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He was banished to an island by Nero and later Vespasian for, among other things, declaring that it was right and proper to disobey an immoral command from a superior (e.g. Ironically, when Vespasian earlier banished all philosophers from Rome, he made a special exception for Musonius because he was held in such high esteem .Musonius was also renowned for risking death in trying to stop the civil war of 69 A. by preaching peace to the armies that were about to meet on the battlefield .
He exemplifies the sort of man who should have been venerated and made the founder of a world religion, but was not, yet he was the moral superior in my opinion to Jesus--not perfect, but admirable within the context of his own day. and his fame in antiquity was far greater than modern ignorance of him suggests.
Gaius Musonius Rufus was a Roman knight of Italian (Etruscan) birth, but dedicated his life to Stoicism and to preaching moral lectures in Greek and teaching all over the Empire, as well as involving himself in moral causes even at peril of his life. He is now most famous for being the tutor of the slave-philosopher Epictetus, who in turn was much admired by Marcus Aurelius.
Jesus is never recorded as smiling or laughing or telling a joke, and a man with no sense of humor is no kin of mine. Musonius, like Socrates and Epicurus and even Confucius and Lao Tzu, has more in common with us, is more down to earth.
Jesus is also not very sophisticated or clear in his discourses , his parables are often brutish , his lessons simplistic , whereas Musonius is a superior speaker and reasoner, and his ideals are more human-centered and practical, and ultimately more developed and defensible.
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Before you dismiss, please consider making a donation. Since this man deserves far more publicity than he has ever gotten in the modern age, I have written this short essay.
In fact, the analogy of the "birds who do not sow or reap" (Matt.
6.26) is found also in Musonius, and one wonders whether this was a popular idiom, or if the Gospels were infected by the sayings of other men, placing them in the mouth of Jesus. Not at all, and yet they rear their young and find sustenance for all that are born to them. It is remotely possible that Musonius heard such an analogy from Jewish or Christian speakers, but this does not explain three unique aspects of the Musonius version, which are typical of all similar parallels: it is related more usefully and clearly, in a context which makes the analogy sensible (the Gospel version seems snatched out of context and is not clear in its meaning); it is derived from an analogy in Homer (Iliad 9.323ff.), in support of an argument built on Stoic notions of the intrinsic value of individuals and the benefit of the state; and it appears to be based on independent reasoning, whereas the Gospel version appears incomplete or the logic of the analogy unclear--one immediately notes that humans starve if they do not reap or sow, so surely something is missing, which is provided by Musonius.
Indeed, in contrast with Jesus who called even those who think of adultery to cut out their eyes (Matthew -30, Mark -9), Musonius said "freedom of speech means not suppressing whatever one chances to think" (Discourse 9).
Like Jesus, Musonius preached charity (Discourse 19), declaring that "to help many people" is "much more commendable than living a life of luxury." But unlike Jesus, he also emphasized the importance of civic duty as well (Discourse 14).