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Numenius (2)

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(Νουμήνιος ) OF APAMEA, in Syria, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second half of the 2d century A.D., was one of the first philosophers who attempted to reconcile the Greek schools with the Oriental doctrines, a conciliation previously undertaken by Philo, and later by Plotinus. The personal history of Numenius is unknown, but it appears that he acquired a great reputation, and we often find him quoted with Cronius by the Neoplatonic philosophers as one of the chiefs of the new school. Nothing precise is known as to the opinions of Cronius; those of Numenius are better known. Numerous fragments of his works, quoted by Origen, Theodoret, and Eusebius, show the essential features of his philosophy. He professed much respect for the Oriental religions and doctrines. including Judaism and Christianity. "I know," says Origen, "that the Pythagorean Numenius, who has explained Plato, and who was so well versed in the philosophy of Pythagoras, quotes in many places of his works passages from Moses and the prophets, and he skillfully discovers the hidden meaning. He has done this in his work entitled Epops, in his book upon Numbers, and in his treatise upon Space. Much more, in his third book Of the Supreme Good' he quotes a fragment from the history of Jesus Christ, of which he seeks the hidden interpretation." In his eclecticism, more fervent than enlightened, Numenius endeavored to bring back Plato, whom he calls an Attic Moses, to Pythagoras, and Pythagoras himself to the wise men of the East, so that the Platonico-Pythagorean philosophy, the true Greek philosophy, restored to its original purity, and freed from the interpolations of Aristotle and the Stoics, is identical with the dogmas and mysteries of the Brahmin, the Jews, Magi, and Egyptians. He sustained this proposition in a treatise entitled Περὶ τῶν Πλάτωνος ἀποῤῥήτων, and in Περὶ τῆς τῶν Ἀκαδημαϊκῶν πρὸς Πλάτωνα διαστάσεως .

Many fragments remain of this treatise, which give a poor idea of it. An erudition without criticism is found in it, many stories, and no discussions at all truly philosophic. His treatise Περὶ τἀγαθοῦ is better. He endeavored to demonstrate in it, in opposition to the Stoics, that life can neither issue from the elements, which are in a perpetual state-of change and transition, nor from matter, which is movable, inanimate, and which is not in itself an object of intelligence; on the contrary, life, in order to be capable of resisting the principle of death which is in matter, must be incorporeal and immutable, eternally present, independent of time, simple, and unable to experience modifications, either by its own will or by the will of other beings. Life is, then, a spiritual principle (νοῦς ) identical with the first God,; who exists in himself and through himself, and who is the sovereign good (τὸ ἀγαθόν). But as this absolute and immutable principle cannot be active and creative, it is necessary to admit a second God ( δεύτερος θεός, δημιουργικὸς θεός ) proceeding from the first, who, as bond and author of matter, communicates his energy to the intellectual essences, and infuses his spirit through all creatures.

This second God contemplates the first (μερουσια τοῦ πρώτου ), and it is upon the ideas that he sees in the sovereign good that he arranges the world. The first God communicates his ideas to the second, without depriving himself of them, the same as we communicate our knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) to another without losing anything. We see that Numenius attributes to his second God a double duty: first, to contemplate the ideal; secondly, to arrange the world upon this ideal. This duality of functions led the philosopher to double his second God, and he thus obtained a Trinity. The connections between these two Gods, which are at the same time two and one, are not clearly established in the fragments which remain to us of Numenius. As for his theories upon the soul, they are still more uncertain; but the little that we know of them shows that in his psychology, as in his metaphysics, Numenius confounded the theories of Plato with the Oriental theories, accorded very little place to scientific investigation, and delivered himself too much to his own imagination. See Suidas, s.v. ᾿Ωριγένης, Νουμήνιος ; Porphyry, Vita Plotini; Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica; Origen, Adv. Celsum; Ritter, Gesch. der altenz Philos. 4:427, etc.; Kingsley, Philos. of Alexandria, p. 94 sq.; Simon, Hist. de Ecole d'Alexandrie; Vacherot, Hist. de l'Ecole d'Alexaindrie; Dictionnaire des Sciences Philosophiquees; Ueberweg, Hist. Philos. 1:234, 237 sq.; Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Numenius (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​n/numenius-2.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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