Love of Wisdom, in the New Testament means the vain and pernicious speculations of human reason; the wisdom of this world, and "science falsely so called," 1Co 1:18-27; 1Ti 6:20, in opposition to gospel truth. Paul cautioned the Colossians lest any man should spoil or plunder them through "philosophy," Col 2:8; and it is one of the most melancholy proofs of the depravity of the human heart, that it has been able so to pervert that noble faculty, the reason. The loftiest human intellects have often been the blindest as to religious truth; and the range and vigor of men's reasoning powers have been the measure, not of their knowledge and love of God, but of their pride, rebellion, and folly, Mt 11:25; 1Co 2:14; 3:18-20. In Athens, the Epicurean, and Stoic philosophers made a jest of Paul's discourse; and in many places of his epistles, he opposes the false wisdom of he age, that is, the pagan philosophy, to the wisdom of Jesus Christ, and the true religion, which to the philosophers and sophists seemed to be mere folly, because it was built neither on the eloquence nor the subtlety of those who preached it, but on the power of God, and on the operations of the Holy Ghost in the hearts and minds of believers; and because it did not amuse and flatter man, but probed him a guilty rebel against God, in perishing need of a Savior.
As there arose, under the influence of philosophy, several sects among the Greeks, as the Academics, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics, so also there arose among the Jews several sects, as the Essenes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. The Pharisees had some resemblance to the Stoics, the Sadducees to the Epicureans, the Essenes to the Academics. The Pharisees were proud, vain, and boasting, like the Stoics; the Sadducees, who denied the immortality of the soul, and the existence of spirits, freed themselves at once, like the Epicureans, from all solicitude about futurity: the Essenes were more moderate, more simple and religious, and therefore approached nearer to the Academics.
The danger against which Paul warned the church in his day still exists. Pride of intellect naturally allies itself with the atheism and impenitence of the heart, refuses to yield to the claims of revelation, and rejects whatever displeases its taste or rises above its comprehension. True wisdom, on the contrary, is humble and docile. "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein."
The Greek manifold gropings after truth (Ac 17:27) and the failure of even the divine law of Moses to appease conscience and give peace were the appointed preparation for the Christian scheme, which secures both to the believer. Holiness toward God, righteousness toward man, and the control of the passions, rest on love, not merely to an abstract dogma, but to the person of Him who first loved us and bought us at the cost of His own blood. Though "foolishness to the Greek, Christ crucified is the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1; 2). Nothing but divine interposition could have given a nation, cradled amidst the superstitions of Egypt and surrounded in maturity by the Canaanite idolaters, and in no way noted for learning and culture, a pure monotheistic religion, bringing man into holy fellowship with the personal loving God and Father.
Moses' ritual trained them for the spiritual religion which was its end. What Greek philosophy in vain tried to effect through the intellect, to know God, one's self, and our duty to God, man, and ourselves, and to do from the heart what we know, God by His Spirit revealing His Son Jesus Christ in the heart thoroughly effects by the motive of love (2Co 10:4-5; Col 2:3). After Nebuchadnezzar's capture of Jerusalem, Thales traveled into Egypt and introduced philosophy thence into his native land, Greece. His theory that water was the first principle of all things, and that God was the Spirit who formed all things out of water, is evidently derived from primitive tradition (Ge 1:2). "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
Thales brought also from Egypt the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Brucker (Hist. Philos.) infers from the unconnected dogma-like form of the utterances of the seven sages of Greece that their wisdom was the fruit of tradition rather than independent reasonings. It is striking that the higher we trace the religions of the old world the more pure and uncorrupted they are found. The nearer we approach to the sources of Eastern tradition the more conspicuous appears the radiance of the heavenly light of original revelation; we find no mortals yet exalted to divinities, no images in their temples, no impure or cruel rites (Juvenal, Sat. 13:46; Ro 1:21); in the great pyramid on idolatrous symbol appears.
This word occurs in English Version only in Col 2:8, where it refers to an unsound and pernicious form of teaching. 'Philosophy' proper falls outside the scope of the present work. Some points of contact between it and the Bible will be found in such articles as Gnosticism, Logos, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom; cf. also Epicureans, Stoics.
It is the object of the following article to give some account (I.) of that development of thought among the Jews which answered to the philosophy of the West; (II.) of the systematic progress of Greek philosophy as forming a complete whole; and (III.) of the contact of Christianity with philosophy. I. THE PHILOSOPHIC DISCIPLINE OF THE JEWS. --Philosophy, if we limit the word strictly to describe the free pursuit of knowledge of which truth is the one complete end is essentially of western growth. In the East the search after wisdom has always been connected with practice. The history of the Jews offers no exception to this remark: there is no Jewish philosophy, properly so called. The method of Greece was to proceed from life to God; the method of Israel (so to speak) was to proceed from God to life. The axioms of one system are the conclusions of the other. The one led to the successive abandonment of the noblest domains of science which man had claimed originally as his own, till it left bare systems of morality; the other, in the fullness of time, prepared many to welcome the Christ --the Truth. The philosophy of the Jews, using the word in a large sense, is to be sought for rather in the progress of the national life than in special books. Step by step the idea of the family was raised into that of the people; and the kingdom furnished the basis of those wider promises which included all nations in one kingdom of heaven. The social, the political, the cosmical relations of man were traced out gradually in relation to God. The philosophy of the Jews is thus essentially a moral philosophy, resting on a definite connection with God. The doctrines of Creation and Providence, of an infinite divine person and of a responsible human will, which elsewhere form the ultimate limits of speculation, are here assumed at the outset. The Psalms, which, among the other infinite lessons which they convey, give a deep insight into the need of a personal apprehension of truth, everywhere declare the absolute sovereignty of God over the material and the moral world. One man among all is distinguished among the Jews as "the wise man". The description which is given of his writings serves as a commentary on the national view of philosophy
The lesson of practical duty, the full utterance of "a large heart," ibid. 29, the careful study of God's creatures, --this is the sum of wisdom. Yet in fact the very practical aim of this philosophy leads to the revelation of the most sublime truth. Wisdom was gradually felt to be a person, throned by God and holding converse with men.
... She was seen to stand in open enmity with "the strange woman"), who sought to draw them aside by sensuous attractions; and thus a new step was made toward the central doctrine of Christianity: --the incarnation of the Word. Two books of the Bible, Job and Ecclesiastes, of which the latter at any rate belongs to the period of the close of the kingdom, approach more nearly than any others to the type of philosophical discussions. But in both the problem is moral and not metaphysical. The one deals with the evils which afflict "the perfect and upright;" the other with the vanity of all the pursuits and pleasures of earth. The captivity necessarily exercised a profound influence. The teaching of Persia Jewish thought. The teaching of Persia seems to have been designed to supply important elements in the education of the chosen people. But it did yet more than this. The contact of the Jews with Persia thus gave rise to a traditional mysticism. Their contact with Greece was marked by the rise of distinct sects. In the third century B.C. the great Doctor Antigonus of Socho bears a Greek name, and popular belief pointed to him as the teacher of Sadoc and Boethus the supposed founders of Jewish rationalism. At any rate we may date from this time the twofold division of Jewish speculation, The Sadducees appear as the supporters of human freedom in its widest scope; the Pharisees of a religious Stoicism. At a later time the cycle of doctrine was completed, when by a natural reaction the Essenes established as mystic Asceticism. II. THE DEVELOPMENT OF GREEK PHILOSOPHY. --The various attempts which have been made to derive western philosophy from eastern sources have signally failed. It is true that in some degree the character of Greek speculation may have been influenced, at least in its earliest-stages, by religious ideas which were originally introduced from the East; but this indirect influence does hot affect the real originality of the Greek teachers. The very value of Greek teaching lies in the fact that it was, as far as is possible, a result of simple reason, or, if faith asserts ifs prerogative, the distinction is sharply marked. Of the various classifications of the Greek schools which have been proposed, the simplest and truest seems to be that which divides the history of philosophy into three great periods, the first reaching to the era of the Sophists, the next to the death of Aristotle, the third to the Christian era. In the first period the world objectively is the great centre of inquiry; in the second, the "ideas" of things, truth, and being; in the third, the chief interest of philosophy falls back upon the practical conduct of life. After the Christian era philosophy ceased to have any true vitality in Greece, but it made fresh efforts to meet the conditions of life at Alexandria and Rome.
1. The pre-Socratic schools. --The first Greek philosophy was little more than an attempt to follow out in thought the mythic cosmogonies of earlier poets. What is the one permanent element which underlies the changing forms of things? --this was the primary inquiry, to which the Ionic school endeavored to find an answer. Thales (cir. B.C. 639-543) pointed to moisture (water) as the one source and supporter of life. Anaximenes (cir. B.C. 520-480) substituted air for wafer. At a much later date (cir. B.C. 460) Diogenes of Apollonia represented this elementary "air" as endowed with intelligence.
2. The Socratic schools. --In the second period of Greek philosophy the scene and subject were both changed. A philosophy of ideas, using the term in its widest sense, succeeded a philosophy of nature, in three generations Greek speculation reached its greatest glory in the teaching of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The famous sentence in which Aristotle characterizes the teachings of Socrates (B.C.465-399) places his scientific position in the clearest light. There are two things, he says, which we may rightly attribute to Socrates --inductive reasoning and general definition. By the first he endeavored to discover the permanent element which underlies the changing forms of appearances and the varieties of opinion; by the second he fixed the truth which he had thus gained. But, besides this, Socrates rendered another service to truth. Ethics occupied in his investigations the primary place which had hitherto been held by Physics. The great aim of his induction was to establish the sovereignty of Virtue. He affirmed the existence of a universal law of right and wrong. He connected philosophy with action, both in detail and in general. On the one side he upheld the supremacy of Conscience, on the other the working of Providence.
3. The post-Socratic schools. --after Aristotle, philosophy took a new direction. Speculation became mainly personal. Epicurus (B.C. 352-270) defined the object of philosophy to be the attainment of a happy life. The pursuit of truth for its own sake he recognized as superfluous. He rejected dialectics as a useless study, and accepted the senses, in the widest acceptation of the term, as the criterion of truth. But he differed widely from the Cyrenaics in his view of happiness. The happiness at which the wise man aims is to be found, he said, not in momentary gratification, but in life-long pleasure. All things were supposed to come into being by chance, and so pass away. The individual was left master of own life. While Epicurus asserted in this manner the claims of one part of man's nature in the conduct of life, Zeno of Citium (cir. B.C. 280), with equal partial
PHILOSOPHY, in general, is defined, "the knowledge and study of nature and morality. founded on reason and experience." Philosophy owes its name to the modesty of Pythagoras, who refused the high title of ?????, wise, given to his predecessors, Thales, Pherecydes, &c, as too assuming; and contented himself with the simple appellation of ?????????, quasi ????? ??? ??????, a friend, or lover of wisdom: but Chauvin rather chooses to derive the name from ?????, desire to study, and ?????, studium sapientiae; and says that Pythagoras, conceiving that the application of the human mind ought rather to be called study than science, set aside the appellation of wise, and, in lieu thereof, took that of philosopher.
A knowledge of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, or the science of natural history, was always an object of interest. We are informed that Solomon himself had given a description of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, 1Ki 4:33. Traces of philosophy, strictly so called, that is, the system of prevailing moral opinions, may be found in the book of Job, in the thirty-seventh, thirty-ninth, and seventy-third Psalms; also in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, but chiefly in the apocryphal book of Wisdom, and the writings of the son of Sirach. During the captivity, the Jews acquired many new notions, particularly from the Mahestani, and appropriated them, as occasion offered, to their own purposes. They at length became acquainted with the philosophy of the Greeks, which makes its appearance abundantly in the book of Wisdom. After the captivity, the language in which the sacred books were written was no longer vernacular. Hence arose the need of an interpreter on the sabbatic year, a time when the whole law was read, and also on the Sabbath in the synagogues, which some think had been recently erected, in order to make the people understand what was read. These interpreters learned the Hebrew language at the schools. The teachers of these schools, who, for the two generations preceding the time of Christ, had maintained some acquaintance with the Greek philosophy, were not satisfied with a simple interpretation of the Hebrew idiom, as it stood, but shaped the interpretation so as to render it conformable to their philosophy. Thus arose contentions, which gave occasion for the various sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. In the time of our Saviour, divisions had arisen among the Pharisees themselves. No less than eighteen nice questions, if we may believe the Jewish rabbins, were contested at that period between the schools of Hillel and Shammai; one of which questions, was an inquiry, what cause was sufficient for a bill of divorce. If the Shammai and Hillel of the Talmud are the same with the learned men mentioned in Josephus, namely, Sameas and Pollio, who flourished thirty-four years before Christ, then Shammai, or Sameas is undoubtedly the same with the Simeon who is mentioned, Lu 2:25-35; and his son Gamaliel, so celebrated in the Talmud, is the same with the Gamaliel mentioned, Ac 5:34; 22:3.
Anciently, learned men were denominated among the Hebrews ?????, as among the Greeks they were called ?????, wise men. In the time of Christ, the common appellative for men of that description was ?????????? in the Hebrew ????, a scribe. They were addressed by the honorary title of rabbi, ???, "great," or "master." The Jews, in imitation of the Greeks, had their seven wise men, who were called rabboni. Gamaliel was one of the number. They called themselves the children of wisdom: expressions which correspond very nearly to the Greek ?????????, Mt 11:19; Lu 7:35. The heads of sects were called "Fathers;" the disciples were denominated "sons," or "children," Mt 12:27; 23:1-9. The Jewish teachers, at least some of them, had private lecture rooms; but they also taught and disputed in synagogues, in temples, and, in fact, wherever they could find an audience. The method of these teachers was the same with that which prevailed among the Greeks. Any disciple who chose might propose questions, upon which it was the duty of the teachers to remark and give their opinions, Lu 2:46. The teachers were not invested with their functions by any formal act of the church, or of the civil authority: they were self-constituted. They received no other salary than some voluntary present from the disciples, which was called an "honorary," ????, honorarium, 1Ti 5:17. They acquired a subsistence, in the main, by the exercise of some art or handicraft. That they took a higher seat than their auditors, although it was probably the case, does not follow, as is sometimes supposed, from Lu 2:46. According to the Talmudists, they were bound to hold no conversation with women, and to refuse to sit at table with the lower class of people, Mt 9:11; Joh 4:27. The subjects on which they taught were numerous, commonly intricate, and of no great consequence; of which there are abundant examples in the Talmud.
St. Paul bids the Colossians beware lest any man should spoil them "through philosophy and vain deceit;" that is, a vain and deceitful philosophy, such as was popular in that day, and had been compounded out of all preceding systems, Grecian and oriental. An explanation of this philosophy is given under See GNOSTICS, and See CABBALA.
On these ancient systems of pretended wisdom, Dr. Burton justly remarks: "Philosophy is indeed the noblest stretch of intellect which God has vouchsafed to man; and it is only when man forgets that he received his reasoning powers from God, that he is in danger of losing himself in darkness when he sought for light. To measure that which is infinite, is as impossible in metaphysics as in physics. If it had not been for revelation, we should have known no more of the Deity than the Heathen philosophers knew before: and to what did their knowledge amount? They felt the necessity of a First Cause, and they saw that that Cause must be intrinsically good; but when they came to systems, they never went farther than the point from which they first set out, that evil is not good, and good is not evil. The Gnostics thought to secure the triumph of their scheme by veiling its weaker points in mystery, and by borrowing a part from almost every system. But popular, and even successful, as this attempt may have been, we may say with truth, that the scheme which flattered the vanity of human wisdom, and which strove to conciliate all opinions, has died away, and is forgotten; while the Gospel, the unpresuming, the uncompromising doctrine of the Gospel, aided by no human wisdom, and addressing itself not merely to the head, but to the heart, has triumphed over all systems and all philosophers; and still leads its followers to that true knowledge which some have endeavoured to teach 'after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.'"