Athens’ leading schools of philosophical thought were the Epicurean and Stoic schools, these philosophies were the leading representatives in the confusion caused by Paul’s preaching in Acts 17. Epicureanism, founded by Epicurus (342-270 BC), is mainly a materialist philosophy believing that the universe is composed mainly of atoms but does not deny the existence of gods. However, there was no belief in divine providence, and life’s purpose was to live as free from pain as possible. The Epicureans were very existential and would accept the notion of existence before essence or material before immaterial. They abandoned the search by reason for truth and adopted a hedonistic approach to life through experience. According to John, in his Gospel account, even Pilate had a desire to search and find truth (John 18:38).
The Stoic school of thought was one of harmony with nature, using rational abilities one possesses, and depending only on oneself for needs. Their theology of God is some sort of world soul similar to pantheism. Stoicism was founded by Zeno (340-265 BC) and took its name from a “painted stoa.” While these two philosophies are different, they are both secular alternatives to dealing with life and problems.