Petrus Socraticus? Socratic Reminiscences in Luke’s Portrait of the Apostle Peter
New Testament scholars have long argued that in Acts 17:16–34 Luke depicts Paul in such a way as to evoke Socrates’ modus philosophandi and to echo his trial and apology. While this argument can be based on sufficiently clear philological indications, there are other, comparatively vague and more general Socratic reminiscences in Luke-Acts, e. g. in the Gethsemane episode which shows that for the Lukan Jesus death is not a terrifying prospect. This study reads Luke’s portrayal of the apostle Peter through the lens of the exemplum Socratis as presented by Greek and Roman intellectuals in the first and early second centuries CE, including Dio Chrysostom, Epictetus, Plutarch, and Seneca. The author argues that the humbleorigins of Peter, his non-academic profession, his poverty, his lack of formal education, and his unbreakable commitment to obey God and to spread the Christian message in spite of the threat of judges are reminiscent of major elements of the reception of Socrates in the period that Luke-Acts was probably composed (c. 80–100 CE). Highlighting the subtle Socratic components in Luke’s depiction of Peter not only helps to shed new light on Peter’s alleged lack of education (Acts 4:13). It also helps to understand, firstly, how the literary depiction of early Christian teaching figures is shaped by roughly contemporaneous philosophical discourses, and secondly, that Peter’s literary image, although it presents a totally different type of teaching figure than Paul, serves in its own way to exemplify the compatibility of the Christian religion with particular strands of ancient philosophy.
New Testament, Luke-Acts, Peter, Socrates, Greco-Roman education, (il-)literacy
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