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The Logos in the Gospel of John

The location of the authorship of the Gospel of John is debated to be among Ephesus, Patmos, or some smaller place in Asia Minor. Its time of authorship is estimated at around 90 AD. As this time is later than the dispersion of the Jews it is not unreasonable to think that many Jews and the sect of Judaism called Christianity were now more affected by Greek culture than Jewish. No matter whether you believe that the gospel of John was divinely inspired and written, or a human memoir of a first-century disciple also named John, there is no doubt that that the prologue to the gospel was culturally relevant, and as such presented Jesus in relation to the very popular Greek philosophical concept of the Logos.

As we have seen in previous articles, Stoicism was the most popular of the philosophies at that time and presented the Logos as the energizing framework of the universe, the Divine Reason. Before the Stoics, philosophers like Plato and Heraclitus had written about the Logos as the divine reason or plan.

Philo was a Jewish writer writing at the same time as some of the events of the Book of Acts and before the gospels were penned. He was an influential Jew living in perhaps the intellectual center of the world at that time, Alexandria. Philo wrote extensively about the theology of the Old Testament being the greatest of the philosophies. He also focused heavily on the Word of God as the “Logos” and heavily integrated this concept with Judaism.

The Logos was, therefore, a controversial topic of the first century much like evolution, communism, and hate crimes are controversial topics today.

In the first 14 verses of the Gospel of John, we have a cultural link between Christianity and Greek philosophy.

In the following verses I have substituted “Logos” for “word”:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The Logos was in the beginning with God. All things were made through the Logos; and without the Logos was not anything made that hath been made. In the Logos was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.

There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Logos became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

As a result of this prologue I see the first-century conversation going something like this:

You Stoics, Platonists, and many others of you philosophers talk about the Logos. Yes, God, in an instant, planned as only he could plan. And in that instant, that plan, that divine reasoning, that Logos, created all that ever was, is and will be. True life exists in knowing and walking in the Logos. And that Logos, in the fullness of times, generated a man, born of flesh, but a perfect living fulfillment of the Logos. Just as the Logos is the light, so this man is the living light of the world. Many cannot see that he is the living manifestation of the Logos, the light of the world. But to those of you who do, you will become the children of God.

So the Logos that you have been talking about, the Divine Reason, exists, and the perfect form of the Logos exists in the person of Jesus Christ.

© copyright 2011-2020 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

March 1st, 2011 Posted by | Philosophy | no comments

Philo of Alexandria on the Logos

Among other things, we have been looking at the Greek word “Logos” in our quick overview of ancient philosophy, and how philosophy relates to the development of Christianity.  We have already discussed how Logos has different meanings.  A simple definition of the word just means reason, purpose, plan, or design. In some religious and philosophical contexts, however, the word takes on much more meaning.  In the Old Testament when it says the “word of God” came to a prophet it is talking about the Logos. While the meaning of “word” here might just mean “message”, there are verses that attribute power to the “word of God”, thus going beyond, at least metaphorically, the simple definition of Logos as “message.” The Stoics viewed the Logos as the energizing framework of the universe, the Divine Reason. Here we will look at how at least one Jew, Philo of Alexandria, perceived the Logos in a similar manner.

The Logos dominates Philo’s writings.  In “On The Creation”, in which Philo discusses the creation account of Genesis, Philo uses the analogy of an architect’s plan to describe how the Logos, this Divine Reason of God, works.   Philo talks about how the architect

“sketches out in his own mind nearly all the parts of the city which is about to be completed – the temples, the gymnasium, the prytanea, and markets, the harbour, the docks, the streets, the arrangements of the walls, the situations of the dwelling houses, and of the public and other buildings.”[i]

This architect then having this whole city structured in his mind goes about the business of building this incredible artifice stone by stone.  This is Philo’s analogy of the divine reason, the Logos. The Logos is not God per se. The Logos is the interaction of an incomprehensible God with his creation. God’s architectural plan of creation being carried out is the Logos. As such, the Logos has an incredible scope and power. Thus we have this focus on the reason of God, which Philo presents as this incredible philosophy which is the philosophy of all philosophies. This philosophy, the Logos and the wisdom of Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament is the predecessor of Greek philosophies, the predecessor of any true philosophy anywhere.

The above is an over simplification really. In actuality, Philo weighs and criticizes the arguments of various philosophers throughout his works. For example in “On The Eternity Of The World” Philo systematically discusses the views of Democritus, Epicurus, “the principle number of the stoic philosophers”[ii], Aristotle, and Plato on whether the world is eternal, or subject to destruction. He notes that

“Democritus, Epicurus and the principle number of the stoic philosophers affirm both the creation and the distractibility of the world…”[iii]

On the contrary he notes that Aristotle declared the world was uncreated and indestructible and accused anyone who argued with this “terrible impiety”[iv]. He then says that Plato also affirms that the world is created and indestructible, and credits Aristotle’s position to being a pupil of Plato.  After stating these positions Philo goes on to argue against the Aristotelian – Platonist tenet that the world is indestructible.  In the process, Philo is presenting the “Logos” as an expression of God, a divinely energized plan.

So in reality what Philo is doing is picking and choosing from among the philosophers those tenets that agree with his interpretation of Scripture.

Philo refers to the Logos as the Divine Reason and as the idea of ideas, “the” Form (Platoism):

“And if any were to desire to use more undisguised terms, he would not call the world,  which is perceptible only to the intellect, anything else but the reason of God ,  already occupied in the creation of the world ;  for neither is a city,  while only perceptible to the intellect,  anything else but the reason of the architect,  who is already designing to build one perceptible to the external senses, on the model of that which is so only to the intellect – (25) this is the doctrine of Moses, not mine. Accordingly he, when recording the creation of man, in words which follow, asserts expressively, that he was made in the image of God – and if the image be part of the image, then manifestly so is the entire form, namely, the whole of this world perceptible by the external senses, which is a greater imitation of the divine image then the human form is. It is manifest also, that the archetypal seal, which we call that world which is perceptible only to the intellect, must itself be the archetypal model, the idea of ideas, the reason of God.[v]

“The idea of ideas, the reason of God” above is the Logos.  The above quote shows how Philo can be shown to be expressing Plato’s Forms’ theory of philosophy (“if the image be part of the image, then manifestly so is the entire form”). The image of God is a Form. Man is an expression of the Form of God. It also is another expression of Philo’s example of God as the divine architect, with his Divine energizing plan being the Logos.

Philo discusses the Logos as having a life of its own in a sense in the next quote.  Philo describes the Logos as an indestructible Form of wisdom:

“For as, whence a musician or grammarian instead, the music and grammar which existed in them dies with them, but their ideas survive, and in a manner live as long as the world itself and doors; according to which the existing race of men, and those who are to exist hereafter in continual succession, will, to the end of time, become skillful in music and grammar. Thus, also, if the prudence, or the temperance, or the courage, or the justice, or, in short, if the wisdom of any kind existing in any individual be destroyed nevertheless the prudence existing in the nature of the immortal universe will still be immortal; and every virtue is directed like a pillar in the imperishable solidity, in accordance with which there are some good people now, and there will be some hereafter. (76) unless, indeed, we should say that the death of any individual man is that instruction of humanity and of the human race, which, whether we ought to call it a genus, or a species, or a conception, or whatever else you please, those who are anxious about the investigation of proper names may determine. One seal has often stamped thousands upon thousands of impressions in infinite number, and though at times all those impressions have been effaced with the substances on which they were stamped, still the seal itself has remained in its pristine condition without being at all injured in its nature.”[vi]

This again follows the model of Plato’s Forms theory.  Men, being created in the image of God, are examples of the divine Form to the extent that they show temperance, encourage, justice, or wisdom of any sort.  Philo’s example of the seal  being used  “thousands upon thousands of impressions”  shows his application of Plato’s theories of Forms where God is a seal, and we each are stamps of that seal.

In the next quotation we see Philo describing the Logos as the agent of creation:

For God, while he spake the word, did at the same moment create; nor did he allow anything to come between the word and deed; and if one may advance a doctrine which is pretty nearly true, his word is his deed.[vii]

Here Philo represents the Logos as a God-energized plan.  The plan was spoken, the plan energized, creation happened.   The above quote shows the Logos as the agent of creation in general.  The quote below shows the Logos as the energizing force of the details of creation:

“thus God, having sharpened his own word, the divider of all things,  divides the essence of the universe which is destitute of form, and destitute of all distinctive qualities,  and the four elements of the world which were separated from this essence, and the plants and animals which were consolidated by means of these elements.”[viii]

So here we have the mental image of the Logos of God.   It’s not only that when God spoke creation happened, but creation to the nth degree was energized in the moment that God thought; every plant, animal, tree, mountain, star and all of creation that would ever exist came into being at that moment.

Philo continues to differentiate the Logos.  Marian Hillar, in describing the complexity of Philo’s concept of the Logos, delineates all of the following as elements in Philo’s concept of the Logos:

  • the utterance of God
  • the divine mind
  • God’s transcendent power
  • First-born son of God
  • the bond that holds together all the parts of the world
  • immanent reason
  • immanent mediator of the physical universe
  • the angel of the Lord, revealer of God
  • multi-named archetype
  • soul nourishing manna in wisdom
  • intermediary power
  • “God”[ix]

People familiar with Christian theology will recognize the similarity of Philo’s concept of the Logos as seen in the above list to modern Christian theological definitions of the “word of God”.  But there is a distinct difference between Philo and modern Trinitarian Christianity in that, Philo presents the Logos as subordinate to the supreme God.  This Logos, while existing before all else in creation is still generated and is thus a “first born”, an eldest son.[x]  When talking about God’s use of the word “we” Philo doesn’t argue that this or any other part of the doctrine of the Logos are arguments for the deity of the Messiah, or have elements of a triune God.  Rather he is more closely aligned with the stoic philosophy of the Logos as a divine framework of energized reasoning that is an intermediary between God and men.

[i] THE WORKS OF PHILO, Complete And Unabridged, New Updated Version, Translated by C.D. Yonge, Forward by David M Scholer, Hendrickson Publishers, 2006, p . 4 (On The Creation(17))
[ii] ibid, p. 708 (On The Eternity Of The World (8-16))
[iii] ibid
[iv] ibid
[v] ibid, p . 4 (On The Creation(24-25))
[vi] ibid, p. 120 (The Worse Attacks The Better (75-76))
[vii] ibid, p.102 (The Sacrifices of Cain and Abel (65))
[viii] ibid, p.287 (Who is the Heir of Divine Things(140))
[ix] Philo of Alexandria (c.20 BCE—40 CE), Marian Hillar, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophyhttp://www.iep.utm.edu/philo/
[ix] THE WORKS OF PHILO, p . 240 (On the Confusion of Tongues(23))

© copyright 2010 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

January 29th, 2011 Posted by | Philosophy | no comments

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria was a Jew that lived from about 20 BC to 50 A.D. As such he lived at the same time both as Jesus Christ, and Paul the apostle.

Philo is a source of information about Hellenistic Judaism.  (That is not to say that he is especially well regarded among the Jews. I recently had the opportunity to speak with a Rabbi about some of these matters. This Rabbi had never heard about Philo, and proceeded to refer me to Maimonides, or Moses Ben Maimon, considered by some to be the greatest Jewish  philosopher of the medieval period.  The Rabbi I was talking to credited Maimonides with introducing the Western world to the ideas of Hellenistic Judaism.  In fairness Philo is not well-known to Christians either. There are only a couple of translations of his work.  Josephus is a much more well known writer of the period.)

Philo is considered a significant source for studying Hellenistic philosophy because of his participation in middle Platonism and other Hellenistic philosophical traditions. He is also significant for insight into first century Hellenistic Judaism, and for insights into the early church and writings of the New Testament. [i]

Philo was “spoken of by Josephus is one of the most eminent of his contemporary countrymen and as the principle of the embassy which was sent to Caligula to solicit him to recall the command which it issued for the erection of this statue in the Temple at Jerusalem. The embassy was unsuccessful, though the death of the Emperor saved the sacred edifice from the meditated profanation; but we see that Philo suffered no diminution of his credit from its unsuccessful result, since, at a subsequent period, his nephew, Tiberius Alexander, married Berenice, the daughter of King Agrippa.”[ii]

Some say Philo was the first of the Neo-Platonists, the attempt to reconcile the doctrines of the Greek philosophies with the revelations contained in sacred Scriptures. In the process he introduced to Platonism eastern traditions. [iii]

Alexandria at the time of Philo was a huge center of learning, and half of its population (estimated at 1 million people) was Jewish. The library at Alexandria is historically famous. It is accepted that when these Jews recognized similar wisdom in many of the sayings of the philosophers that they tried to reconcile the wisdom of the philosophers to that of the Scriptures.

The impact of the observance of the Hellenization of Judaism to a study of original Christianity is that shows how prominent philosophy was in the Jewish World at large at the time this small Jewish sect called Christianity was forming.  Just as these Jewish Christians were influenced by their Jewish background, part of this Jewish background is Hellenized Judaism where philosophy is highly esteemed, and the integration of philosophy and matters of faith is a widespread subject of investigation.

Philo the Philosopher and Platonist

Philo’s writing is focused on philosophy and its integration with the books of the Bible.  From the beginning of his writing (starting with his work “On The Creation”), Philo’s exposition of everything in the Bible focuses on the Bible as the supreme philosophy, and he even names Moses as the very highest philosopher:

But Moses, who had early reached the very summits of philosophy…[iv]

Plato is openly revered in Philo’s works:

“And since, as that sweetest of all writers, Plato, says…”[v]

Philo credits Moses with being the predecessor to the Greek philosophers.  Here Heraclitus is named:

“Is not this the thing which the Greeks say that Heraclitus, that great philosopher who is so celebrated among them, put forth as the leading principle of his whole philosophy, and boasted of it as if it were a new discovery?  for it is in reality an ancient discovery of Moses, that out of the same thing opposite things are produced having the ratio of parts to the whole,  as  has here  been shown.” [vi]

Philo was not the first to make these claims:

“He was no innovator in this matter because already before him Jewish scholars attempted the same. Artapanus in the second century B.C.E identified Moses with Musaeus and with Orpheus. According to Aristobulus of Paneas (first half of the second century B.C.E.), Homer and Hesiod drew from the books of Moses which were translated into Greek long before the Septuagint.”[vii]

Here in the writing of Philo and his contemporaries we have a perspective that spiritualizes philosophy contrary to the perceived attitude of Paul in writing disparagingly of Philosophy, talked about in the article Paul Wrote About the Lure and Futility of Philosophy. Whereas in that article the philosophies of the world are placed at odds with the wisdom of the faith, it is important to recognize that there was a large contingent of Jews that promoted concepts such as Moses was the greatest philosopher, Moses was the teacher and inspiration of the Greek Philosophies, and there is a way to reconcile the philosophy of the Greeks with the wisdom of the Scriptures.

Philo the Historian

While Philo is writing more as a philosopher than a historian, his writings do provide a source for historical facts.   For example in The Special Laws, III, Philo discusses the norms of marriage and sexuality in the world at the time.   Of course his purpose is to show that Moses as the supreme philosopher provides a better philosophy in the law regarding these areas than the leaders in the other countries around Israel.  But the side effect is that we learn what some of the practices were in these other countries.

For example:

“for the magistrates of the Persians marry even their own mothers, and consider the offspring of such marriages the most noble of all men, and as it is said, they think them worthy of the highest sovereign authority.”[viii]

Philo goes on to elucidate some of the problems with this marital philosophy. With this marital structure a man can be both the son and the husband of the same woman. The children of this marriage produce brothers to the fathers, and grandchildren to the mothers.  What is so fantastic about it is that as the above quote declares these children are considered “the most noble “.

Philo continues to go on about places where men are permitted to marry their sisters by one parent, but not the other. Notably the Athenian lawgiver, Solon, was famous for enacting one of these laws.  And Philo writes at length about how the philosophy of some cultures promotes the sexual love of boys.   Interestingly, he calls that pleasure one which is “contrary to nature.”[ix]

Of course, we are presented with these facts to show their inadequacy against what Philo presents as the superior philosophy of Moses regarding these matters.  Nevertheless records like this give us valuable insight into the practices at the time that Christianity was forming.

This article demonstrates how Philo esteems philosophy and integrates the spirituality of the Old Testament with Greek philosophy. Of particular interest to our study is Philo’s handling of the Logos which we will examine in the next article.

[i] THE WORKS OF PHILO, Complete And Unabridged, New Updated Version, Translated by C.D. Yonge, Forward by David M Scholer, Hendrickson Publishers, 2006, p . xix (Preface to the Original Edition)
[ii] ibid.
[iii] ibid.
[iv] ibid, p.3 (On the Creation, (8))
[v] ibid, p.683 (Every Good Man Is Free, (13))
[vi] ibid, p. 294, (Who Is The Heir Of Divine Things,(214))
[vii] Philo of Alexandria (c.20 BCE—40 CE), Marian Hillar, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,  http://www.iep.utm.edu/philo/
[viii] THE WORKS OF PHILO, p. 595, (The Special Laws, III(12))
[ix] ibid, p. 598, (The Special Laws, III(39))

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

January 13th, 2011 Posted by | Philosophy | no comments

Logos is a Commonly Used Word in the Old Testament

As seen in previous articles (Stoicism, Why We Must Learn A Little Philosophy In Order To Understand How Christianity Has Developed) the Greek term “Logos” was a term that was used by different philosophies and religions to describe God and how God worked.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but as we have seen in a previous article (I.1.2 Clement of Rome’s Canon of Scripture), early Christian writers referred to the Septuagint version of the Old Testament in their writings. This, along with the fact that our early manuscripts of the New Testament writings are primarily in Greek, shows the prominence of the Greek language in the culture of early Christians.

The Septuagint (also referred to as LXX) was a Greek translation of the Old Testament done in the centuries before Christ. So while the original Old Testament is in Hebrew, we have a good opportunity to look for this word “logos” in Old Testament writings by examining the Septuagint.

In examining the Septuagint we find that the Greek word “logos” was a commonly used word, used hundreds of times, and was translated from the Hebrew “davar”.  It is often translated “word” in our English versions:

And Jehovah said unto Moses, Is Jehovah’s hand waxed short? now shalt thou see whether my word (logos) shall come to pass unto thee or not.  (Numbers 11:23)

then shalt thou inquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth (logos), and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in the midst of thee, (Deuteronomy 13:14)

And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel; And he said unto them, Set your heart unto all the words (logous) which I testify unto you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, even all the words of this law. For it is no vain thing (logos) for you; because it is your life, and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it. (Deuteronomy 32:45-47)

In the English therefore we have translations of logos as “word”, “truth” and even “thing”,  but the meaning of Logos can be seen in these verses as one of rational thought, design, purpose, and planning.

Deuteronomy 32:45-47 especially has dramatic overtones concerning how the word “logos” is used.  Moses has just finished giving the law. The translators use the word logos when referring to the law, both in verses 45 and 47. Verse 47 gives supernatural power to these words; the verse says that the logos is life, and will prolong their days, thus it has power. These themes are echoed throughout the Old Testament.

I have heard some people claim that this Greek word “logos” found its way into Jewish and Christian culture from Greek philosophy.  I say that the reverse is more probable, that the supernatural meanings and implications of the Greek word “logos” into Greek philosophy came from Jewish writings because of verses like Deuteronomy 32:45-47.  There are elements of Jewish usage of “logos” in Platonist, Stoic and other philosophies.  When you look at the context of this word “logos” in Old Testament Scriptures, it is plain that it has connotations much further than these simple definitions of word, reason, or even purpose. The way that it is used in Scripture denotes God’s activities and actions similar to the philosophical definitions that some of the Greek schools of philosophy were proposing.

Here is a list of uages of “logos”  in the Septuagint (Remember Septuagint references may be different in some cases from ASV, KJV, NIV and other modern translations. This list was generated using the E-Sword program, see See How to Use the E-Sword Program to Search the Septuagint. Also remember “logos” just the nominative singular form of the word, you will need to look at the rest of the declension to see more forms of the word.):

(Numbers 11:23)
(Deuteronomy 13:14)  (13:15)
(Deuteronomy 22:20)
(Deuteronomy 32:47)
(Joshua 23:14)
(Judges 13:12)
(Judges 18:28)
(1 Samuel 18:26)
(1 Samuel 20:21)
(2 Samuel 1:4)
(2 Samuel 14:13)
(2 Samuel 14:17)
(2 Samuel 17:4)
(2 Samuel 18:13)
(2 Samuel 19:11)  (19:12)
(2 Samuel 19:43)  (19:44)
(2 Samuel 20:21)
(2 Samuel 23:2)
(2 Samuel 24:4)
(2 Samuel 24:11)
(1 Kings 2:14)
(1 Kings 8:56)
(1 Kings 10:3)
(1 Kings 10:6)
(1 Kings 12:22)
(1 Kings 12:24)
(1 Kings 12:30)
(1 Kings 13:20)
(1 Kings 16:1)
(2 Kings 4:13)
(2 Kings 11:5)
(2 Kings 15:12)
(2 Kings 19:21)
(2 Kings 20:13)
(2 Kings 20:19)
(1 Chronicles 13:4)
(1 Chronicles 17:3)
(1 Chronicles 17:23)
(1 Chronicles 21:6)
(1 Chronicles 22:8)
(2 Chronicles 9:2)
(2 Chronicles 9:5)
(2 Chronicles 11:2)
(2 Chronicles 12:7)
(2 Chronicles 23:4)
(2 Chronicles 29:36)
(2 Chronicles 30:4)
(Ezra 7:12)
(Nehemiah 5:9)
(Nehemiah 6:12)
(Nehemiah 13:17)
(Esther 1:21)
(Esther 2:22)
(Esther 6:10)
(Esther 10:3)
(Psalms 33:4)  (32:4)
(Psalms 119:89)  (118:89)
(Psalms 119:105)  (118:105)
(Psalms 139:4)  (138:4)
(Psalms 147:15)  (147:4)
(Proverbs 4:4)
(Proverbs 12:25)
(Proverbs 15:1)
(Proverbs 18:4)
(Proverbs 25:12)
(Isaiah 2:1)
(Isaiah 2:3)
(Isaiah 31:2)
(Isaiah 37:22)
(Isaiah 38:4)
(Isaiah 39:8)
(Jeremiah 1:2)
(Jeremiah 1:4)
(Jeremiah 1:11)
(Jeremiah 1:13)
(Jeremiah 5:13)
(Jeremiah 9:12)  (9:11)
(Jeremiah 11:1)
(Jeremiah 13:3)
(Jeremiah 13:8)
(Jeremiah 14:1)
(Jeremiah 15:16)
(Jeremiah 17:15)
(Jeremiah 18:1)
(Jeremiah 18:5)
(Jeremiah 18:18)  —
(Jeremiah 20:8)
(Jeremiah 21:1)
(Jeremiah 23:28)
(Jeremiah 23:36)

(Jeremiah 24:4)

(Jeremiah 25:1)
(Jeremiah 26:1)  (33:1)
(Jeremiah 27:18)  (34:18)
(Jeremiah 28:12)  (35:12)
(Jeremiah 29:30)  (36:30)
(Jeremiah 30:1)  (37:1)
(Jeremiah 32:1)  (39:1)
(Jeremiah 32:6)  (39:6)
(Jeremiah 32:8)  (39:8)
(Jeremiah 32:26)  (39:26)
(Jeremiah 33:1)  (40:1)
(Jeremiah 34:1)  (41:1)
(Jeremiah 34:8)  (41:8)
(Jeremiah 34:12)  (41:12)
(Jeremiah 35:1)  (42:1)
(Jeremiah 35:12)  (42:12)
(Jeremiah 36:1)  (43:1)
(Jeremiah 36:27)  (43:27)
(Jeremiah 37:6)  (44:6)
(Jeremiah 37:17)  (44:17)
(Jeremiah 38:21)  (45:21)
(Jeremiah 38:27)  (45:27)
(Jeremiah 39:15)  (46:15)
(Jeremiah 40:1)  (47:1)
(Jeremiah 42:4)  (49:4)
(Jeremiah 42:7)  (49:7)
(Jeremiah 43:8)  (50:8)
(Jeremiah 44:1)  (51:1)
(Jeremiah 44:16)  (51:16)
(Jeremiah 44:28)  (51:28)
(Jeremiah 45:1)  (51:31)
(Jeremiah 49:34)  (25:20)
(Jeremiah 51:59)  (28:59)
(Ezekiel 1:3)
(Ezekiel 3:16)
(Ezekiel 6:1)
(Ezekiel 7:1)
(Ezekiel 11:14)
(Ezekiel 12:1)
(Ezekiel 12:8)
(Ezekiel 12:17)
(Ezekiel 12:21)
(Ezekiel 12:23)
(Ezekiel 12:26)
(Ezekiel 13:1)
(Ezekiel 14:2)
(Ezekiel 14:12)
(Ezekiel 15:1)
(Ezekiel 16:1)
(Ezekiel 17:1)
(Ezekiel 17:11)
(Ezekiel 18:1)
(Ezekiel 20:2)
(Ezekiel 20:45)  (21:1)
(Ezekiel 21:1)  (21:6)
(Ezekiel 21:8)  (21:13)
(Ezekiel 21:18)  (21:23)
(Ezekiel 22:1)
(Ezekiel 22:17)
(Ezekiel 22:23)
(Ezekiel 23:1)
(Ezekiel 24:1)
(Ezekiel 24:15)
(Ezekiel 25:1)
(Ezekiel 26:1)
(Ezekiel 27:1)
(Ezekiel 28:1)
(Ezekiel 28:11)
(Ezekiel 28:20)
(Ezekiel 29:1)
(Ezekiel 29:17)
(Ezekiel 30:1)
(Ezekiel 30:20)
(Ezekiel 31:1)
(Ezekiel 32:1)
(Ezekiel 32:17)
(Ezekiel 33:1)
(Ezekiel 33:23)
(Ezekiel 34:1)
(Ezekiel 35:1)
(Ezekiel 36:16)
(Ezekiel 37:15)
(Ezekiel 38:1)
(Daniel 2:5)
(Daniel 2:11)
(Daniel 4:17)  (4:14)
(Daniel 4:33)  (4:30)
(Daniel 6:12)  (6:13)
(Daniel 9:2)
(Daniel 9:23)
(Daniel 10:1)
(Daniel 12:13)
(13:1)
(13:2)
(13:3)
(13:4)
(13:5)
(13:6)
(13:7)
(13:8)
(13:9)
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(13:11)
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(13:14)
(13:15)
(13:16)
(13:17)
(13:18)
(13:19)
(13:20)
(13:21)
(13:22)
(13:23)
(13:24)
(13:25)
(13:26)
(13:27)
(13:28)
(13:29)
(13:30)
(13:31)
(13:32)
(13:33)
(13:34)
(13:35)
(13:36)
(13:37)
(13:38)
(13:39)
(13:40)
(13:41)
(13:42)
(13:43)
(13:44)
(13:45)
(13:46)
(13:47)
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(13:49)
(13:50)
(13:51)
(13:52)
(13:53)
(13:54) .
(13:55)
(13:56)
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(13:59)
(13:60)
(13:61)
(13:62)
(13:63)
(13:64)
(14:1)
(14:2)
(14:3)
(14:4)
(14:5)
(14:6)
(14:7)
(14:8)
(14:9)
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(14:11)
(14:12)
(14:13)
(14:14)
(14:15)
(14:16)
(14:17)
(14:18)
(14:19)
(14:20)
(14:21)
(14:22)
(14:23)
(14:24)
(14:25)
(14:26)
(14:27)
(14:28)
(14:29)
(14:30)
(14:31)
(14:32)
(14:33)
(14:34)
(14:35)
(14:36)
(14:37)
(14:38)
(14:39)
(14:40)
(14:41)
(14:42)
(Jonah 1:1)
(Jonah 3:1)
(Jonah 3:6)
(Micah 1:1)
(Micah 4:2)
(Habakkuk 3:5)
(Zephaniah 2:5)
(Haggai 1:1)
(Haggai 1:3)
(Haggai 2:10)
(Haggai 2:20)
(Zechariah 1:1)
(Zechariah 1:7)
(Zechariah 4:6)
(Zechariah 4:8)
(Zechariah 6:9)
(Zechariah 7:1)
(Zechariah 7:4)
(Zechariah 7:8)
(Zechariah 8:1)
(Zechariah 8:18)
(Zechariah 11:11)

January 6th, 2011 Posted by | Philosophy | no comments

Other Greek Philosophies of Note in Ancient Times: Skepticism and Cynicism

In our short study of ancient Greek philosophy we have looked at some of the pre-Socratic’s emphasis on the physis. Then we looked at Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. In the last couple of articles we have discussed some of the philosophies with religious elements like Pythagoreanism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism.  But it is important to note that philosophy was more diverse than just the philosophies that we have looked at so far.

Branches of philosophy remind me of denominations in Christianity. Just like there are countless variations and combinations of tenets in Christian sects,  philosophy seems to have branched in a similar manner. A couple of other classical philosophies that had impact in ancient Greek culture and around the time of Christ were Skepticism and Cynicism.

The word “skeptic” comes from the Greek noun, skepsis, which means examination or inquiry. Obviously, this is different from the modern definition of “skepticism” which means doubt or disbelief. However it is easy to see how this definition changed from inquiry to doubt, because the eventual result for most skeptics is to be at a loss for what to believe because there are simply so many competing arguments, and no agreement on what is true.

It is also easy to see how this happens just by looking at what we have seen in our brief study of philosophy so far. For example, Thales said that the physis was water, and therefore that the earth rests on water. Anaximander rejected that and said that the earth was a flat cylinder at the center of the universe and was surrounded by revolving hoops of fire in what he called the “boundless” which generated the earth, air, fire, and so forth. Anaximander was rejected later when Democritus came up with the theory that the universe’s was really a vacuum, and the heavenly bodies were really comprised of these atoms that had congregated together some way, and were flowing in unison together through the boundless vacuum of space. However, while Democritus was much closer to what we believe today, his atomic theory included things like the soul being comprised of atoms also, which was later refuted by more recent philosophers.

When we read each philosopher we do not see uniform agreement with his predecessors, rather we see each philosopher challenging at least some of the precepts of his predecessors, and coming out with “new and better” ideas. This process was recognized early in the growth of Philosophy, and has continued throughout.  The end result of these changing perspectives was that some philosophers began to recognize that there were limitations as to what they could know, and therefore began to teach that the wisest course of action was to not make conclusions at all.[i] Thus a premise of Skepticism became that one simply cannot know the truth.

Obviously, skeptics believe that you cannot refuse to make all conclusions whatsoever because making judgments and decisions is absolutely necessary in the everyday course of affairs.  But when it comes to the grander scale of life on subjects such as the nature of the universe and the soul, it is impossible to know the truth.

There are two schools of Skepticism of note in Ancient Philosophy, Pyrrhonian and Academic.   The differences in content are hard to identify.  Pyrrho, 360-270 BC, is credited with starting the philosophy, but wrote nothing. Academic philosophy traces to the period of Plato’s Academy, probably when Arcesilaus took charge of the Academy around 272 BC.

What is known about Pyrrho is written by later writers. The following is attributed to Aristocles, a 2nd Century philosopher:

“Pyrrho declared that [1] things are equally indifferent, unmeasurable and inarbitrable. For this reason [2] neither our sensations nor our opinions tell us truths or falsehoods. Therefore, for this reason we should not put our trust in them one bit, but we should be unopinionated, uncommitted and unwavering, saying concerning each individual thing that it no more is than is not, or it both is and is not, or it neither is nor is not. [3] The outcome for those who actually adopt this attitude, says Timon, will be first speechlessness, and then freedom from disturbance . . .”[ii]

Skepticism Vs Belief

Skepticism epitomizes the gulf between philosophy and believing God.  Foundational to skepticism is that you cannot know the truth.  Foundational to being a believer is seeking and finding the truth:

Teach me thy way, O Jehovah; I will walk in thy truth: Unite my heart to fear thy name. (Psalms 86:11)

Skepticism was prominent from about the third century BC forward, and was certainly a force at work when original Christianity appeared.

Cynicism

Cynicism as a philosophy is said to have been started by Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates. According to its some, Cynicism is a not as much a school as it is a way of life. The cynic steers clear of man made institutions and seeks to live in accordance with nature.

“Nature offers the clearest indication of how to live the good life, which is characterized by reason, self-sufficiency, and freedom. Social conventions, however, can hinder the good life by compromising freedom and setting up a code of conduct that is opposed to nature and reason. Conventions are not inherently bad; however, for the Cynic, conventions are often absurd and worthy of ridicule. The Cynics deride the attention paid to the Olympics, the “big thieves” who run the temples and are seen carrying away the “little thieves” who steal from them, politicians as well as the philosophers who attend their courts, fashion, and prayers for such things as fame and fortune.

Only once one has freed oneself from the strictures that impede an ethical life can one be said to be truly free. As such, the Cynics advocate askesis, or practice, over theory as the means to free oneself from convention, promote self-sufficiency, and live in accord with nature. Such askesis leads the Cynic to live in poverty, embrace hardship and toil, and permits the Cynic to speak freely about the silly, and often vicious, way life is lived by his or her contemporaries. The Cynics consistently undermine the most hallowed principles of Athenian culture, but they do so for the sake of replacing them with those in accord with reason, nature, and virtue. “[iii]

Christianity is sometimes said to have adopted practices of the cynics in:

  • speaking out against authority,
  • living an ascetic lifestyle, and
  • the gospels of Matthew and Luke are said to have similar teachings to the Cynics

[i] The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource, page located at http://www.iep.utm.edu/skepanci/
[ii] ibid, http://www.iep.utm.edu/skepanci/#H1
[iii] ibid, http://www.iep.utm.edu/cynics/

January 5th, 2011 Posted by | Philosophy | no comments