Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 30th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Attention!
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias
Philosophy, Greek

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Search for…
or
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
Prev Entry
Philosophy, Chaldean
Next Entry
Philosophy, Hebrew
Resource Toolbox

It is not in accordance with the scope of this Cyclopcedia to give a full account of the various philosophical systems of the ancient Greeks, These are sufficiently discussed under the names of their respective founders. Our purpose here is only to give so much as will serve to show their relations to Christianity. In doing this, as well as in the following article on Hebrew Philosophy, we combine the Scriptural statements with the results of modern investigations.

I. The Development of Greek Philosophy. The complete fitness of Greek philosophy to perform a propaedeutic office for Christianity, as an exhaustive effort of reason to solve the great problems of being, must be apparent after a detailed study of its progress and consummation; and even the simplest outline of its history cannot fail to preserve the leading traits of the natural (or even necessary) law by which its development was governed.

The various attempts which have been made to derive Western philosophy from Eastern sources have signally failed. The external evidence in favor of this opinion is wholly insufficient to establish it (Bitter, Gesch. d. Phil. 1:159, etc.; Thirlwall, Hist. of Gr. 2:130; Zeller, Gesch. d. Phil. d. Griechen, 1:18-34; Max Muller, On Language, 84 note), and on internal grounds it is most improbable. It is true that in some degree the character of Greek speculation may have been influenced, at least in its earliest stages, by religious ideas which were originally introduced from the East; but this indirect influence does not affect the real originality of the great Greek teachers. The spirit of pure philosophy, distinct from theology, is wholly alien from Eastern thought; and it was comparatively late when even a Greek ventured to separate philosophy from religion. But in Greece the separation, when it was once effected, remained essentially complete. The opinions of the ancient philosophers might or might not be outwardly reconcilable with the popular faith; but philosophy and faith were independent. The very value of Greek teaching lies in the fact that it was, as far as is possible, a result of simple reason, or, if faith asserts its prerogative, the distinction is sharply marked. In this we have a record of the power and weakness of the human mind written at once on the grandest scale and in the fairest characters.

Of the various classifications of the Greek schools which have been proposed, the simplest and truest seems to be that which divides the history of philosophy into three great periods, the first reaching to the aera of the Sophists, the next to the death of Aristotle, the third to the Christian aera. In the first period the world objectively is the great centre of inquiry; in the second. the "ideas" of things, truth, and being; in the third, the chief interest of philosophy falls back upon the practical conduct of life. Successive systems overlap each other, both in time and subjects of speculation, but broadly the sequence which has been indicated will hold good (Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen, 1:111, etc.). After the Christian iera philosophy ceased to have any true vitality in Greece, but it made fresh efforts to meet the changed conditions of life at Alexandria and Rome. At Alexandria Platonism was vivified by the spirit of Oriental mysticism, and afterwards of Christianity; at Rome Stoicism was united with the vigorous virtues of active life. Each of these great divisions must be passed in rapid review.

1. The pre-Socratic Schools. The first Greek philosophy was little more than an attempt to follow out in thought the mythic cosmogonies of earlier poets. Gradually the depth and variety of the problems included in the idea of a cosmogony became apparent, and, after each clew had been followed out, the period ended in the negative teaching of the Sophists. The questions of creation, of the immediate relation of mind and matter, were pronounced in fact, if not in word, insoluble, and speculation was turned into a new direction. What is the one permanent element which underlies the changing forms of things? this was the primary inquiry to which the Ionic school endeavored to find an answer. Thales (B.C. cir. 625-610), following, as it seems, the genealogy of Hesiod, pointed to moisture (water) as the one source and supporter of life. Anaximenes (B.C. cir. 520- 480) substituted air for water, as the more subtle and all-pervading element; but equally with Thales he neglected all consideration of the force which might be supposed to modify the one primal substance. At a much later date (B.C. cir. 450) Diogenes of Apollonia, to meet this difficulty, represented this elementary "air" as endowed with intelligence (νόησις ), but even he makes no distinction between the material and the intelligent. The atomic theory of Democritus (B.C. cir. 460-357), which stands in close connection with this form of Ionic teaching, offered another and more plausible solution. The motion of his atoms included the action of force, but he wholly omitted to account for its source. Meanwhile another mode of speculation had arisen in the same school. In place of one definite element, Anaximander (B.C. 610-547) suggested the unlimited (τὸ ἄπειρον) as the adequate origin of all special existences. Somewhat more than a century later Anaxagoras summed up the result of such a line of speculation: "All things were together; then mind (νοῦς) came and disposed them in order" (Diog. Laert. 2:6). Thus we are left face to face with an ultimate dualism.

The Eleatic school started from an opposite point of view. Thales saw moisture present in material things, and pronounced this to be their fundamental principle; Xenophanes (B.C. cir. 550-530) "looked up to the whole heaven, and said that the One is God" (Arist. Met. 1:5, τὸ ž ν ειναί φησι τὸν θεόν ). "Thales saw gods in all things; Xenophanes saw all things in God" (Thirlwall, Hist. of Gr. 2:136). That which is, according to Xenophanes, must be one, eternal, infinite, immovable, unchangeable. Parmenides of Elea (B.C. 500) substituted abstract "being" for "God" in the system of Xenophanes, and distinguished with precision the functions of sense and reason. Sense teaches us of" the many," the false (phenomena); Reason of "the one," the true (the absolute). Zeno of Elea (B.C. cir. 450) developed with logical ingenuity the contradictions involved in our perceptions of things (in the idea of motion, for instance), and thus formally prepared the way for scepticism. If the One alone is, the phenomenal world is an illusion. The sublime aspiration of Xenophanes, when followed out legitimately to its consequences, ended in blank negation. The teaching of Heraclitus (B.C. 500) offers a complete contrast to that of the Eleatics, and stands far in advance of the earlier Ionic school, with which he is historically connected. So far from contrasting the existent and the phenomenal, he boldly identified being with change. "There ever was, and is, and shall be, an ever-living fire, unceasingly kindled and extinguished in due measure" (ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα, Clem. Alex. Strom. 5:14, § 105). Rest and continuance is death. That which is is the instantaneous balance of contending powers (Diog. Laert. 9:7 διὰ τῆς ἐναντιοτροπῆς ἡρμόσθαι τὰ ὄντα). Creation is the play of the Creator. Everywhere, as far as his opinions can be grasped, Heraclitus makes noble "guesses at truth;" yet he leaves "fate" (εἱμαρμένη ) as the supreme creator (Stob. Ecclesiastes 1, page 59, ap. Ritter and Preller, § 42). The cycles of life and death run on by its law. It may have been by a natural reaction that from these wider speculations he turned his thoughts inwards. "I investigated myself," he says, with conscious pride (Plutarch, adv. Col. 1118, c); and in this respect he foreshadows the teaching of Socrates, as Zeno did that of the Sophists.

The philosophy of Pythagoras (B.C. cir. 540-510) is subordinate in interest to his social and political theories, though it supplies a link in the course of speculation: others had labored to trace a unitv in the world in the presence of one underlying element or in the idea of a whole; he sought to combine the separate harmony of parts with total unity. Numerical unity includes the finite and the infinite; and in the relations of number there is a perfect symmetry, as all spring out of the fundamental unit. Thus numbers seemed to Pythagoras to be not only "patterns" of things (τῶν ὄντων ), but causes of their being (τῆς οὐσίας). How he connected numbers with concrete being it is impossible to determine; but it may not be wholly fanciful to see in the doctrine of the transmigration of souls an attempt to trace in the successive forms of life an outward expression of a harmonious law in the moral as well as in the physical world. (The remains of the pre-Socratic philosophers have been collected in a very convenient form by F. Mullach in Didot's Biblioth. Gr. Paris, 1860.)

The first cycle of philosophy was thus completed. All the great primary problems of thought had been stated, and typical answers rendered. The relation of spirit and matter was still unsolved. Speculation issued in dualism (Anaxagoras), materialism (Democritus), or pantheism (Xenophanes). On one side reason was made the sole criterion of truth (Parmenides); on the other, experience (Heraclitus). As yet there was no rest, and the Sophists prepared the way for a new method. Whatever may be the moral estimate which is formed'of the Sophists, there can be little doubt as to the importance of their teaching as preparatory to that of Socrates. All attempts to arrive at certainty by a study of the world had failed: might it not seem, then, that truth is subjective? "Man is the measure of all things." Sensations are modified by the individual; and may not this hold good universally? The conclusion was applied to morals and politics with fearless skill. The belief in absolute truth and right was wellnigh banished; but meanwhile the Sophists were perfecting the instrument which was to be turned against them. Language, in their hands, acquired a precision unknown before, when words assumed the place of things. Plato might ridicule the pedantry of Protagoras, but Socrates reaped a rich harvest from it.

2. The Socratic Schools. In the second period of Greek philosophy the scene and subject were both changed. Athens became the centre of speculations which had hitherto chiefly found a home among the more mixed populations of the colonies. At the same time inquiry was turned from the outward world to the inward, from theories of the origin and relation of things to theories of our knowledge of them. A philosophy of ideas, using the term.in its widest sense, succeeded a philosophy of nature. In three generations Greek speculation reached its greatest glory in the teaching of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. When the sovereignty of Greece ceased, all higher philosophy ceased with it. In the hopeless turmoil of civil disturbances which followed, men's thoughts were chiefly directed to questions of personal duty.

The famous sentence in which Aristotle (Met. 13:4) characterizes the teaching of Socrates (B.C. 468-389) places his scientific position in the clearest light. There are two things, he says, which we may rightly attribute to Socrates, inductive reasoning and general definition (τούς τ᾿ ἐπακτικοὺς λόγους καὶ τὸ ὁρίζεσθαι καθόλου ). By the first he endeavored to discover the permanent element which underlies the changing forms of appearances and the varieties of opinion: by the second he fixed the truth which he had thus gained. But, besides this, Socrates rendered another service to truth. He changed not only the method, but also the subject of philosophy (Cicero, Acad. Post. 1:4). Ethics occupied in his investigations the primary place which had hitherto been held by physics. The great aim of his induction was to establish the sovereignty of virtue; and, before entering on other speculations, he determined to obey the Delphian maxim and "know himself" (Plato, Phaadr. page 229). It was a necessary consequence of a first effort in this direction that Socrates regarded all the results which he derived as like in kind. Knowledge (ἐπιστήμη ) was equally absolute and authoritative, whether it referred to the laws of intellectual operations or to questions of morality. A conclusion in geometry and a conclusion on conduct were set forth as true in the same sense. Thus vice was only another name for ignorance (Xenoph. Mem. 3:9, 4; Arist. Eth. End. 1:5). Every one was supposed to have within him a faculty absolutely leading to right action, just as the mind necessarily decides rightly as to relations of space and number, when each step in the proposition is clearly stated. Socrates practically neglected the determinative power of the will. His great glory was, however, clearly connected with this fundamental error in his system. He affirmed the existence of a universal law of right and wrong. He connected philosophy with action, both in detail and in general. On the one side he upheld the supremacy of conscience, on the other the working of Providence. Not the least fruitful characteristic of his teaching was what may be called its desultoriness. He formed no complete system. He wrote nothing. He attracted and impressed his followers by his many-sided nature. He helped others to give birth to thoughts, to use his favorite image, but he was barren himself (Plato, Thecet. page 150). As a result of this, the most conflicting opinions were maintained by some of his professed followers, who carried out isolated fragments of his teaching to extreme conclusions. Some adopted his method (Euclides, B.C. cir. 400, the Megarians), others his subject. Of the latter, one section, following out his proposition of the identity of self-command (ἐγκράτεια) with virtue, professed an utter disregard of everything material (Antisthenes, B.C. cir. 366, the Cynics), while the other (Aristippus, B.C. cir. 366, the Cyrenaics), inverting the maxim that virtue is necessarily accompanied by pleasure, took immediate pleasure as the rule of action.

These "minor Socratic schools" were, however, premature and imperfect developments. The truths which they distorted were embodied at a later time in more reasonable forms. Plato alone (B.C. 430-347), by the breadth and nobleness of his teaching, was the true successor of Socrates; with fuller detail and greater elaborateness of parts, his philosophy was as many- sided as that of his master. Thus it is impossible to construct a consistent Platonic system, though many Platonic doctrines are sufficiently marked. Plato, indeed, possessed two commanding powers, which, though apparently incompatible, are in the highest sense complementary: a matchless destructive dialectic, and a creative imagination. By the first he refuted the great fallacies of the Sophists on the uncertainty of knowledge and right, carrying out in this the attacks of Socrates; by the other he endeavored to bridge over the interval between appearance and reality, and gain an approach to the eternal. His famous doctrines of Ideas and Recollection (ἀνάμνησις ) are a solution by imagination of a logical difficulty. Socrates had shown the existence of general notions; Plato felt constrained to attribute to them a substantive existence (Arist. Met. 13:4). A glorious vision gave completeness to his view. The unembodied spirits were exhibited in immediate presence of the "ideas" of things (Phaedr. page 247); the law of their embodiment was sensibly portrayed; and the more or less vivid remembrance of supramundane realities in this life was traced to antecedent facts. All men were thus supposed to have been face to face with truth: the object of teaching was to bring back impressions latent but uneffaced.

The "myths" of Plato, to one of the most famous of which reference has just been made, play a most important part in his system. They answer in the philosopher to faith in the Christian. In dealing with immortality and judgment he leaves the way of reason, and ventures, as he says, on a rude raft to brave the dangers of the ocean (Phaedr. page 85, D; Gorg. page 523, A). The peril and the prize are noble and the hope is great" (Phaedr. page 114, C, D). Such tales, he admits, may seem puerile andl ridiculous; and if there were other surer and clearer means of gaining the desired end, the judgment would be just (Gorg. page 527, A). But, as it is. thus only can he connect the seen and the unseen. The myths, then, mark the limit of his dialectics. They are not merely a poetical picture of truth already gained, or a popular illustration of his teaching, but real efforts to penetrate beyond the depths of argument. They show that his method was not commensurate with his instinctive desires; and point out in intelligible outlines the subjects on which man looks for revelation. Such are the relations of the human mind to truth (Phaedr. page 246-49); the pre-existence and immortality of the soul (Meno, pages 81-3; Phaedr. Pages 110-12; Tim. page 41); the state of future retribution (Gorg. pages 523-25; Rep. pages 614-16); the revolutions of the world (Polit. page 269. Comp. also Synmpos. pages 189-91, 203-5; Zeller, Philos. d. Griech. pages 361-63, who gives the literature of the subject). The great difference between Plato and Aristotle (B.C. 384-322) lies in the use which Plato thus made of imagination as the exponent of instinct. The dialectics of Plato is not inferior to that of Aristotle, and Aristotle exhibits traces of poetic power not unworthy of Plato; but Aristotle never allows imagination to influence his final decision. He elaborated a perfect method, and he used it with perfect fairness. His writings contain the highest utterance of pure reason. Looking back on all the earlier efforts of philosophy, he pronounced a calm and final judgment. For him many of the conclusions which others had maintained were valueless, because he showed that they rested on feeling, and not on argument. This stern severity of logic gives an indescribable pathos to those passages in which he touches on the highest hopes of men; and perhaps there is no more truly affecting chapter in ancient literature than that in which he states in a few unimpassioned sentences the issue of his inquiry into the immortality of the soul. Part of it mav be immortal, but that part is impersonal (De An. 3:5). This was the sentence of reason, and he gives expression to it without a word of protest, and yet as one who knew the extent of the sacrifice which it involved. The conclusion is, as it were, the epitaph of free speculation. Laws of observation and argument, rules of action, principles of government remain, but there is no hope beyond the grave.

It follows necessarily that the Platonic doctrine of ideas was emphatically rejected by Aristotle, who gave, however, the final development to the original conception of Socrates. With Socrates "ideas" (general definitions) were mere abstractions; with Plato they had an absolute existence; with Aristotle they had no existence separate from things in which they were realized, though the form (μορφή ), which answers to the Platonic idea, was held to be the essence of the thing itself (comp. Zeller, Philos. d. Griech. 1:119, 120).

There is one feature common in essence to the systems of Plato and Aristotle which has not yet been noticed. In both, ethics is a part of politics. The citizen is prior to the man. In Plato this doctrine finds its most extravagant development in theory, though his life, and, in some places, his teaching, were directly opposed to it (e.g. Gorg. page 527, D). This practical inconsequence was due, it may be supposed, to the condition of Athens at the time, for the idea was in complete harmony with the national feeling; and, in fact, the absolute subordination of the individual to the body includes one of the chief lessons of the ancient world. In Aristotle the "political" character of man is defined with greater precision, and brought within narrower limits. The breaking up of the small Greek states had prepared the way for more comprehensive views of human fellowship, without destroying the fundamental truth of the necessity of social union for perfect life. But in the next generation this was lost. The wars of the succession obliterated the idea of society, and philosophy was content with aiming at individual happiness.

The coming change was indicated by the rise of a school of sceptics. The scepticism of the Sophists marked the close of the first period, and in like manner the scepticism of the Pyrrhonists marks the close of the second (Stilpo, B.C. cir. 290; Pyrrho, B.C. cir. 290). But the Pyrrhonists rendered no positive service to the cause of philosophy, as the Sophists did by the refinement of language. Their immediate influence was limited in its range, and it is only as a symptom that the rise of the school is important. But in this respect it foreshows the character of after-philosophy by denying the foundation of all higher speculations. Thus all interest was turned to questions of practical morality. Hitherto morality had been based as a science upon mental analysis, but by the Pyrrhonists it was made subservient to law and custom. Immediate experience was held to be the rule of life (comp. Ritter and Preller, § 350).

3. The post-Socratic Schools. After Aristotle, philosophy, as has already been noticed, took a new direction. The Socratic schools were, as has been shown, connected by a common pursuit of the permanent element which underlies phenomena. Socrates placed virtue in action, truth in a knowledge of the ideas of things. Plato went farther, and maintained that these ideas are alone truly existent. Aristotle, though differing in terms, yet only followed in the same direction when he attributed to form, not an independent existence, but a fashioning, vivifying power in all individual objects. But from this point speculation took a mainly personal direction. Philosophy, in the strict sense of the word, ceased to exist. This was due both to the circumstances of the time and to the exhaustion consequent on the failure of the Socratic method to solve the deep mysteries of being. Aristotle had, indeed, laid the wide foundations of an inductive system of physics, but few were inclined to continue his work. The physical theories which were brought forward were merely adaptations from earlier philosophers.

In dealing with moral questions two opposite systems are possible, and have found advocates in all ages. On the one side it may be said that the character of actions is to be judged by their results; on the other, that it is to be sought only in the actions themselves. Pleasure is the test of right in one case; an assumed or discovered law of our nature in the other. If the world were perfect and the balance of human faculties undisturbed, it is evident that both systems would give identical results. As it is, there is a tendency to error on each side, which is clearly seen in the rival schools of the Epicureans and Stoics, who practically divided the suffrages of the mass of educated men in the centuries before and after the Christian aera.

Epicurus (B.C. 352-270) defined the object of philosophy to be the attainment of a happy life. The pursuit of truth for its own sake he regarded as superfluous. He rejected dialects as a useless study, and accepted the senses, in the widest acceptation of the term, as the criterion of truth. Physics he subordinated entirely to ethics (Cicero, De Fin. 1:7). But he differed widely from the Cyrenaics in his view of happiness. The happiness at which the wise man aims is to be found, he said, not in momentary gratification, but in lifelong pleasure. It does not consist necessarily in excitement or motion, but often in absolute tranquillity (ἀταραξία ). "The wise man is happy even on the rack" (Diog. Laert. 10:118), for "virtue alone is inseparable from pleasure" (id. page 138). To live happily and to live wisely, nobly, and justly, are convertible phrases (id. page 140). But it followed as a corollary from his view of happiness that the gods, who were assumed to be supremely happy and eternal, were absolutely free from the distractions and emotions consequent on any care for the world or man (id. page 139; comp. Lucr. 2:645-47). All things were supposed to come into being by chance, and so pass away; and the study of nature was chiefly useful as dispelling the superstitious fears of the gods and death by which the multitude are tormented. It is obvious how such teaching would degenerate in practice. The individual was left master of his own life, free from all regard to any higher law than a refined selfishness.

While Epicurus asserted in this manner the claims of one part of man's nature in the conduct of life, Zeno of Citium (B.C. cir. 280), with equal partiality, advocated a purely spiritual (intellectual) morality. The opposition between the two was complete. The infinite, chance-formed worlds of the one stand over against the one harmonious world of the other. On the one side are gods regardless of material things, on the other a Being permeating and vivifying all creation. This difference necessarily found its chief expression in ethics. For when the Stoics taught that there were only two principles of things, matter (τὸ πάσχον ), and God, fate, reason for the names were many by which it wasfashioned and quickened (τὸ ποιοῦν ) it followed that the active principle in man is of divine origin, and that his duty is to live conformably to nature (τὸ ὁμολογουμένως [τῇ φύσει] ζῆν ). By "nature" some understood the nature of man, others the nature of the universe; but both agreed in regarding it as a general law of the whole, and not particular passions or impulses. Good, therefore, was but one. All external things were indifferent. Reason was the absolute sovereign of man. Thus the doctrine of the Stoics, like that of Epicurus, practically left man to himself. But it was worse in its final results than Epicurism, for it made him his own god.

In one point the Epicureans and Stoics were agreed. They both regarded the happiness and culture of the individual as the highest good. Both systems belonged to a period of corruption and decay. They were the efforts of the man to support himself in the ruin of the state. But at the same time this assertion of individual independence and breaking down of local connections performed an important work in preparation for Christianity. It was for the Gentile world an influence corresponding to the Dispersion for the Jews. Men, as men, owned their fellowship as they had not done before. Isolating superstitions were shattered by the arguments of the Epicureans. The unity of the human conscience was vigorously affirmed by the Stoics (comp. Antoninus, 4:4, 33, with Gataker's notes).

Meanwhile in the New Academy Platonism degenerated into scepticism. Epicurus found an authoritative rule in the senses. The Stoics took refuge in what seems to answer to the modern doctrine of "commonsense," and maintained that the senses give a direct knowledge of the object. Carneades (B.C. 213-129) combated these views, and showed that sensation cannot be proved to declare the real nature, but only some of the effects, of things. Thus the slight philosophical basis of the later schools was undermined. Scepticism remained as the last issue of speculation; and, if we may believe the declaration of Seneca (Quaest. Nat. 7:32), scepticism itself soon ceased to be taught as a system. The great teachers had sought rest, and in the end they found unrest. No science of life could be established. The reason of the few failed to create an esoteric rule of virtue and happiness. For in this thev all agreed, that the blessings of philosophy were not for the mass. A "gospel preached to the poor" was as yet unknown.

But though the Greek philosophers fell short of their highest aim, it needs no words to show the work which they did as pioneers of a universal Church. They revealed the wants and the instincts of men with a clearness and vigor elsewhere unattainable, for their sight was dazzled by no reflections from a purer faith. Step by step great questions were proposed fate, providence conscience, law the state, the man; and answers were given which are the more instructive because they are generally one- sided. The discussions which were primarily restricted to a few, in time influenced the opinions of the many. The preacher who spoke of "an unknown God" had an audience who could understand him, not at Athens only or Rome, but throughout the civilized world.

The complete course of philosophy was run before the Christian sera, but there were yet two mixed systems afterwards which offered some novel features. At Alexandria Platonism was united with various elements of Eastern speculation, and for several centuries exercised an important influence on Christian doctrine. At Rome Stoicism was vivified by the spirit of the old republic, and exhibited the extreme Western type of philosophy. Of the first nothing call be said here. It arose only when Christianity was a recognised spiritual power, and was influenced both positively and negatively by the Gospel. The same remark applies to the efforts to quicken afresh the forms of paganism, which found their climax in the reign of Julian. These have no independent value as an expression of original thought; but the Roman Stoicism calls for brief notice from its supposed connection with Christian morality (Seneca, t A.D. 65; Epictetus, t A.D. cir. 115; M. Aurelius Antoninus, 121-180). The belief in this connection found a singular expression in the apocryphal correspondence of Paul and Seneca, which was widely received in the early Church (Jerome, De Vir. III. 12). And lately a distinguished writer (Mill, On Liberty, page 58, quoted by Stanley, Eastern Ch. lecture 6, apparently with approbation) has speculated on the "tragical fact" that Constantine, and not Marcus Aurelius, was the first Christian emperor. The superficial coincidences of Stoicism with the New Testament are certainly numerous. Coincidences of thought, and even of language, might easily be multiplied (Gataker, Antoninus, Praef. page 11, etc,), and in considering these it is impossible not to remember that Shemitic thought and phraseology must have exercised great influence on Stoic teaching (Grant, Oxford Essays, 1858, page 82).

But beneath this external resemblance of Stoicism to Christianity, the later Stoics were fundamentally opposed to it. For good and for evil they were the Pharisees of the Gentile world. Their highest aspirations are mixed with the thanksgiving "that they were not as other men are" (comp. A nton. i). Their worship was a sublime egotism. The conduct of life was regarded as an art, guided in individual actions by a conscious reference to reason (Anton. 4:2, 3; 5:32) and not a spontaneous process rising naturally out of one vital principle. The wise man, "wrapt in himself" (7:28), was supposed to look with perfect indifference on the changes of time (4:49); and yet beneath this show of independence he was a prev to a hopeless sadness. In words he appealed to the great law of fate, which rapidly sweeps all things into oblivion, as a source of consolation (4:2, 14; 6:15); but there is no confidence in any future retribution. In a certain sense the elements of which we are composed are eternal (5:13), for they are incorporated in other parts of the universe, but we shall cease to exist (4:14, 21; 6:24; 7:10). Not only is there no recognition of communion between an immortal man and a personal God, but the idea is excluded. Man is but an atom in a vast universe, and his actions and sufferings are measured solely by their relation to the whole (Anton. 10:5, 6, 20; 12:26; 6:45; v, 22; 7:9). God is but another name for "the mind of the universe" ( τοῦ ὅλου νοῦς, 5:30), "the soul of the world" (4:40), "the reason that ordereth matter" (6:1). "universal nature" ( τῶν ὅλων φύσις , 7:33; 9:1 comp. 10:1), and is even identified with the world itself (τοῦ γεννήσαντος κόσμου, 12:1; comp. Gataker on 4:23). Thus the stoicism of M. Aurelius gives many of the moral precepts of the Gospel (Gataker, page 18), but without their foundation, which can find no place in his system. It is impossible to read his reflections without emotion, but they have no creative energy. They are the last strain of a dying creed, and in themselves have no special affinity to the new faith. Christianity necessarily includes whatever is noblest in them, but they affect to supply the place of Christianity, and do not lead to it. The real elements of greatness in M. Aurelius are many, and truly Roman; but the study of his Meditations by the side of the New Testament can leave little doubt that he could not have helped to give a national standing-place to a catholic Church.

The history of ancient philosophy in its religious aspect has been strangely neglected. Nothing, so far as we are aware, has been written on the pre- Christian aera answering to the clear and elegant essay of Matter on post- Christian philosophy (Histoire de la Philosophie dans ses rapports avec la Religion depuis lere Chretienne, Paris, 1854). There are useful hints in Carove's Vorhalle des Christenthums (Jena, 1851), and Ackermann's Das Christliche in Plato (Hamb. 1835). The treatise of Denis, Histoire des Theories et des Idles morales dans l'Antiquite (Paris, 1856), is limited in range and hardly satisfactory. Dollinger's Vorhalle zur Gesch. d. Christenthums (Regensb. 1857; transl. Lond. 1862) is comprehensive, but covers too large a field. The brief surveys in De Pressense's Hist. des Trois Premiers Siecles de l'Eglise Chritienne (Paris, 1858; transl. Edinb. 1862), and in Cocker, Christianity and Greek Philosophy (N.Y. 1870), are much more vigorous, and on the whole just. But no one seems to have apprehended the real character and growth of Greek philosophy so well as Zeller (though with no special attention to its relations to religion) in his history (Die Philosophie der Griechen, 2d ed. Tub. 1856), which for subtlety and completeness is unrivalled. See (in addition to works named in the adjoining articles) Brandis, Handb. d. gr.-rom. Philosophie (Berl. 1835 sq.); Maury, Hist. de la Religion de la Grece (Paris, 1857 sq., 3 volumes); Butler, Hist. of Anc. Philos. (Lond. 1866, 2 volumes).

II. Connection of Greek with Hebrew Philosophy. The literature of Greece and Judaea came in contact at Alexandria; and the first known attempt to accomplish their fusion is that ascribed to the Jewish Peripatetic Aristobulus, in the reign of Ptolemy Philometor (B.C. 180-146); but the principal extant specimens are to be found in the writings of the Jewish Platonist Philo, the date of whose birth may be placed about B.C. 20. (Aristobulus is said to have been a Peripatetic; but of his exact relations to this philosophy nothing is known. From the few fragments which remain of his writings, he seems to have anticipated Philo in the employment of an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. His name, however. is more known in connection with forgeries of the Greek poets in support of his theory that the wisdom of the Greeks was borrowed from Moses. See Valckenser, Diatribe de Aristobulo, Lugd. Bat. 1806, reprinted in Gaisford's edition of Eusebii Praep. Evang.; Dahne, 2:73; Vacherot, Histoire de l'Ecole d'Alexandrie, 1:140.) Philo's system may be described as the result of a contact between the Hellenic theory of the absolute and the Jewish belief in God as represented in the Old Testament. (See Dorner, Person of Christ, volume 1, note A [page 330, Eng. transl.]. For some of the details of this contact, see Dahne, 1:31 sq.) In his religion Philo was a Jew, with all a Jew's reverence for the oracles of God committed to the charge of his people; but his philosophical studies attached themselves to those doctrines of the Platonic philosophy which, while dealing with the same great question, approached it from an opposite point of view. (For Philo's testimony to the divine authority of the Scriptures. see Vit. Mos. lib. 3, c. 23 [page 163, Mangey]; Quis rer. div. her. c. 52, 53, pages 510, 511. Other passages to the same effect are cited by Gfr6rer, i, 54. Philo even maintains the divine inspiration of the Septuagint version, Vit. Mos. 2, c. 6, 7, pages 139, 140.) The result in his writings was an attempted combination of the two the Greek philosophy supplying the fundamental idea, while the Jewish Scriptures, through the Septuagint translation, contributed, by means of an extravagant license of allegorical interpretation, much of the language and illustration of the system, besides imparting to it the apparent sanction of a divine authority. The leading idea of Philo's teaching is the expansion of that thought of Plato's which forms the connecting link between the philosophy of Greece and the pantheism of the East that thought which represents the supreme principle of things as absolutely one and simple, beyond personality and beyond definite existence, and as such immutable and incapable of relation to temporal things. (Comp. Plato, Rep. 6:509; 2:381. Gfrorer, 1:134, and Franck, Dict. des Sciences Philosophiques, art. Philon, regard this feature of Philo's theology as of Oriental origin. But his Greek studies might suggest the same idea, and much of his language seems to point to this origin. See Dahne, 1:31, 41.)

In place of the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, who, even in his most hidden and mysterious nature, is never regarded as other than a person, Philo is led to substitute the Greek abstraction of an ideal good or absolute unity, as the first principle of a system in which philosophy and theology are to be reconciled and united: and though he is unable entirely to abandon the language of personality which the Scriptures at every page force upon their readers, he is at the same time unable, consistently with his philosophical assumptions, to admit an immediate personal relation between the Supreme Being and the creature. (See De Mut. Nom. c. 4, page 582; Grorer, 1:144; Dihne, 2:154. The various passages inconsistent with this, in which Philo seems to speak of a direct action of God in the world may perhaps be explained by supposing this action to be exerted through the medium of the Logos. Comp. Quod Deus sit immut. c. 12, page 281: Gfrorer, 1:199, 293.) The medium of reconciliation is sought in a development of the scriptural manifestation of the Wisdom and the Word of God, which take the place of the soul of the world as it appears in the Timnceus, being represented as a second God the connecting link between the first principle and the world; in whom are concentrated those personal attributes which are indispensable to religious belief, and which are so conspicuously present in the Scripture theology (Fragm. page 625, ex Euseb. Prcep. Evang. 7:13: Διὰ τί ὡς περὶ ἑτέρου θεοῦ φησὶ τὸ ἐν εἰκόνι θεοῦ τὸν ἄνθρωτον, ἀλλ᾿ οὐχὶ τῇ ἑαυτυῦ; Παγκαλῶς καὶ σοφῶς τουτὶ κεχρησν ® δηται . θνητὸν γὰρ οὐδεν ἀπεικονισθῆναι πρὸς τὸν ἀνωτάτω καὶ Πατέρα τῶν ὅλων ἐδύνατο, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸν δεύτερον θεὸν ὅς ἐστιν ἐκείνου Λόγος ). The following short summary of Philo's system will serve to exhibit those of its features which are most nearly related to our present inquiry (in this summary use has been made chiefly of that of Hegel, Gesch. der Philos. in his Werke, 15:18-23, and of that of Zeller, Philos. der Griechen. 3:594-665): The highest aim of philosophy, and the most perfect happiness, according to Philo, is the knowledge of God in his absolute nature (De Vita Contempl. c. 2, page 473. Comp. De Conf. Ling. c. 20, page 419; De Vict. Offerent. c. 16, page 264; De Monarch. 1:3, 4, page 216), in which he is exalted above all affinity to finite things, without qualities, and not to be expressed in speech (Legis Alleg. 1, c. 13, page 50: ἄποιος θεός . Ibid. c. 15, page 53: δεῖ γὰρ ἡγεῖσθαι καὶ ἄποιον αὐτὸν ειναι, καὶ ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἄτρεπτον. De Somn. 1:39, page 655: λέγεσθαι γὰρ οὐ πέφυκεν, άλλὰ μόνον ειναι τὸ ὄν . Comp. De Vit. Cont. c. 1, page 472; Quod Deus immut. c. 11, page 281). Such knowledge, though not fully attainable by any man, is nevertheless to be earnestly sought after, that it may be attained at least in that second degree in which we apprehend directly the existence of God, though falling short of a comprehension of his essence (De Prcem. et Pan. c. 7, page 415. Comp. Gfrorer, 1:135, 199. By this hypothesis of a primary and secondary knowledge, Gfrorer reconciles those passages in which the knowledge of God is spoken of as unattainable with others apparently of an opposite import: e.g. De Post. Caini, c. 48, page 258; De Monarch. 1:6, page 218). Even this amount, however, of direct knowledge is not to be gained by any effort of human thought, but only by God's revelation of himself; and such a revelation is only possible in the form of an ecstatic intuition, in which the seer, himself passive, is elevated by divine inspiration above the conditions of finite consciousness, and becomes one with the God whom he contemplates (De Poster. Cain. c. 5, page 229; Legis Alleg. 3:33, page 107; De Abr. c. 24, page 19; De Migr. Abr. c. 31, page 463; Fragn. page 654; Quis rer. div. haer. c. 13, 14, page 482; comp. Neander, Ch. Hist. 1:79, ed. Bohn. This ecstatic intuition is insisted upon also by Plotinus and the later Platonists, as in modern times by Schelling). But this ecstatic vision is possible only to a chosen few; for the many, who are incapable of it, there remains only that inferior and improper apprehension of God which can be gained through the means of derived and created existences, especially of his Word or Wisdom, who is the medium by which God is related to the world, the God of imperfect men, as the Supreme Being is the God of the wise and perfect (Legis Alleg. 3:32, page 107; 3:73, page 128; De Abr. c. 24, page 19; De Migr. Abr. c. 31, page 463; De Conf. Ling. c. 28, page 427). This Word, or Logos, is described in various ways, some more naturally denoting an impersonal, others a personal being. (Whether the Logos of Philo is to be regarded as a distinct person or not is matter of controversy. The negative is maintained by Burton [Bampton Lectures, note 93] and by Dorner [Person of Christ, 1:27, Engl. transl. and note A], against Gfrorer, Dahne, Licke, and the majority of recent critics. An intermediate view is taken by Zeller, 3:626, and to some extent by Prof. Jowett, Epistles of St. Paul, 1:484, 2d ed.) He is the intelligible world, the archetypal pattern, the idea of ideas (De Mlundi Opif c. 6, page 5; elsewhere the Λόγος is distinguished from the παράδειγμα . See De Conf. Ling. c. 14, page 414), the wisdom of God (Legis Alleg. 1:19, page 56), the shadow of God, by which, as by an instrument, he made the world (Legis. Alley. 3:31, page 106; comp. De Monarch. 2:5, page 225; De Cherub. c. 35, page 162): he is the eternal image of God (De Conf. Ling. c. 28, page 427. The contradiction between this representation and the concrete attributes ascribed to the Logos is pointed out by Hegel, Werke, 15:20), the eldest and most general of created things (Legis Alleg. 3, 61, page 121): he is the first-born of God, the eldest angel or archangel (De Conf. Ling. c. 28, page 427; Quis rer. div. haer. c. 42, page 501), the high-priest of the world (De Som. 1:37, page 653; comp. De Gig. c. 11, page 269; De Migr. Abr. c. 18, page 452), the interpreter of God (Legis Alleg. 3:73, page 128), the mediator between the Creator and his creatures, the suppliant in behalf of mortals, the ambassador from the ruler to his subjects (Quis rer. div. haer. c. 42, page 501). He is moreover the God in whose likeness man was made; for the supreme God cannot have any likeness to a mortal nature (Fragm. p. 625): he is the angel who appeared to Hagar (De Somn. 1:41, page 656; De Prof. c. 1. page 547), the God of Jacob's dream and the angel with whom he wrestled (De Somn. 1:39, page 655; De Mut. Nom. c. 13, page 591), the image of God who appeared to Moses at the bush (Vit. Mos. 1:12, page 91; comp. Gfrorer, 1, page 283, 284), the guide of the Israelites in the wilderness (De Migr., Abr. c. 31, page 463). This interposition of the Logos thus serves to combine the theology of contemplation with that of worship and obedience; it endeavors to provide one God for those whose philosophical meditations aspire to an intuition of the absolute, and another for those whose religious feelings demand a personal object; while at the same time it attempts to preserve the unity of God by limiting the attribution of proper and supreme deity to the first principle only.

In addition to this, which may be regarded as the Central point of Philo's system, some have endeavored to elicit from his writings a closer approximation to Christian doctrine, in the recognition of a third divine being, distinct both from the supreme God and from the Logos. (See Allix, Judgmyent of the Jewish Church, page 118, ed. 1821; Kidder, Demonstration of the Messias, part 3, chapter 5.) A remarkable passage sometimes cited for this purpose occurs in his allegorizing commentary on the cherubim and the flaming sword placed in Eden. "With the one truly existent God," he says, "there are two first and highest powers, goodness and authority: by goodness he has produced everything, and by authority he rules over that which he has produced; and a third, which brings both together as a medium, is reason; for by reason God is both a ruler and good. Of these two powers authority and goodness the cherubim are the symbol; and of reason, the flaming sword" (De Cherub. c. 9, page 143). In like manner he comments on the threefold appearance to Abraham in the plains of Mamre: "The middle appearance represents the Father of the universe, who in the sacred writings is called by his proper name, the Existent ( ῎Ων ), and those on each side are the most ancient powers and nearest to the Existent; one of which is called the creative and the other the kingly power. The creative power is God, for by this power he made and arranged the universe; and the kingly power is Lord, for it is meet that the Creator should rule over and govern the creature" (De Abi. c. 24. page 19; comp. De Sacr. Ab. et Cain. c. 15, page 173). The inference, however, which has been drawn from these and similar passages rests on a very precarious foundation. There is no consistency in Philo's exposition, either as regards the number or the nature of these divine powers. Even granting the disputed opinion that the powers represent distinct personal beings, we find in one of the above passages the three beings all distinguished from the supreme God; while in the other he seems to be identified with one of them; and the confusion is increased if we compare other passages in which additional powers are mentioned with further distinctions. (Comp. De Mut. Nom. c. 4, page 582, where a εὐεργετικὴ δύναμις is mentioned as distinct from the βασιλική and ποιητική, and all three are distinguished from the supreme God.) The truth seems to be that Philo indulged his allegorizing fancy in the invention of divine powers ad libitum, in any number and with any signification which the text on which he was commenting for the moment might happen to suggest; and he has no more difficulty in finding six divine powers to be represented by the six cities of refuge (De Prof: c. 18, 19, pages 560, 561. In this passage, again, the three higher powers, represented by the three cities beyond Jordan, are clearly distinguished from the supreme God) than he has in finding three, to suit the two cherubim and the flaming sword. In this kind of desultory playing with the language of Scripture it is idle to look for any definite doctrine, philosophical or theological.

It must not be supposed that the doctrines here attributed to Philo are clearly and unambiguously enunciated in his writings. Many passages might be quoted apparently indicating different views; and probably no consecutive summary of doctrines could be drawn up against which similar objections might not be urged. This difficulty is unavoidable in the case of a writer like Philo, who attempts to combine together two antagonistic systems, of whose antagonism he is himself but imperfectly, if at all, conscious. Philo's system has been called an eclecticism; but it was not so much an eclecticism fuunded on definite principles of selection as an accumulation of speculations which he was unable to combine into a consistent whole, though persuaded of the existence of a common principle of truth concealed under them. There is a perpetual struggle between the Jewish and the heathen, the religious and the philosophical elements of his system, if system it can be called, which cannot be set at rest by all the latitude of interpretation which he so freely indulges in. Hence his religious convictions perpetually manifest themselves in language inconsistent with his philosophical theories; and the utmost that can be attempted in a short analysis of his teaching is to give an outline of the system as it probably would have been had it been logically carried out, not as it actually appears in his own very illogical attempt to carry it out.

In the language as well as in the doctrines of Philo we may trace the influence of Greek philosophy in conjunction with the literature of his own nation. The theory, indeed, which would trace the term Λόγος to the few and unimportant passages in which it is employed by Plato is too fanciful and far-fetched to be tenable; but the appearance in Philo of the Stoical distinction between λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and λόγος προφορικός , as well as his general use of the term, seems to indicate that in the employment of this word he was influenced by the language of the Greek philosophy, though perhaps in conjunction with that of the Sept. (On the λόγος of the Stoics and its relation to Philo, see Zeller, Philos. der Griechen, 3:630. Comp. Wyttenbach on Plutarch, 2:44, A. The distinction between ἐνδιάθετος and προφορικὸς λόγος, though acknowledged by Philo, is not applied by him directly to the divine reason [see Gfrorer, 1:177]. On other affinities between Philo and the Stoics, see Valckenlar, Diatr. de Aristobulo, sec. 32.) In the use of the cognate term Σοφία, as nearly, if not quite equivalent to Λόγος , he was probably more directly influenced by writers of his own nation, by the Sept. version of the Proverbs, and by the books of Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom. (On the identity of Λόγος and Σοφία in Philo, see Gfrorer, 1:213 sq.) Thus his language, no less than his matter, indicates the compound character of his writings; the twofold origin of his opinions being paralleled by a similar twofold source of the terms in which they are expressed.

It is necessary to dwell to some extent upon the writings of Philo, because it is through them, if at all, that the influence of the Greek philosophy on the Christian Scriptures is to be traced. Whether we admit the conjecture that St. John, during his residence at Ephesus, might have become acquainted with Philo's writings; or whether we regard these writings as the extant representatives of a widely diffused doctrine, which might have reached the apostle through other channels (see. for the one supposition, dean Milman, in a note on Gibbon, chapter 21; and for the other, Gfrorer, 1:307; 2:4), it is to the asserted coincidences between this evangelist and the Alexandrian philosopher that we must look for the chief evidence for or against the theory which asserts an influence of Greek speculations on Christian doctrine. The amount of that influence, however, has been very differently estimated by different critics; one of whom, as has been before observed, ascribes to it nearly all the distinctive doctrines of the Christian Church; while another considers that the whole resemblance between St. John and Philo may be accounted for by their common use of certain passages of the O.T., especially those concerning the angel of the Lord, and the distinction between the hidden and the revealed God (see Tholuck on the Gopyel of St. John, page 65, Engl. transl.). The truth may perhaps be found in an intermediate view, if we distinguish between the Christian doctrine itself and the language in which it is expressed. Notwithstanding the verbal parallels which may be adduced between the language of Philo and that of some portions of the N.T., the relation between the Alexandrian and the Christian doctrine is one rather of contrast than of resemblance. The distinguishing doctrine of the Christian revelation that of the Word made flesh not only does not appear in Philo, but could not possibly appear, consistently with the leading principles of his philosophy, according to which the flesh, and matter in general, is condemned as the source of all evil. The development of Philo's doctrine, if applied to the person of Christ, will lead, as has been pointed out, not to Christianity, but to docetism (see Dorner on the Person of Christ, 1:17, Engl. transl.); and in the distinction, which he constantly makes, between the absolute God and the secondary deity, who alone is capable of rela

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Philosophy, Greek'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/philosophy-greek.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile