GREEK PHILOSOPHY AND THE TRINITY

Some hold the Trinity to have its source in Pagan Greek philosophy and that Plato was the forerunner and originator of the triune theology. Some hold Plato was a plagiarist who found his ideas in Moses and the Hebrews as the Greeks derived their alphabet from the Hebrew. This later view is one of Eusebius, a Christian bishop of the Fourth Century. In his work Praeparatio Evangelica, Eusebius argues that Plato is merely Moses speaking in Attic. He presents a convincing case as he draws on the words of Plato and his later disciples and demonstrates these came from Moses and the Hebrews as recorded in the Old Testament.

What truths come from these arguments? Eusebius was a Trinitarian, though not in the mode of a modern Trinitarian. Thus, he gathers Plato together with Moses seeking such a Trinity, though not in the form of that of a modern Trinitarian.

There is another view, some scholars feel the earliest and most primitive of Christianity, and it is called henotheism: the belief in one God though affirming there are others. This conviction holds there is only one True God in the absolute sense but there is a second god who is the Son of the former. This unitarian view holds there is no third god or third person. Rather, they hold the Mind of God exerts a force or pressure through the Son which accomplishes the Divine Will. This "force" is God’s Mind in action which exerts this pressure and is called holy wind, breath, or spirit, that is, an invisible active force.

All of the above ideas are present in Moses and Plato, though the Trinitarian Eusebius wishes to see Three in the process, it may just as well be Two. The following are portions from Praeparatio Evangelica and it may be left to the reader to determine if Two or Three is meant and whether this agrees with both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

Praepartio Evengelica

Volume 2, page 571 -- "As Moses declared concerning the God of all the world, ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD,’ [De 6.4] Plato again concurring with him teaches there is one God as also one heaven. ... But that (Plato) has a knowledge of one God, even though in accordance with the custom of the Greeks he commonly speaks of them as many. ... (Epistle to Dionysius) ‘So then the serious letter begins with ‘God’ and the less serious with ‘gods’.

Page 572 -- "And the same author expressly acknowledges that (Plato) learned the doctrine of the one ‘God’ [‘gods’] from men of old, as he says in the Laws.

Page 573 -- "In regard to the First Cause of all things let this be our admitted form of agreement. But now consider what is said concerning the Second Cause, whom the Hebrew oracles teach to be the Word of God. ... First then Moses expressly speaks of two divine Lords in the passage where he says, ‘Then the LORD rained from the LORD ... ‘ [Ge 19.24] ... In accordance with him David also, another Prophet as well as king of the Hebrews, says, ‘The LORD said unto my Lord" ... indicating the Most High God by the first LORD and the second to Him by the second title. For to what other is it right to suppose that the right hand of the Unbegotten God is conceded, that to Him alone of whom we are speaking?

Page 574 -- "And Solomon, David’s son and successor, presenting the same thought by a different name, instead of the ‘Word’ called Him Wisdom ... ‘The LORD formed me as the beginning of His ways ... When He was preparing the heaven, I was beside Him.’ [Pr 8.22ff]

Page 575 --- (Philo Iudaeus On the Confusion of Tongues) "For it becomes those who have made companionship with knowledge to desire to behold the true Being, but should they be unable, then at least to behold His image, the most holy Word. ... But even if one be not as yet worthy to be called the son of God, let him strive earnestly to be adorned after the likeness of His first-begotten Word, who is the eldest of the Angels, and as an Archangel, has many names. ... For the Universal Father made Him rise as His eldest Son, whom elsewhere He named ‘First-begotten.’

Page 577 -- "Does it not seem to you that in speaking thus Plato has followed the doctrine of the Hebrews? Or from what other source did it occur to him to name another God who is mightier than the cause of all things, whom also he calls Father of the All-ruler? And whence came his idea of setting the name of Lord on the Father of the Demiurge [Plato = a second deity], though never before him had any one brought this to the ears of the Greeks, nor even set it down in his own mind. ...

"(Plotinus, Concern the Three Primary Hypostases) ‘Who then is He that begat Him? He who is simple, and prior to a plurality of this kind, who is the cause both of His being, and of His plurality. For number came not first: since before the duad is the one; and the duad is second, and produced from the One.’

Page 578 -- "(Plotinus) This is he reason also of Plato’s trinities: for he says that around the King of all are all the primaries, and around the second the secondaries, and around the third, the tertiaries. He also says the Cause has a father, meaning that Mind is the Cause, for with Plato Mind its the Creator.

Page 579 -- "And Numenius highly commending Plato’s doctrines in his treatise Of the Good gives his own interpretation of the Second Cause: ‘The man who is to understand about the First and Second God must previously distinguish the several questions by some orderly arrangement. .... The First God, being in Himself, is simple, because, being united throughout with Himself, He can never be divided. The Second God however and the Third [god] is one. ...

Page 580 -- "’For it is not at all becoming that the First God should be the Creator; also the First God must be regarded as the father of the God who is Creator of the world. ... The First God is free from all kinds of work and reigns as king, but the Creative God governs.

Page 581 -- "Hear what Numenius says concerning the deity of the Second Cause. ... ‘And as again there is a relation between the husbandman and him that planeth, exactly in the same way is the First God related to the Demiurge [Plato = second deity].

Page 583 -- "Also the Word of our Salvation says, ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing.’ [Jn 5.19] ... And that Plato is not the first who has made these attempts, but has been anticipated by the Hebrew sages, has been proved by the examples already set forth. ... (Amelius) ... ‘the Barbarian [meaning the Apostle John] maintains that He was with God and was God: through whom absolutely all things were made. ... (He) came down into bodies and appeared as a man ... He was restored to deity, and is a God, such as He was before he came down to dwell in the body.’

Page 584 -- "Whereas next to the doctrine of Father and Son the Hebrew oracles class the Holy Spirit in the third place, and conceive the Holy and Blessed Trinity in such a manner as that the third Power surpasses every created nature, and that it is the first of the intellectual essences constituted through the Son, the third from the First Cause.

Page 585 -- "These statements are referred, by those who attempt to explain Plato, to the First God, and to the Second Cause [God], and thirdly to the Soul of the Universe, defining it also as a third God.

Page 587-8 -- "(Numenius) For if God the Creator is the beginning of generation, the good is the beginning of essence. ... For if the Creator who is the author of generation is good, the Creator also of essence will doubtless by absolute good, innate in essence. For the second god, being twofold, is the self-maker of the idea of Himself, and makes the world as its Creator. ... For if the second God is good, not of Himself, but from the First .... " [END QUOTATION]

Little more could illustrate Fourth Century "Christian" theology in the mind of this Catholic bishop. He has begun with the idea that Plato the Greek drew his theology from Moses the Hebrew. By Moses the bishop proves two Lords and two Gods in his own mind. He shows Plato teaches something similar in the First Cause (God number One) and the Demiurge (God number Two).

After this his argument begins to loose strength as he cannot completely establish a third God in the Holy Spirit, though he tries. What do we have then, based on Eusebius’ understanding of Plato and Moses? Three gods! This idea would contradict a modern Trinitarian’s view of three persons in One God, not Three Gods in One.

The Nazarene Saints affirm their own conviction -- based on their own close study of the Bible and related theology, history and philosophy -- is what is called the henotheistic view. That is, there is One God in the absolute sense of the word who is as Moses describes Him, "God of gods and Lord of lords." (De 10.17) One of these "lords" is Jesus Christ himself. (Ps 110.) And, one of these "gods" is Jesus Christ himself. (Is 9.6; Jn 1.1, 18)

Though this may contradict a forced Trinitarian definition of the word monotheism, that is not our concern. Our concern is what the Bible, both the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish Christian Scriptures have to say on the matter. We simply prefer to allow the Bible to define our terms and be the sole source of our vocabulary in a debate on these issues.


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