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Stoicism derives its name from the Painted Porch in the market place... of Athens, where it was first taught. It was founded by Zeno of Citium (or Cyprus) (335-263 BC) and became one of the two principal philosophical schools of the Hellenistic world (the other being Epicureanism).[1] The development of the teaching of Stoicism is divided into three periods, the Early Stoa, the Middle Stoa and the Later Stoa (or Roman Stoicism). The teachings of Stoicism changed significantly thought the centuries, so it is difficult to generalise about what the Stoics taught, especially as none of their works survive. What fragments we do have of their writings come from later writers who sought to summarise, oppose or use such material to their own ends.[2] The New Testament writers often expressed Christianity using Stoic terms and phrases, but the two world views differed radically from one another.[3] The use of common language does not imply any commitment to the underlying philosophy.

Zeno’s successor, Chrysippus of Soli (c.280-207 BC), used allegorical interpretation in an attempt to demonstrate that Hesiod and Homer were really Stoics, and in so doing greatly promoted this method of interpretation.[4] The importance of allegorical interpretation becomes clear when we examine the teachings of Philo, Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Stoic influence is also evident in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Tertullian and Athanasius.

Later Stoics believed that the universe was created by fire and would be destroyed by fire, before being created again. The goal of Stoicism was to bring the human mind into agreement with the Logos, the impersonal force of reason who formed the universe and to recognise that the Logos did so for mankind’s benefit, regardless of personal circumstance.[5] The Logos might be described by a Stoic as "the soul of the universe" while the physical world was the universe’s body. While some claim that this is not true pantheism,[6] it has to be noted that Stoics believed that everything was material, even god. Everett Ferguson provides a very helpful summary of the Stoic view of matter and deity:

There are two basic kinds of matter: the grosser matter and the finer matter called breath or spirit (pneuma) that is diffused throughout reality. This special form of matter holds everything together and is given various names: logos (reason), breath (pneuma), providence (pronoia), Zeus, or fire (the element considered most akin to reason). Stoicism was pantheistic in that it found the divine reality in everything.[7]

This is clearly very different to Jewish and Christian views of a transcendent Creator.[8] Despite their differences, Stoic and Christian ideas of creation both were agreed on one matter: the universe did not come about by chance. As Cicero’s Stoic declares: "Nothing that is without mind can generate that which possesses mind."[9]


[1] Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd edn. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 333

[2] F.H. Sandbach, The Stoics. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1975), 18

[3] See further Ferguson, 270-333.

[4] Ferguson, 334, 336

[5] Sandbach, 69

[6] E. Vernon Arnold, Roman Stoicism: Being Lectures on the History of Stoic Philosophy With Special Reference to its Development Within the Roman Empire, 1911. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1958), 185

[7] Ferguson, 335.

[8] Sandbach, 177

[9] Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, 2.8, 22

Primary Sources

Book or monograph Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 1.18.
Book or monograph Lactantius, Divine Institutes 1.5, 12, 17; 3.18; 7.3.
Book or monograph Lactantius, On the Wrath of God 5.
Book or monograph Tertullian, On the Soul 5.

Secondary Sources

Article in Journal or Book William Barclay, "Hellenistic Thought in New Testament Times: The Stoics - III," Expository Times 72 (1961): 227-230.
Book or monograph Marcia L. Colish, The Stoic Tradition From Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages: II Stoicism in Christian Latin Thought Through the Sixth Century. Leiden: Brill, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 9004093303. pp.459
Book or monograph Paul and the StoicsTroels Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics. Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Pbk. ISBN: 066422234X. pp.448.
Article in Journal or Book Troels Engberg-Pedersen, "Paul's Stoicizing Politics in Romans 12-13: The Role of 13.1-10 in the Argument," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29.2 (2006): 163-172. [Abstract]
On-line Resource Stoicism (Scott David Foutz)
On-line Resource Stoic Thought (Scott David Foutz)
Article in Journal or Book Ronald E. Heine, "Stoic Logic as handmaid to Exegesis and Theology in Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John," Journal of Theological Studies, n.s. 44 (1993): 90-117.
Book or monograph The Cambridge Companion to the StoicsBrad Inwood, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pbk. ISBN: 0521779855. pp.448.
Article in Journal or Book J. Mansfield, "Resurrection Added: the Interpretatio Christiana of a Stoic Doctrine," Vigiliae Christianae 37 (1983): 218-33.
Article in Journal or Book Sharon Lea Mattila, "Ben Sira and the Stoics: A Rexamination of the Evidence," Journal of Biblical Literature 119.3 (2000): 473-501.
Book or monograph J.M. Rist, Stoic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.
Book or monograph J.M. Rist, The Stoics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Pbk. ISBN: 0520036751. pp.viii + 295.
Book or monograph F.H. Sandbach, Aristotle and the Stoics. Camb. Philological Society, 1985. Pbk. ISBN: 0906014069. pp.88.
Book or monograph F.H. Sandbach, The Stoics, 2nd edn. Hackett Publishing Co, Inc., 1994. Pbk. ISBN: 0872202534. pp.190.
Article in Journal or Book Brent D. Shaw, "The Divine Economy: Stoicism as Ideology," Latomus 64 (1985): 16-54.
On-line Resource Ralph Stob, "Stoicism and Christianity," Classical Journal 30 (1934-1935): 217-224.View in PDF format pdf
Article in Journal or Book Runar M. Thorsteinsson, "Paul and Roman Stoicism: Romans 12 and Contemporary Stoic Ethics," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29.2 (2006): 139-161. [Abstract]
Book or monograph Robert Mark Wenley, Stoicism and Its Influence. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1963. ISBN: 0815402457.

Related Subjects

Aristotle | Cynicism | Epicurianism | Plato | Stoicism

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