This Tuesday we will continue our discussion of Romans with Romans 6. One of the perspectives from which to read Paul, and particularly Romans, is to see Paul as writing within his contemporary philosophical traditions which would have been well known by both his Greek and Jewish Hellenistic audience. Attached are excerpts from Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s book Paul and the Stoics which contends that Paul’s teaching is essentially Stoic. pp.225-239. From direct Scriptural references, we know that Paul (and the New Testament) is indebted to Stoic thought. For example, Paul’s preaching in Athens employs Stoic examples and quotes Stoic philosophers (Acts 17:16-34), and, as we looked at last summer, Paul uses Stoic/Cynic teaching in 1 Thessalonians to both justify his authority and to instruct the congregation on an appropriate manner of life. For Stoics, the animating force in the universe was God’s Logos from which John draws his prologue (John 1:1-18). I would encourage you to read the Stoic Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus (c.300BC) to see how similar Stoic and Christian thought are.
In his book, Engberg-Pedersen argues that Paul’s teaching on conversion is Stoic in its basic logical shape. (Logic is the Greek word meaning the “art of reason (logos).”) In general, this logical progression begins in the “I” phase where a person’s identity is based upon an individualistic and egotistical self-understanding. Through the action of “X” (Divine Reason (logos) in the Stoics, Jesus in Paul), a person then understands his true self as belonging to “X.” This understanding brings the individual to the final “S” stage where we realize that in “X” we are part of a larger divine whole which includes all of humanity and creation. I have attached Engberg-Pedersen’s explanation of this model and his application of this model to Romans 6. pp.33-44. You can see this model in Romans 6 where Paul speaks of how our old self (“I”) has died so that we now identify with Christ (“X”), with baptism being the effectual sign of this transition.
If you have the time and inclination, please read the excepts from Engberg-Pedersen and see if you agree that his Stoic Model of I->X->S presents a good understanding of Paul’s thought. (And as always, you don’t need to read the attached to come on Tuesday.)
Dinner is at 6. The menu is Chinese chicken spinach salad. Discussion is at 6:45. Hope to see you hear.
For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galations 2:19-20