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Paul and Epictetus on Law A Comparison by Niko Huttunen

Paul and Epictetus on Law A Comparison

Part of the The Library of New Testament Studies Series


Paul and Epictetus on Law A Comparison by Niko Huttunen

Huttunen compares Paul's teaching of law with those of Epictetus, suggesting his ideas have clearer affinities to the Stoics than to the Torah. Paul's relationship with covenantal nomism has long been the subject of lively discussion. In this book Niko Huttunen presents a challenging new path to complement the general scholarly picture of Paul's teaching on law. Acknowledging that Stoicism permeated Paul's intellectual milieu, Huttunen compares Paul's sayings of law with those of Epictetus drawing comparisons as a result of careful methodological considerations. Pauline law is generally focused upon Paul's sayings on and relationship with the Torah. It is Huttunen's contention that Paul's ideas on law have clearer affinities with Stoic ideas than with the Torah. Throughout the course of the book Huttunen displays Paul's interpretation of the Torah with Stoic methods ( 1 Cor. 7-9 ), asserts that in some passages ( Rom. 1-2 and Rom. 7 ) Paul's thinking is Stoic, not Platonic and demonstrates that Paul's famous I -passage ( Rom. 7.7-25 ) owes much to Stoic anthropology and psychology. Where the latter is concerned Huttunen suggests that Epictetus' use of the first person presents a good analogy for Paul's employment of 'I' as a rhetorical device. In further passages (e.g. Rom. 13-15 ) the comparison with Epictetus opens a window into ancient intellectual thinking in general. Epictetus' ideas of moral progress present an analogy both to the 'works of law' and to Paul's moral exhortation. There are also similarities between Paul's figure of Christ and Epictetus' figure of Heracles. The comparison suggests further comparisons between Paul's treatment of law and other philosophers and schools. Formerly the Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement , a book series that explores the many aspects of New Testament study including historical perspectives, social-scientific and literary theory, and theological, cultural and contextual approaches. The Early Christianity in Context series, a part of JSNTS, examines the birth and development of early Christianity up to the end of third century CE. The series places Christianity in its social, cultural, political and economic context. European Seminar on Christian Origins and Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus Supplement are also part of JSNTS.


Reviewed in Journal for the Study of The New Testament, Volume 33 Number 5 In his nineteen page introduction, Huttunen, a researcher in NT studies as the University of Helsinki, defends applying the Stoic perspective t Paul and the Law. Then he treats the following topics: law and the core of Epictetus
philosophy (Epictetus

Stoic theory of value
; Paul's Christian Stoicism in 1 Corinthians 7 and 9); the fundamentals of law (God and nature in Epictetus; Paul on God, law, and nature in Romans 1 and 2); the strong and the weak (Epictetus

law on the weaker and the strong
; Paul love between the weak and the strong); difficulties with the law (views on marriage in Epictetus and in Paul; Epictetus and Paul on divine law and state law); the anthropology and psychology of transgression (moral contradictions and anthropological dichotomy in Epictetus; contradictions of the 'I

Stoicism in Romans 7)
; and fulfilling the law (Epictetus progress after examples; Paul deeds and Christ). Huttunen concludes that comparison between Paul and Epictetus opens a window not only on Stoic ideas but also on the intellectual landscape of the first centuries A.D. -New Testament Abstracts, Vol. 54

About the Author

Niko Huttunen is a researcher in New Testament studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has published articles on Wirkungsgeschichte of the Bible and on the relationship between Stoicism and the New Testament.

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Book Info

Publication date

26th October 2009


Niko Huttunen

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T.& T.Clark Ltd an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


192 pages


Biblical studies & exegesis



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