A Comparative Study of Anger in Antiquity and Christian Thought

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Susan Wessel

Abstract

Among the ancient philosophers and the early Christians, anger was understood along a continuum. Aristotle and Philodemus believed that anger, under the right conditions, could be useful and even advantageous. Some such as Seneca and
Clement, refused the possibility of any sort of anger among the most enlightened, whereas Evagrius and Cassian permit anger
that is expressed toward oneself for any perceived vices. Gregory of Nyssa believed that with ascetic training, anger could be
transformed into the virtue of courage. Similar to Plutarch, John Chrysostom believed that anger is an expression of social
tyranny and must be curbed for virtue to thrive. Tertullian is distinct for understanding anger in the context of the faith and
the patience that the advent of Christ made come alive. Left uncontrolled, anger is a spiritual deception that negates the new
law of Christ. Plutarch, Lactantius, and Augustine, in contrast, admit a righteous form of anger under certain conditions.

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