Paul to Annaeus Seneca, greeting
Whenever I hear your letters read, I think of you as present, and imagine nothing else but that you are always with us. As soon, then, as you begin to come, we shall see each other at close quarters. I desire your good health.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Farewell, Seneca, Dearest to Me
In all the works of the 'New Testament Apocrypha' that we have -- works purporting to be by apostles, noncanonical gospels, and so forth -- there is a great deal of obvious junk -- poorly written fiction masquerading as profound fact. But occasionally there are some works that are a bit charming. One of the more charming is a third- or fourth-century series of letters purporting to be between the apostle Paul and the philosopher Seneca. These works were widely read at the time, and, indeed, Jerome goes so far as to put Seneca in a list of Christian saints on the strength of them. This may, indeed, have been the intent of the author, to 'baptize' Seneca for the Christians; alternatively, it may have been intended to suggest that all the good things in Seneca were borrowed from the apostle. That's one difficulty of dealing with much of this literature: we honestly have no idea what they were intending when they were writing it. The collection may, in fact, come from more than one author; some have suggested that the more substantive (and slightly more Paul-sounding) fourteenth letter is a much later addition. The correspondence is not very substantive, but the idea of it -- Paul and Seneca together at last -- has a charm in its own right. The fourth letter: