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Monthly Bible Question | May

In Athens, Paul debated with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. What did these two schools of philosophy believe?

Bronze plaque containing Paul's sermon (Acts 17:22-32), at the Areopagus, Athens, Greece.

"A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him… Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?”

- Acts 17:18-19

The Epicureans and the Stoics were two of the main Greek schools of thought in Paul’s day. This event was one of Paul’s earliest attempts to evangelise a group without any prior understanding of the Jewish religion.

Epicureans believed that the gods were uninvolved in human affairs. They regarded the ultimate good in life to be the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

Stoics believed that there was a cosmic deity which governed the universe who also did not get involved in human life. Their conclusion was that the ultimate good was to seek virtue, and avoid suffering by overcoming destructive emotions. In this respect, they were not so different from the Pharisees!

In response to both schools of philosophy, Paul presented to them a God who was not only Creator of everything, but a Father who was intimately involved in the lives of his creatures; a God who would not only be the Judge, but also gave his Son as the Saviour.

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