazic manner) as 'Apikoyros'.

Abiola Lapite

"(much the same thing, to a certain way of thinking)."

Indeed! I can certainly see myself wearing the title "Proud Member of the Epikurim"

Mrs Tilton

'Apikorsim', I think, would be the standard term in the plural.

I have just looked up an old story that I'd half remembered, from Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish. A young religious scholar goes to his aged, very learned rabbi and confesses, 'I have become an apikoros. I don't believe in God any longer.'

'And how long', asks the rabbi, 'have you been studying Talmud?'

'Five years.'

'Only five years? And you have the nerve to call yourself an apikoros?!'

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