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Featured Is Plato Christianity's hidden "church father"?

Discussion in 'Interfaith Discussion' started by Vouthon, May 22, 2020.

  1. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    This is a discussion thread about similarities between Platonism and Christianity:


    CHURCH FATHERS: City of God, Book VIII (St. Augustine)


    "There is no one, who has even a slender knowledge of these things, who does not know of the Platonic philosophers, who derive their name from their master Plato...those who are praised as having most closely followed Plato, who is justly preferred to all the other philosophers of the Gentiles...It is evident that none come nearer to us [Catholic Christians] than the Platonists...

    We prefer these [Platonists] to all other philosophers, and confess that they approach nearest to us
    ....Certain partakers with us in the grace of Christ, wonder when they hear and read that Plato had conceptions concerning God, in which they recognize considerable agreement with the truth of our religion."​



    Plato is considered by many to be the most significant philosopher in the history of the West. His student Aristotle is basically his only competitor in that department, followed - one could argue - by the Nominalist Franciscan William of Ockham (of the 'razor' fame).

    St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Justin Martyr and many other Fathers of the Christian Faith before the rise of Thomist scholasticism (which was heavily Aristotelian in character, albeit still suffused with Platonic assumptions) and Franciscan nominalism, were all Christian Platonists.

    So durable has Platonism's legacy proved in the canon of Western thought - whether politically, in terms of his social-republicanism / theories on the ideal state and epistemoligically with regards to his assertion (contra later nominalists) of truth-value realism - that even today, around three-quarters of pure mathematicians are said to be 'Mathematical Platonists' rather than formalists, according to the surveys.

    As such, these mathematical luminaries - typified by the likes of Kurt Godel, Georg Cantor, W.V.O. Quine and Hilary Putnam, Roger Penrose, George Ellis and most recently Edward Frenkel - still adhere to Plato's Theory of Forms, at least so far as its math element is concerned: the conviction that mathematical objects and relations exist abstractly, independent of space, time and human perspectivism; that mathematical truths are objective and constant realities of the universe, rather than a formal system with invented signs and rules (kinda like chess playing) and that these propositions thus have a truth-value prior to their human conceptualisation (such as, prime numbers or Pythagoras's Theorem), which we come to access through intuition and rational deductions. Professors Penrose and Ellis go further in swallowing the entire Platonist paradigm

    The Ockhamist Catholics were the first post-Platonist school to challenge truth-value realism and a number of modern secular theorists outside mathematics and theoretical physics (as in other scientific fields and the social-sciences) therefore follow a formalist, social-constructivist model in the tradition of Ockham. But mainstream Catholicism, whilst embracing copious elements of both Thomist Arisotelianism and Franciscan Nominalism (for according to John Paul II: “The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.” (Pope St. John Paul II. "Fides et ratio, 49)), has never quite lost its grounding in a set of thoroughly Platonic fundamental axioms (such as the distinction between the changeable material world - the 'Seen' - and the unchanging eternal world of the divine ideas - the 'Unseen', as defined the Nicene Creed: "We believe in one God...maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen") and on account of St. Augustine's towering theological legacy, which decisively set the course of subsequent medieval Christian thinking.

    F.C Happold, in his 1970 opus magnus on mysticism, went so far as to hail Plato "The Father of Christian Mysticism", in the following words:


    "...Few, if any, thinkers have had a deeper and more permanent influence on European thought. Much of his writing was concerned with politics; has sometimes been called the Father of the Modern State. Behind all his writings on political issues, however, lay a profound spiritual philosophy. It was his intense sense of the world of spirit which impelled him to strive to create on earth the sort of state in which the life of the spirit would be possible.

    The fundamental issue with which Plato concerned himself was a dual one; what was the nature of the truly Real over against appearance, and what and how do we know about it. What was Plato's basic theory? It has been called the Theory of Ideas, or better, Forms...That is not to say that there were no mystical strains in the Greek transition from a primitive polytheistic naturalism to rational philosophy. There is, for instance, a marked mystical element in Plato, which later developed into that Neoplatonism, which, as we have seen, profoundly influenced Christian mysticism. It was inevitable that there should be, for no rational philosophical system can alone satisfy the deep religious and psychological needs inherent in mankind....

    Plato may not be a mystic in the way St John of the Cross was a mystic; he was, however, the Father of Christian mysticism. The pure Platonism of Plato himself was the stem from which branched out that Neoplatonism, of which Plotinus is the greatest exponent, on which much of the later speculative mysticism of Christianity was founded..."

    But what formative influence did Platonic philosophy really have on early Christian thought in your judgement?
     
    #1 Vouthon, May 22, 2020
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  2. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    I would personally opine that - as filtered through the Middle Platonist synthesis between Platonism and Stoicism, the Platonizing Judaism of Philo of Alexandria, the Wisdom of Solomon and St. Paul's letters - there has been quite a lot of indebtedness on our part.

    For a start, take the idea that both matter and mind / ideas are real but mind is a priori and the most "Real", inasmuch as ideas - which require a Mind to formulate and convey them - are the ground and pattern for what exists in the physical realm, in the Mind of a Creator Being. The latter Platonists, such as Ammonius Saccus and Plutarch, equated the Platonic Forms and the Form of the Good with eternal thoughts in the Divine Mind. Mathematical structures and relations are thus, in this worldview, understood to be transcendent and eternal abstract truths which exist beyond but undergird the physical world, while consciousness is an element within the physical order that relates to that eternal world and exists to access it, hence the doctrine of 'immortality of the soul' which Plato famously espoused.

    This speculative philosophical concept, which is over against the materialist-formalism position (only matter / physical is really real) and the idealist-monist stance (only mind is really real, there is no mind-independent physical reality) is a critical Platonic deduction in the Dialogues, for example the Timaeus where Plato states that material reality is dependent for its order upon a Supreme Mind: "the divine Craftsman (“Demiurge,” dêmiourgos, 28a6) who, imitating an unchanging and eternal model, imposed mathematical order to generate the ordered universe (kosmos)...the outcome of the deliberate intent of Intellect (nous)" [Platonic Dialogues (360 BCE)]:


    Timaeus (dialogue) - Wikipedia


    Timaeus begins with a distinction between the physical world, and the eternal world. The physical one is the world which changes and perishes: therefore it is the object of opinion and unreasoned sensation. The eternal one never changes: therefore it is apprehended by reason (28a).

    Timaeus suggests that since nothing "becomes or changes" without cause, then the cause of the universe must be a Demiurge or a God, a figure Timaeus refers to as the Father and Maker of the universe. And since the universe is fair, the Demiurge must have looked to the eternal model to make it, and not to the perishable one (29a). Hence, using the eternal and perfect world of "forms" or ideals as a template, he set about creating our world, which formerly only existed in a state of disorder.

    Timaeus continues with an explanation of the creation of the universe, which he ascribes to the handiwork of a divine craftsman. The demiurge, being good, wanted there to be as much good as was the world. The demiurge is said to bring order out of substance by imitating an unchanging and eternal model (paradigm). The ananke, often translated as 'necessity', was the only other co-existent element or presence in Plato's cosmogony. Later Platonists clarified that the eternal model existed in the mind of the Demiurge.


    If this sounds at all familiar - roughly similar to what you learned from your mainstream Christian upbringing - it should in my opinion. Plato's creation narrative portrays the material universe as the design of a benevolent creator-deity, a true reflection of the eternal world of ideas; not absolutely perfect like the eternal forms but as close to the ideal as physically possible. That's basically what Christianity also teaches.

    If we analyse the first doctrinal definition of the Nicene creed (the standard for belief in Trinitarian Christianity, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant):


    Nicene Creed - Wikipedia


    We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible [variant: "of all that is seen and unseen"].​


    The first five words of this opening statement are clearly Jewish in derivation and modelled after the Torahic shema / Isaiahan monotheism (i.e. "I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God" [Isaiah 45:5]). But the completing segments, to my eyes, bear more than a trace of Platonic heritage: a benevolent divine 'father' and 'maker' of the universe, of the two worlds (the physical world of the 'seen' which changes and perishes, in parallel with the eternal and perfect world of the 'unseen', that is the abstract Divine Ideas and Forms). That concept first originated, not in the Torah or Tanakh more generally but rather, in the Timaeus of Plato some three hundred years before the birth of Jesus.

    In his Timaeus, Plato very precisely refers to the Creator Deity - the Supreme Craftsman of the universe - as 'father' and 'maker':


    The Internet Classics Archive | Timaeus by Plato


    The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect...Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things are apprehended by opinion and sense and are in a process of creation and created.

    Now that which is created must, as we affirm, of necessity be created by a cause. But the Father and Maker of all this universe is past finding out; and even if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be impossible. And there is still a question to be asked about him: Which of the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world-the pattern of the unchangeable, or of that which is created?

    If the world be indeed fair and the artificer good, it is manifest that he must have looked to that which is eternal; but if what cannot be said without blasphemy is true, then to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have looked to, the eternal; for the world is the fairest of creations and he is the best of causes. And having been created in this way, the world has been framed in the likeness of that which is apprehended by reason and mind and is unchangeable, and must therefore of necessity, if this is admitted, be a copy of something.


    (continued...)
     
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  3. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    We can see these Platonic categories and phraseology reflected in the exegetical arguments of St. Paul: "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

    Likewise, the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament: "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible" (Hebrews 11:3).

    If you introduce some contextual terminology, the verse very quickly evidences its Platonic overtones, as in this scholarly reconstruction: "By faith we understand that the worlds [the archetypal and the phenomenal worlds] were put in order by the word of God, so that from what is not visible [archetypal world] became what is visible [phenomenal world]".

    In Hebrews 8 – 10, the writer tells us that: "They [the Aaronic priests] worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”” (8:5). He then tells us that, “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not part of this creation (9:11). And again, “It was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one, but he entered heaven itself, now to appear before us in God’s presence” (9:23-24).

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) commentary on these scriptural verses in Hebrews notes:


    scripture


    True means “real” in contradistinction to a mere “copy and shadow” (Heb 8:5); compare the Johannine usage (e.g., Jn 1:9; 6:32; 15:1). The idea that the earthly sanctuary is a reflection of a heavenly model may be based upon Ex 25:9, but probably also derives from the Platonic concept of a real world of which our observable world is merely a shadow.

    This is emblematic of Plato's Allegory of the Cave:


    Allegory of the cave - Wikipedia


    The allegory contains many forms of symbolism used to instruct the reader in the nature of perception. The cave represents superficial physical reality. It also represents ignorance, as those in the cave live accepting what they see at face value. Ignorance is further represented by the darkness that engulfs them because they cannot know the true objects that form the shadows, leading them to believe the shadows are the true forms of the objects. The chains that prevent the prisoners from leaving the cave represent that they are trapped in ignorance, as the chains are stopping them from learning the truth. The shadows cast on the walls of the cave represent the superficial truth, which is the illusion that the prisoners see in the cave. The freed prisoner represents those who understand that the physical world is a shadow of the truth, and the sun that is glaring the eyes of the prisoners represents the higher truth of ideas. The light further represents wisdom, as even the paltry light that makes it into the cave allows the prisoners to know shapes


    Hebrews’ scholars have long contended that the author adopted a Jewish Platonic worldview akin to, or even mediated through, that of Philo - the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria from ca. 20 BC.– 50 A.D. As Lincoln D. Hurst explains, “it has been assumed by many that avlhqino, used by the Author [of Hebrews] in 8:2 and 9:24, relates specially to Plato’s Rep. VI.499c, and means the ‘real’ world of the eternal archetypes as opposed to the world of earthly copies.”

    In 2 Corinthians 5:4, Paul employs a metaphor describing the unresurrected human body as a temporary earthly tent, weighing down the I/We inside the body. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:1, 4.)

    This directly echoes language from the Wisdom of Solomon (9:15):

    • "…for a perishable body weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind."
    As Klaus Berger notes, this text offers two verbal parallels to to 2 Corinthians 5:4 ("weigh down" and "tent") and "a third could just as well be present ("groan")". Furthermore, both texts are herein referring to the travails of bodily existence, that is of unglorified, embodied life.

    In this regard, Fredrik Lindgård argued in his very exegetically dense 2005 study entitled, Paul's Line of Thought in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 p. 140 that Paul here draws on language from Plato's Phaedo which similarly describes the body encasing the immortal soul as a 'tent':


    Skenos does not occur apart from 2 Cor. 5 in the New Testament. The LXX mentions the word once in Wisdom 9:15...It is possible that Paul's language here is influenced by Wisdom's dualistic terminology. It is obvious that, at least, there exists a similarity between, on the one hand, Phaedo 81c and Wisdom 9:15 and, on the other hand, between Wisdom 9:15 and 2 Cor 5:1-2

    While David Edward Aune in his 2013 Jesus, Gospel Tradition and Paul in the. Context of Jewish and Greco-Roman. Antiquity. Collected Essays II p. 365 noted:


    Wisdom 9:25 is a frequently cited parallel to 2 Corinthians 5:1...the italicized words in this quotation ("weighs down"/"earthly body") indicate relatively close verbal parallels with 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 which suggests Paul's familiarity with this Hellenistic Jewish mediation of Platonic tradition, if not with this passage itself.

    Wisdom 8:19-20 states: "As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body." As with the exegesis provided of the Pauline paragraph in 2 Corinthians above by many scholars, where it can be inferred that Paul identifies the "we" that inhabits the body with the "inner person" or separable soul; Wisdom likewise differentiates between the "I", identified with the soul, and the body, which the "I/soul" enters and inhabits like a perishable "tent" (Wisdom 9:25) until death, when "the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace." (Wisdom 3:1-3) or as Paul would put it the soul will be "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8) and "I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body" (Philippians 1:23-24).

    Notice how in Wisdom of Solomon and the Pauline epistles the "I" is within the body but can leave it ("departure"/"depart") at death to be with God/Christ. There are other scriptural authorities which might be cited but I think this will suffice in demonstrating that, so far as I understand it, Platonism did exert an important formative influence upon early Christian thought - albeit his enormous influence is often 'hidden' and informal.
     
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  4. Eyes to See

    Eyes to See Member

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    Plato has indeed had a major impact on religions around the world. Including a corrupted form, or apostate Christianity. But comparing his teachings with the Bible we see they are not compatible with God's word and are not a part of true Christianity.

    For example Plato stated:
    The Bible says:

    The first man Adam became a living soul.1 Corinthians 15:45

    Let my soul die.—Numbers 23:10.

    The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.Ezekiel 18:4.

    Plato taught the soul was immortal and separates from a person at death. The Bible teaches that the soul is mortal and is the person him/herself. And the person who sins, the soul that sins will die. It is not immortal. In fact the Bible teaches that only God had immorality, it was gifted to Jesus upon his resurrection. And will only be gifted to the chosen anointed Christian congregation at the resurrection to heavenly spirit life. It is not something inherent in a person.

    But you are correct, millions of so-called Christians base their beliefs, not on the Bible, but on Plato's teachings.

    https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/g201302/plato-a-greek-philosopher/
     
    #4 Eyes to See, May 22, 2020
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  5. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Surely this is yet another one of your insufferable attempts to safely gloss over the issues, @Vouthon, rather than risk error by plunging into the true depths of analysis. Have you no intellectual courage, man!* Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.







    ______________________
    *There are good critics. There are bad critics. And then there are hyper-critics.
     
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  6. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon shunyadragon
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    Is Plato Christianity's hidden "church father"?

    Simply no.
     
  7. epronovost

    epronovost Well-Known Member

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    The answer is yes. Neoplatonism and Plato's writtings were fundamental to the development of christian theology. In fact the fact we know Plato so well is due to the fact he was copied, preserved, thought and admired by Christian theologians of Antiquity and the Middle Ages. St-Augustine of Hippo was strongly influenced by neoplatonic philosophy as was Pseudo-Dionysius the Aeropagite and, much later, Thomas Aquinas also admired the work of Aristotle and help preserved and perpetuate the heritage of neoplatonism. In fact Scolasticism entire purpose was to reconciliate Christian theology with Aristotle philosophy and neoplatonism. That doesn't mean that Christianity and neoplatonism never fought one another, but there is a lot of Plato's influence in Christian theology.
     
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  8. rational experiences

    rational experiences Well-Known Member

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    How many theist have lived in the history of life on Earth in the presence of males, contemplating male human information?

    Lots, multi, many and still today the same, thinkers and contemplating and defining.

    Claiming I know what I am discussing as being relative to my wants.

    Which spiritually is a claim that the male human self is motivated to think spiritually in the form of a theist.

    Being all that the Church would inform their own selves about.

    That spirituality and its concepts began with male philosophers and scientists first....who gave self a science lesson and then science became spiritual for it was not in fact spiritual to begin with. When a male contemplates what he knew historically about the mountain ^ tip O Ufo sun removal.

    Historically the scientist/inventor life sacrifice was practicing, then the Church was founded on what it had learnt and been advised.

    So no, I would not say that Plato is the Christian anything.
     
  9. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    This is extremely interesting and lucidly presented, so many thanks for that.

    I would be interested to see what our resident mathematician, @Polymath257 , has to say on the question of mathematical Platonism vs. formalism. I have to confess I have always assumed mathematics to be an intellectual edifice constructed by human thought, by the application of logic to quantities, rather than something that has an independent existence and which has been progressively discovered by humanity. But I say this on the basis of only the superficial contact with mathematics I have had in the course of my study at school and university, which was really as a language for expressing scientific concepts.

    I was dimly aware of Aristotle's importance to the medieval church, but had not investigated the subject.
     
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  10. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Many thanks @exchemist your contribution to the thread is most welcome.

    You have provided an excellent description of the 'formalist' approach to mathematics in the above, which I believe owes its true origins to William of Ockham's denial of "abstract universals" in the medieval period (as a consequence of his anti-Platonic nominalist system):


    Nominalist - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics


    But suppose one favors naturalism. Medieval nominalists like William of Occam rejected platonic forms and universals in favor of linguistic items like predicates, and in the philosophy of mathematics those who favor signs like numerals over abstracta like numbers are sometimes called formalists.

    Ockham is most famous for his articulation of 'parsimony', or 'razor', namely that: "Entities should not be multiplied without necessity" which has since become a staple of the scientific method.

    Many intellectual historians, in fact, regard his philisophy as the first stirrings of secular modernity (which is why I rank him alongside Plato and Aristotle) and that of his fellow Franciscan Dunsus Scotus:


    Duns Scotus’s Christology: Foundations for Franciscan Christian Humanism in: The English Province of the Franciscans (1224-c.1350)


    Following the provocative study of Étienne Gilson,11 a diverse company of theologians have come to identify Duns Scotus as a transitional figure in the move towards a ‘proto-liberal’ or ‘proto-secular’ construal of created being and the exigency of the creature to act autonomously


    Secular supercessionism and alternative modernity

    John Duns Scotus’ invention of univocity and William of Ockham’s razor are key to the emergence of modernity in general ...Not in themselves, but given the assumptions of metaphysical univocity and Occam’s razor, the methodological naturalism and evidentiary empiricism that define knowledge as secular.

    While he may not like me saying so (I hope he doesn't mind!) because Ockham was - of course - a devout Catholic rather than an atheist, I regard @Polymath257 as a true son of Ockham for his judiciously brilliant defense of formalism (and thus, in epistemology, a "Franciscan" like Ockham). I consider Poly a genius m'self :D

    I, on the other hand, am a stubborn and crusty Augustinian Platonist. This Platonic understanding of mathematical realism was incorporated into the Catholic/Orthodox Bible courtesy of our deuterocanon, in the form of the Book of Wisdom which was written circa. 100 BCE by a learned Platonic Jew:


    "you [God] have arranged all things by measure and number and weight" (Wisdom of Solomon 11:20)​


    This scriptural passage was important for early scientific pioneers in the late Middle Ages (Galileo and Newton even cite it). For instance, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th century:


    Untitled Document


    A powerful justification for the exploration of the Quadrivium during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was the understanding that in the use of the mathematical disciplines the human mind was demonstrating its likeness to the divine mind. This idea is well brought out in the following passage from Nicholas of Cusa's On Learned Ignorance:

    *

    For Nicholas of Cusa, the human use of the mathematical disciplines "...are the works of that reason by which men surpass beasts, for brutes cannot number, weigh, and measure."* Echoing Platonic and Pythagorean ideas, Cusa notes: "If we have any knowledge of them [God's works], we derive it from the symbolism and the mirror of our mathematical knowledge."* "...If number is removed, the distinctness, order, comparative relation and harmony of things cease; and the plurality of beings ceases,"* and "...reason could not proceed with its works, e.g., with building, measuring, and so on."* For Cusa, therefore, where the language of mathematics fails, nothing remains understandable or knowable to the human mind.

    Cusa emphasized the likeness of man to God by seeing the parallel between God 's creation of the world and man's recreation in the products of human thought:

    As God creates real entities and natural forms so man creates rational entities and artificial forms which do not exist except as a likeness of his intellect, as the creatures of God can only exist as a likeness of the divine mind. Therefore man has an intellect, which is the likeness of the divine intellect in creating. Hence man creates likenesses of the likenesses of the divine intellect, just as extrinsic artificial figures are likenesses of intrinsic natural forms.*
    The French Humanists followed Cusa in emphasizing the importance of mathematics as a crucial tool to gain philosophical and theological truth. Charles de Bovelles wrote:

    The mathematical disciplines should not be neglected for a moment... in ascertaining knowledge of both human and divine matters. Indeed to philosophize without the strong protection of mathematics...makes one an orphan.... For through mathematic examples...substantial acts and the first creative forms of things can be known... as well as the acts of being, living, feeling, and thinking which encompass all things under heaven.*


    “1. Reading the Book of Nature: The Ontological and Epistemological Underpinnings of Galileo’s Mathematical Realism” in “The Language of Nature” on Manifold @uminnpress


    If “mathematical realism or Platonism” means—as Finocchiaro claims—the “identification or conflation of mathematical and physical truth,” then Galileo is indeed not a Platonist. As I have argued elsewhere (Palmerino 2006, 41–42), Galileo in fact believes that while what is true in physics must necessarily be true in mathematics, not all mathematical propositions must necessarily find an instantiation in the physical reality.

    However, if by “mathematical realism or Platonism” one intends the view that mathematical entities are ontologically independent from our mind, then Galileo is certainly a Platonist. In his writings he not only asserts that the structure of reality is intrinsically mathematical, but also claims that mathematical propositions are true independently of whether they are known by us. While God knows all mathematical propositions, we only understand a limited amount of them...

    ...even if a mathematical entity does not find instantiation in the physical world, it still exists in the mind of God, who, as both Galileo and Barrow claim, quoting the Platonizing Book of Wisdom, “arranged all things by number, weight and measure.”

    Within the world of pure mathematics, most mathematicians even today are apparently still Platonists ("realists") rather than formalists, according to the available suverys.

    Mathematics is first and foremost an endeavour of the conscious intellect, I would say - and an abstraction at that. Its an ingenious little intellectual exercise that we humans (along with some other animals, in terms of basic counting skills) partake of and it consists fundamentally of abstract thoughts in our mind - integers, prime numbers, algebra, calculus, you name it - which we then 'notate' in some kind of culturally contingent script. It is thus a two-track exercise, encompassing a possibility space of mathematical objects on the one hand and their representation on the other.

    For the formalist - math is an abstract system with invented signs and rules, kinda like chess playing (only with with syntactic forms). In other words, math is just a mental construction dealing with abstract objects.

    And to an extent, even I'd say that's true. There’s a boundless megaverse of mathematical concepts, a sizeable chunk of which don’t actually help scientists discover new things about the physical world but are, rather, just aesthetically pleasing in and of themselves. Similar, I guess, to how a tuneful and melodious singing voice might be pleasing to the ear, because it hits all the right 'notes' according to our evolved or culturally contingent standards of synchronous, ordered beauty. Once you have the notes, the rest follows and consequences come from it. Same with mathematical formalisms.

    Good examples of that are eight-dimensional spaces and Cantor's algebra of infinities. Neither of these - at least, as of yet - would appear to have any applicability in the real world of physics, at least to my knowledge. To those of a certain disposition, these relations between mathematical objects are alluringly beautiful but nothing more.

    The most puzzling truism about mathematics, however, is that a subset of it it actually has a lot of relevance to the real, primary world 'out there' - the 'unreasonable effectiveness'. Physics is often about identifying patterns in nature that we call "laws." These laws invariably have some kind of mathematical expression.

    As the American theoretical physicist Edward Witten explained in a recent set of interviews:





    So this seemed like a very abstract little game, and suddenly you apply it and it not only opens up new understanding, but understanding that is counterintuitive to your everyday common sense, such that there's no way you would've ever come up with it had it not been for the mathematics that guided you in the first place (think quantum mechanics and complex numbers).

    Mathematical relations and objects are thus, paradoxically, things which are in some sense 'out there' in the primary non-mental world, even though those same mathematical ideas are also things in our heads and begin as thoughts. How do you square that?

    Platonists and Formalists provide competing answers, meaning its really a personal philosophical judgement that the individual has to make as to which is the more persuasive.
     
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  11. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    I am a formalist and see mathematics as an invented language. So, when it comes to the 'unreasonable effectiveness' of math, I wonder if people consider the unreasonable effectiveness of English or French. Somehow, both languages manage to help us understand the world around us, while clearly being human inventions at the same time.

    The difference for math, I think, is two fold. Far fewer people speak the language, which gives it an air of mystery to many people, and those of different spoken languages can communicate using math, which gives it a feeling of universality. The precision of the results also leads to this feeling, I think.

    And I do think that a Platonistic view of mathematics was sustainable through to the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry. But that showed the concept that there is 'one mathematics' is flawed at the core. This was driven home when Godel showed his results, one of which shows that there is always an undecidable statement, which means consistency of the system is maintained whether that statement is assumed or its negation is assumed. So, for every undecidable proposition, mathematics potentially splits into two distinct mathematical systems. This is also seen in the distinct mathematical systems of intuitionist mathematics, finitists (who reject Cantorian set theory), and standard mathematics.

    What that means, to me, is that we get to choose the axiom system that either produces more aesthetic mathematics (internal conditions) or helps us to get results that are applicable in other fields of study (external conditions).

    If you read Plato, math is used in several places as an example of his views. In one dialog, he 'proves' that learning is the same as remembering. He does this by asking how to get a square of double the area of another, guiding a slave through the answer. It assumed, of course, what we now know as Euclidean geometry.

    In regard to the OP, the influence of neo-Platonic thought on early Christianity is complicated to say the least. Certainly, there were neo-Platonists that had thought systems quite close to those of early Christians, and as things went on, many of the Platonic doctrines were adopted by Christianity. The Timeaus was a highly influential piece during the early middle ages, in part because it was one fo the few texts that still was known in the West. It wasn't until the translation movement of the 11th and 12th centuries that Aristotelian ideas were re-introduced, allowing for Aquinas to build his system unifying Christianity with Aristotle.
     
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  12. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    @Polymath257 On the Platonist versus Formalist debate (thank you for such an erudite and compelling argument in favour of the Formalist approach, yet again, by the way!), there was a great public contest a couple of years ago between Platonist-mathematician in chief Edward Frenkel and his Formalist colleague Jim Holt, which Peter Woit described on his blog as a "Cage Match": :D


    Platonism CageMatch at MoMath | Not Even Wrong


    After spending two hours in the middle of the day hearing about unexpected uses of twistors to study particle scattering amplitudes, yesterday I went down to Manhattan’s relatively new Museum of Mathematics, which had scheduled a “Family Friday” event, featuring Edward Frenkel and Jim Holt. The event began with Frenkel giving a presentation about math, kind of an introduction to his wonderful new book Love and Math.

    Things really got exciting though when Jim Holt joined him on the stage, for a no-holds-barred discussion of Platonism and mathematics in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Holt ripped into Frenkel as engaging in “mysticism” by claiming that mathematical objects are “real” and “exist”. He quoted from Bertrand Russell, who early in life took Platonist positions, but in his old age renounced them. Frenkel countered, dismissing Russell’s later quotes as those of someone who had gone soft in the head. He went on to quote arch-Platonist Kurt Gödel, with the response from Holt a low blow: he told the story of how Gödel had died a paranoid, starving himself to death. Holt continued the attack in the same vein, telling about Georg Cantor, and his end in the loony-bin. The implication was that Platonists are not just mystics but nuts.

    Frenkel then decided to try taking the high road, invoking W.V.O. Quine and Hilary Putnam (distinguished non-nuts Harvard professors I took courses from) and their Indispensability Argument. The basic idea there is that the best choice of what “exists” is those entities that are an indispensable part of our best theory of the material world. Not sure yet whether twistors count, but if they become part of the new unified theory of gravity and the Standard Model, then they surely exist as much as anything does. Holt parried with Hartry Field’s Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism which supposedly shows you can do Newtonian physics without math. Frenkel (together with much of the rest of the audience) scoffed at this, making the obvious riposte: what about GR?

    This was finally brought to an end with a few questions from the audience, a sizable contingent of which was underage. They seemed to be having a great time, far more entertained by this sort of thing than by the usual flashy trinkets people use to try and get them interested in math (but which seem to work better on the pre-verbal baby crowd). All in all, a highly edifying experience, I hope the Frenkel/Holt show gets taken on the road.


    (Incidentally Woit, a mathematican and former physicist most famous for his opposition to String Theory and the string landscape multiverse hypothesis, is himself a Platonist philosophically, indeed he writes in the comments down below the above blog post:

    The argument over “Platonism” that Frenkel and Holt were having I think is more interesting (besides being kind of fun), since it gets at the question of what to make of “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”. Different takes on this question aren’t necessarily “right” or “wrong”, but lead one to value and take interest in different aspects of mathematics and physics. To the extent that there really are philosophical issues with substance, to me this one of how mathematics, physics and our relationship to reality fit together is a great one.

    Working in a math department, I don’t hear anyone arguing against Platonism, just see lots of people working happily with things that they consider very much real. Those who want to argue against Platonism, from this point of view, are not a threat but a welcome opportunity to think about the deep questions of how math, physics and reality are related.


    In response to a different blog post, in which he criticised Max Tegmark's Pythagorianism (that all mathematical objects are physically real in some sense), he stated:


    Our Mathematical Universe | Not Even Wrong


    I myself favor some form of “Platonism” or realism about mathematics (see a following posting, which has a link to something about the “Putnam-Quine indispensability thesis” and I think Quine had some of the most to the point things to say about how to think about what is “real”).

    He expounds his own views in this paper:


    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/mathphys.pdf

    Eugene Wigner’s well known essay The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences [15] (based on a talk delivered in 1959) concluded with the summary

    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.
    ...The lesson drawn here from history is that the fundamental laws of physics point not to some randomly chosen mathematical structure, but to an exceptionally special one, requiring a deep understanding of the mathematical world in order to fully appreciate it.

    Wigner’s “unreasonable effectiveness” miracle is ultimately a claim that a unity of mathematics and physics exists despite our lack of any good reason to expect it. We may not deserve to be part of this miracle, but we can and should continue to try and understand it.)

    I'm looking forward to the 'Polymath' cage-match one day. If you ever debate Frenkel, I'm booking tickets in advance - just so y'know :p
     
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  13. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    I don't think that either the later insanity of Godel or Cantor is particular relevant to the discussion of Platonism vs formalist in math. As an interesting counterpoint, I have one book on the foundations of math that pointed out that Plato would have been more a finitist than either a modern Platonist or formalist. That is because both Platonism and formalism (in math) are very much accepting of the Cantorian revolution, while Plato (and even more so, Aristotle) was clearly more of a view that infinite quantities are to be avoided. Hence, the concept of 'potential' vs 'actual' infinities.

    I think there is a point to be made concerning the 'useful' part of math being the 'most real'. But that is partly, I think, because we *choose* the axioms so that those useful parts can be modeled in the axioms. So, historically, arithmetic and geometry were *useful* for accounting and building purposes. And, for those purposes, an approximate geometry was quite sufficient (which is why Babylonian formulas for the volume of a pyramid were wrong--they were good enough for the purposes intended).

    Later, when Euclid axiomatized the known math at the time, he *chose* axioms that would give the results he wanted. This lead, for example, to the long series of attempts to prove the parallel postulate, eventually leading to non-Euclidean geometry. While Euclid certainly thought of his axioms and postulates as 'laws of thought', we now know that there are many alternative systems, many of which are even quite useful.

    Today, we *choose* the axioms for set theory because they eventually lead to the construction of the natural numbers, the real numbers, and calculus. That common core for any 'acceptable' axioms for set theory is common *because* we want to get the results that are useful in physics.

    And, there may be a core of math that is required for a testable predictive description of the world around us. And, it could be argued that this core is the 'true' math. But, I suspect that if we *only* had that core, the math itself would be ugly and uninspiring. That is because we also choose our results for 'mathematical beauty'.

    So, it is possible to have a set theory without the axiom of choice. Such a theory, I have no doubt, can be made to model everything we need in physics. But, attempting to get even basic results in such a set theory is difficult and the arguments tend to be 'ugly'. When the AC is adopted, many particular results that can be proven without it can be merged into a coherent whole, usually with much simpler proofs. Because of this, while AC is *known* to be independent of the other axioms, it is usually adopted. The negation would be *equally consistent*, but it leads to ugly math.

    So, my view is that we *choose* our axioms for two main reasons: utility in modeling the world, and internal aesthetics of the math. MAYBE that uniquely determines a set of axioms, but given the wide range of known independence results, I very highly doubt it.
     
    #13 Polymath257, May 23, 2020
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  14. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    I have found that very few mathematicians think about the fundamentals of the subject. It is seen as 'philosophy' and not particularly relevant to math. This extends to a feeling among many that the axioms adopted 'don't really matter' to math. This means that most have a 'default Platonism' in the same sense that most people have a default 'realism'.

    I have always been interested in the philosophical aspect of math. Truthfully, I find Putnam to be missing the point for the most part. I can go into this further, but the problems begin when we ask 'what does it mean to be a number?' And I think a more thorough discussion of *that* can go very deep into why we choose the axioms we do and why we construct things from the axioms in the way we do.

    Of course, this little to do with the OP, which is more about how Platonism impacted Christianity. I think the contributions of, for example, Philo, are quite relevant to the rise of Christianity and the close counterpoint of Plotinus needs to be considered among the ideas being discussed during the rise of Christianity. Certainly, the gospel of John has many platonistic aspects to it and I think it would be interesting to trace that influence.
     
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  15. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Another aspect of this, in regard to Christianity, is that the Aristotelian 'Prime Mover' was often seen as being too remote from human affairs. This lead to the idea of there being 'messenger' that would bridge the gap between terrestrial affairs and the superlunary affairs in the heavens. Remember that the cosmos was viewed at this time as being *small* by modern standards. The whole 'sphere of the stars' was seen as being as far away as we now know Saturn to be. One popular concept was that human souls would rise through the spheres to 'heaven', possibly with the guidance of a 'messenger'.

    This leads to all sorts of alternative views, such as Gnosticism with Valentinian being a major proponent here. Clearly, some of these gnostic ideas melded with some Christian ideas very early on. Also, the thoughts of Arians and how Platonism played in their thoughts would be quite interesting.

    Another caution here is to realize the time periods involved. It was 400 years between Plato and Jesus. It was another 400 to Augustine. That leave a LOT of time for different ideas to play in the society and to be integrated or rejected in any specific philosophical/theological line.
     
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  16. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    I tend to more go with Aristotle on this, in terms of influence on the Church and the NT, but obviously the two ain't far apart.
     
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  17. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Indeed, in my OP I made a few sidepoints about the continued prevalence of some basic Platonist assumptions today, for example in philosophy of math - which were only tagentially relevent to my central thesis - as part of an attempt, on my part, to acknowledge the historical influence of the basic Platonic schema (i.e. the idea of there being an abstract 'world' of objects/relations independent of our rational activities waiting to be 'discovered' rather than 'invented' by minds, a world of preexistent mathematical truths that the material world is somehow patterned after), before launching into my reasons for thinking that Platonism - especially in its Middle Plaronist and Neo-Platonist iterations - was particularly formative in early Christian thought.

    @exchemist noted this ancillary part of my argument and raised a very cogent point in respect of it, leading in turn to an intriguing little side-discussoon about the fundamental nature of mathematics and its applicability to the primary, physical world, which I personally find endlessly fascinating :D.

    My perception is that some Christians get - understandably I guess - 'uncomfortable' about conceding that there might be Jewish-Platonizing language and concepts not merely in the writings of the early church fathers (which is generally uncontested, given its prominence in the thought of - among others - Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine etc.) but in the New Testament itself too.

    On the linguistic front, the evidence is strong - there is Koine Greek Platonic terminology throughout parts of the Pauline epistles, the Johannine literature (as you note) and most especially in the Epistle of the Hebrews: the latter of which actually adopts a kind of Philonic-Platonist distinction between the 'temporary, changeable' (and thus 'imperfect') copies of the heavenly archetypes and those perfect, eternal divine 'archetypes/prototypes' themselves (using many technical Platonist words derived from the Dialogues such as "pattern" and the visible/invisible), as part of a broader apologetical argument seeking to explain why (in the author's estimation) Jesus is to be thought of as a 'better' high priest than the earthly Jewish priesthood that has just passed away (with the destruction of the Second Temple) and thus the mediator of a 'new' and eternal covenant (the New Testament).

    Hebrews combines this Jewish-Platonism with a traditional Judaic promise/ fulfilment schema, that is dense in its Old Testament knowledge and citations, making it a fascinating 'cultural hybrid' IMHO.

    Then we have the belief in the 'immortality' of the soul - this is found (assumed) by Jesus in the gospels: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matthew 10:28).

    Here, Jesus distinguishes - in substance-dualistic, Platonizing Jewish style - between 'body and soul', with the latter being able to separate from the former in death (it cannot be destroyed). Scholars have frequently noted the assumed dualist framework behind this statement.

    But this belief in postmortem survival of consciousness was by no means an 'assumption' that one could just make on the basis of the Tanakh, which contains a range of opinions, some of them seemingly openly materialist.

    It emerges, unquestionably, in the writings of Second Temple Jews who had been exposed to Hellenistic philosophy, for example the Book of Wisdom:


    Book of Wisdom - Wikipedia


    The Book of Wisdom, or the Wisdom of Solomon, is a Jewish work written in Greek and most likely composed in Alexandria, Egypt. Generally dated to the mid first century BC,[1] the central theme of the work is "Wisdom" itself, appearing under two principal aspects...

    It is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books comprising the Septuagint, the others being Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Job, and Sirach. It is included in the canon of Deuterocanonical books by the Roman Catholic Church and the anagignoskomena (Gr. ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, meaning "those which are to be read") of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    The Love of Wisdom: Middle Platonism and Stoicism in the Wisdom of Solomon (Chapter 11) - From Stoicism to Platonism


    Scholars have demonstrated, quite convincingly, that Paul's Epistle to the Romans and Corinthian letters base a substantial part of their arguments on concepts derived from Wisdom (who in turn derived them from his reading of the Platonic Dialogues, Middle-Platonists and Stoics). The Catholic and Orthodox Churches accept both the Wisdom of Solmon and the Pauline epistles as 'canonical', hence the attraction of many early fathers to Platonic philosophy.

    St. Paul extended this Platonizing tendency even further (as I noted in my linguistic-exegetical arguments in the OP) and traces of Platonism have been readily identified in his thought, to quote E.P. Sanders in his recent (2015) study Paul: The Apostle's Life, Letters and Thought, who call it "anthropological dualism". Sanders argues:


    "...This sentence constitutes what I call “Paul's most platonic moment”: Platonic theory held that the eternal ''forms' are real...

    2 Cor.3-18-5:10 and other passages show the influence of inner/outer dualism in Paul's thought.
    ..In 2 Cor. 4:16, Paul continues to show himself ready to employ individual body/soul dualism...Individual dualism also dominates 2 Cor. 5:1-9. Paul states that "we" live in an "earthly tent"...Here the real human being ("we") is the "inner person". What is the body? A tent. The real person - the inner person - lives inside the outer tent and wishes to discard it...The inner, real person may be briefly naked, without a body/tent as covering (5:2-3)...


    This accepts the dualistic that the outer shell is not a good dwelling: 'we groan under our burden'. But he rejects the standard Greek idea [of indefinite disembodied existence]...The real (inner) person will not be unclothed, but rather be further clothed...

    In 2 Cor. 5:8, however, Paul once more raises the possibility of a bodiless person: "we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord". 'We' is again the real person, who can do without the body and be with the Lord...The formulation of 2 Cor.5:8 will eventually become standard in Christianity...

    When thinking of his death, he naturally thought of himself, that is, the "real person," as leaving the earthly body and going immediately to be with Christ (Philippians 1;23). Here, as in 2 Corinthians 5, there is an inner person that might leave the flesh, or earthly tent, to be with Christ..."


    Another example from the New Testament is found outside the Pauline corpus, in the Petrine epistles (written, in fact, by an unknown Jewish Christian author) - for example 2 Peter 1:13-15: "I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things."

    Note that there is a true "I" who is 'in' the body but not inseparable from it, indeed he is anticipating his 'departure' from that body in death.

    Thus the American New Testament scholar, and historian of Early Christianity, Dale C. Allison who contended in 2016 (Death, Imagination, and the Last Things, p. 34), writes with regards to 2 Cor. 4:18:


    "In more than one place, then, the New Testament takes for granted that the inner person or spirit is potentially independent of the body and isn't inert after death...The New Testament doesn’t anticipate modern physicalism. Matthew, Mark, the author of Luke–Acts, John, and Paul as well as the authors of Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Revelation all believed that the self or some part of it could leave the body and even survive without it...

    Paul’s letters hold more of the same. Despite his hope to see the second coming and his insistence on resurrection, his true home is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and he desires to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better than remaining in the flesh (Philippians 1:23–24). The apostle also relates that he was once caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, and that he may not have been in his body at the time (2 Corinthians 12:2–3). “we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
    ."

    Udo Schnelle, professor of New Testament at the University of Wittenberg, likewise argued in his 2012 book, Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology p. 250:


    "2 Cor. 5:1-10 is characterized by a tendency toward dualism and individualization. This dualism is seen first in the imagery (earthly/heavenly dwelling; being at home/being away from home; being unclothed/being further clothed; mortality/life), which is based on an anthropology stamped by Hellenistic Jewish features. The image of the body as a tent and thus only a temporary dwelling of the self, the mystical understanding of 'clothing,' 'nakedness' as the result of the separation of body and soul, the idea that living in the body is living in exile from one's true homeland - all point to Hellenistic influence (esp. Epictetus, Diatr.1.9.12-14). Because the apostle would like to leave his earthly body, he here uses dualistic categories to evaluate bodily life."

    It thus seems quite apparent to me that early Jewish Christians found, in a Book of Wisdom/Philonic Jewish-mediated Platonic-dualist schema, a philosophy especially suited to their apologetic ends. Moreover, the Jewish-Platonistic (synthesized) arguments advanced by the Johannine author, St. Paul and Hebrews are critical to some of the early Christians' conceptions of the actual nature of the 'New Testament' and what this new-fangled, alleged 'divine revelation' was all about.
     
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  18. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Agreed, it seems to be very much a 'default' or 'in-action' Platonism (a bit like the 'shut up and calculate' approach of some quantum physicists?) based on conversations I've had down the years with mathematician friends (i.e. they just assume for the purposes of the work that what their dealing with is "real" in some sense, without teasing out how that might be so or what the implications of that are), although there obviously some who go further into an actual extended philosophical justification for this stance (like Frenkel) or against Platonism (formalists).

    Frenkel expresses his views (in laymen's terms) in this video:

     
    #18 Vouthon, May 23, 2020
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  19. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    very interesting. I was just going to bring up Philo of Alexandria, philosopher of the Jewish Diaspora, who was fascinated by Greek philosophy and attempted to weld Jewish and Greek thought together into a coherent system...something that was adopted by some of the early Christian churches.

    I'm not a mathematician (but I once stayed at a holiday inn express...:D), but I've always been fascinated by the fact that only select parts of mathematics seem to have 'unreasonable effectiveness' in describing the physics of our existence...and that large parts of math don't seem to have any necessary connection to anything physical (although they may prove useful for other reasons)...

    That, of course, is if I understand this correctly...
     
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  20. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Very good point - this is where the Platonic 'Demiurge' (the benevolent Craftsman creating the ordered universe from the Eternal Forms) and the Stoic Logos (the eternal reasoning principle of the universe) combine with the Jewish sapiential tradition (Divine Wisdom, personified as a female 'intermediary' between the Jewish God and created things) to produce.....Johannine Christianity and also elements of Pauline thought, with Jesus as that 'messenger' bridging the terrestrial and heavenly i.e.


    1 Corinthians 8:6

    6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.


    Jesus is here described by Paul as the divine, pre-existent entity "through" whom God the Father created the universe. (Incidentally, the above statement is not thought by scholars - like Hurtado and Ehrman - to have been conveived by Paul, rather they believe he was referencing an already well-known creed of the primitive church, which tells us that early Christians had already come to regard Jesus as a pre-existent divine agent of creation co-eternal with God, about a decade after his death.)

    The Wisdom of Solomon had already (under Hellenistic influence) described 'Divine Wisdom' as an intermediary in terms that Christians would later apply to Jesus:


    "For she is a breath of the power of God,
    and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
    therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
    For she is a reflection of eternal light,
    a spotless mirror of the working of God,
    and an image of his goodness.

    Although she is but one, she can do all things,
    and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
    in every generation she passes into holy souls
    and makes them friends of God, and prophets...
    Because of her I shall have immortality"


    (Wisdom of Solmon 7:25-27)


    Compare with Hebrews:


    "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word."

    (Hebrews 1:1-3)


    Christianity seems to bring a few ideas that were cross-pollinating for centuries in the classical world together into this Hellenistic Jewish synthesis that ultimately proved appealing to many Greco-Romans - many of whom had already been interested in Jewish concepts of a 'personal God' that loves his people and enters into a covenant with them.

    This 'person Supreme God' is then fused with the 'philiosophical monotheism' implicit in Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover" and other similar Hellenistic monadic conceptions, for example from Xenophanes:


    Xenophanes - Wikipedia


    Xenophanes of Colophon (/zəˈnɒfəniːz/;[1][2] Ancient Greek: Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος [ksenopʰánɛːs ho kolopʰɔ̌ːnios]; c. 570 – c. 475 BC)[3] was a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and social and religious critic. Xenophanes is seen as one of the most important presocratic philosophers.

    Regarding Xenophanes' theology five key concepts about God can be formed. God is: beyond human morality, does not resemble human form, cannot die or be born (God is divine thus eternal), no divine hierarchy exists, and God does not intervene in human affairs.[32] While Xenophanes is rejecting Homeric theology, he is not questioning the presence of a divine entity, rather his philosophy is a critique on Ancient Greek writers and their conception of divinity.[33]

    Xenophanes espoused a belief that "God is one, supreme among gods and men, and not like mortals in body or in mind."[34] He maintained there was one greatest God. God is one eternal being, spherical in form, comprehending all things within himself, is the absolute mind and thought,[15] therefore is intelligent, and moves all things, but bears no resemblance to human nature either in body or mind.


    The 'Supreme God of the Philosophers' - including Plato's conception of the 'Demiurge' - was merely a philosophical deduction on the part of these Hellenistic thinkers (arising from their systems of thought) and was not the recipient of any cultic devotion (indeed, the lower 'gods' were still the focus of worship) with their still being expressly polytheistic in worship. Christianity sort of combined this conception (filtered through Hellenistic Judaism i.e. Wisdom and Philo) with the Jewish concept of a Personal Creator known through prophetic revelation IMHO, who alone should be worshipped - albeit 'through' his mediator Jesus (who becomes, in later theological construction, the 'Second Person' of the Trinity).
     
    #20 Vouthon, May 23, 2020
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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