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).

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