Who Were the Stoics and Epicureans

National Association of Christian Ministers Summary Series: Theology

In Acts 17:18, the Stoics and Epicureans were two philosophical schools that the apostle Paul encountered during his visit to Athens. Here’s a brief description of each:

1. Stoics: The Stoics were followers of the philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium around the 3rd century BCE. They believed in living in accordance with nature and accepting whatever fate brings. The Stoics emphasized the development of virtue and the importance of reason in controlling one’s emotions. They believed in the existence of a divine order in the universe and encouraged individuals to align themselves with it. The Stoics promoted self-discipline, self-control, and the pursuit of wisdom.

2. Epicureans: The Epicureans were followers of the philosophy developed by Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who lived around the 3rd century BCE. They believed that the purpose of life was to attain pleasure and avoid pain. However, their concept of pleasure was not centered on immediate gratification but rather on achieving a state of tranquility and freedom from distress. Epicureans advocated for a simple and moderate lifestyle, avoiding unnecessary desires and seeking intellectual pleasures.

In Acts 17:18, Paul was engaged in discussions and debates with various philosophical groups in Athens, including the Stoics and Epicureans, presenting them with the teachings of Christianity. These philosophical schools represented different worldviews and perspectives on life, and Paul used the opportunity to share the message of the Gospel with them.