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Stoicism

STOICISM, one of the influential post-Socratic philosophies of antiquity, founded by the Hellenized Phoenician Zeno (335–263 B.C.E.). It was popular with Roman jurists and became a major ingredient in Greco-Roman rhetorical culture. As such it met Judaism, probably even before the Hasmonean revolt. The extent and nature of this meeting are still under debate. Stoicism lent itself to an explanation of how the bridging of the chasm between God and man, actualized in creation, revelation, and history, was accomplished in detail (mediation). The Stoic theory of the Logos ("Word," "Reason") became therefore central in Philo and after him in the Gospel according to St. John, and traces of it are found in the Midrash. The metabolism of elements, the World Soul, and Providence appear in the Wisdom of Solomon, shades of the quasi-material Spirit and of ecpyrosis (successive conflagrations of the world) in the Midrash. Less obvious is the possibility that the large-scale midrashic attempt to see latent "ethical" situations everywhere in cosmos and history may have been furthered by the panlogistic mood of Stoicism and its doctrine of cosmic "sympathy." Rabbinism, however, insisted on hashgaḥah peratit ("individual providence") and rejected the impersonal Stoic concept (Greek pronoia). Stoicism in all these adaptations has sometimes been regarded as an aid to the clarification of earlier Jewish beliefs. Occasionally, Jewish sources such as Josephus and the talmudic dialogues about *Antoninus Pius try to outdo the Stoicism of the Stoics (IV Macc.) or to portray Pharisaic Judaism as an up-to-date Stoicism. The Jewish and Hellenistic bureaucrat-scholar classes, i.e., the rhetorician-philosophers, Philo, and the rabbis, were compelled to reinterpret sacred writ in an age of change. Stoic allegory came to their aid. Both were involved in legal exegesis, and Stoic techniques of expounding and expanding law were useful. Some rabbinic hermeneutical rules have thus been regarded as having a Stoic-rhetorical coloring, at least in their terminology. Stoic casuistry was known to the rabbis, and the prevailing sense of "etiquette" is reflected in rules for table and toilet in Cicero and the Talmud alike.

Perhaps the Stoic mood is most strongly in evidence in rabbinic ethics, part of which could thus be considered as an intercultural ideology of a bureaucrat-scholar class elevating the ideal Sage. Here values and problems emerge that were not found (or not stressed) in the Bible: health, the simple life, self-improvement, fortitude, the ethos of work, imitatio dei, generosity, theory versus practice, the good versus the merely valuable, new interpretations of suffering etc. The biblical roots amal ("to labor") and zaʿar ("to take pains") acquire positive connotations. Beyond these, however, the native ethos prevailed: empathy, repentance, hope, and rule over the emotions, not their extirpation. Strong, too, is the acceptance of Stoic-rhetorical literary forms in rabbinism, such as catalogs of virtues and vices, sorites, consolation formulae (life as a deposit), eristic dialogues, diatribic sequences, and certain similes (athletics, household, civic life). The Letter of Aristeas is an example of Stoic instructions for kings. The immediate source for rabbinism (and early Christianity) must have been Greco-Roman rhetoric rather than the ubiquitous Posidonius of earlier research. Yet, "what is received is received according to the way of the receiver," i.e., selectively, and is synthesized with the unaffected transcendental and humanitarian tradition of Judaism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Kaminka, in: REJ, 82 (1926), 233–52; L. Wallach, in: JQR, 31 (1940/41), 259–86; Daube, in: HUCA, 22 (1949), 239–64; S. Lieberman, in: A. Altmann (ed.), Biblical and Other Studies (1963), 123–41; Urbach, in: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Proceedings, 2 (1966), no. 4. MEDIEVAL JEWISH PHILOSOPHY: Guttmann, Philosophies, index; H.A. Wolfson, Philosophy of Spinoza, 2 vols. (1934), index; idem, Philo, Foundations of Religious Philosophy, 2 vols. (1947), index.