History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 23


Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 23
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Hellenistic Philosophy

Part 5

V. The Book of Hebrews

A. The Author

1. Characteristics

a. Jewish

b. Hellenistic

c. Alexandrian

d. Philosopher

e. Highly educated

f. Great Preacher

2. Acts 18 - Apollos

B. Implicit Logos Christology

C. Key Words

1. "Better"

2. "Once for all"

D. Three Functions of the Logos

1. Metaphysical

2. Epistemological

3. Soteriological

E. Pagan Influence?

F. John the Beloved

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

Dr. Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson Transcript


Let me begin my task of identifying the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Okay. And what I'm going to do is just summarize briefly in a column what we what any careful study of the episode of the Hebrews will tell you about the unnamed author and where we are assuming here that Paul did not write the Epistle, the Hebrews. I mean, he just didn't. Okay. Now, first of all, we know that the author of the episode of the Hebrews was a Jew. No Gentile could possibly know the details about the temple system of sacrifice that we read in Chapter seven and eight and nine and ten of of the Epistle. He was a Jew. Secondly, he was a Hellenistic Jew. That is, he was a Jew who had adopted Greek customs, Hellenistic cultures. One obvious sign of a Hellenistic Jew is the adoption of a Greek name. Read the early chapters of the Book of Acts where you find references to Hellenistic Jews. They all have German or Greek names. German. German names? Yeah. Good. Go on. Thirdly. Thirdly. He was from. Oh, I'm trembling. He's from Alexandria. How do I know that? Well, read the book. What else do we know? He was a philosopher, highly trained, educated, trained in philosophy. And I'll give you the reasons for that shortly. Okay. Obviously highly educated. Let's make that highly educated. Okay. Number six. He was a great preacher. A great preacher. You know why? Because the entire episode of the Hebrews is a sermon. It may be the only book in the New Testament that is an actual real live sermon, a long one.


[00:02:38] Hmm. Okay, Now, what person in the Bible who is the only named person in the Bible who fits this description? Now, don't say a word because none of you know. Turn in the Book of Acts two. Acts Chapter 18. Acts Chapter 18. Now, as you know, I am not dogmatic. I am never dogmatic about anything. All right. If you want to quarrel with Scripture, that's your privilege. Look at Acts chapter 18, verse 24. Meanwhile, a Jew. Okay, let's check that off. We're dealing with a Jew named Apollos. That's a Greek name. That means we're dealing with a Hellenistic Jew. Mm hmm. A native of Alexandria. Oh, man. Is this falling in place? What a coincidence. Came to Ephesus. I could have written emphasis on the board, too. But that would look like I'm stacking the deck. All right. But I won't. I won't do that. He was a learned man. Oh, man. Highly educated, clearly trained in philosophy with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. I should have put that on the board, too. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And he spoke with Grace, spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue when Priscilla and Aquila heard him. They invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. You know, we need more Priscilla's iniquities in the church who will take promising people who are just on the borderline and invite them to your house and get them straightened out. Now, when Apollos wanted to go to acquire the brothers, encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving He was a great help to those who by grace had believed, for he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate.


[00:05:14] I should have written that on the board. A great debater. I should have written that on the board. But that would look like I'm stacking the deck. All right. Now, what else do we know? He ends up in Corinth. Now, what do we know about Apollos in Corinth? He was either the greatest or the second greatest preacher. That those spiritual Christians in Corinth had ever heard. In fact, he was such a great preacher that the church divided because some said I am of Apollos, and others said we are, of course, of of Paul. Okay. All right. Now, you may not find this persuasive. Others of you will say, put the tape on. I'm convinced. Play just as I am, and I will make a commitment to apologize. Okay. Now, here is my theory. I could be wrong. Put that in your notes and give me credit. Nash could be wrong, but he doesn't think so. Okay. A lot of good commentators, including F.F., Bruce and others, believe that whoever wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews and a lot of people are too wimpy to come right out and admit it. You know who else in the Bible fits this description right here? A lot of good commentators will tell you that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was familiar with Alexandrian Judaism. How do we know that? Because especially in chapters one and two and visit F.F. Bruce commentary on Hebrews or some of the other commentaries I refer to here. He uses he uses words that appear in only one other source in and serve in extant Hellenistic literature. He uses words that only appear in the writings of Phyllo, and he uses adjectives that phyllo applies to his Lagos. He uses those adjectives to apply to Jesus Christ.


[00:07:48] That's why I say if you know what you're doing, when you approach the Epistle of the Hebrews, you know that this book contains an implicit Lagos Christology. What does the word implicit mean? It means that it's not there on the surface of things. It's available there only for people who know their Greek and who knows who know where certain Greek words appear in other Hellenistic literature. And what is a Lagos Christology? It is what we have full blown in the Epistle. I mean, in the in the Prolog to John's gospel. It is a Christology based upon the concept of the Lagos. Okay. Now, my theory is and you can take it in various degrees that Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew who, during his years in Alexandria, may well have studied the writings of Fidel, a more extreme position position. And of course, I'm always a moderate, you know, I'm always the consummate centrist. I always avoid extremism, more extreme thinkers than I think that he may well have been a disciple of of final. Okay. And then he becomes a full blown believer. But he becomes a believer in these stages at first. He knows about Jesus and he preaches about Jesus. But he's kind of mixed up about the doctrine of baptism. Oh, I won't I won't pursue that sentence any further, though. Okay. I'm just kidding, you know? I'm just kidding. So Akilah and Priscilla take them into their home and they straighten out his theology and boom, he's on his way. Okay. Now, what is he doing in the Epistle to the Hebrews? He is writing to fellow Alexandrian Christian believers, Alexandrian Jewish Christians who are in danger of returning to Alexandria and Judaism. They're thinking about apostasy rising. Why? Because life is too hard.


[00:10:08] You know, they're being persecuted. They're suffering. There's too big a price to pay. And they're thinking about returning to the leaks and the garlic of Egypt. They're thinking of returning to Alexandria and Judaism. And what what Apollos is doing here is he is warning them that they had better not do this. And he has. He uses several techniques. One of the key words of the epistle with the Hebrews, one of the key words is the word better. And you'll find this argument going on in these contexts. Why would you go? Why would you go back to a worldview in which you're worshiping angels? Jesus is better than the angels. That's Hebrews Chapter two. Why would you go back to a religion that that that that recognizes Moses as a mediator between God and man when Jesus is better than Moses? And why would you go back to a religion in which the Jewish high priest is the mediator between God and man when Jesus is a high priest after the Order of Melchizedek? Jesus is better in every way than what you left. Only a fool or an apostate among you would go back. Now there's another key term in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It's the term once for all, once for all. Now, let me tell you this. And this is where the linear view of history shows up. The for the first explicit time in literature anywhere. Okay. The Epistle of the Hebrews. Phyla accepted a cyclical view of history. Final. I believe that history will repeat itself again and again and again. Now you figure out how a supposedly consistent Jew could teach that I can't help you. He had just surrendered to his stoicism. Remember, the world view of Philo was a mixture of three ideas Judaism, which tended to get watered down stoicism, the Lagos Eternal Recurrence and Platonism.


[00:12:38] The spiritual world is good. The physical world is bad. So what the writer of Hebrews says is this Jesus died once for all. He keeps saying that that is the killer, for that's the defeat her, for any idea that history is going to repeat itself again and again. I tell you, the writer of Hebrews is out there trying to refute Alexandrian Judaism, or so I think, in my non dogmatic way. Okay. So I think now let's just pick up the gospel in the Greeks and let's pick. Let's point out a few. Oh, yes, a few point. Let's just go through the chapter now. I'm looking at page 92. Just go with me. Go through with me on this. Okay. Thilo identified and an Apollos utilizes. Ooh, beautiful language. Let me repeat that. I've never said that before. Thilo identified and Apollos utilizes. Two functions of the Lagos. There is, first of all, the metaphysical Lagos in final. This would be a Lagos that is somehow involved with the creation. Read Proverbs Chapter eight When I created the World. Sofia was there with me. I'm paraphrasing Proverbs chapter eight. Then there is the epistemological lag us. Okay. This is the role of the Lagos in human knowledge. No one can know anything without the Lagos. Making human knowledge possible. Let me read from Hebrews chapter one. Okay, Hebrews chapter one. In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son. That is the epistemological Lagos. God speaks to us through the Lagos, who is his son? Now let's keep reading. We come to the metaphysical Lagos. It's this is also Hebrews one, verse two. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.


[00:15:39] The father made the universe through his son, the metaphysical Lagos. Now you'll find both of those in Philo. You've just found them in Hebrews Chapter one, verse one and two. But there's a third function of the log office that I'm told cannot be found in filing the SO teria logical logos. This is the role of Lagos in human salvation. Why do you not find this in file? Because no Jew could have possibly no unconverted Jew could possibly have imagined this vague abstraction called the Lagos playing a role in human salvation. That's the work of the priestly system. See? But now let's keep reading in verse three of Hebrews. The sun is the radiance of God's glory. Listen, it's the Greek words here. You study it, you get a commentary. Look at the Greek word for radiance. Okay. If I. If my memory's right, the only other source place you find that word in Hellenistic literature is file. Or so I'm told. If it's if if it's in other places, it's flow is the only place where this word would would appear such that it would be accessible to a Christian writer. The sun is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being. There's another one of these Hellenistic Greek words, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Now notice after he had provided purification for sins. That's the so teria logical logos. Bang, bang, bang. All right. Metaphysical Lagos. Well, actually, for for Apollos, it's the epistemological Lagos first, the metaphysical Lagos second, and the material logic of Lagos. And what does the rest of Hebrews all about? Our only hope for salvation. Lies in Jesus Christ. So you guys to whom the sermon is addressed. If you walk away from Jesus, you're walking away from your only hope for salvation.


[00:17:57] Now. Here's my theory. See, all through the Gospel in the Greeks, I'm arguing that there is no pagan influence in the New Testament. None. No pagan religion. No pagan, No. No pagan gnosticism, no pagan philosophy. But you might be saying that you've been arguing here for an over over an hour that the writer of Hebrews may have been influenced by final. Yeah. Before he became a Christian. And once a polis became a Christian, what is his new commitment in life to overturn that whole collection of ideas that he had once subscribed to but which he now rejected? That's not influence. When you riff, when you use words and ideas that are taught by heretics or pagans whom you are seeking to refute, that is not influence in any language that I know about. So I'm convinced that there was an implicit Christian Lagos Christology in the early church. In. Somebody who had relations with Ephesus. Okay, now. And when was this? It was before the destruction of Jerusalem. I know there's a debate. There are scholars and I respect them. I respect everybody who disagrees with me. I do. They believe Hebrews was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.. I bet that makes no sense to me. All right. No sense to me. The writer of Hebrews here is referring to the sack sacrifices that were going on in the temple at that time. To suggest that Hebrews was written after 70 A.D. strikes me as an ideological monstrosity. The temple was still standing. The the sacrifices were still being made. Let's let's not let's not bring a hidden agenda to scripture here. All right. Now. I'm suggesting non dogmatically that there's a community of Alexandrian Jewish believers. In the church and John, the beloved, contacts them.


[00:20:40] Now, let me tell you some things about John the beloved, okay? And I'll tell you a book source that you may want to read here. The author's name is John Wenham. In this book, Wenham offers some interesting observations and theories about John the beloved. He says a lot of people dismiss John as an ignorant fisherman. All right. Well, he was a fisherman. He made his money as a fisherman. But when it points out that there's no reason to conclude that John was an ignorant, illiterate fisherman here. For one thing, Wenham argues strongly. John was a member of the priestly class, the Jewish priestly class. Why? Because he's moving in the circles of wealth. Wealthy, prominent Jewish leaders. So when I'm suggests that John may have been a fisherman simply because that was a way of supplementing his income, he may have been an investor in fishing vessels and so on. While you may think about Peter as a as an A, as an essentially rough, callous, maybe an uneducated person. But you can't think that about John the beloved. So all of a sudden, John the beloved finds himself in the midst of a of a Hellenistic community in the early church who have this Lagos Christology. And so I'm suggesting John didn't get this from Philo. He got it from another Christian. And that other Christian is a Polish. Now, where could they have met? Well, you know, John traveled, but certainly John had links to Ephesus. Anybody else, any other famous citizen of Ephesus that we looked at? Yeah, Heraclitus. But I'm saying there would be. That would be. Heraclitus can be forgotten here. I mean, the relevant possible source is Alexandria, Egypt. And so, John, under the inspiration or the Holy Spirit sets out to write his gospel, and here is what he writes.


[00:22:52] In the beginning was the Lagos, and the Lagos was with God and the Lagos was God. All things were made by him. John One, two. That's the metaphysical Lagos. What John does is reverse the order. Okay. All things were made by him, and without him, was anything made That was anything not made. I have to put get the record on the needle or needle on the record in the right place. Now, where is the epistemological Lagos in John one nine? It is. Well, there it is, John one nine. Okay. And let me read it. Let me read it. Make sure I get it right. John one nine. He himself was not the light. He came only as a witness to the light. He that is the Lagos Jesus is the true light that gives light to every man. Who was coming into the world to quote the King James. He is the light, that light of every man that cometh into the world. Now, you say, how was that epistemology? It is simply this unless the human brain is somehow enlightened by something from God and it ain't darkness. All right? Human beings could know. Our brains, our minds, our understanding would be no better than that of the highest animals, the highest brutes. Christ is the light. That light of every man that cometh into the world. Now, if you want a good philosophical rendition of that, find a book written by Saint Augustine called The Teacher. The Latin title would be De Maestro. And if you want an interpretation of the key passages and in in the book, the teacher go to my book that's in the library called The Light of the Mind St Augustine's Theory of Knowledge. Now where do we get the material logic? A Lagos in John's gospel.


[00:25:05] It's this. He came into the world. Let me read here. Okay. Verse 12. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Children born of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. And as John goes on to point out in the rest of his gospel, the whole purpose of Christ's coming and the whole purpose of the rest of the fourth gospel is to tell us about the salvation that is available to us only in Jesus Christ. I tell you, I don't know. You is a free country and you can disagree with me. But boy, this opens up so many interesting vistas to me. All right. It opens up interesting vistas to me about parts of John's life that are basically close to us and about the life of a polis about whom we know so little in the New Testament. And, you know, I'll be very frank. I'm I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of people in heaven and meeting a lot of people in heaven. But when I when I get finished tracking down my loved ones, you know, I'm going to look up a palace and I'm going to hit them in the ribs a little bit, and I'm going to say, I got it right, didn't I? That's what I'm going to say. And if he says no, well, then I'll say, okay, who really did write Hebrews? And I guarantee there's one answer a pilot's won't give me. He will not say in heaven. God only knows who wrote the Epistle of the Hebrews. All right, There'll be somebody else on that block who will tell me.