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Perfection Perfected

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The Stoic “Self-Eluding Sage” and Moral Progress in Hebrews

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Hebrews evinces the linked exegetical aporiae of, on the one hand, tension between the asserted perfection of the believer and exhortations to further perfection and, on the other, a similar tension between Christ’s exalted, preexistent nature and claims about his need for further perfection during his earthly life. The paper proposes the Stoic figure of the “self-eluding sage” as a helpful contextual analogue for explaining the indicative-imperative problem in Hebrews. Originally a product of early epistemological debates among Hellenistic philosophical schools, the “self-eluding sage” (διαλεληθὼς σοφός) was deployed by Philo and Plutarch in Roman-era debates on the nature of moral progress. Terminological and structural similarities between discussions of the Stoic figure and discussions of progress in Hebrews (especially 5:14-6:3) help contextualize the speech’s concern for moral insight and improvement within a general Roman-era focus on moral progress toward filling communal roles.

Affiliations: 1: Bethlehem, pa

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/content/journals/10.1163/15685365-12341493
2015-03-19
2017-11-23

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