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The Christian after-life of Seneca the younger: The first four hundred years

Stivala, Joan

Description

At the end of the fourth century A.D. an anonymous Christian author wrote fourteen letters, in Latin, in the form of a correspondence between St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, and the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger. This work of fiction was inspired in part by perceived similarities between Christian belief and Seneca's version of Stoicism. As far as Seneca is concerned the similarities are coincidental. The letters of St. Paul display evidence of Stoic influence, but that...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorStivala, Joan
dc.date.accessioned2013-03-19T02:04:14Z
dc.date.available2013-03-19T02:04:14Z
dc.identifier.otherb23831546
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/9765
dc.description.abstractAt the end of the fourth century A.D. an anonymous Christian author wrote fourteen letters, in Latin, in the form of a correspondence between St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, and the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger. This work of fiction was inspired in part by perceived similarities between Christian belief and Seneca's version of Stoicism. As far as Seneca is concerned the similarities are coincidental. The letters of St. Paul display evidence of Stoic influence, but that influence stems from Greek sources rather than from Seneca. Anonymous might have gained his knowledge of Seneca's thought directly from the philosopher's own works or from the works of earlier Christian authors writing in Latin who referred to, or quoted from, Seneca. The creator of the apocryphal correspondence between philosopher and apostle was not the first Latin Christian to note the similarities between Stoic and Christian beliefs. He was, however, the first to suggest that Seneca and St. Paul had been on friendly terms. An unexpected aspect of this correspondence is its portrayal of Seneca as the teacher of Latin style to St. Paul rather than, as might have been expected, Paul as Seneca's instructor in Christianity. The letters also depict Paul, a Hellenised Jew, as abandoning Judaism by converting to Christianity. Such representations of the principals require an explanation. Why, when the Empire was officially Christian, did the author feel a need to show that Seneca, a pagan philosopher who had died more than three centuries earlier, had been at least sympathetic to Christian belief and perhaps a secret convert? The answer suggested by this thesis is that despite the official triumph of Christianity, pagan ritual had not been obliterated. Many of Rome's traditional aristocratic families tended still to adhere to the old ways. These families were too powerful to be coerced, they had to be persuaded. Seneca, a member of the senatorial aristocracy, who had lived at the time of the birth of Christianity, provided the perfect example for such families to emulate. An answer is also proposed to the question of why the author of the correspondence thought it was important to portray Paul as a Christian. At the time the correspondence appeared Judaism was still a force to be reckoned with. It continued to attract converts, some of whom were Christians. There were still Jewish Christians who continued to obey Jewish Law, yet insisted that they were Christian. Too many Gentile Christians, in the eyes of church authorities, maintained old links with the Jewish community and even forged new ones. Some Christians regarded the synagogue as an alternative source of authority. All these groups had to be shown the error of their ways. The portrayal of Paul as a Christian who had abandoned his Jewish heritage could only assist in this ambition.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.subjectthe apocryphal correspondence between Seneca and St. Paul
dc.subjectSenecan stoicism
dc.subjectChristian authors on Seneca
dc.subjectChristianising Rome
dc.subjectRomanising St. Paul
dc.titleThe Christian after-life of Seneca the younger: The first four hundred years
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorBarnes, Robert
local.contributor.supervisorcontactrobert.barnes@anu.edu.au
dcterms.valid2009
local.description.notesSupervisor: Robert Barnes, Supervisor's Email Address: robert.barnes@anu.edu.au
local.description.refereedYes
local.type.degreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
dc.date.issued2009
local.contributor.affiliationSchool of Cultural Inquiry
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d78d9e77b569
local.mintdoimint
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