What is Hebraic Stoicism?

“Hebraic Stoicism” is a modern name for an ancient form of Jewish Stoicism which existed at least as early as the time of the Maccabees (and arguably as early as the time of Moses) and at least as late as the time of Simeon Ben Zoma (late first and early second Century). 

Hebraic Stoicism is a philosophy, not a religion, though it is deeply rooted in the Judaeo-Christian faith and Scriptures.

Hebraic Stoicism is a philosophy that teaches us to live in a manner corresponding to the arrangement of the universe and the intention of creation, and it’s Creator, and that our emotions are the causes of all good and of all evil; of good when they submit to the authority of our rational minds, and of evil when they are not. Hebraic Stoicism teaches that the path to asheri (אשרי) (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one’s rational mind to understand the universe and to do one’s part in the Creator’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.

Today Stoicism is thought of as a Greek philosophy with roots in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. But in ancient times, millions of Jews saw this as a Hebraic philosophy, naturally arising from the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures. These ancient Hebrews believed that either the Greek philosophers had copied many of their ideas from the Torah, or that they had discovered the same ideas by observing nature, that had been revealed in the Torah. For example Alexandrian Jewish writer Aristoblus, wrote in the Second Century BCE:

“It is evident that Plato imitated our Torah and that he had investigated thoroughly each of the elements in it. For it had been translated by others before before Demetrius Phalereus, before the conquests of Alexander and the Persians.”
(Aristoblus; Fragment 3; quoted in Eusebius 12:12:1f)

“And it seems to me that Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato with great care follow him [Moses] in all respects. They copy him when they say they hear the voice of God, and they contemplate the arrangement of the universe, so carefully made and so unceasingly held together by God.
(Aristoblus; Fragment 4; quoted in Eusebius 13:13:4)

Moreover, Philo of Alexandria maintains that the foiunder of Greek Stoicism, Zeno, had derived one of his maxims from the Torah:

And Zeno, as much as any one else, being under the influence of virtue, ventures boldly to assert that the wicked have not a right to any equality of speech towards the virtuous; for he says, “Shall not the wicked man suffer if he contradicts the virtuous man?” Therefore the wicked man has not a right to freedom of speech as respects the virtuous man.
(Every Good Man is Free 53)

After some analysis, Philo writes of this maxim:

But Zeno appears to have drawn this maxim of his as it were from the fountain of the legislation of the Jews, in the history of which it is recorded that in a case where there were two brothers, the one temperate and the other intemperate, the common father of them both, taking pity on the intemperate one who did not walk in the path of virtue, prays that he may serve his brother, conceiving that service which appears in general to be the greatest of evils is the most perfect good to a foolish man, in order that thus he may be deprived of his independence of action, so as to be prevented from misconducting himself with impunity, and that he may be improved in his disposition by the superintending management of him who is appointed to be his master.
(Every Good Man is Free 57)

Philo here refers to Genesis 27:38-40

[38] And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
[39] And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;
[40] And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.
(Gen. 27:38-40 KJV)

The ancient Hebraic Stoic document “On the Supremacy of Reason” (known also as 4th Maccabees) seeks to prove it’s philosophy by citing various passages from the Torah and other Jewish Scriptures.

The ancient Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria, in his expositions on the Torah, continually finds Stoic philosophy being brought forth by Moses.

And in his for Stoic paradoxes, the Jewish sage Ben Zoma cites a passage from the Tanak to support each of his propositions.

On the other hand, Paul is probably speaking of the Stoics when he writes:

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made…. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.
(Romans 1:20; 2:14-15 RSV)

Whether the Greek philosophers copied Stoicism from the Hebrews, or merely discovered the same Stoic philosophy by observing Creation, or some of both, Hebraic Stoicism can absolutely be seen as arising from the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.

Hebraic Stoicism is an idea which the world needs now more than ever. It is a philosophy that demonstrates that logic and Judaeo-Christian faith are not diametrically opposed, but are natural partners. Hebraic Stoicism is a philosophy that naturally combines the precepts of Judaeo-Christian faith, with rational thought, in a manner that demonstrates that the two are fully compatible.

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