The most radical aspect of Jesus’ teaching is supposedly his instruction to love one’s enemies. But compare the explicit teaching of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus . . .
Epictetus . . . calls for a sort of “love of enemies”: the sage (i.e., the ideal philosopher and human being) “must needs be flogged like an ass, and while he is being flogged he must love [φιλεῖν] the men who flog him, as though he were the father or brother of them all.”
(2010-11-01). Stoicism in Early Christianity (Kindle Locations 875-877). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Not that the Stoics were the first to conceive of the idea, either.
Avalos takes us farther yet, however. The concept of loving enemies is found in Near Eastern and other texts long before the Roman era. In the Akkadian Counsels of Wisdom we find
Requite with kindness your evil doer. Maintain justice to your enemy. Smile on your adversary.
Avalos further cites similar a passage in ancient Egyptian wisdom literature, and finds the comparable ethic expounded at length by the Jewish philosopher Philo. In fact, Philo extrapolates a “wider human kinship” from passages in the Pentateuch that require kindness towards animals owned by enemies. This gives the lie to those who have tried to make Jesus’ teachings unique by insisting that the Old Testament was not so understood by Jewish interpreters of the day.
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