The Apocrypha and Greek Philosophy

The Books called Apocrypha

The Bookes called Apocrypha

Alfred Edersheim notes that one of the reasons why the Apocrypha was written was to find some way to reconcile Greek philosophy with previous Jewish writings. The object was apologetic, to demonstrate that the Hebrew Scriptures were every bit the equal of the Greek philosophers. In particular, Edersheim notes the Apocrypha combined Plato’s speculations with the asceticism of the Stoics.[1]

Of course, by linking Greek philosophy with the Old Testament, the Apocrypha paved the way for the New Testament’s use of the terminology of Greek philosophy. The connections between Platonism, Stoicism, and the New Testament are well documented (if only in the use of the terminology). Donald Robinson mentions the “traces of Stoicism in the New Testament”, especially in the epistles of the Apostle Paul — specifically in Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus (Acts 17:18-32), where Paul quotes from two different Greek poems, including a student of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism.[2]

Scholars have identified the first as coming from the Cretica of the pre-Socratic philosopher-poet Epimenides (fl. 7th or 6th century BC), which forms part of the verse:

They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,

Cretans, always liars,[3] evil beasts, idle bellies.

But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,

For in you we live and move and have our being.[4]

The second has been identified as coming from the Phaenomena of the philosopher-poet Aratus (315/310 – 240 BC), a student of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism:

Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.

For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.

Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.

Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.

For we are indeed his offspring…[5] [6]

Paul again quotes Epimenides in his pastoral letter to Titus when he writes: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.” (Titus 1:12-13a)

Bibliography

Edersheim, Alfred. 1993. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Robertson, Donald. 2012. “St. Paul on Stoicism: From the Acts of the Apostles.” Stoicism and the Art of Happiness. November 10. Accessed January 20, 2014. http://philosophy-of-cbt.com/2012/11/10/st-paul-on-stoicism-from-the-acts-of-the-apostles/.

[1] (Edersheim 1993, 22)

[2] (Robertson 2012)

[3] Titus 1:12

[4] Acts 17:25

[5] Acts 17:28

[6] (Robertson 2012)