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The Greek Versus the Hebrew View of Man
Present Truth Magazine ^ | 1968 | George Eldon Ladd

Posted on 04/16/2007 6:23:19 AM PDT by HarleyD

The Greek View

Until we can reconstruct with some confidence the emergence of Gnosticism, it is highly speculative to speak of the influence of Gnostic ideas on the emerging Christian faith. There is, however, a body of Greek literature that contains a view of man and the world very close to that of developed Gnosticism, namely, those Greek philosophical and religious writings that reflect the influence of Platonic dualism. These are writings that are well known and datable; and it is profitable to compare their view of man and the world with the biblical view in both the Old and New Testaments.

Such a comparison leads to two conclusions: that the Greek view14 of man and the world is different in kind from the biblical view; and that the unity and diversity of the several important strands of New Testament thought can be illustrated in terms of this contrast.

The basic problem is that of dualism. However, dualism means different things in the Greek view and in the biblical view.

The view found in Plato and in later thinkers, influenced by him, is essentially the same cosmological dualism as is found in later Gnosticism. Like Gnosticism, Platonism is a dualism of two worlds, one the visible world and the other an invisible "spiritual" world. As in Gnosticism, man stands between these two worlds, related to both. Like Gnosticism, Platonism sees the origin of man's truest self (his soul) in the invisible world, whence his soul has fallen into the visible world of matter. Like Gnosticism, it sees the physical body as a hindrance, a burden, sometimes even as the tomb of the soul. Like Gnosticism, it conceives of salvation as the freeing of the soul from its entanglement in the physical world that it may wing its way back to the heavenly world. Two further elements found in Gnosticism do not appear in the Platonic philosophers: that matter is ipso facto the source of evil, and that redemption is accomplished by a heavenly redeemer who descends to earth to deliver the fallen souls and lead them back to heaven.

The biblical dualism is utterly different from this Greek view. It is religious and ethical, not cosmological. The world is God's world; man is God's creature, although rebellious, sinful and fallen. Salvation is achieved not by a flight from the world but by God's coming to man in his earthly, historical experience. Salvation never means flight from the world to God; it means, in effect, God's descent from heaven to bring man in historical experience into fellowship with himself. Therefore the consummation of salvation is eschatological. It does not mean the gathering of the souls of the righteous in heaven, but the gathering of a redeemed people on a redeemed earth in perfected fellowship with God. The theologies of the Synoptic Gospels, of John, and of Paul are to be understood in terms of this Hebrew dualism, and each of them stands in sharp contrast to the Greek dualism. The unifying element in New Testament theology is the fact of the divine visitation of men in the person and mission of Jesus Christ; diversity exists in the progressive unfolding of the meaning of this divine visitation and in the various ways the one revelatory, redeeming event is capable of being interpreted.

Since radical differences between Greek and Hebrew ways of thinking have recently been challenged,15 we must now develop our thesis and document it in detail.

The foundations of the Greek view go back to the theology of the Orphic sect, which came to light in Greece in the sixth century B.C., and spread throughout the Greek world and into southern Italy, profoundly influencing Plato and later Greek thought. This theology is embodied in the ancient myth of Zagreus (Dionysus), begotten by Zeus of Demeter. Zagreus fell under the power of the Titans, wicked enemies of Zeus. In his effort to escape them, Zagreus changed himself into a bull; but the Titans captured him, tore him to pieces, and devoured him. However, Zeus blasted the Titans by a flash of lightning, and from their ashes arose the human race. Mankind thus possesses two elements: a divine element from Zagreus and a wicked element from the Titans. This mythology expresses the Orphic theology of the dualism of body and soul. Man must free himself from the Titanic elements and, purified, return to the gods, a fragment of whom is living in him. Expressed in other words, "man's duty is to free himself from the chains of the body in which the soul lies fast bound like the prisoner in his cell."16 This freedom is not easily achieved. Usually the soul at death flutters free in the air, only to enter into a new body. It may pass through a series of deaths and reincarnations. Finally, by the sacred rites of the cult and by a life of ascetic purity, man may escape the wheel of birth and become divine.17

The main elements of this Orphic dualism appear in Plato's concept of man and the world. His cosmic dualism is paralleled by his anthropological dualism. The soul of man in his earthly existence is composite, consisting of the reasoning part or mind (nous), the spirited or courageous part (thumos), and the appetitive part (epithumia). These three parts of the soul are located respectively in the head, the chest, and the midriff.18 The highest part, mind, being divine and immortal, pre-existed before the creation of the body19 and was made out of the same material as the soul of the universe by the Creator (Demiurge) himself.20 The creation of the body and the two lower parts of the soul were entrusted to the young gods,21 apparently to relieve the Demiurge of direct responsibility for evil. The lower parts of the soul, like the body, are mortal. Human experience is a struggle between the higher and lower parts of the soul. While Plato in this way locates moral evil in the soul, it is in that part of the soul that was created with the body and, like the body, is mortal. Most of the time, Plato speaks of the soul as simple in essence, and as the enemy of the body with its appetites and passions. "The soul is most like the divine and immortal and intellectual and indissoluble and unchanging, and the body, on the contrary, most like the human and mortal and multiform and unintellectual and dissoluble and ever-changing."22 The soul partakes of the nature of the divine, which Plato understands to consist of such qualities as beauty, wisdom, and goodness,23 which have objective existence in the realm of the invisible and incorporeal. The soul, then, belongs to the noumenal world and descends from this higher world into the phenomenal world of bodily existence whence it strives to regain its proper place in the higher world.

Plato likens this struggle to a charioteer driving two winged horses, one noble and the other ignoble. The noble horse wishes to mount up to the sky, to the realm of the divine eternal realities; it represents the divine immortal part of the soul whose proper realm is the region above the heaven of "the colourless, formless, and intangible truly existing essence [ousia ontos ousa] with which all true knowledge is concerned."24 The ignoble horse — the lower part of the soul — drags downward toward the earth, and, if it is not disciplined, corrupts the soul with impurities. "There the utmost toil and struggle await the soul."25

The body is thus the enemy of the soul, for it is a mass of evil,26 and serves as a prison for the soul.27 The body hinders the soul from the acquisition of knowledge.28

Plato stops short of thoroughgoing dualism of mind/matter,29 in which matter is ipso facto evil as in later Gnosticism. "But Plato constantly . . . conjures up a sense of that inert, negative, imperfect kind of being which is opposed to mind or soul, to purpose or good, and which as such is a source of evil, or is indeed evil itself."30 There is some kind of necessity (ananke) in matter which makes it intractable to goodness, reason, and mind.

In a real sense of the word, salvation for Plato is by knowledge. "Wherefore we should seek to escape hence [from this world] to that other world as speedily as we may; and the way of escape is by becoming like to God so far as we can; and the becoming like is becoming just and holy by taking thought" [meta phroneseos].31 Man's highest exercise is the cultivation of the mind and the control of the body; this is the object of the wise man, the philosopher. The mind can apprehend truth; but the bodily senses can hinder the soul from the acquisition of knowledge. Therefore the mind must have as little to do as possible with the body.32 The philosopher despises all but the necessary bodily needs that he may devote himself to the soul.33 The philosopher who succeeds in controlling the body and cultivating the mind will think thoughts that are immortal and divine. He lays hold on truth and partakes of immortality so far as that is possible. Those who attain this beatific34 vision are loath to descend to human affairs, but their souls are ever hastening into the upper world in which they desire to dwell35 because this escape from the earth is to become like God.36 "When the soul inquires alone by itself, it departs into the realm of the pure, the everlasting, the immortal and the changeless, and being akin to these, it dwells always with them whenever it is by itself and is not hindered. . . . And this state of the soul is called wisdom."37

Upon death, the souls of such wise men and philosophers, having been purified from the body, depart to the realm of the noble, pure, invisible, and immortal, to the realm of the good and wise god, where in happiness and freedom from all human ills they will live in truth through all time with the gods.38 The souls that were not purified but which loved the body with its appetites and were thus interpenetrated with the corporeal39 must undergo a series of reincarnations, each suitable to the character of the individual's earthly existence.40 . . .

The influence and prevalence of the Platonic dualism may be realized by the fact that it is found in widely different quarters in New Testament times. We refer here only to two: the Greek Plutarch and the Jew Philo.

Plutarch provides us with a vivid picture of the state of Greek religion in educated circles in the late first century. He was thoroughly nurtured in Greek thought, culture, and religion, and his chief aim was to harmonize traditional Greek religion with Greek philosophy, represented primarily by Plato,48 and to avoid the twin evils of atheism and superstition. We cannot give here a comprehensive treatment of Plutarch's thought,49 but we shall only illustrate by his work the persistence of Platonic dualism in the Hellenistic world. The heart of Plutarch's philosophical thought is the same cosmological and anthropological dualism found in Plato, tied together with Hellenistic cosmology.

In his dialogue The Face of the Moon we find an eschatological myth about human destiny.50 Man consists of body and soul, but the soul is itself complex, consisting of soul and mind.51 Only mind is immortal, although the soul survives the death of the body. After this death, man's mind-soul must spend time in a sort of Hades, which occupies the space between the earth and the moon. Here man must die a second death, when the soul is gently and slowly purged so that man is finally reduced to his one immortal part — mind alone. This purifying process consists in purging away the pollutions that were contracted from the body.

This process of purification is neither uniform nor uniformly successful. Some souls succeed in purging away all of the evil influences of the body, that is, in making the irrational element in the soul completely subordinate to reason. Other souls are so laden with evils from bodily existence that the purification is incomplete and they fall back again to earth to be reborn in different bodies. Those who achieve purification and gain a firm foothold on the moon are converted into daemons — a race of disembodied souls who serve as intermediaries between God and men.52

Here we have the same elements we have found in Plato's dualism: two worlds, the phenomenal or material, and the conceptual; 53 a complex soul with the mind as its highest and most divine faculty:54 the body as a source of evil and pollution to the mind;55 this world as an alien place from which the soul must escape to find its true destiny;56 salvation consisting of purification from the pollution incurred in bodily life and the freeing of the mind from bodily and worldly evil.57 The disembodied souls that have become daemons are not yet perfected; they can fall back and be reborn on earth. Final destiny is to be released from the cycle of birth58 and to attain a permanent place in the heavenly realm.

Plutarch no more regards matter as evil ipso facto than did Plato.59 The material world is, nevertheless, the sphere of evil and is evil in its functioning.60 The evil nature of the world is further reflected in his idea of God and God's relationship to the world. God is described in philosophical language61 and also in terms of mind and reason.62 He cannot come into direct contact with the evil world or be the author of anything evil.63

Philo often speaks of the body as the enemy of the soul. While he does not recognize matter ipso facto as evil,78 the body is a foul prison-house of the soul,79 like a sackcloth robe,80 a tomb (sema),81 a grave (trumbos).82

Some souls "sink beneath the stream" of bodily materiality, so that the vision of the heavenly is lost. But those who pursue wisdom and philosophy, namely, God, those who discipline the body and cultivate the mind, "soar upwards" to behold the wonders of the heavenly realm. Philo describes this experience of "salvation" in the language of the Greek mysteries as though it involved ecstatic vision.

For when the mind soars aloft and is being initiated in the mysteries of the Lord, it judges the body to be wicked and hostile. . . . The philosopher, being enamored of the noble thing that lives in himself, cares for the soul, and pays no regard to that which is realty a corpse, the body, concerned only that the best part of him, his soul, may not be hurt by an evil thing, a very corpse, tied to it. . . . When, then, O soul, wilt thou in fullest measure realize thyself to be a corpse-bearer? Will it not be when thou art perfected and accounted worthy of prizes and crowns? For then shalt thou be no lover of the body, but a lover of God. . . . For when the mind has carried off the rewards of victory, it condemns the corpse-body to death.83 . . .

The rational part of the soul, which was pre-existent, is incorruptible and immortal,92 and at death "removes its habitation from the mortal body and returns as if to the mother-city, from which it originally moved its habitation to this place."93 This native home of the soul to which it returns after death is the heavens, where it rejoins the angels, who are pure souls who have never entered into bodies.94 There is no trace of the idea of the resurrection of the body in Philo. The destiny of men is not a redeemed society living on a transformed earth; it is the flight of the soul from earth to heaven. In this basic thinking about man and his destiny, Philo is quite Greek and Platonic.

The Old Testament View

The Old Testament view of God, man, and the world is very different from Greek dualism. Fundamental to Hebrew thought is the belief that God is the creator, that the world is God's creation and is therefore in itself good. The Greek idea that the material world is the sphere of evil and a burden or a hindrance to the soul is alien to the Old Testament.

When God created the world, he saw that it was good (Gen. 1:31). The world was created for God's glory (Ps. 19:1); the ultimate goal and destiny of creation is to glorify and praise its creator (Ps. 98:7-9). The Hebrews had no concept of nature; to them the world was the scene of God's constant activity. Thunder was the voice of God (Ps. 29:3, 5); pestilence is the heavy hand of the Lord (I Sam. 5:6); human life is the breath of God inbreathed in man's face (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 104:29).

To be sure, the world is not all it ought to be. Something has gone wrong. But the evil is not found in materiality, but in human sin. In creation, God displayed his goodness by making man the chief of all his creatures and by subjecting the created world to man's care (Gen. 1:28), entrusting to him dominion over all other creatures. When man in proud self-assertion refused to accept the role of creaturehood, when he succumbed to the temptation to "be like God" (Gen. 3:5) and fell into sin, God placed the curse of death upon man and the burden of decay and evil upon the entire world, so that man might be continually reminded of the fundamental fact that sin disrupts the enjoyment of God's gifts, even in the physical realm. Life and happiness are God's gifts; pain, toil and death are the toll of sin.

The Old Testament never views the earth as an alien place nor as an indifferent theater on which man lives out his temporal life while seeking a heavenly destiny. Man and the world together belong to the order of creation; and in a real sense of the word, the world participates in man's fate. The world is affected by man's sin. Although the world was designed to reflect the divine glory and still does so, it is a tainted glory because of sin. This intimate relationship is sometimes expressed poetically. Because of human wickedness, the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, also the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and , even the fish of the sea are taken away" (Hos. 4:3).

Behind this concept of man and the world is the God's theology that both man and the world are God's creation, and that man's true life consists in complete obedience to and dependence upon God. This can and be illustrated by the Old Testament concept of life. There is no antithesis between physical and spiritual life, between the outer and the inner dimensions in man, between the lower and higher realms. Life is viewed in its wholeness as the full enjoyment of all of God's gifts. Some Christian theologies would consider this crassly materialistic; but a profound theology underlies it. Life, which can be enjoyed only from the perspective of obedience to God and love for him (Deut. 30:6), means physical prosperity, productivity (Deut. 30:9), a long life (Ps. 34:12; 91:16), bodily health and well-being (Prov. 4:22; 9:23; 22:4), physical security (Deut. 8:1); in brief, the enjoyment of all of God's gifts (Ps. 103:1-5). However, the enjoyment of these good things by themselves cannot be called life, for life means the enjoyment of God's gifts in fellowship with God. It is God alone who is the source of all good things, including life itself (Ps. 36:9). Those who forsake the Lord will be put to shame, for they have abandoned the fountain of life (Jer. 17:13). While health and bodily well-being are included in life, man does not live by bread alone; and the enjoyment of God's gifts apart from obedience to the word of God is not life (Deut. 8:3). Life, therefore, can be simply defined as the enjoyment of God's gifts in fellowship with the God who gives them. God alone has the way of life; it is only in his presence that there is fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures (Ps. 16:11).

Behind this understanding of life is a profound theology. Man shares with nature the fact of creaturehood. But man stands apart from all other creatures in that he was created in the image of God. For this reason, he enjoys a relationship to God different from that of all other creatures. However, this does not mean that men will ever transcend creaturehood. Indeed, the very root of sin is unwillingness to acknowledge the reality and implications of creaturehood. The fact that man is a physical creature in the world is neither the cause nor the measure of his sinfulness and thus a state from which he must be delivered. Sin does not result from the body's burdening down the soul or clouding the mind; it results from rebellion of the will, the self. The acceptance of man's creaturehood, the confession of complete and utter dependence upon the Creator God, is essential to man's true existence. Man truly knows himself, recognizes his true self, only when he realizes that he is God's creature. Then he accepts the humble role of one whose very life is contingent upon God's faithfulness and whose chief joy is to serve and worship his Creator. The root of sin is found not in succumbing to the physical side of his being, but in the intent to lift himself out of his creaturehood, to exalt himself above God, to refuse to give God the worship, praise, and obedience that are his due.

For this perspective salvation does not mean deliverance from creaturehood, for it is an essential and permanent element to man's essential being. For this reason the Old Testament never pictures ultimate redemption as a flight from the world or escape from earthly, bodily existence. Salvation does not consist of freeing the soul from its engagement in the material world. On the contrary, ultimate redemption will involve the redemption of the whole man and of the world to which man belongs. This is the theology behind the doctrine of bodily resurrection, which only begins to emerge in the Old Testament95 but which is clearly developed in Judaism and the New Testament.

The same basic theology is seen everywhere in the prophets in their hope of the redemption of the world. While the prophets in only a few places speak of resurrection (e.g., Isa. 25:8; Ezek. 37; Dan. 12:2), they constantly look forward to the consummation of God's redemptive purpose on a transformed earth. The nature of this transformation is diversely described. Sometimes the new world is depicted simply in terms of material abundance. The land will become so fruitful that there will be no lapse between the seasons. The grape harvest will be so prolific that the hills will be inundated in rivers of wine. War and devastation will be replaced by peace and security (Amos 9:13-15). On other occasions the transformation will be more radical. Isaiah describes it as new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22), where premature death will be banished, peace and security enjoyed, and the curse of violence lifted from nature. "The wolf and the Iamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like an ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord" (Isa. 65:25).96

The world is to be redeemed from its bondage to evil not by any process of gradual evolution nor through any powers resident in the world, but by a mighty act of God — a divine visitation. Some scholars have held that two different kinds of eschatology are to be found in Judaism: an authentic prophetic Hebrew hope that looks for an earthly kingdom arising out of history, and a dualistic hope that resulted from despair of history as the scene of God's Kingdom and in its place looked for a transcendental order to be inaugurated by an irruption into history of the heavenly order. We believe this critical theory to be unsupported by our sources, and we have argued at length that the prophetic hope never looks for the establishment of God's Kingdom to result from forces imminent within history but only by a divine visitation—an irruption from outside into history.97 Even in the oldest conceptions, God's kingship could be absolutely established only at the cost of a great change that would make an end of the present state of things and witness the establishment of something new. "There is no eschatology without rupture.98 In the careful words of H. H. Rowley, the Day of the Lord was conceived "as the time of the divine inbreaking into history in spectacular fashion. While God was believed to be always active of the plane of history, using nature and men to fulfill his ends, the Day of the Lord was thought of as a day of more direct and clearly manifest action."99

While the prophets looked forward to a final visitation of God to redeem both God's people and the physical world, they were not pessimistic about the nature of historical existence before the coming of the Day of the Lord. One of the wholesome emphases of modern biblical theology is the acting of God in history. G. Ernest Wright has promoted the view that biblical theology is the recital of the redeeming and judicial acts of God in history;100 and perhaps the greatest contemporary work on Old Testament theology — that of Gerhard von Rad — is a theology of the kerygma: the proclamation of the mighty deeds of God in history. James Barr has provided a healthy emendation of the view by insisting that in the thought of the Old Testament revelation does not occur in events alone but also in words.101 von Rad recognizes that the acts and the words belong together. "History becomes word, and word becomes history."102 Several years ago, the present author expounded a similar view. God does reveal himself in events; but the events do not speak for themselves. Their inner meaning must be set forth in words. Thus revelation occurs in an event-word complex, the prophetic interpreting word being an integral part of the event.103

Back of this concept of revelation is a profound theology of God: a living, personal God who is known to man because he chooses to reveal himself by visiting man in history. The God of the Old Testament is always "the God who comes."104 "Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together—before the Lord, for he comes to rule the earth" (Ps. 98:8). "The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned from Sinai upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran, he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand" (Deut. 33:2). "For behold, the Lord is coming forth out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will be cleft like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place" (Mic. 1:3-4). He came to Israel in Egypt to make them his people; he came to them again and again in their history; he will come again in a final eschatological visitation in the future to judge wickedness and to establish his Kingdom.105

For our present purpose, the important thing to note is the difference between the Hebrew and the Greek views of reality. For the Greek, the world, nature, human history — in sum, the sphere of the visible — formed the realm of flux and change, of becoming, of the transient. Reality belonged to the realm of the invisible, the good, the unchanging, which could be apprehended only by the mind of the soul transcending the visible. Thus salvation was found in the flight of the soul from the world to the invisible world of God.

For the Hebrew, reality was found in God who makes himself known in the ebb and flow of both nature and historical events by his acts and by his words. God comes to men in their earthly experience. Thus the final redemption is not flight from this world to another world; it may be described as the descent of the other world — God's world — resulting in a transformation of this world.

The contrast between the Greek and Hebrew views of God and the world is reinforced further by the Old Testament anthropology. Hebrew man is not like the Greek man — a union of soul and body and thus related to two worlds. He is flesh animated by God's breath (ruach), who is thus constituted a living soul (nephesh) (Gen. 2:7; 7:22). Nephesh (soul) is not a part of man; it is man himself viewed as a living creature. Nephesh is life, both of men (Ex. 21:23; Ps. 33:19) and of animals (Prov. 12:10). If nephesh is man as a living creature, it can be used for man himself and indicate man as a person,106 and also become a synonym for "I," "myself."107 By an easy extension, nephesh is man seen in terms of his appetites and desires (EccI. 6:2, 7) or in terms of his emotions or thoughts (Hos. 4:8; Ps. 35:25; Gen. 34:8; Ps. 139:14; Prov. 19:2).

If nephesh is man's life, it can be said to depart at death (Gen. 35:18; I Kings 17:21) or return if a person revives (I Kings 17:22). If the nephesh stands for man himself, it can be said that his nephesh departs to the underworld or sheol at death (Pss. 16:10; 30:3; 94:7). However, the Old Testament does not conceive of disembodied souls existing in the underworld after departing from the body, as do Homer and other early Greek writers.108 The Old Testament does not see souls in sheol, but shades (rephaim), which are a sort of pale replica of man as a living creature.109 These shades are not altogether different from Homer's souls in Hades, and both represent a common conviction of natural theology, namely, that death is not the end of human existence, but that life in its fullness must be bodily life.

However, in following the course of their development, the Greek and the Hebrew thought sharply diverge. The Greeks, as we have seen, came to believe that there was something divine about the soul and that it must find release from bodily existence to take its flight to the stars. Hebrew thought developed very differently. There began to emerge, even in the Old Testament, the conviction that if men enjoy fellowship with God in life, this fellowship could not be broken by death. "For thou dost not give me [lit., my soul] up to sheol, or let thy godly one see the pit. Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:10-11). "But God will ransom my soul from the power of sheol, for he will receive me" (Ps. 49:15). "Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory" (Ps. 73:24). While such sayings hardly provide us with material for a doctrine of the intermediate state, they do express the undying conviction of the "imperishable blessedness of the man who lives in God."110 They cannot conceive of this fellowship being broken, even by death. As Martin-Achard says, "Without actually being aware of it, the Hasidim are battering the gates of the kingdom of the dead; without reaching the positive assertion of the immortality or resurrection of the believer. . . they are preparing the way for future generations to proclaim that death is impotent against those who are living in communion with the living God."111 Later Judaism developed the idea of an intermediate state and sometimes identified the dead as souls, or conceived of the soul as existing after death.112 However, unless there is Greek influence, as in the Wisdom of Solomon (8:19), the continuing existence of the soul in sheol is not due to some intrinsic quality of immortality which it shares with God but to the conviction that since God is the living God and master of both life and death, there must be a blessed destiny for individuals as well as for the nation. Almost always in Judaism, the individual hope finds its realization in bodily resurrection. In only a few places do we find the idea of a blessed immortality of the soul in heaven.113

We may now summarize our findings as to the difference between the basic Greek and Hebrew dualism. Greek dualism is that of two worlds, the visible and the invisible, the phenomenal and the noumenal, becoming and being, appearance and reality. Man belongs to both worlds by virtue of the fact that he is both body and soul or mind. "God" can be known only by the control of the bodily appetites, that the mind may be free from material pollutions to contemplate the divine realities. Finally, the soul must escape from the wheel of bodily existence to return to the divine world where it really belongs.

The Hebrew view is not a dualism of two worlds, but a religious dualism of God versus man. Man is God's creature; creation is the realm of God's constant activity; and God makes himself known and speaks to men in the ebb and flow of history. Man is not a bipartite creature of the divine and human, of soul and body; in his total being he is God's creature and remains a part of creation. Therefore the redemption of man and the redemption of creation belong together. Salvation consists of fellowship with God in the midst of earthly existence and will finally mean the redemption of the whole man together with his environment. At the heart of the Old Testament view is God — a living personal being — who visits man in earthly existence to establish fellowship with himself and who will finally visit man to establish his perfect rule and redemption in the world.

In sum, the Greek view is that "God" can be known only by the flight of the soul from the world and history; the Hebrew view is that God can be known because he invades history to meet men in historical experience.


TOPICS: General Discusssion; Mainline Protestant; Theology
KEYWORDS: faithandphilosophy; greek; hebrew
References are at the source.
1 posted on 04/16/2007 6:23:23 AM PDT by HarleyD
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To: HarleyD
"If I knew God I'd be Him." Though it's much harder to believe that the universe was made essentially evil.

Deuteronomy 4:19 & Malachi 1:11.

2 posted on 04/16/2007 6:48:47 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: HarleyD; Calm_Cool_and_Elected

ping for later


3 posted on 04/16/2007 1:02:38 PM PDT by Calm_Cool_and_Elected (So many books, so little time!)
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