It’s incredible to consider that two of the world’s most brilliant minds lived in the same era.
Yes, both Seneca and Jesus were born in the year 4 BC. What’s more, despite being separated by distance, culture, and social background, their lives were very similar.
Tacitus mentions both of them, while Seneca’s brother makes a cameo appearance in the Bible. Again, it’s remarkable. The far-reaching tyranny of an emperor ultimately slaughtered both men, and their deaths were eerily identical. Both Jesus (who, according to tradition, resurrected from the grave after three days) and Seneca (who, thanks to his writings, seems as present to us as he did to many Romans) have a legacy that continues long after their passings.
It’s also wonderful how many of their ideas coincide. Below, we’ll delve more into this topic, but in the meantime, consider this example:
- “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” — Jesus
- “It is a petty and sorry person who will bite back when he is bitten.” — Seneca
Now evidently, Seneca was only a man, an imperfect and inconsistent man at that, while Jesus, as we accept, was both a man and God. But they both led extraordinary lives, leaving many insights, questions, and possibilities behind. This article will compare and contrast the tenets of Stoicism with Christianity.
Christianity and Stoicism Defined
Stoicism and Christianity may appear to be opposites to most people, but there are many commonalities between the two traditions. There are more dissimilarities than commonalities between the two, but that shouldn’t stop us from looking at what each school of thought has to say about the age-old challenge, “How should we live?”
Ancient Greek philosophy Stoicism, developed in Athens, gained popularity as the Greek civilization descended into anarchy. Despite his many victories, Greece was in disarray after Alexander the Great’s untimely death. Stoics looked inward for the source of happiness, believing that doing so would provide safety and calm even in the face of danger. They said knowledge is the foundation of virtue, and those who have it can live in balance with the divine Reason that underlies all of nature.
Christianity, founded on Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings, emphasizes love, compassion, charity, and forgiveness. It, like Stoicism, developed in a period of great upheaval and offered a path to serenity and contentment. Jesus, as God incarnate, is the cornerstone of the relationship. Christians believe that only through faith in Jesus Christ can they be saved from their sins and enter heaven. Salvation is a gift from God rather than a reward for good behavior, and sins are forgiven solely based on one’s faith.
The God and The Word
Logos is the Greek word for ‘word’ Approximately 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus used the concept of logos (the word) to describe the underlying rational principle he believed ruled the universe. He claimed everything occurs by the Logos. This thought eventually became central to Stoic philosophy. Many Hellenized Jews came to see the Logos as a divinely-sent power. Jesus is the impetus God sent to earth; he is called the Word in the Gospel of John, and the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Stoicism and Christianity share many similarities, including being monotheistic. To follow Heraclitus’s school of thought in Stoicism is to believe in a single Logos, whereas to follow Jesus’s teachings is to believe in and worship only the one real God. Furthermore, the will of the Logos/God is at the center of both Stoicism and Christianity. They preach that we might be freed from worry and apprehension by yielding to God’s will.
What is the most important aspect of your life? What or who do you serve?
The question “Who or what is a person serving?” is posed in Christianity and Stoicism. Everything one does is determined by the answer. Both Stoicism and Christianity include moving away from an emphasis on the self toward a self centered on serving God as a means of avoiding being a servant to others.
According to what is mentioned in Matthew 6:24, it is impossible to worship two gods simultaneously. A reverence for the one will only breed scorn for the other. Therefore, it is impossible to worship God and money or God’s and other people’s opinions. Serving oneself emphasizes one’s outward appearance, whereas serving the God within oneself frees one from being a prisoner of politics and empowers one to seek what is good.
Worship as reverence, not spectacle.
The Stoic and Christian admonition to avoid conspicuous displays of religious devotion is closely related to the concept of serving the God Within. To quench your thirst, according to Epictetus, you should “take a little water in your mouth, spit it out, and tell no one.” And Jesus says that those who pray theatrically have already received their reward in this life.
The Logos and The Flesh
Stoicism is less complex than Christianity since it does not believe in angels, demons, or a trinity, all of which are central to Christianity but absent from Stoic thought. In addition, the Logos in Stoicism is an unknown power, while in Christianity, the Word (Logos) became flesh and lived among us.
The Stoic view of one’s connection to Logos is impersonal and analytical, emphasizing abstract concepts like virtue and obligation. Logos is given far more attention and devotion in Christian theology. It reveals that God is worthy of our adoration and respect and that He sacrificed His Son for it.
Who We Go To For Help
One major distinction between these two philosophies is that Christians turn to God for solace, while Stoics look inward. Christians seek deliverance from affliction, recovery from disease, and comfort in times of grief by turning to God through prayer. Stoicism, however, teaches that we must rely on ourselves to provide us with any benefit. Nobody besides you can strip away your suffering.
Views on Human Nature
The Stoic and Christian worldviews on human nature are opposed. According to the Stoics, nature has endowed humans with the ability to reason, which we can use to live virtuous, conscientious lives. On the other hand, Christians hold that all humans are born with original sin, which taints us from the start and makes it difficult to follow our moral compass. While rational self-improvement is conceivable, it is only through God’s grace that humanity is transformed and rescued.
Thoughts on the Afterlife
Stoicism and Christianity have opposing views on the afterlife. According to Christian teaching, this life is but a prelude to the life that awaits us in the afterlife. At the end of time, the dead will be resurrected, Christ will come to break away the sheep from the goats, and He will build the Kingdom of God on Earth. In contrast, the Stoics were mostly unsure of the nature of the afterlife and rarely mentioned it. According to Stoic philosophy, the afterlife is less important than improving one’s present life.