St. Paul and Epicurus

St. Paul and Epicurus

St. Paul and Epicurus

St. Paul and Epicurus

Excerpt

The present study is a sequel to the author's Epicurus and His Philosophy and it aims at making good the thesis there enunciated that Epicureanism functioned as a bridge of transition from Greek philosophy to the Christian religion. It is hoped by this means to have opened up a new window on the New Testament, a window walled up by prejudice long centuries ago.

This prejudice had its root in exasperation over the theology of Epicurus, which repudiated belief in miracles, prophecy, divine providence, and immortality. Epicurus was consequently denounced as an atheist, which he was not.

Joined with this exasperating theology was an alluring body of ethical doctrine, neatly organized and attractively presented. Unluckily, however, part of the lure of the ethic consisted in analyzing happiness to consist of the memory of pleasures past, the enjoyment of pleasures present, and the hope of pleasures to come. This espousal of pleasure as the chief good of life gave excuse for denouncing Epicurus as a sensualist, which he was not. His pleasures were not the pleasures of the flesh.

Nevertheless the merit of this ethic was so superior and so widely acknowledged that Paul had no alternative but to adopt it and bless it with the new sanction of religion, though to admit his indebtedness to the alleged atheist and sensualist was inconceivable. Epicurus was consequently consigned to anonymity.

When once this screen of anonymity has been penetrated, we shall find that the most beloved devotional readings in the Epistles of Paul exhibit the greatest influence of the friendly Epicurus. An example is . . .

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