The Philosophical Argument in the First Four Centuries CE

We have seen how the early Christian writers cited the views of ancient poets and philosophers ¿is being in general harmony with Christian teaching on rlie invisibility of God and the vanity of the idols. The previous passage from Cicero 5 treatise TV Nitttifit Deo rum partially summarizes his teaching about the gods in one of the three main philosophical schools—the Epicureans the Stoicsn and the Academics, In religious matters, Cicero generally sides with the Stoics, who traditionally objected to divine images, following the teachings of their founder, Zeno, who was famous for his opposition to tempies and statues. In fact, the conflicting positions represented by Stoicism and Epicureanism in first-century Athens on the matter of divine images may lie behind Paul's speech to the Athenians in Ants 17.

The mention of the Epicureans and Stoic philosophers in Acts actually suggests an interesting background to Paul's speech. Christianity might have been seen by this audience as addressing current debates within two key philosophical schools and aligning itself with those who challenged the traditional religious practices of Roman and Greek culture with its images and temples for Lhe gods.if Paul's commendation of the altar to the unknown god f Acts 17;23) as a possible way for acceptance of the Christian God, who does not live in Shrines or appear by means of artistic representation (cf. Acts 17:24)T has dear parallels with contemporary Stoic thought. At the same timen as Paul himself points out, the Athenian? (and the foreigners who lived in Alliens) love to hear and tell about something new (Acts 17:21),

Around that same time (the first and second centuries a philosophical movement now known as Middle Platonism was indeed forming a "new" syncretistEc blend of religion and philosophy, especially Platonic, Aristotelian, and Stoic elements. This movement's influence on Justin Martyr is apparent, but it is even clearer in the thought of Clement of Alexandria} who refers to the writings of philosophers as well as the ancient poets in his exposition of Christian teachings about Codn Middle Platon ism's best-known ancient representative, Plutarch, echoes Zeno's and Plato's critique of temples and images (also cited by

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