Paul and Seneca in Dialogue

Posted On April 28, 2017

[Dr. David Briones, professor of New Testament at RBC, recently coedited a book about Paul and Seneca. We’ve asked him to give an overview of the book and tell us a little about the process of editing it. Enjoy! —RBC Team]

Paul and Seneca in Dialogue assembles an international group of scholars to compare the philosophical and theological strands in Paul and Seneca’s writings, placing them in dialogue with one another. Arguably, no other first-century, non-Christian writer’s thoughts resemble Paul’s as closely as Seneca’s, and scholars have often found value in comparing Pauline concepts with Seneca’s writings. Nevertheless, apart from the occasional article, broad comparison, or cross-reference, an in-depth critical comparison of these writers has not been attempted for over fifty years—since Sevenster’s monograph of 1961. In the light of the vast amount of research offering new perspectives on both Paul and Seneca since the early 1960s, this new comparison of the two writers is long overdue.

Originally, Joey and I were supposed to co-write a book comparing Paul and Seneca, but we quickly learned that there was so much debate over the way one does that (i.e., comparative methodology). So, we decided to see how various scholars execute the task of comparing two great thinkers like Paul and Seneca. I was especially excited to participate in this project because I saw a need for more apologetical work in the comparative field of Biblical Studies. Many scholars simply compare Paul with his philosophical contemporaries in order to prove that Christianity is not unique. But, in reality, Christianity, not least the gospel Paul declared, is absolutely unique. That really is the primary aim of my essay in the volume. Over the course of studying Seneca, both during my PhD program and thereafter, I have grown in my appreciation for this Stoic philosopher, especially his work on gift-giving (the major philosophical treatise in the first century). Small wonder Calvin frequently tips his hat toward the philosophers in his writings (though he also rightly castigates them!) and even wrote his first book on Seneca’s Clementia (“On Mercy”).

I’m not really sure what to say other than I’m thankful to the Lord for the strength and ability to coedit this volume and contribute an essay. Everything is a gift from our Triune God’s hand, for “from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). Much gratitude goes to God for the completion of this project.

Dr. David Briones is Professor of New Testament at Reformation Bible College.