Original Research

On social justice: Comparing Paul with Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics

Johan Strijdom
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 63, No 1 | a202 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v63i1.202 | © 2007 Johan Strijdom | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 May 2007 | Published: 08 May 2007

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Abstract

n “In search of Paul” (2004) Crossan and Reed argue that Paul’s vision and program were essentially in continuity with Jesus’: both opposed, be it in Galilean villages or Roman cities, an unjust imperial system by means of an alternative project of egalitarian, distributive justice. Although Crossan elsewhere demonstrates the deep roots of this concern in the Jewish tradition, he tends to downplay the importance of Greek contributions in this regard. The purpose of this essay will be to offer, in constant dialogue with Crossan (and Reed), a more refined comparison of social justice in Paul on the one hand and Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics on the other. If Paul tried to establish egalitarian and sharing Christian communities under the Roman empire, how do this vision and program compare and contrast with Plato's hierarchical but communal concept of justice, Aristotle’s distributive notion according to merit, and most importantly the Stoics’ argument of “oikeiosis” (i.e., other-concern by concentrical familiarization with the other)?

Imagine, say Crossan and Reed (CR hereafter) in their recent book on Paul, the following dialogue between ourselves and Paul:

Do you think, Paul, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights? I am not speaking about all men, but about all Christians. But do you think, Paul, that all people should be Christians? Yes, of course,. And do you think, Paul, that all Christians should be equal with one another?Yes, of course. Then do you think, Paul, that it is God’s will for all people to be equal with one another? Well, let me think about that one for a while and, in the meantime, you think about equality in Christ.
(CR 2004:234)

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