Directions in New Testament Methods

By Martin C. Albl; Paul R. Eddy et al. | Go to book overview

CHRISTIAN AND HELLENISTIC MORAL EXHORTATION: A LITERARY COMPARISON BASED ON 1 THESSALONIANS 4

PAUL R. EDDY


INTRODUCTION

Beginning with the conquests of Alexander the Great ( ca. 333-23 BCE), Greek culture began to make a radical impact on the non-Greek Mediterranean world; the result is known as "Hellenism" ( Betz, 127). In recent years, scholars have given increasing attention to the complex relationship between Hellenistic culture and early Christianity. New insights from Greco-Roman language and culture have illuminated the writings of the early Christians, including the New Testament documents. Study of diverse areas of Hellenistic culture such as literary genres and styles, philosophical and religious thought and practice, and even attitudes and practices associated with "magic" and the demonic serve to reveal both important similarities and differences between the early Christians and their surrounding cultural milieu.

One area of fruitful study involves the comparison of NT and Hellenistic moral exhortation. It is the thesis of this study that such comparison reveals both: (1) striking similarities, including a dear use by NT authors of prevalent Hellenistic literary forms and styles as well as commonalities in moral codes and (2) equally striking differences, particularly with regard to the motivation for and means of ethical living and the distinctive eschatological context of NT ethics. This test case will limit itself to literary comparison of the fourth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians and relevant Hellenistic documents.

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