The Second Century Debate about the Therapy of Passions – Various Christian Remedies

Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski

Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London, Great Britain , United Kingdom


The disturbing power of the passions or affections, collectively known as πάθος, was the subject of a remarkable debate in Graeco-Roman philosophical schools, as well as in Philo of Alexandria and soon among various early Christian authors. This paper contributes to the recent approach to this subject but also explores new contexts. It examines cosmological (myth), anthropological (the mind – emotions relation) and theological (salvation) ways of addressing that problematic supremacy of emotions. Although it summarises earlier philosophical views, it focuses on Christian documents from the second century and their witness to that ancient debate. By comparison with the diversity of Christian views on the passions, the paper highlights the diverse ‘therapies’ proposed by Christian authors. In conclusion, it points out common motifs among Christian responses to the passions, as well as the differences in their remedies.


allegory, cataclysm, Clement of Alexandria, Gospel of Thomas, Middle Platonism, Neopythagoreism, Nag Hammadi, Myth, Passion, Emotions, Philo of Alexandria, Roman Stoicism, Teachings of Silvanus

Aelius Galenus, De affectuum dignotione, ed. W. de Boer, Berlin – Leipzig 1937.

Aelius Galenus, De placitis Hipocratis et Platonis, ed. P.H. De Lacy, Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, Berlin 1978-1984.

Alcinous, Didaskalikos, in: Alcinous. The Handbook of Platonism, ed. J. Dillon, Oxford 1995.

Arrianus, Encheiridion, in: Epictetus, ed. W.A. Oldfather, Loeb 218, Cambridge – London 1978, p. 479-537.

Bionis Borysthenes, De Ira, in: Filodemo, L’Ira, ed. et tr. G. Indelli, Naples 1988.

Chrysippus, De Affectionibus, in: Chrysippus’ On Affections, ed. T. Tieleman, Leiden 2003.

Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum, ed. R.D. Hick, Loeb 184-185, Cambridge – London 2000. (Crossref)

Diogenes Oenoandesis, Fragmenta, in: Diogenis Oenoandesis Fragmenta, ed. J. William, Lipsiae 1907.

Dio Cassius, Historia Romana, ed. E. Cary, Loeb, London – New York 1914-1927.

Epictetus, De epicteti philosophi dissertationibus, in: Epictetus, ed. W.A. Oldfather, Loeb 131, 218, Cambridge – London 1978.

Epicurus, Opinions on Emotions against Timocrates, in Philodemus, On the Stoics, in: T. Dorandi, Filodemo, Gli Stoici (PHerc. 155 e 339), “Cronache Ercolanesi” 12 (1982) p. 91-133.

Flavius Josephus, De Bello Judaico, ed. H.St.J. Thackeray, Loeb 203, Cambridge – London 1927.

Gaius Plinius Caecilius (or Minor), Epistulae, ed. B. Radice, Loeb 55, Cambridge – London 1969.

Gaius Plinius Secundus (or Maior), Naturalis Historia, ed. H. Rackham, Loeb 330, Cambridge – London 1938.

Hippolytus, Refutatio, in: Hippolytus Refutatio Omnium Haeresium, ed. M. Marcovich, Berlin – New York 1986. (Crossref)

Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, ed. A. Rousseau – L. Doutreleau, SCh 264, Paris 2008.

Marcus Aurelius, De seipso, ed. C.R. Haines, Loeb 58, Cambridge – London 1930.

Maximus Tyrius, Orationes, in: The philosophical orations, ed. M.B. Trapp, Oxford 1997.

Philo Judaeus, De fuga et inventione, ed. F.H. Colson – G.H. Whitaker, Loeb 275, Cambridge – London 2001, p. 10-125.

Philo Judaeus, In Flaccum, ed. F.H. Colson, Loeb 363, Cambridge – London, 2001, p. 302-403.

Philo Judaeus, Quis rerum divinarum heres sit, ed. F.H. Colson – G.H. Whitaker, Loeb, Cambridge 1949, p. 284-447.

Philo Judaeus, Quod omnis probus liber sit, ed. F.H. Colson, Loeb 363, Cambridge – London 2001, p. 10-101.

Plutarchus, De cohibenda ira, ed. W.C. Helmbold, Loeb 337, Cambridge – London 1989.

Plutarchus, De tranquillitate animi, ed. W.C. Helmbold, Loeb 337, Cambridge – London 1989.

Seneca, Epistles, ed. R.M. Gummere, Loeb 76, Cambridge – London 1970.

Tacitus, Annales, ed. J. Jackson, Loeb 322, Cambridge 1937.

Titus Aurelius Alexander, De Anima, in: Alexander of Aphrodisias on the Soul: Part I (translation with introduction and commentary), ed. V. Caston, London – Bristol 2012.

Ashwin-Siejkowski P., Clement of Alexandria. A Project of Christian perfection, London – New York 2008.

Ashwin-Siejkowski P., Clement of Alexandria on the Creation of Eve: Exegesis in the Service of a Pedagogical Project, “Studia Patristica” 66 (2013) p. 53-59.

Ashwin-Siejkowski P., The Teachings of Silvanus (NHC VII,4) and the Education of the Christian Mind, “Gnosis: The Journal of Gnostic Studies” 3/2 (2018) p. 177-200. (Crossref)

Ashwin-Siejkowski P., Plato in Bad Company? Plato’s Republic (588b–589b) in the Nag Hammadi Collection: A Re-Examination of Its Background, “Gnosis: The Journal of Gnostic Studies” 5/2 (2020) p. 172-187. (Crossref)

Ashwin-Siejkowski P., Valentinus’ Legacy and Polyphony of Voices, London – New York 2021. (Crossref)

Ashwin-Siejkowski P., Clement of Alexandria and the riddle of the Gospel of the Egyptians, “Studia Patristica” 2022 (forthcoming). (Crossref)

Attridge H.W., An “Emotional” Jesus and Stoic Tradition, in: Stoicism in Early Christianity, ed. I. Dunderberg – T. Engberg-Pedersen – T. Rasimus, Grand Rapids 2010, p. 77-92.

Aune D.Ch., Passions in the Pauline Epistles, in: Passions and Moral Progress in Greco-Roman Thought, ed. J.T. Fitzgerald, London – New York 2008, p. 221-237.

Blom W.J.C., Why the Testimonium Taciteum Is Authentic: A Response to Carrier, “Vigiliae Christinae” 73/5 (2019) p. 564-581. (Crossref)

Brown P., Religion and Society in the Age of Augustine, New York 1972.

Collins A.Y., Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism, Leiden 2000.

DeConick A.D., The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation, London – New York 2007. (Crossref)

Dillon J., The Middle Platonists 80 B.C. to A.D. 220, London 1996.

Dodds E.R., Pogan and Christian in the Age of Anxiety: Some aspects of religious experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine, Cambridge 1965. (Crossref)

Dunderberg I., Beyond Gnosticism. Myth, Life Style, and Society in the School of Valentinus, New York 2008. (Crossref)

Finn R., Asceticism in the Graeco-Roman World, Cambridge 2009. (Crossref)

Fox R.L., Pagans and Christians In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine, London 1986.

Gathercole S., The Gospel of Thomas. Introduction and Commentary, Leiden 2014. (Crossref)

Gibbons K., The Moral Psychology of Clement of Alexandria. Mosaic Philosophy, London – New York 2017. (Crossref)

Havrda M., Clement of Alexandria, in: The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Philosophy, ed. M. Edwards, London – New York 2021, p. 359-361. (Crossref)

Horst van der W., Philo’s Flaccus: the first pogrom: introduction, translation, and commentary, Leiden 2003.

Jackson H.M., The Lion Becomes Man. The Gnostic Leontomorphic Creator and the Platonic Tradition, Atlanta 1985.

Kovacs J.L., Saint Paul as Apostle of Apatheia: Stromateis VII, Chapter 14, in: The Seventh Book of the Stromateis, ed. M. Havrda – V. Hušek – J. Plátová, Leiden – Boston 2012, p. 199-216. (Crossref)

Levy C., Philo’s Ethics, in: The Cambridge Companion to Philo, ed. A. Kamesar, Cambridge 2009, p. 146-171. (Crossref)

Lilla S.R.C., Clement of Alexandria. A Study in Christian Platonism and Gnosticism, Rome 1971.

Nussbaum M.C., The Therapy of Desire. Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics, Princeton 1994.

Osborn E., Clement of Alexandria, Cambridge 2005. (Crossref)

Osmański M., Filona z Aleksandrii etyka upodabniania się do Boga, Lublin 2007.

Paige T., Philosophy, in: Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. G.F. Hawthorne – R.P. Martin – D.G. Reid, Downers Grove 1993, p. 713-718.

Paul in the Second Century, ed. M.F. Bird – J.R. Dodson, London 2011.

The Coptic Gnostic Library. Nag Hammadi Codex VII, ed. B.A. Pearson, Leiden – New York 1996.

Rasimus T., Johannine Opponents, The Gospel of John, And Gnosticism, in: Nag Hammadi à 70 ans. Qu’avons-nous appris? (Colloque international, Québec, Université Laval, 29-31 mai 2015), ed. E. Cré gheur – L. Painchaud – T. Rasimus, Leuven 2019, p. 201-218. (Crossref)

Shields Ch., Plato’s Divided Soul, in: Partitioning the Soul Debates from Plato to Leibniz, ed. K. Corcilius – D. Perler, Berlin 2014, p. 15-38. (Crossref)

Show B.D., The Myth of the Neronian Persecution, “The Journal of Roman Studies” 105 (2015) p. 73-100. (Crossref)

Smith M.F., The Philosophical Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda, Vienna1996.

Steinmetz P., Die Stoa, in: Die Philosophie der Antiker, v. 4: Die hellenistische Philosophie, ed. H. Flashar, Basel 1994, p. 491-716.

Thomassen E., The Spiritual Seed. The Church of the ‘Valentinians’, Leiden 2006. (Crossref)

Thorsteinsson R.M., Stoicism as Key to Pauline Ethics in Romans, in: Stoicism in Early Christianity, ed. I. Dunderberg – T. Engberg-Pedersen – T. Rasimus, Grand Rapids 2010, p. 15-38.

Tieleman T., Chrysippus’ On Affections: Reconstructions and Interpretations, Leiden 2003.

Trapp M., Philosophy in the Roman Empire. Ethics, Politics and Society, Aldershot 2008.

Wahlde von U.C., Gnosticism, Docetism, And the Judaism of The First Century, London 2015.

Winston D., Philo’s ethical theory, in: Band 21/1. Halbband Religion (Hellenistisches Judentum in römischer Zeit: Philon und Josephus), ed. W. Haase, Berlin 1983, p. 372-416. (Crossref)

Winter B.W., Philo and Paul among Sophists, Grand Rapids 2002.



Ashwin-Siejkowski, P. (2022). The Second Century Debate about the Therapy of Passions – Various Christian Remedies. Vox Patrum, 82, 53–72.

Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski
Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London, Great Britain


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Papers published in Vox Patrum are covered by the Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) licence. Authors and users can use published works licensed under the CC-BY-ND since 2018. For earlier publications, copyrights are available under fair use rights in accordance with the Act of February 4, 1994 on copyrights and related rights.