Friday, July 04, 2008

Seneca vs. Christianity:

"If God adds the morrow we should accept it joyfully. The man who looks for the morrow without worrying over it knows a peaceful independence and a happiness beyond all other. Whoever has said 'I have lived' receives a windfall every day he gets up in the morning." - Seneca's Letter XII

and Matthew 6:31-34 -

"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Seneca was born in 4BC, while Jesus is believed to have been born in 7BC. During his time, Seneca was the most famous scholar of Greek philosophy and lived to 65AD, when he was forced to commit suicide. Seneca is celebrated as one of the greatest teachers of wisdom in history. It is quite an irony that one of civilization's lowest leaders, Nero, should have had Seneca as his teacher, tutor and mentor.

Previously I had looked at Philo's synthesis of Judaism and Greek philosophy and it left me cold. Philo is long winded and redundant, so that we must read for a few hours before running across something interesting. Seneca, on the other hand, is fairly compact, contains many gems, and reminds me more of Paul. This isn't to say that I view Seneca as anything close to a replacement for the Bible. The above quote seems to reference God, but in fact, Seneca as a whole is trusting in nature to supply his needs, whereas the Christian credits God with supplying the needs. Seneca also views wisdom as an end in itself, whereas the end for Christians is our relationship with God, and wisdom is largely a tool for accomplishing the work we need to do here on Earth.

Finally, we have Proverbs 9:10 -

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Thus, the wonderful dilemma: Although Seneca has said some useful things, by Biblical standards he has not yet begun to obtain wisdom.

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