the imaginative conservative logo


And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices

Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera

—T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton



Zeno and the Founding of Stoicism

Zeno of Cittium founded the Stoic School in 322B.C. The name came from the lecture hall: the Stoa poikile (the outdoor porch). Zeno took much from both Plato and Aristotle; turned their metaphysical speculations into religious dogma/presuppositions. Stoicism, therefore, did not serve as mere speculation for these Hellenistic Greeks; it revealed the path to a virtuous life. While Zeno possessed great skill, most scholars consider him a second-rate thinker compared to Plato or Aristotle. His student and successor, Cleanthes of Chrysippus, wrote down much of what Zeno had taught; he developed this thought further in 705 “books”, all believed to be well argued, according to Father Copleston, but poorly written.[1]

Three stages of the Stoa

  1. Early Stoa (Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus of Soli)
  2. Middle Stoa (Virgil, Cicero (though Cicero called himself an Eclectic and a New Academician), and Seneca)
  3. Late Stoa (Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius—for whom the Logos Incarnate was the Roman Empire)

Believed (defined most clearly in/remembered from second stoa):

  • Man must conform himself entirely to the natural law; nature/creation itself being comprehensive; from the One
  • At the heart of all things was the universal principle, the “artistic fire” or Word known as LOGOS, which was closely tied to fate. It existed at the beginning of the universe, and it would bring all things back together in the end, perfecting all through the LOGOS (see below for various understandings of LOGOS).
  • The various Greek gods represent simple names or manifestations of different aspects of the One; the Stoics understood each as an allegory or a myth, not as a reality in and of itself. “Zeno is reported as according the status of gods to the law of nature, the aether, reason, the stars, the years, months, and season; and as depriving, in his interpretation of Hesiod’s Theogony, Jupiter, Juno, and Vesta of their divinity insisting that their names allegorically signify divine entities of a material nature. . . . The Hellenic polis had been conquered, but the Stoics developed the myth o the cosmos as the common habitat and polis of gods and men, a symbolism that satisfied the needs of an ecumenic society after a fashion . . . . into the myth of the cosmos as the megalopolis which comprises all nations.”[2]
  • We know the meaning of life through the empirical observation of nature and through the logic of the soul
  • Adopted Aristotle’s understanding of purpose
  • Providence controls all


 The Concept of Logos

Heraclitus, a noble from Ephesus (ca. 500 B.C.), was the first to identify the Word; “that universal principle which animates and rules the world” as the Urstoff. He claims the Word as Reason, a Reason that rules the universe. Still, for Heraclitus, man remained trapped within the cycles of the earth (spring, summer, fall, winter; birth, middle age, death).

Later, Galen, described the Logos in the following terms: He “did not make the world as an artisan does his work, but it is by wholly penetrating all matter that He is the demiurge of the universe” [Galen, “de qual. Incorp.”].

Plutarch wrote that the Logos was a “go-between” between God and man.

Tertullian: The Logos mixes with the matter “as honey does the honeycomb.”

Copleston though, warns: “But we are not entitled to suppose that Heraclitus regarded the One, Fire, as a personal God, any more than Thales or Anazimenes regarded Water or Air as a personal God: Heraclitus was a pantheist, just as the Stoics in later times were pantheists. It is, however, true that the conception of God as the immanent, ordering Principle of all things, together with the moral attitude of acceptance of events as the expression of divine Law, tends to produce a psychological attitude that is at variance with what would seem to be logically demanded by the theoretical identification of God with the cosmic unity.”[3]

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Logos within Jewish Thought

Jews used the term Memra for Logos. Most likely entered Jewish thought with the movement of Alexander the Great.

Often defined as:

  1. the Word;
  2. Revealer of God;
  3. all Wisdom/ideas;
  4. the Law that upholds the world

Most obvious in the Jewish “Book of Wisdom” (chapters 1, 6-8, 18).

Logos within Christian Thought

Find this Greek and Jewish (which is probably Greek too; Stoicism and Judaism seems to have common understandings of the Word by 100BC, if not long before, as Paul Rahe so convincingly argued last week) concept in blatant form—only in St. John’s writings: in his Gospel, his first letter, and in Revelations.

St. Paul

St. Paul

St. Paul, though, expressed the idea strongly in

  • 1 Corinthians 1:24: “but to those whom God had called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
  • II Cor. 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  • Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation.” This presents a stoic philosophy of history.
  • And, spoken by St. Paul at Mars Hill, as St. Luke recorded in Acts 17: “In Him we move and live and have our being.”
  • 1 Colossians 15-20 a blatant sanctifying of a Stoic philosophy of history. “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy: Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.”

Many early Christians and middle Stoics assumed that St. Paul and Seneca corresponded with each other. An apocryphal document even claimed to be a publication of their correspondence.[4]

Also, very strong in Hebrews (author unknown) 1:3, which comes directly from Wisdom, 7:26. Hebrew 1:3 states: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Stoic Influences Across the Centuries

Influences (to list only a few): Cicero, St. John, St. Paul, the author of Hebrews, St. Augustine, Marcus Aurelius, Boethius, John of Salisbury, Philip Melanchthon, John Calvin, Erasmus, Thomas More, Edmund Burke, Robert E. Lee.

In the twentieth century: Paul Elmer More, T.S. Eliot, Russell Kirk, Henry Hazlitt, James Stockdale, and Tom Wolfe.

Christopher Dawson: “Even Stoicism, the one sect of the time which inculcated a disinterested ideal of social duty, was fundamentally an unsocial and individualistic creed.”[5]

Eric Voegelin, not surprisingly, saw the Stoics as having bastardized and deformed Platonism and Aristotelianism. “The issue at hand is all the more important because the technique of deformation developed by the Stoic thinkers has been continued through Philo into Christianity, and through Christianity into the modern deformation of philosophy by the ideological thinkers . . . . When it enters history, truth has to carry the burden of death and time; an in the hands of lesser thinkers, who are sensitive to the truth in a measure but are not able to reactivate the engendering experience fully, the surviving truth of the language can acquire a status independent of the originating reality. The truth of reality living in the symbols can be deformed into a doctrinal truth about reality; and since the object to which the doctrinal truth refers propositionally does not exist, it must be invented. This is what happens in the Stoic case.”[6]

Russell Kirk: “I have been reading mightily in the Stoic writers of late. Everything in Christianity is Stoic. ‘Nothing is good but virtue,’ said Zeno. Really, the highest compliment I can pay to the Greeks is that they could understand and admire the Stoics and admit their own inferiority. Were the Stoics to ask the moderns the rhetorical questions they asked the Greeks, the moderns also would accept the questions as rhetorical-¬but would answer them in exactly the opposite manner.”[7]

Kirk again: “In an age of decadence, the Stoic philosophy held together the civil social order of imperial Rome, and taught thinking men the nature of true freedom, which is not dependent upon swords and laws.”[8]

Additional Documents/Evidence

I. Jewish Book of Wisdom (Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal)


  1. Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth, think of the Lord with uprightness, and seek him with sincerity of heart;
  2. because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him.
  3. For perverse thoughts separate men from God, and when his power is tested, it convicts the foolish;
  4. because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin.
  5. For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit, and will rise and depart from foolish thoughts, and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.
  6. For wisdom is a kindly spirit and will not free a blasphemer from the guilt of his words; because God is witness of his inmost feelings, and a true observer of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.
  7. Because the Spirit of the Lord has filled the world, and that which holds all things together knows what is said;
  8. therefore no one who utters unrighteous things will escape notice, and justice, when it punishes, will not pass him by.
  9. For inquiry will be made into the counsels of an ungodly man, and a report of his words will come to the Lord, to convict him of his lawless deeds;
  10. because a jealous ear hears all things, and the sound of murmurings does not go unheard.
  11. Beware then of useless murmuring, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul.
  12. Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
  13. because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.
  14. For he created all things that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
  15. For righteousness is immortal.
  16. But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.


  1. Listen therefore, O kings, and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.
  2. Give ear, you that rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations.
  3. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High, who will search out your works and inquire into your plans.
  4. Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly, nor keep the law, nor walk according to the purpose of God,
  5. he will come upon you terribly and swiftly, because severe judgment falls on those in high places.
  6. For the lowliest man may be pardoned in mercy, but mighty men will be mightily tested.
  7. For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of any one, nor show deference to greatness; because he himself made both small and great, and he takes thought for all alike.
  8. But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty.
  9. To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed, that you may learn wisdom and not transgress.
  10. For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness, and those who have been taught them will find a defense.
  11. Therefore set your desire on my words; long for them, and you will be instructed.
  12. Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.
  13. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
  14. He who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for he will find her sitting at his gates.
  15. To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and he who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
  16. because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.
  17. The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her,
  18. and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
  19. and immortality brings one near to God;
  20. so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.
  21. Therefore if you delight in thrones and scepters, O monarchs over the peoples, honor wisdom, that you may reign for ever.
  22. I will tell you what wisdom is and how she came to be, and I will hide no secrets from you, but I will trace her course from the beginning of creation, and make knowledge of her clear, and I will not pass by the truth;
  23. neither will I travel in the company of sickly envy, for envy does not associate with wisdom.
  24. A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world, and a sensible king is the stability of his people.
  25. Therefore be instructed by my words, and you will profit.


  1. I also am mortal, like all men, a descendant of the first-formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh,
  2. within the period of ten months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage.
  3. And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth, and my first sound was a cry, like that of all.
  4. I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths.
  5. For no king has had a different beginning of existence;
  6. there is for all mankind one entrance into life, and a common departure.
  7. Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
  8. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
  9. Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
  10. I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases.
  11. All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth.
  12. I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them; but I did not know that she was their mother.
  13. I learned without guile and I impart without grudging; I do not hide her wealth,
  14. for it is an unfailing treasure for men; those who get it obtain friendship with God, commended for the gifts that come from instruction.
  15. May God grant that I speak with judgment and have thought worthy of what I have received, for he is the guide even of wisdom and the corrector of the wise.
  16. For both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts.
  17. For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;
  18. the beginning and end and middle of times, the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,
  19. the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars,
  20. the natures of animals and the tempers of wild beasts, the powers of spirits and the reasonings of men, the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots;
  21. I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,
  22. for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me. For in her there is a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible,
  23. beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent and pure and most subtle.
  24. For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
  25. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
  26. For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.
  27. Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
  28. for God loves nothing so much as the man who lives with wisdom.
  29. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
  30. for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.


  1. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well.
  2. I loved her and sought her from my youth, and I desired to take her for my bride, and I became enamored of her beauty.
  3. She glorifies her noble birth by living with God, and the Lord of all loves her.
  4. For she is an initiate in the knowledge of God, and an associate in his works.
  5. If riches are a desirable possession in life, what is richer than wisdom who effects all things?
  6. And if understanding is effective, who more than she is fashioner of what exists?
  7. And if any one loves righteousness, her labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for men than these.
  8. And if any one longs for wide experience, she knows the things of old, and infers the things to come; she understands turns of speech and the solutions of riddles; she has foreknowledge of signs and wonders and of the outcome of seasons and times.
  9. Therefore I determined to take her to live with me, knowing that she would give me good counsel and encouragement in cares and grief.
  10. Because of her I shall have glory among the multitudes and honor in the presence of the elders, though I am young.
  11. I shall be found keen in judgment, and in the sight of rulers I shall be admired.
  12. When I am silent they will wait for me, and when I speak they will give heed; and when I speak at greater length they will put their hands on their mouths.
  13. Because of her I shall have immortality, and leave an everlasting remembrance to those who come after me.
  14. I shall govern peoples, and nations will be subject to me;
  15. dread monarchs will be afraid of me when they hear of me; among the people I shall show myself capable, and courageous in war.
  16. When I enter my house, I shall find rest with her, for companionship with her has no bitterness, and life with her has no pain, but gladness and joy.
  17. When I considered these things inwardly, and thought upon them in my mind, that in kinship with wisdom there is immortality,
  18. and in friendship with her, pure delight, and in the labors of her hands, unfailing wealth, and in the experience of her company, understanding, and renown in sharing her words, I went about seeking how to get her for myself.
  19. As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot;
  20. or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body.
  21. But I perceived that I would not possess wisdom unless God gave her to me — and it was a mark of insight to know whose gift she was — so I appealed to the Lord and besought him, and with my whole heart I said:


  1. But for thy holy ones there was very great light. Their enemies heard their voices but did not see their forms, and counted them happy for not having suffered,
  2. and were thankful that thy holy ones, though previously wronged, were doing them no injury; and they begged their pardon for having been at variance with them.
  3. Therefore thou didst provide a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for thy people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering.
  4. For their enemies deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness, those who had kept thy sons imprisoned, through whom the imperishable light of the law was to be given to the world.
  5. When they had resolved to kill the babes of thy holy ones, and one child had been exposed and rescued, thou didst in punishment take away a multitude of their children; and thou didst destroy them all together by a mighty flood.
  6. That night was made known beforehand to our fathers, so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.
  7. The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were expected by thy people.
  8. For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies thou didst call us to thyself and glorify us.
  9. For in secret the holy children of good men offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the fathers.
  10. But the discordant cry of their enemies echoed back, and their piteous lament for their children was spread abroad.
  11. The slave was punished with the same penalty as the master, and the common man suffered the same loss as the king;
  12. and they all together, by the one form of death, had corpses too many to count. For the living were not sufficient even to bury them, since in one instant their most valued children had been destroyed.
  13. For though they had disbelieved everything because of their magic arts, yet, when their first-born were destroyed, they acknowledged thy people to be God’s son.
  14. For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone,
  15. thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior
  16. carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.
  17. Then at once apparitions in dreadful dreams greatly troubled them, and unexpected fears assailed them;
  18. and one here and another there, hurled down half dead, made known why they were dying;
  19. for the dreams which disturbed them forewarned them of this, so that they might not perish without knowing why they suffered.
  20. The experience of death touched also the righteous, and a plague came upon the multitude in the desert, but the wrath did not long continue.
  21. For a blameless man was quick to act as their champion; he brought forward the shield of his ministry, prayer and propitiation by incense; he withstood the anger and put an end to the disaster, showing that he was thy servant.
  22. He conquered the wrath not by strength of body, and not by force of arms, but by his word he subdued the punisher, appealing to the oaths and covenants given to our fathers.
  23. For when the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps, he intervened and held back the wrath, and cut off its way to the living.
  24. For upon his long robe the whole world was depicted, and the glories of the fathers were engraved on the four rows of stones, and thy majesty on the diadem upon his head.
  25. To these the destroyer yielded, these he feared; for merely to test the wrath was enough.


II. Cicero

Whether Cicero was or was not a Stoic (he called himself a New Academician) remains a matter of debate among scholars.[9] To my mind, however, Cicero offered us an explanation in Book 1, paragraph 6 of On Duties: “I shall, therefore, at this time and in this investigation follow chiefly the Stoics, not as a translator, but, as is my custom, I shall at my own option and discretion draw from those sources in such measure and in such manner as shall suit my purpose.”

On Duties served as Cicero’s most Stoic work. Of the Laws closely followed, though.

Through the voice of Quintus in Of the Laws “[The oak] survives, Atticus, and it will always survive: its roots are in the imagination. No farmer’s cultivation can preserve a tree as long as one sown in a poet’s verse.” [Cicero, On the Laws, Book 1]

“A human being, [sic] was endowed by the supreme god with a grand status at the time of its creation. It alone of all types and varieties of animate creatures has a share in reason and thought, which all the others lack. What is there, not just in humans, but in all heaven and earth, more divine that reason? When it has matured and come to perfection, it is properly named wisdom. . . reason forms the first bond between human and god,” the Roman Republican Cicero wrote in On the Laws. [Cicero, On the Laws, Book 1]. This latter quote seems deeply connected to the Stoic idea of the megapolis.



III. Virgil

Eclogue 4

The last great age the Sybil told has come;
The new order of centuries is born;
The Virgin now returns, and the reign of Saturn;
The new generation now comes down from heaven. . . .
Our crimes are going to be erased at last.
This child will share in the life of the gods and he
Will see and be seen in the company of heroes,
And he will be the ruler of a world
Made peaceful by the merits of his father.[10]

IV. St. Paul’s References to Greek and Stoic Thought in the New Testament

A) Cleanthes’ “Hymn to Zeus”

Supreme of gods, by titles manifold
Invoked, O thou who over all dost hold
Eternal dominance, Nature’s author, Zeus,
Guiding a universe by Law controlled;
Hail! for ’tis meet that men should call on thee
Whose seed we are (Acts 17:28) ; and ours the destiny
Alone of all that lives and moves on earth,
A mirror of thy deity to be.
Therefore I hymn thee and thy power I praise;
For at thy word, on their appointed ways
The orbs of heaven in circuit round the earth
Move, and submissive each thy rule obeys.
Who holdest in thy hands invincible
So dread a minister to work thy will –
The eternal bolt of fire, two-edged, whose blast
Thro’ all the powers of nature strikes a chill –
Whereby thou guid’st the universal force,
Reason, through all things interfused, whose course
Commingles with the great and lesser lights –
Thyself of all the sovran and the source;
For nought is done on earth apart from thee,
Nor in thy vault of heaven, nor in the sea;
Save for the reckless deeds of sinful men
Whose own hearts lead them to perversity.
But skill to make the crooked straight is thine,
To turn disorder to a fair design;
Ungracious things are gracious in thy sight,
For ill and good thy power doth so combine
That out of all appears in unity
Eternal Reason, which the wicked flee
And disregard, who long for happiness,
Yet God’s great Law can neither hear nor see;
Ill-fated folk! for would they but obey
With understanding heart, from day to day
Their life were full of blessing, but they turn
Each to his sin, by folly led astray.
Glory would some thro’ bitter strife attain
And some are eager after lawless gain;
Some lust for sensual delights, but each
Finds that too soon his pleasure turns to pain.
But, Zeus all-bountiful! the thunder-flame
And the dark cloud thy majesty proclaim;
From ignorance deliver us, that leads
The sons of men to sorrow and to shame.
Wherefore dispel it, Father, from the soul
And grant that Wisdom may our life control,
Wisdom which teaches thee to guide the world
Upon the path of justice to its goal.
So winning honour thee shall we requite
With honour, lauding still thy works of might;
Since gods nor men find worthier need than this—The universal Law to praise aright.

B) Epimenides’ “Cretica”

Minos to his father, Zeus
They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one—
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies! (Titus 1:12)
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being (Act 17:28).

C) Menander’s “Thais”

“Bad company corrupts good morals”

(1 Corinthians 15:33).

V. St. Augustine

As St. Augustine put in it in his sermon on Psalm 58: “Of itself it hath no light, nor of itself powers; but all that is fair in a soul is virtue and wisdom; but it neither is wise for itself, nor strong for itself, nor is itself light to itself, nor is itself virtue to itself. There is a certain fountain and origin of virtue, there is a certain root of wisdom, there is a certain, so to speak, if this also is to be said, region of immutable truth; from which if the soul withdraws it is made dark and if it draws near it is made light.”[11]

Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

—T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

The people and classic texts mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. From an essay written for the Hillsdale College Department of History September 21, 2010.


1. Frederick Copleston, S.J., The History of Philosophy (Westminster, Mary.: Newman Press, 1963), I: 385.

2. Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1974), 40-41.

3. Copleston, A History of Philosophy, I: 43-44.

4. Charles Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (1942; Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 2010), 180.

5. Chrstopher Dawson, Medieval Essays (1954; Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press of America, 2002), 35.

6. Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, 39.

7. Russell Kirk to Bill McCann, July 27, 1942, in Box 25, Kirk Papers, Clarke Library, Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

8. Russell Kirk, ed., Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, and Epictetus, Enchiridion (Chicago, Ill.: Regnery, 1955), vii.

9. Strauss explicitly rejected the notion that Cicero was a Stoic. See his University of Chicago Walgreen Lectures, published as Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History(1953; University of Chicago Press, 1965), 154-156. In his The City and Man, however, Strauss equates Cicero with the Stoics. See, especiall, The City of Man (1964; University of Chicago Press, 1978), 27-28, fn. 35.

10. Virgil, Eclogue IV, The Eclogues of Virgil, trans. by David Ferry (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999), 29.

11. St. Augustine, An Augustine Synthesis, ed. Erich Przywara, S.J. (London: Sheed and Ward, 1936), 20-21.

Print Friendly
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
4 replies to this post
  1. Excellent article. It might be mentioned that Tarsus was a major center of Stoicism in St. Paul's times.

    Although nobody today considers the Senecan-Pauline letters genuine, the Roman proconsul of Achaea, Gallio, who met St. Paul (Acts 18:12-17), was Seneca's brother.

    Stoic psychology is also very valuable. Emphasis on apatheia (freedom from passions), ataraxia (imperturbability), and in carefully distinguishing between events themselves and the interpretations we impose on events.

    Belief in the Logos, Providence, and universal harmony leads to cosmopolitan ethics: "There is no such thing as good or bad fortune for the individual; we live in common. And no one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you must live for your neighbor, if you would live for yourself."
    ~ Seneca (Letter 48, On Quibbling)

  2. "Many early Christians and middle Stoics assumed that St. Paul and Seneca corresponded with each other. An apocryphal document even claimed to be a publication of their correspondence." Right, Brad and John. Seneca may or may not have heard of St. Paul but St. Paul almost certainly heard of Seneca (and other Stoics). And John is right that Tarsus was a major center of Stoic thought. St. Paul may have had Stoic teachers; I would say almost certainly he had conversations with educated Roman citizens as himself who held Stoic views. There is no question that Paul was influenced by Greek philosophy. Some of his famous sayings seem to be and almost certainly are quotations or paraphrases of Greek philosophers.

  3. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Paul using some of the philosophy of the Greeks, particularly the Stoics. Even C.S. Lewis argues that all cultures have had a glimpse of the Eternal, in one way or another, with the Judeo-Christian being the one to whom the Eternal revealed Himself most completely. The thinking of men as wise as the Stoics only adds to the experience of the Gospels and the Pauline Letters. When put together with Hebrew wisdom, it is delightfully insightful and penetratingly thoughtful.

Leave a Reply