Plutarch und das Neue Testament

Since the groundbreaking project on “Plutarch’s Writings and Early Christian Literature” initiated by H.D. Betz 40 years ago, the discussion on the use of “parallels” to the New Testament has changed considerably. While efforts to bridge the “Hellenism-Judaism” divide have been made, studies on Hellenistic and early imperial philosophy led to renewed reflection on the validity of the “religion-philosophy” divide. Since the publication of Athanassiadi and Frede’s volume of collected essays in 1999, a fervent dispute about the existence of a “Pagan monotheism” has emerged. Plutarch, the Platonist philosopher and priest of Apollo at Delphi, is a central figure in all these discussions. He seems to be particularly close to the more philosophical writings of the New Testament in many respects (genre, ethics, figurative language, theology, views on women, love, marriage etc.). Already his enormous reception history within Christianity signals that this author was thought to be more than a mere parallel – he appeared at times as a kind of a pagan Greek “Church father,” similar to Seneca in the Latin West. Since the 1970s, the study of Plutarch’s voluminous works has boomed with major developments in the analysis of his literary and philosophical technique as well as of his hermeneutics of religious traditions and the importance of theological reflections for Plutarch's philosophical mind-set.