Philosophers whom Paul encountered when he was preaching in the marketplace at Athens. Though their views changed somewhat with the passing of time, basically the Stoics held that matter and force (the latter sometimes being called providence, reason, or God) were the elemental principles in the universe. To the Stoics all things, even vices and virtues, were material. Not believing in God as a Person, they thought that all things were part of an impersonal deity and that the human soul emanated from such source. Thinking the soul survived death of the body, some Stoics believed it would eventually be destroyed with the universe; others, that ultimately it would be reabsorbed by this deity. The Stoics maintained that to attain the highest goal, happiness, man should use his reason to understand and conform to the laws governing the universe. To them pursuing a life of virtue therefore meant ‘following nature.’ The truly wise man, in their estimation, was indifferent to pain or pleasure, independent of riches or poverty and the like. Fate, they thought, governed human affairs, and if problems seemed overwhelming, suicide was considered unobjectionable.
Zeno of Citium, Cyprus, after associating with the Cynics for a time, established this separate school of philosophy about 300 B.C.E. His disciples got the name Stoics from the Stoa Poikile, the painted porch in Athens where he taught. Stoic philosophy was further developed particularly by Cleanthes and Chrysippus and was widely accepted among the Greeks and Romans, its adherents including Seneca, Epictetus, and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. It flourished until about 300 C.E.
Like the Epicureans, the Stoics did not believe in the resurrection as taught by Christians. So, when Paul declared the good news about Jesus and the resurrection, they called him a “chatterer” and said he seemed to be “a publisher of foreign deities.” Later, having been led to the Areopagus, Paul cited writings of the Stoics Aratus of Cilicia (in his Phænomena) and Cleanthes (in Hymn to Zeus), saying: “For by [God] we have life and move and exist, even as certain ones of the poets among you have said, ‘For we are also his progeny.’”—Ac 17:17-19, 22, 28.