Suffering in ancient worldview: a comparative study of Acts, Fourth Maccabees, and Seneca

Tabb, Brian Jordan (2013) Suffering in ancient worldview: a comparative study of Acts, Fourth Maccabees, and Seneca. PhD thesis, Middlesex University / London School of Theology.

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Abstract

This thesis analyzes how suffering functions in the worldviews of the Roman Stoic Seneca, the Jewish author of 4 Maccabees, and the Christian historian Luke. Acts 17:17–18 invites such a comparison by presenting Paul’s Christian missionary activity in direct engagement with Hellenistic Judaism and popular Greco-Roman philosophy, including Stoicism. Chapters 1, 3, and 5 offer close readings of representative texts from Acts, 4 Maccabees, and Seneca’s essays and letters with a view to highlighting the authors’ treatments of suffering. Chapters 2, 4, and 6 utilize heuristic worldview questions to clarify and synthesize how each writer accounts for suffering, vis-à-vis their perspectives on God, humanity, the world’s problem and its solution, and the future. Chapter 7 presents an ancient conversation between these three authors modeled after Cicero’s De Natura Deorum. This thesis makes at least three significant contributions to scholarship. First, this is the only extended comparison of Seneca, Luke, and 4 Maccabees. The value and importance of studying early Christianity alongside Stoicism and Hellenistic Judaism is well known, but previous studies have focused on Paul, not Luke, who is typically compared with Josephus, not 4 Maccabees. Second, building on N. T. Wright’s work, this study demonstrates that worldview questions offer a fruitful method for comparing different authors and groups. This study does not attempt to prove literary or intellectual dependence but to compare these authors at the worldview level. Third, this thesis contributes to the important and often neglected theme of suffering in Luke-Acts, 4 Maccabees, and Seneca’s writings. This is the first systematic treatment of suffering in Seneca’s thought and in 4 Maccabees. This study builds on Cunningham’s and Mittelstadt’s recent monographs on suffering in Luke- Acts and advances the discussion by offering clear definitions of suffering and persecution, illustrated by first-century examples, and by an extended worldview comparison of Luke with other authors. In Luke-Acts, God is not “outside suffering” as Seneca argues but acts through the suffering of Jesus and his followers to set the world of sin and suffering right again, in fulfillment of his ancient promises.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > London School of Theology
Item ID: 14409
Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2015 18:21
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2019 10:19
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/14409

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