How Greek Was Paul’s Eschatology? Multiple Perspectives in Latest NTS Issue (Gupta)

The most recent issue of NTS (61.2) has a summary of the SNTS conversation that took place between George Van Kooten, Oda Wischmeyer, and N.T. Wright on the subject “How Greek Was Paul’s Eschatology?” Van Kooten urges that there are such clear substructural similarities between Paul and Stoic thought and this should affect how we analyze Paul’s eschatology. N.T. Wright is obviously suspicious of such an argument and argues that Paul’s eschatology fits entirely within a Jewish-religious framework transformed through the Christ event. Oda Wischmeyer offers what I think is the most helpful essay regarding this question. Wischmeyer points out that in the Pauline letters, Paul does not explicitly quote Stoics or refer to any philosophy directly. That should warrant caution.

Also, most Greeks tuned in to philosophy did not think in thoroughgoing eschatological terms, she argues; “cosmology” is more central to Greek philosophy than “eschatology,” but the Stoics (in particular) did have a view of the shaping of things to come. Wischmeyer concludes: “we will fail to find influences of distinct philosophical schools such as the Stoa or Platonism, when we look for elements of Greek eschatological ideas in Paul. What we will come across, however, is something like a philosophical koine, words or even terms that are used in Jewish and non-Jewish Greek philosophical and religious language — ‘language’ understood in terms of terminology [e.g., eikonkosmos]” (247).

Part of the discussion involves Paul’s own education. Again, Wischmeyer explains: “As far as I can see, we should seek to understand Paul as one of the so-called Jewish-Hellenistic diaspora writers with more or less loose relations to their cultural environment, but we should not feel inclined to put him especially close to figures such as Philo or Josephus – Jews with a profound education in both Jewish and Greek religious, ethical and philosophical tradition and literature, who are not only aware of Greek philosophical debates but often explicitly discuss the position of philosophers.” (247).

Again, this little summary of engagement is a fun read.