platonic and calvinist interpretations

Calvinists have a tendency to read into specific texts some ideas that are not present. That is the only way they can still claim the Bible as true while holding onto their platonistic ideas.

Philo of Alexandria was the first Judeo-Christian Platonist from whom we currently have surviving texts. As a committed Platonist, he was as embarrassed by the Old Testament as the Greeks were by Homer. In an attempt to bring the Old Testament into line with Platonism, he reinterpreted everything he could find. As an example:

XI. (28) “But a fountain went up upon the earth, and watered all the face of the earth.” He here calls the mind the fountain of the earth, and the sensations he calls the face of the earth, because there is the most suitable place in the whole body for them, with reference to their appropriate energies, a place that nature which foreknows everything, has assigned to them. And the mind waters the sensations like a fountain, sending appropriate streams over each.

This is Philo’s reading of Genesis 2:6:

Gen 2:6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

Philo is rejecting the clear meaning of the text in favor of allegory. This, stylistically, was not new. The pagan Greeks had been reinterpreting Homer for centuries before Philo arrived on the scene. From A.A. Long’s Stoic Readings of Homer:

Throughout classical antiquity and well into the Roman Empire, Homer held a position in Mediterranean culture that can only be compared with the position the Bible would later occupy… Like the Bible for the Jews, Homer offered the Greeks the foundation of their cultural identity. Such texts, however, can only remain authoritative over centuries of social and conceptual change if they can be brought up to date, so to speak—I mean they must be capable of being given interpretations that suit the circumstances of different epochs. When read literally, Homer was already out of date—physiologically and ethically unacceptable—for the early Ionian thinkers Xenophanes and Heraclitus. It was probably their criticism that evoked the first so-called allegorical defence of Homer. In the fifth century, Metrodorus of Lampsacus (frs. A3–4 D–K) ‘interpreted the heroes of the Iliad as parts of the universe, and the gods as parts of the human body…

Heraclitus announces his purpose very clearly at the beginning of his book. He intends to rescue Homer from the charge that his account of the gods is blasphemous. He states his primary point in his second sentence: ‘If Homer was no allegorist, he would be completely impious.’

The Greeks saw the gods depicted in Homer as evil, and set out to reinterpret them to more suit their needs. This is a common human condition. When Philo arrived on the scene, it was only natural to reject the God of the Old Testament in favor of the god of Platonism. Philo felt that it was beneath him even to explain problem passages because the platonic truths were self-evident:

“the Lord God, therefore,” says Moses, “seeing that the wickedness of man was multiplied upon the earth, and that every one of them was carefully studying wickedness in his heart all his days; God considered in his mind that he had made man upon the earth, and he thought upon it; and God said, I will destroy man whom I have made from off the face of the earth.” (21) Perhaps some very wicked persons will suspect that the lawgiver is here speaking enigmatically, when he says that the Creator repented of having created man, when he beheld their wickedness; on which account he determined to destroy the whole race. But let those who adopt such opinions as these know, that they are making light of and extenuating the offences of these men of old time, by reason of their own excessive impiety; (22) for what can be a greater act of wickedness than to think that the unchangeable God can be changed? And this, too, while some persons think that even those who are really men do never hesitate in their opinions, for that those, who have studied philosophy in a sincere and pure spirit, have derived as the greatest good arising from their knowledge, the absence of any inclination to change with the changes of affairs, and the disposition, with all immovable firmness and sure stability, to labour at every thing that it becomes them to pursue.

Here Philo is taking the clear passage detailing God’s change of mind and just pretending it does not exist. Modern Calvinists do the same: they reinterpret the scriptures to fit their idea of god instead of letting the text of the Bible describe God. As I have always claimed, the easiest way to defeat a Calvinist is just to read the verse they are quoting. Those verses either have nothing to do with their point or are evidence against their point.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Calvinism, Figures of Speech, God, Greek History, History, People, Plato, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to platonic and calvinist interpretations

  1. james jordan says:

    Calvinism is just Gnosticism and Gnosticism is just allegorical interpretation. The allegory of Sarah and Hagar which reverses the ethnicities is Gnosticism.

  2. This re-created world (our world) which God has reconstructed in God’s dream, is the stage where the spirits of the Angels are duplicated and placed into human bodies who can now perceive good and evil. The re-creation of Adam and Eve’s world (our world) was literally made (in a dream-like world) a little below (on the face of the earth) the Angels world which is upon the circle of the earth (Sea of Glass: stories in heaven).

  3. Pingback: understanding colossians 2 | reality is not optional

  4. Tom Torbeyns says:

    “Calvinists have a tendency to read into specific texts some ideas that are not present. That is the only way they can still claim the Bible as true while holding onto their platonistic ideas.”

    BAM! :-)

  5. Tom Torbeyns says:

    “Here Philo is taking the clear passage detailing God’s change of mind and just pretending it does not exist. Modern Calvinists do the same: they reinterpret the scriptures to fit their idea of god instead of letting the text of the Bible describe God. As I have always claimed, the easiest way to defeat a Calvinist is just to read the verse they are quoting. Those verses either have nothing to do with their point or are evidence against their point.”

    HEADSHOT! :-D

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