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Letters of Paul and Seneca

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Estimated Range of Dating: 300-390 A.D.

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Information on the Letters of Paul and Seneca

Cornelia Römer writes, "the letters were of great importance for the legend which brought Seneca into connection with Christianity. Down to the beginning of the Renaissance they were regarded as genuine. Today the 4th century A.D. is generally assumed to be the period of their origin. In favour of this are not only linguistic and stylistic considerations (on which see E. Liénhard in Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire 11, 1932, 5-32), but above all the mention of the correspondence by Jerome in 392 (de Vir. Ill. 12, see below), whereas it is clear from the Divinae institutiones of Lactantius (VI 24.13-14) of the year 324 that these letters did not yet lie before him." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, pp. 46-47)

Claudio Moreschini writes, "Seneca's renown among Christians appeared quite early. Tertullian speaks of him as a writer who is 'often one of ours.' Lactantius opines that 'Seneca could have been a true devotee of God if someone had shown God to him' (Inst. 6.24). It is not surprising, then, that during the Constantinian period one product of the typical religious syncretism of that age was this apocryphal correspondence. The letters were known as early as Jerome (Vir. ill. 12), who was thereby confirmed in his persuasion that there had been a real affinity between Seneca and Christianity, so much so that he included Seneca among the 'famous men' of the Christian religion. This correspondence, consistent of eight letters from Seneca and six from Paul, is not especially interesting and contains nothing more than an exchange of polite greetings. Even though it makes rather disappointing reading, it enjoyed a certain fame subsequently." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 405)

G. Röwekamp writes, "A supposed secret correspondence between Paul and Seneca is first attested by Jerome (vir. ill. 12; see also Augustine, ep. 153.14) and was considered authentic down into the 15th c. The content of the fourteen letters is philosophical and of little theological importance; they contain primarily manifestations of friendship. Seneca finds fault with the style of Paul's letters. The eleventh letter is especially notable, concerning as it does the burning of Rome and the persecution of Christians, with the author drawing on an unknown source. This letter is possibly later than the other letters, which were written in the 4th c. The collection may possibly be an exercise in the schools of rhetoric; there is perhaps a connection with the attempt to link Seneca to Judaism by means of a fictive letter of high priest Anna against idolatry (Pseudo-Seneca)." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 462)

Cornelia Römer writes, "The origins of the manuscript tradition available to us can be traced back to the 5th century (the oldest codex derives from the 9th century). The great quantity of the manuscripts presents numerous variants and corruptions, so that some passages even today are not certainly cleared up (letter VIII)." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 47)

Claudio Moreschini writes, "A comparable forgery of the Constantinian age is the Letter of Annas to Seneca, recently discovered by B. Bischoff and preserved in fragmentary form. According to its author, the letter was written by Annas, the high priest from 62 to 68, and sent to the brethren as an exhortation to avoid idolatrous worship. But given this purpose, why would it have been sent to Seneca, as the title claims? The author must have been a Jew." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 405)

S. Döpp writes, "Probably toward the end of the 4th c. there appeared in Rome an antipagan prose work that praises the omnipotence of the one God; the work was discovered by B. Bischoff in Cologne and published in 1984 under the title Ep. Anne ad Senecam de superbia et idolis; Bischoff supposed that the fictitious letter writer was a high priest named Anna. J. Divjak, however, maintains that the Jewish origin of the text is by no means certain: the name Anna could have been due to a mistaken reading of a subscription Ep. Annei Senecae; in addition, the work is not really a letter but a sermon (sermo) against polytheism. Finally, A. Hilhorst considers the work to be a piece of Christian literature. The establishment of the text is not yet complete." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 528)

Cornelia Römer writes, "New aspects for the whole discussion could result from a 'Letter of the high priest Annas to the philosopher Seneca', recently published by B. Bischoff. The correspondence between Seneca and Paul could have originated as a counterblast to this letter of a Jewish author, likewise to be regarded as fictitious, with the aim of making the philosopher appear in association with a representative of the Christian faith (so B. Bischoff, 'Der Brief des Hohenpriesters Annas an den Philosophen Seneca - eine jüdisch-apologetische Missionsschrift (Viertes Jahrhundert?)', in Anecdota novissima. Texte des vierten bis sechzehnten Jahrhunderts, 1984, 1-9, esp. p. 5)." (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 47)

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