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:

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.