Douglas Campbell’s Deliverance of God has generated lots of discussion, especially on Romans 1:18-32. The γαρ in 1:18 has been a problem for interpreters long before Campbell came to it. But Campbell’s work is making folks take another look at the particle in this verse.
Koine “traditionalists” (is there a better word?) assert that γαρ is a discourse connector which logically joins two parts of a discourse, normally in an explanatory way. This sense is typically translated “therefore”. Example: I have a broken leg, therefore I will not be playing football. If one only reads the NT, then clearly this is the most frequent usage.
But there is other Greek literature out there. Consider Euripides’ Bacchae. In places like lines 477, 483, and 612, γαρ is used to signal a switch in speaker (like from Dionysus to Pentheus or the Chorus leader to Dionysus). This is evidence for how the particle could function in rhetoric, particularly in a Socratic dialogue. To be fair, just because Euripides used γαρ this way sometimes does not automatically mean that’s what Paul did in Romans 1:18. However, it is evidence that I don’t see many people consider before they dismiss it. A better question for the traditionalists might be Why can’t the γαρ in Romans 1:18 indicate a speaker change?
In addition to Euripides, there’s biblical evidence as well. Consider the translation Greek of the LXX. In Job, when he converses with his “friends”, γαρ is twice used in a change of speaker (Job 6:2; 25:2). Also, by my count there are over 45 instances of γαρ symbolizing a speaker change in LXX Isaiah (tweet me if you want the list and begin discussing who is speaking where in Isaiah). (Maybe this requires an intro to the various voices in Isaiah, but…) One of the clearest examples is Cyrus talking to Yahweh in Isa 45:15— συ γαρ ει θεος, και ουκ ηδειμεν, ο θεος του Ισραηλ σωτηρ (You are the God people cannot see. You are the God who saves Israel. ERV)
Long story short: γαρ is a very small form that gets used in lots of contexts. Identifying what the form means from context-to-context should be determined by those contexts, not by a lexicographic straight-jacket.
So does the γαρ in Romans 1:18 signal a switch from Paul’s voice to the Teacher’s voice? I think the evidence suggests so.
Palam, Aperte, Silentium – Something Hidden in Plain Sight? (The Gospel of Mark)
I briefly made use of this in my book, but it bears more examination and given the question I was asked yesterday (see below), I wanted to write a short post on it. ]], the great writer of resistance, has three transcripts available for writers and audiences alike. They are the public, the hidden, and the double-meaning transcript. The double-meaning transcript allows for the “subordinate group politics” to act itself out in plain sight (Scott, Domination, 18–9). This acting-out involves using folk ways, words, and other things only the group would recognize to tell a story of resistance, but the difference between this and the hidden is the public performance of the former.
There is something along those lines in Latin rhetoric as well, at least according to Quintilian. Palam involves language used by orators and poets meant to be plain or forthright. Aperte is that language which is “open,” or rather, open to those who understand it. Finally, silentium is used only when there is a need, when the outside and hegemonic group is prancing around with its power, and is done in such a way as to allow the orator/poet to speak freely but to have the audience apply their meaning to it. Like the doubling-meaning transcript to the hidden, silentium exists as a subordinate to aperte. It takes place only at the must crucial of times, but in plain view.
Yesterday, I was asked privately (so, no names) about the possibility of understanding the final production if one doesn’t understand or know of the source material. The Gospel of Mark, I contend, contains this aperte–silentium rhetoric, where the author is using a known story (namely that of Jesus) to present a hidden transcript in pubic (the double-meaning; i.e., the mirrored-reflection of the Jewish War and the messiahs who followed). My convoluted answer is that yes, on some level every audience will understand something of the final production even without knowing the source material or intention of the author. This doesn’t remove the original intent, nor does it suggest reception is the dominant aspect of the production. On another level, an audience may pick up on that something is being said but not clearly heard, even without the source material. This, I believe, drives our examination for the sources of these works today. But, there will always be an audience who understands the production as the author intended, namely the first audience (hence the importance of Matthew and Luke in reading Mark).
Unfortunately, we today find it difficult to hear the silentium because the story is now so invested in our culture we see ourselves as the source material, hearing no cues as to the hidden meaning(s). Are we wrong, then, in reading Mark as a simplistic historical narrative of the life of Jesus? Hardly, but we aren’t fully reading it with the ears of the first audience. We have replaced the aperte with our need for palam and that prevents any serious investigation into the Gospel.
short post, short editor, going home now.
- Mark as a Literary and Theological Document: Mark 3:22 – 30 test case (swilhite.wordpress.com)
- Forensic Analysis of the Gospel of Mark (str.typepad.com)
Aristotle on the Poet as Creator
For this reason poetry is something more scientific and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.
By a “general truth” I mean the sort of thing that a certain type of man will do or say either probably or necessarily. That is what poetry aims at in giving names to the characters. A “particular fact” is what Alcibiades did or what was done to him. In the case of comedy this has now become obvious, for comedians construct their plots out of probable incidents and then put in any names that occur to them. They do not, like the iambic satirists, write about individuals. In tragedy, on the other hand, they keep to real names. The reason is that what is possible carries conviction. If a thing has not happened, we do not yet believe in its possibility, but what has happened is obviously possible. Had it been impossible, it would not have happened. It is true that in some tragedies one or two of the names are familiar and the rest invented; indeed in some they are all invented, as for instance in Agathon’s Antheus, where both the incidents and the names are invented and yet it is none the less a favourite. One need not therefore endeavor invariably to keep to the traditional stories with which our tragedies deal. Indeed it would be absurd to do that, seeing that the familiar themes are familiar only to a few and yet please all.
It is clear, then, from what we have said that the poet must be a “maker” not of verses but of stories, since he is a poet in virtue of his “representation,” and what he represents is action. Even supposing he represents what has actually happened, he is none the less a poet, for there is nothing to prevent some actual occurrences being the sort of thing that would probably or inevitably happen, and it is in virtue of that that he is their “maker.”
The Historical Pompey v. The Historical Jesus
First, I’m not going to get into the full discussion – I will side with McGrath because I happen to trust his scholarship, and what’s more, that his scholarship is not driven by an agenda; however, I do find that a study of the way history was recorded, used, and promoted is one which helps the conversation with those who have somewhat of a sane view of the acceptance of facts.
One of those ways is Lucan’s use of the Roman civil wars several generations before his to create a hope for a return to the Republic. In writing De Bello Civili, Lucan uses several rhetorical techniques of the time, and some he seemingly invented, to juxtapose tyranny and freedom. He develops historical characters of which little is actually known, into full fledged heroes of the Roman people – if only the Roman people could accept them as such. Lucan’s hero, his one out of the many, is Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Pompey, the great Roman general. But, Pompey is nearly a complete fabrication of the author’s mind. It’s not that Pompey didn’t exist, but Lucan’s Pompey (we’ll call him LPompey) never did as Lucan portrays him. Lucan creates LPompey to be his hero, to play up the themes of honor, laws, and a host of other issues which the author needs symbolized in a shorten manner. Bartsch writes,
One Pompey is more or less the narrator’s creation; his presence relies on the frequent intervention of the narratorial voice to praise his achievements and his character and to paint them in as tragic a light as possible. For the narrator, Pompey is in the end a hero and Rome’s darling; his death is the last gasp of the moribund Republic.
Pompey is brought to life, and perhaps a different life than his actual one, by the voice of the narrator. Different LPompeys exist for the different crowds. Lucan is not so much concerned with the historical figure of Pompey, but for the reception of LPompey. LPompey appeals to the many because he is the one who stood against Caesar. Lucan quietly asks the audience to do the same, with the warnings and caveats of martyrdom and the like. I would go so far as to suggest Lucan’s Republic (LRepublic) which he is desperately fighting to restore hope for is itself a creation of the author. Yet, they exist because not because of the historical situation, but because they are constructed first in the mind of the audience and then in the mind of the author (the reverse is true in propaganda, after all. The author is not just telling a story, but crafting a story which the audience will accept; therefore, it is only proper that the audience comes first in story creation). Why does Lucan’s story work? Because LPompey and LRepublic were known to exist, but their memories are resurrected in such a way as to allow the author to shape them into his creation, so that they fit his need.
The same must be said for the Historical Jesus. Paul’s Jesus (PJesus) was no doubt a historical figure. But, when we come to the Gospels, we begin to see a development of Jesus – MJesus, MatJesus, and LJesus along with JJesus. The new reauthors of PJesus use an existing pattern in the mind of the audience, their audience which they know quite well, and rebuild the main character and his story in such a way as to effect something in them. For Lucan, it was the hope of the Republic. For the Evangelists, they sought to renew their communities in PJesus (which no doubt is why Mark seems to have something of Paul in his story. It’s about Plato’s patterns, after all).
For those unconvinced that PJesus existed, there is really no hope for you.
What does Plutarch have to do with Deutero-Pauline?
Plutarch (46 – 120 AD) records that the great orator Gorgias delivered a speech to the Greeks regarding concord, a detractor replied,
This fellow is giving us advice about concord, and yet in his own household he has not prevailed upon himself, his wife, and maidservant, three persons only, to live in concord… A man therefore ought to have his household well harmonized who is going to harmonize State, Forum, and friends.” (Plutarch, Mor. 144B-C)
The author of 1st Timothy writes, of the Church leadership,
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, bthe husband of one wife, ctemperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine 1or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of athe church of God?), (1Ti 3:1-5 NASB)
Considering that Timothy is written to a church leader, with some focus on concord, there is a connect here, I think (at least in the supporting culture). Anyway, this caught me as interesting in the reading this morning!
- Obama vs. Socrates, Aristotle and Plutarch (virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com)
- Alexander said, “I assure you I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion.” Life of Alexander. Plutarch (oldsaltbooks.wordpress.com)
- Source Analysis of Plutarch’s The Life of Demetrius (socyberty.com)
Kennedy, Rhetoric and Romans
One of the striking images which Kennedy paints is by the brush of ]], upon whose canvas the picture of sacred language breaks forth. Part of the draw of rhetorical criticism has been to discover the power of the texts upon the audience and why these particular texts have so embedded themselves into the psyche of the mind, so that even those who simply do not believe them in any way still find them attractive. The idea which Grassi proposes revolves around the concept of the kerygma, a proclamation. Out of five characteristics which Grassi gives (6), the first one brings the most to bear on my current thought. Sacred language “has a purely revealing or evangelical character, not a demonstrative or proving function; it does not arise out of a process of inference, but authoritatively proclaims the truth.” Kennedy notes that the message of Jesus was “essentially proclaimed” although later, he notes the use of miracles which often times accompanied the message in the Gospels as serving a vital function in the scheme of invention. Of course, Kennedy also notes that often times, a “radical Christian rhetoric” is seen when a “Christian doctrine is purely proclaimed and not couched in enthymemes.” Kennedy notes that these vibrant strokes of rhetorical artistry can be seen in pericopes as well as the entire Gospel of Mark. (7).
Moving into the five parts of rhetoric, Kennedy deals with the first three which are more likely to be the concern of the letter writers in the New Testament. Invention is covered first and the most extensively. Given that within Invention, we find the key elements of rhetoric which are ethos, pathos and logos, then Invention seems to be the most important piece of good rhetoric (15). Kennedy notes that invention is “based either on external proofs,” those things which the author uses but does not invent, and internal proofs which is the license of the artist. In the New Testament, the writers have three external proofs given to them which are “quotations of Scripture, the evidence of miracles, and the naming of the witnesses.” (14) Later, I will argue that Kennedy misses the internal proof which the New Testament writers willingly made use of, which is the claiming of the Spirit, but for now, one must agree that Kennedy has accurately singled out the right proofs which the New Testament writers use. I would also note that the use of witnesses fits well with the use of Scripture which in one place demands the use of them to confirm the truth. Previously, Kennedy had noted that one cannot judge New Testament rhetoric purely by Greek standards, but must find a way to acknowledge the cultural influence and necessities of the situation (11-12), so it may be that the three proofs in the New Testament which align with the rhetorical device of Invention is better understood as a Jewish expression of a Greek thought.
I wanted to briefly mention the use of ethos, pathos and logos, the styles of inductive and deductive syllogisms as well as ergasia (15-17, 22). Ethos is the character of the speaker, which relates back to Kennedy’s assertion, based somewhat on Grassi’s notion of sacred language, that acceptance of religious rhetoric is based in part on the perceived qualities of the speaker, or in our case, the author of the letters. This would explain Paul’s need to self-boast and to parade his commissioning account and perhaps, even the so-called secret motif in Mark which would have defended Jesus from the charge of self-inflation. There is also pathos to consider, which must come into play when examining the expected reaction from the audience. The New Testament writers expected some sort of response to their works, as did the Evangelists. I would go further to say that Mark’s shorter ending causes the most reaction, even today, and should thus be considered the better choice based on that reason alone. In the logos portion, or logical argument, Kennedy details the inductive style which has the author presenting examples which then lead to a conclusion compared to the deductive style which has the ancient author presenting premises which then require the audience to make conclusion.
Lastly, there are the two rhetorical devices, epicheireme and ergasia consider. The former, Kennedy notes, consists of a “full statement of major premise, minor premise, and conclusion” but would only be delivered to a group of peers in a tightly reasoned philosophical argument (17). Ergasia is the “working out” of topics, which are those things generally given to serve as a point of discussion. These arguments which are not merely given, but stretched out to include smaller arguments, relate well to the notion of topics as Kennedy gives them. More importantly, is the idea that within these larger workers, rhetorical units are going to still have identifiable beginning, middle and ends (33).
Kennedy writes about “radical Christian rhetoric” in which, akin to Grassi’s first characteristic, a doctrine is simply proclaimed. While I might differ with Kennedy as to what a doctrine actually is, I believe that overall, to understand that statements which would perhaps serve as headings as being proclaimed in such a way which wouldn’t require proofs would not be far off from Kennedy’s understanding. For example, a great body of doctrine is built upon the statement in Romans 1.16 but Paul says this without offering a sign; however, I believe that he goes into a discourse related to this topic much later in the Epistle. Contrasted to this statement is Paul’s statement in 4.25 which is not simply left alone, only to be picked up at a later time, but is developed over the course of the next few chapters in which Paul explains this concept of δικαίωσιν. In Chapters 5 through 8, the idea of δικαίωσιν is carried through several stages and given a more robust picture, calling to mind the epicheireme.
Earlier, I noted that I believe that Kennedy missed the internal proof Paul would have alleged to prove his argument. Throughout Romans, we are given an ample painter’s palette to work with for external proofs. First, Paul creatively uses Scripture as an armature for his overall epistle. It is then followed up with an almost encaustic attempt to paint into the background of Paul himself the ancient figures of Adam, Abraham and Moses, serving as witnesses to validate the message. The resurrection, then, is the impasto miracle. All of these things can be easily seen by the audience, but the internal proof is what gives Paul the edge. Paul cites the role of the Spirit working inwardly (Roman 2:25) which inaugurates a new creation. Further, throughout chapter 8, Paul relies heavily upon the use of the Spirit to vindicate that the believers in Jesus are the children of God (Romans 8.16). This would have been an internal proof which would have served at least two purposes. One, it could only be verified by those with the Spirit and two, it was not likely to be openly challenged because those who challenged it could have just as easily been said not to have the Spirit.
Kennedy notes that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans lack a proper moment of ethos (152), but I would argue that Paul’s ethos is not so achromatic, especially if we consider it a protreptic letter. I would offer proof of this in that Paul is writing to a more sophisticated audience and would have had to develop a more sophisticated style. Further, he makes an impassioned plea on behalf of Israel (Romans 11.1). Paul’s ethos and his attention to the pathos of the audience comes through especially in 9-11, in that the argument between the Jews and the Gentiles are argued in front of the audience, finally come to a conclusion, drawing the audience along through the deductive style.
Kennedy instructs his students to take the New Testament in the overall situation of being given in an oral culture (37-38). He further suggests that a “line by line analysis” is required to “reveal how the raw material has been worked out or rhetorically amplified both in content and in style.” Previously, he concludes, “The ultimate goal of rhetorical analysis, briefly put, is the discovery of the author’s intent and of how that is transmitted through a text to an audience (12).” In examining Romans under the lens of rhetorical criticism, one must be careful not to supplement one theologian or the next for Paul’s intent. Further, one must look for examples of dialogue within the text, as well as to take Romans as a work in of itself so that a one is not looking for a comprehensive doctrine by placing side by side various passages in various epistles, but the examiner must take the pericopes, these episodic thoughts in the epistle, as a self-contained rhetoric unit and build Paul’s intent with them, and then the whole of the epistle.
Stowers, Protreptic Rhetoric and Romans
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is a much heralded work to which has been contributed the greatest theological revolutions, from Augustine to Luther to Calvin, so when Stowers comments that early scholars found hesitation in assigning genre to the New Testament because some feared that is would be “as aspersion against the Holy Spirit” (17) I can understand any trepidation in examining Romans as anything less than theological. Yet, the purpose of Paul’s letter should be in the foreground before theological discussions can commence. Before understanding the purpose, however, one must be able to understand that, as Stowers says, constructing the occasion of the letter based only on the letter itself leads to circular logic. He suggests that a comparative study be made between the letters in the New Testament and those of the culture which surrounded the authors (25). To this, I would agree, noting to do otherwise is to create a patina of interpretive layers which may never lead to the actual purpose of the letter and in many ways cover the real theological treatise which is Romans. It is this purpose which is important, and I would contend, is sometimes separate, but always informed by, of the author’s theology.
Before I move into the assessment of Romans as protrepic rhetoric, I want to note two things mentioned by Stowers which I have found to be something to further use in understanding Romans. First, Stowers notes that Paul’s use of paraenesis has been misunderstood. This concept of paraenesis, in which an author in writing his or her letter would tie together various subsections in support over the overall purpose is one which I believe can be found in Romans. After all, what is recognizable is Romans 9-11 in which Paul makes the case of the continued election of the Jews. I would contend as well, alongside of Stowers comments that both “supporting argumentation” and “use of examples” fit within the definition of paraenesis, that Romans 5-8 is a paraenetic section in which Paul presents and argument for justification and follows it through using the ritual of baptism as the symbol of it, while explaining what actually happens in baptism in chapters 7 and 8. (23)
Second is the mention of conversion literature (37). Stowers previously mentioned that letter writing remained on the fringes of the use of rhetoric; however, letters picked up rhetoric naturally as rhetoricians who wrote letters included their training and style in them. When Seneca the Younger began to write his letters to Lucilius, he incorporated his rhetoric into them so that they became written rhetoric to be published, reaching a wide audience. No doubt, the written rhetoric served the pursuit of philosophy well, as we see in Epistle 90 from Seneca. Stowers notes that the pursuit of philosophy created schools around leaders (36-37). Conversion to philosophy came through persuasion and, as Stowers notes, could range from “a quiet commitment or a dramatic transformation” which was not considered to be enough. Thus, conversion literature was developed which helped to inform and guide the catechumen into a better understanding of philosophy. These letters served as examples of life which promoted the readers in their journey. Further, Stowers notes that these letters were to help the converted share in the conversion and “friendship of his guide.”
In discussing the types of letters, Stowers explicitly states that “Paul’s letter to the Romans is a protreptic letter.” These letters of recruitment served to exhort students to convert to particular schools (113). Further, Stowers notes that these letters were dominated, regardless of the school, with philosophy. They were, in my estimation, letters which exhorted philosophy overall, but served the particular school in calling attention to what they had to offer while answering any contentions about their own philosophical outlook. Stowers makes the rather obvious connection that these letters would serve the Christian community given the “missionary impulse.” He notes, without calling it as such (at least in this book), Paul’s use of prosopopeia in Romans, although I would contend that instead of limiting the use of this technique to Romans 3-11, Paul begins this form of rhetoric in chapter 1. In this, Paul is using Romans to present himself as a “Master Teacher” to a group of like-minded believers who have never met him before. Further, Stowers notes that Paul is trying to correct some of the “pretentiousness” and other attitudes which prevent both Jews and Gentiles from accepting his gospel.
I am convinced by his argument due to my understanding of Paul’s cognitive environment and further, due to Paul’s connection to Seneca. If it can be an assumed supposition that Paul’s preaching of Christ can be contrived in such a way as to mimic the pursuit of philosophy, as was often seen by later Christian philosophers such as Justin, Augustine, and Aquinas, then we might understand Paul’s letter to the Romans, arguably the most intense of his letters, to be a protreptic letter which perhaps sought to do more than to, as Stowers suggested, establish Paul as a “Master Teacher” but to make the Roman congregation one of Paul’s own. We know from Paul’s other letters that he had rivalries within the Christian community. In Galatians, he is writing, much in the way in which Stowers describes some of the Cynic school, to brutally squash his “Judaizing” rivals in that city, although that city was one of his congregations which he felt obliged too. We see some of this in the Corinthian letters as well. According to most commentators, Paul was intending to go to Spain after his trip to Rome; it would then behoove Paul to have a strong European base which was attached to him and his Gospel for support of the mission. While I would agree with Stowers that Romans is a protreptic letter, I would further narrow it down to suggest that Paul was engaging in recruitment, and not just laying the groundwork for his visit.
As noted earlier, I would agree that Paul was using prosopopeia in his Epistle to the Romans. While this paper is not the space to argue or to define the full details of his usage, I would suggest that it doesn’t merely begin in Romans 3, but begins in Romans 1.17 in which Paul begins his dialogue in earnest in which, surprising to those who would use such verses wrongly, begins by condemning the Jewish believe that Gentiles were idol worshipers and worse and because of this, could not be saved. Further, I may extend it even further, and instead allowing Paul just one dialogue partner which was Jewish, having him engage with a Gentile partner. Stowers notes that even protreptic letters had hortatory features, which allows that the prologue in Romans, in which great praise is given to the Roman congregation as a whole, as well as the closing chapters, regardless of critical arrangement, to become a letter with the hortatory introductions and conclusions giving added urging to the congregation to consider what Paul will say and the great care he will extend to them.
Further, I would assign, as stated above, Paul’s continued development of justification to rhetorical paraenesis in which he uses examples and examples to develop the ritual of baptism as a sign of justification. Of course, I admit that as with most things, the subject of baptism in Pauline thought, can rarely be separate from the various theologies often applied to it. As conceded before, when rediscovering Romans through the lens of rhetorical criticism, it will be difficult to separate what we believe to be Pauline purpose from our reception of the letter through theological interpretation. For example, in the Reformed Tradition, there is a great deal made of a forensic view of justification in Romans as well as a lesser meaning assigned to baptism. Any challenge to this is often met with violent reactions that somehow Scripture has lost its authority. Yet, if it is shown that Paul was writing not so much with a theological purpose to accurately state justification by faith alone, but to present a protreptic piece, I would be concerned with the ability of some to separate a background theology brought forward by later interpretations rather than focusing on the overall purpose of the letter. With that said, Paul’s protreptic purpose would have no doubt included his theological agenda, as he would have felt, if indeed this was a protreptic letter, that the Romans would somehow benefit more from his teaching than what they were currently receiving (See Romans 1.11-12, in which Paul first wants to strength them, but as a second thought, would rather be mutually encouraging).
With that said, however, I believe that Paul was using rhetoric, and from a cursory reading of Romans, as well as in my studies thus far in this semester, I can only believe that Paul’s letters have endured where others failed because he was successful in his rhetoric. In Romans, we find a protreptic piece in an ideal situation. Paul, who had never been to Rome, was going there before he went to Spain. It was the perfect occasion to send such a rhetorical letter in hopes of securing a base of support for his mission work. Further, as scholars note, Paul uses paraenesis and prosopopeia in Romans to a recognizable degree. What remains is to separate, naturally, our theological understanding and other patina of Christian tradition, including even chapter and verse, from Romans to allow Paul’s original theology which would have been second to his purpose to come forward.
More thoughts on Seneca and Paul
Narrowing it down to Romans only, the idea that the Law is human weakness can be compared to the Seneca’s notion that after the golden age, laws were needed to curtail abuses by tyrants. Further, Seneca notes his disagree with Posidonius in what constitutes works of wisdom. The latter believed that house was a work of wisdom while Seneca countered that these houses led to the human swarms found in the cities. Seneca notes other items Posidonius calls wise are nothing more than the works of the flesh as they have not, in fact brought about human advancement, but destruction. Paul separates the knowledge of the law which brings sin (Rom 3.20) which is comparable to Seneca. Human advancement, the Law or works of the flesh, brings apparent success but it will lead to destruction
One thing which I didn’t cover in my previous paper was Seneca’s vision of Wisdom which appealed to all humanity, summoning everyone to concord. Her voice was peace. Further, she reveals her nature. Also, she delivers immortality. But, beyond all of this, Wisdom doesn’t unlock a “village shrine” which is particular to some tribe, but she unlocks “the vast temple of the all the gods – the universe itself, whose true apparitions and true aspects she offers to the gaze of our minds.” In this, we can compare Seneca’s vision of a higher gift not just the Romans which redeems the cosmos to the gods to Paul’s vision of the cosmic Christ. Christ brings peace between God and humanity (Romans 5.1) and allows humanity access directly to God (Romans 5.2). Further, there is the universalism in Paul in which it is not just the Jews who have access to God through Christ but all of us who were enemies to God (Romans 5.10-21). This is a notion which Seneca dealt with from the beginning – a notion of universalism in which the good life is not closed to everyone except a select view, but it was open to all who would pursue it. Paul and Christianity were discovering this type of universalism, and it a universalism we see in Romans.
In comparing Seneca and Paul’s work in Romans, I come to the conclusion that both men saw in their respective philosophy – and make no mistake, the Apostle Paul was a philosopher – a new hope for all of humanity. In Wisdom’s gift of Philosophy, Seneca sees a return to a better time in which humanity advanced not in materialistic gain or ‘ease of life’, but to a time in which less is more and the pursuit of happiness was of the utmost goal. For Paul, we see in Romans the argument that Christ is the penultimate point in God’s plan, and that the new relationship inaugurated by Christ was a return to a golden age in which faith was the method in God accepted to bestow righteousness. While I enjoy the New Perspective on Paul, much more than the Reformation view on Paul’s use of the works of the Law, by reading Seneca, there seems to me more than either an ethnocentric view of the Law or a view that the works were essentially human merit, but that Paul may be using the works of the Law in such a way as stand in opposite to the life in Christ to show that the Law is something that slows the advancement of humanity down. It is a materialistic enterprise which, while meant to remove sin, grew to the point where it simply actually created sin. Paul shows, then, next to Seneca, that his wise preaching is what will draw humanity to God because it is a return to the golden age (of Abraham).