A philosophical school founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium (335–263 BCE) which became the most influential philosophic sect in the Greco‐Roman world. Stoics conceived of philosophy as the knowledge of things divine and human, and its goal as a life in harmony with nature. They thought that the universe was permeated by the Logos or Reason, also referred to as God or Providence. Human beings, they held, are particles of God, for divine Reason is manifested in a special way in human reason. As one rationally develops those conceptions of the divine that are innate in all people, one more clearly discerns the nature of things, including oneself. Stoics who make progress in this manner advance from ignorance, which is responsible for vice, to knowledge of reality, which makes virtue possible. Virtue and vice they delineated in extensive lists. Stoics disregarded all matters external to themselves, and cultivated an impassivity which made them self‐sufficient or content (autarkēs). Hardships that befell them therefore did not affect their true selves, but merely showed their true character. Their view of divine kinship gave a devotional cast to their language, and their doctrine that all things in the universe are in harmonious relationship to each other accommodated much of popular religion, including the veneration of religious images. As a messenger of the divine, the Stoic sage sought to show others their error and to lead them to the good. This included instruction in civic responsibility, which Stoics, as did other philosophers, summarized in lists of duties of members of a household (see Ethical Lists).

In Jewish thought, wisdom was personified and increasingly related to the doctrine of creation. Stoic echoes of the cosmic wisdom are present in the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 8.22–31, and other Stoic elements begin to appear in Jewish literature, partly, perhaps, in reaction to Epicurean tendencies in such works as Ecclesiastes. Sirach advances a Stoic‐like view of God as “the all” (43.27) who is responsible for every human experience (11.14), yet differs from Stoic pantheism in deeming God greater than his works (43.28). Wisdom, like the Stoic Logos, permeates the universe (24.5–6), but is identified with the Law of Moses (24.23), which is thus elevated to something suprahistorical and rational. The Wisdom of Solomon similarly describes all‐pervading Wisdom as the agent of creation (7.22–26), which is directed by divine providence (6.7; 14.3). Using the Stoic notion of natural theology, Wisdom of Solomon argues that, while knowledge of God is possible by observing creation, human failure to attain this knowledge resulted in an unpardonable ignorance (13.8) that plunged humanity into idolatry and immorality (14.12). Stoic influence is also clearly discernible in 4 Maccabees, which defines wisdom as the knowledge of divine and human things (1.16–17) and sets out to determine whether devout reason is master of the passions (1.1). Unlike the Stoics, however, the author advocates the mastery, not eradication, of the passions (1.30–35; 3.2).

Stoics are mentioned explicitly in the Bible only in Acts 17.18, where, according to Luke, in company with their opponents the Epicureans they encounter Paul. The sermon that follows (17.22–31) has Paul making extensive use of popular Stoicism: the veneration of images as an expression of human religiosity, providence, kinship with the creator God, and the quotation of writers who represent Stoic views. Since Stoics focused on the material world, Paul's reference to the resurrection is mocked by his audience. Similar Stoic thought, perhaps mediated by Jewish wisdom traditions, is used in Romans 1.18–32. But, where in Acts 17 Paul is represented as using Stoicism positively, excusing former ignorance, in Romans he uses it to indict, as Wisdom 13 does: God had granted knowledge of himself in creation, but that knowledge was rejected and humanity was therefore given over to immorality. The Stoic interpretation of Wisdom as the agent of creation may also have influenced the view of the Logos in John 1.1–2. Paul further uses Stoic lists, many of which may have come to him by way of Hellenistic Judaism, such as lists of virtues and vices (1 Cor. 6.9–10; Gal. 5.19–23) and of hardships (1 Cor. 4.9–13; 2 Cor. 6.4–10). Paul christianizes such lists, as he does the Stoic view of self‐sufficiency. In Philippians 4.11–13, he claims to be content (autarkēs), which does not mean that he is impassive or had attained self‐sufficiency on his own; on the contrary, he is able to experience all things fully because God empowers him. The Stoic lists of social responsibilities are similarly christianized (Eph. 5.22–6.9; Col. 3.18–4.1). God's initiative and the eschatological perspective also place the Stoic‐sounding language of 2 Peter 1.3–4 in a different Christian perspective.

Abraham J. Malherbe