Philo and Friends

Let me stress that I don't consider the authors quoted below to be authoritative or reliably inspired. In fact no religious sect counts Philo Judaeus as a canonical author. Philo was no Christian, though he lived after the first advent of our Lord, and the synagogue would ultimately turn its back on this once favored son. So Philo is an orphan with no natural advocate or defender. Since many 'Oneness' Pentecostals are of Roman Catholic background, they often take it for granted any author quoted is advanced as an authoritative guide to doctrine, which is how their parent Church regards many writers. The Protestant concept is quite different and may be unfamiliar: it is Sola Scriptura: the Bible, and the Bible alone, is authoritative for faith and doctrine.



Since authors like Philo are not reliably inspired, what is the use of reading them? Because they provide the very evidence needed to rebut an extra-Biblical argument offered by Unitarians: namely, that the New Testament cannot in reality teach the Trinity, though it seems to do so, because its authors were first century Jews and first century Jews did not believe in the Trinity. This argument is so powerful it can even blot out Christianity altogether:

"If, therefore, we desire to gain a historical understanding of Jesus' teaching, we must leave behind what we learned in our catechism regarding the metaphysical Divine Sonship, the Trinity, and similar dogmatic conceptions, and go out into a wholly Jewish world of thought. Only those who carry the teachings of the catechism back into the preaching of the Jewish Messiah will arrive at the idea that He was the founder of a new religion. To all unprejudiced persons it is manifest 'that Jesus had not the slightest intention of doing away with the Jewish religion and putting another in its place.'  [quotation from Reimarus]" (Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, p. 17)

But surely even Unitarians must agree that it is anachronistic to project back into the first century what contemporary Rabbis teach. What is a "wholly Jewish world of thought" of that day? Authors like Philo are invaluable in addressing this historical question: What did first century Jews already believe about the nature of God, prior to the revelation of God in Christ? In order to answer this question accurately, what better way can be found than to interrogate any first century Jews who might happen to be loitering about the premises? Let's start with Philo, a voluble character who produced what might be considered a 'first draft' of the doctrine of the Trinity. Though his effort at understanding would ultimately fall short of the revelation of God in Christ, his achievement is nonetheless remarkable. If you had nothing to go on but the Old Testament, how close could you come to the Christian understanding of God?:




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Philo Judaeus

 




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On Abraham
Allegorical Interpretation
The Basket of First-Fruits
On the Cherubim
On Circumcision
On the Confusion of Languages
On the Contemplative Life
On the Creation of the World
On Curses
The Decalogue
On Dreams
On Drunkenness
Every Good Man is Free
Embassy to Gaius
That the Festivals are Ten in Number
Against Flaccus
On Fugitives
On the Giants
Who is the Heir of Divine Things?
On Joseph
On Justice
On the Creation of Magistrates
On Monarchy
The Life of Moses
On the Migration of Abraham
On the Change of Scripture Names
Meeting for the Sake of Seeking Instruction
On Nobility
Noah's Work as a Planter
Posterity of Cain
Questions and Answers in Genesis
On Rewards and Punishments
Rewards of Priests
Sacrifices of Abel and Cain
On Those Who Offer Sacrifice
On the Special Laws
On Sobriety
On Three Virtues
Tilling the Earth
The Unchangeableness of God
On Victims
The Worse Attacks the Better



Rembrandt van Rijn, Philosopher

Who was Philo Judaeus?

Philo Judaeus was a prolific Jewish author of the first century (c. 25 B.C. - 45 A.D.) living in Alexandria.  While not counted as inspired or authoritative by either synagogue or church, Philo was widely read and quoted by such early church writers as Clement of Alexandria. Ultimately the church left him behind, as his theology is not a New Testament theology. God became manifest in the flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, and at the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to dwell amidst the believers, events unknown to Philo, which must dramatically impact any understanding of the revelation of the Godhead. Once he ceased to prove a reliable guide in Christian controversy on the Trinity and incarnation, the church continued on its journey without him, though it continued to cherish and conserve his writings.

No theologian was ever more diligent in his quest:

"It is in this way that we have received an idea of the existence of God.  Again, even if it is very difficult to ascertain and very hard properly to comprehend, we must still, as far as it is possible, investigate the nature of His essence; for there is no employment more excellent than that of searching out the nature of the true God, even though the discovery may transcend all human ability, since the very desire and endeavor to comprehend it is able itself to furnish indescribable pleasures and delights...And so in the same way, though we cannot attain to a distinct conception of the truly living God, we still ought not to renounce the task of investigating his character, because even if we fail to make the discovery, the very search itself is intrinsically useful...since no one ever blames the eyes of the body because they are unable to look upon the sun itself, and therefore shrink from the brilliancy which is poured upon them from its beams, and therefore look down upon the earth, shrinking from the extreme brilliancy of the rays of the sun." (The Special Laws, I, VI-VII, 35-40).

Was all this material actually written by one man, or did some medieval scribe attach one man's name to various treatises? Jerome lists some of Philo's works, both familiar and unfamiliar, and tallies up his output as "innumerable:" "There are distinguished and innumerable works by this man. . ." (Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, Chapter 11); but the reader who encounters contradictory viewpoints might well wonder. Later Christian writers friendly to monasticism, like Jerome, sought to 'kidnap' Philo for the church, inasmuch as he wrote about (non-Christian) ascetic orders, a growing church interest with slim apostolic support. But in actual fact he was never a Christian; his theology is Old Testament theology exclusively. Probably owing to his popularity amongst the Christians, Philo did not continue in the early esteem he enjoyed from the synagogue, though there are sporadic survivals of interest in his viewpoint, such as Benjamin ben Moses Nahawendi at the end of the eighth century.

Philo was an avid student of the Old Testament and, in consequence, the attentive reader picks up in his writings echoes and premonitions of New Testament themes.  For instance:

God is Light

"God is light, for in the Psalms it is said 'The Lord is my light and my saviour' (ps. xxvi (xxvii). 1); and not only light, but the archetype of every other light..." (Philo Judaeus, De Somn. 1.75 quoted in C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 55.)

New Testament: "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5).

Certain groups, such as the 'Oneness' Pentecostals and the Unitarians, talk often about first century Jews and what they did, could have, or might have been induced to believe. By 'first century Jews,' they do not mean the New Testament authors (excepting Luke the Gentile); rather, their Unitarian 'first century Jews,' whoever they were, are intended to constrain the first century Jews who penned the New Testament: 'the text seems to say thus and so, but it cannot really mean what it seems to say, because first century Jews did not believe in that.' Trying to track down these expectations leads, to no actual author, but only to common expectation: 'everyone knows first century Jews believed this and not that.' Philo is what everyone does not know. Philo is the real article, a bona fide first century Jew, and he is nothing like they think. If you expect, 'Philo being a first century Jew, he must be a Unitarian,' then come and discover the unexpected truth: it's wilder than you can have imagined.


More Philo
...on to Philo Judaeus and the Trinity


Introduction

Philo believed in one sole God who is unchangeable and incorporeal:

"But the better way of understanding this passage is the following: God is alone: a single being: not a combination: a single nature: but each of us, and every other animal in the world, are compound beings: for instance, I myself am made up of many things, of soul and body. Again, the soul is made up of a rational part and an irrational part: also of the body, there is one part hot, another cold; one heavy, another light; one dry, another moist. But God is not a compound being, nor one which is made up of many parts, but one which has no mixture with anything else; for whatever could be combined with God must be either superior to him, or inferior to him, or equal to him. But there is nothing equal to God, and nothing superior to him, and nothing is combined with him which is worse than himself; for if it were, he himself would be deteriorated; and if he were to suffer deterioration, he would also become perishable, which it is impious even to imagine. Therefore God exists according to oneness and unity; or we should rather say, that oneness exists according to the one God, for all number is more recent than the world, as is also time. But God is older than the world, and is its Creator." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Second Book of the Treatise on The Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book II, Chapter I).

Philo was no advocate of 'Open Theism.' These ideas however are Biblical; they do not derive from 'Greek philosophy.' That God does not change is taught not only by Philo but by the Old Testament:

"It is necessary therefore, that every created thing should at times be changed. For this is a property of every created thing, just as it is an attribute of God to be unchangeable." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Second Book of the Treatise on The Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book II, Chapter IX.)

"For we must conceive that God is free from distinctive qualities, and imperishable, and unchangeable; and he who does not conceive thus of him is filling his own soul with false and atheistical opinions." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The First Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book I, Chapter XV.)

"How can any one believe God? If he has learnt that all other things are changed, but that he alone is unchangeable." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Second Book of the Treatise on The Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book II, Chapter XXII.)

"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 offenses of these men of old time, by reason of their own excessive impiety; for what can be a greater act of wickedness than to think that the unchangeable God can be changed?" (Philo Judaeus, On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter V.)

Thus Philo. The Bible:

"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Malachi 3:6).



It is sometimes imagined that first century Jews believed in a 'little' god, subsequently enlarged, as by this author, who improbably ascribes to the third century mystagogue Plotinus, who rhapsodies about the 'One' in impenetrable prose, concepts like omnipotence: "This “modern” divine of Plotinus is increasingly spiritual, eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient. The deity portrayed in the writings of the Jews and early Christians had many excellences, but scarcely had all these qualities, any more than did Juno and Diana." (O'Donnell, James J. (2015-03-17). Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity (p. 117). HarperCollins.) Philo's God is spiritual, eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient. With some of these concepts, there is a devolution downward in Rabbinic theology, but there is no upward development by the church.

Philo is wholly innocent of the anthropomorphism adopted by some of the later rabbis, leading ultimately to the absurdities of the Kabbalah:

"Now the expression 'breathed into' is equivalent to 'inspired,' or 'gave life to' things inanimate: for let us take care that we are never filled with such absurdity as to think that God employs the organs of the mouth or nostrils for the purpose of breathing into anything; for God is not only devoid of peculiar qualities, but he is likewise not of the form of man, and the use of these words shows some more secret mystery of nature; for there must be three things, that which breathes in, that which receives what is breathed in, and that which is breathed in." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The First Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book I, Chapter XIII).

"For what are we to say? Shall we say, if he is possessed of the different organic parts, that he has feet for the sake of walking? But where is he to walk who fills all places at once with his presence?" (Philo Judaeus, On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter XII.)

In Philo's mind, we display the image of God insofar as we are reasoning beings: ". . .and reason is a very short word, but a most perfect and admirable thing, a fragment of the soul of the universe, or, as it is more pious to say for those who study philosophy according to Moses, a very faithful copy of the divine image." (Philo Judaeus, On the Change of Names, Chapter XXXIX). This is a most refreshing change from the crude anthropomorphism which would come later. By his count, we are the "third image," the image of an image, the Word: "And Moses calls the one which is above us the image of God, and the one which abides among us the impression of that image, “For,” says he, “God made man,” not an image, “but after the image.” [Genesis i. 27.] So that the mind which is in each of us, which is in reality and truth the man, is a third image proceeding from the Creator. But the intermediate one is a model of the one and a copy of the other." (Philo Judaeus, Who is the Heir of Divine Things? Chapter XLVIII).

He represents God also as not subject to passions: ". . .for these are the fabulous inventions of impious men, who represent God, in word indeed only as endued with human form, but in fact as influenced by human passions." (Philo Judaeus, On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter XII). Whether this accords with strict Biblical accuracy is open to question, given the Christian insight that God is love. However, it is true that the passions as Philo defines them are not characteristic of God: ". . .the four passions which exist within us, the passion of pleasure, of desire, of fear, and of grief. . ." (Philo Judaeus, On Abraham, XLI).

What is most interesting about Philo is his doctrine of the Logos. Philo's God is unknowable in Himself: "But he is not even comprehensible by the intellect, except merely as to his essence; for his existence, indeed, is a fact which we do comprehend concerning him, but beyond the fact of his existence, we can understand nothing." (Philo Judaeus, On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter XIII), but His Word makes Him known. Philo identifies the Old Testament's 'Wisdom' with the 'Logos:' "This river is generic goodness; and this issues forth out of the Eden of the wisdom of God, and that is the word of God." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The First Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book I, Chapter XIX).

The New Testament splits up the two Old Testament names of Jehovah, 'Lord' and 'God,' assigning one, usually, to the Son, the other, usually, to the Father. The tendency to divide these two names is already apparent in Philo: "That, since the Lord had laid his commands on him as his Master, and God as his Benefactor, he might now, in both these characters, chastise him for having disobeyed them; for thus, by the same power by which he had exhorted him does he also banish him, now that he is disobedient." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The First Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book I, Chapter XXX.) God is unknowable as to His essence, but these two 'powers,' 'Lord' and 'God,' make Him known:

"But here we must observe that Moses says, that "Noah pleased" the powers of the living God, "the Lord and God," but that he tells us that Moses himself pleased the Being who is attended by those powers as his body guard, and who, without them, is conceived only according to his essence. For it is said, here, speaking in the person of God, "Because thou hast found grace in my sight," [Exodus 33:17] pointing out himself instead of any one else whatever." (On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter XXIV).

Even though this usage is not the same as in the New Testament, it is interesting to realize first century Bible-readers already assumed 'Lord' and 'God' named different things:



Christian readers are familiar with the 'Carmen Christi,' the hymn to Christ found in Philippians 2. An odd characteristic of the 'parent' passage in Isaiah may have suggested the Christian interpretation: "By the Lord [απο κυριου] shall they be justified, and in God [και εν τω θεω] shall all the seed of the children of Israel be glorified." (Isaiah 45:25). If the reader asks, how did the Christians find room in Isaiah 45:23-25 for both Father and Son, the answer is that the Septuagint translators, and interpreters like Philo, had already left them with plenty of room.




  • “For thus God allotted three days to eternity before the appearance of the sun, and those which came after the sun he allotted to time; the sun being an imitation of eternity, and time and eternity being the two primary powers of the living God; the one his beneficent power, in accordance with which he made the world, and in respect of which he is called God; the other his chastening power, according to which he rules and governs what he has created, in respect of which he is further denominated Lord, and these two he here states to be divided in the middle by him standing above them both. “For,” says he, “I will speak to you from above the mercy-seat, in the midst, between the two cherubims;” [Exodus xxv. 22] that he might show that the most ancient powers of the living God are equal; that is to say, his beneficent and his chastising being both divided by the same dividing Word.”
  • (Philo Judaeus, Who is the Heir of Divine Things? Chapter XXXIV).



These 'Lord and God' references are not quite like those of the New Testament, but there is a family resemblance.



As to His essential attributes, Philo's God is our familiar God, not an imperfect first draft. Philo teaches that God is omnipresent:

"'And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the Paradise.'. . .What kind of place then can any one occupy in which God is not? And Moses testifies to this in other passages, when he says, "God is in the heaven above, and in the earth beneath; and there is nothing anywhere but he." [Deuteronomy 4:39.] And in another place he speaks in this manner, "I stood here before you did." [Exodus 17:6.] For God is of older date than any created being, and he will be everywhere, so that it cannot be possible for any one to be concealed from him: and what need we wonder at? For even if any thing were to happen to us we should not be able to escape the notice of, and to conceal ourselves from the most elementary of created things; for instance, let any one try to flee from the earth, or the water, or the air, or the heaven, or the entire universe, and he will fail; for it is impossible but what he must be contained in these things, for no one will be able to flee out of the world." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Third Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book III, I-II).

"For, since you have thought that God was walking in the garden, and was surrounded by it, learn now that in this you were mistaken, and hear from God who knows all things that most true statement that God is not in any one place. For he is not surrounded by anything, but he does himself surround everything." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Third Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book III, XVII).

"But could you, being a man, or any other created thing, hide yourself from God  Where? From Him who is there before us whichever way we go; from Him Whose sight reaches to the ends of earth; from Him Who has filled the universe; from Him of Whom the least thing that exists is not void?" (That the Worse is Wont to Attack the Better, Chapter XLII, Loeb edition p. 303).

Here he teaches creation ex nihilo: "For when it is not possible for a man to exhibit due gratitude even to his parents, for it is impossible for him to become their parents in his turn; how can it be anything but absolutely impossible adequately to requite God, or worthily to praise him who created the whole universe out of things that had no previous existence." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Third Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book III, III.)

Respecting omniscience, God alone knows the heart:

"All men, therefore, even the most vile, in word honor and admire virtue as far as appearance goes; but it is the virtuous alone who obey its injunctions; on which account the king of Egypt, who is a figurative representation of the mind devoted to the body, as if he were acting in a theatre, assumes the character of a pretended participation in temperance though being an intemperate man, and in continence though being an incontinent man, and in justice though an unjust man, and he invites justice to himself, being eager to obtain a good report from the multitude; and the governor of the universe seeing this, for God alone has power to look into the soul, hates him and rejects him, and by the most cruel tests and powers convicts him of an utterly false disposition." (Philo Judaeus, On Abraham, A Treatise on the Life of the Wise Man Made Perfect by Instruction, or, on the Unwritten Law, that is to say, on Abraham, Chapter XXI.)

"Let him, indeed who, in addition to having committed no new crimes, has also endeavored to wash off his old misdeeds, come cheerfully before him; but let the man who is without any such preparation, and who is impure, keep aloof. For he will never escape the notice of him who can look into the recesses of the heart, and who walketh in its most secret places." (The Unchangeableness of God, Chapter II).

It is wicked not to believe that God knows everything: "But every one is wicked and worthy of proscription who thinks that the eye of God can ever fail to see anything." (That the Worse is Wont to Attack the Better, Chapter XVIII). God foreknows all that the creature will do:

"For God, the creator of all living things, is thoroughly acquainted with all his works, and before he has completely finished them he comprehends the faculties with which they will hereafter be endowed, and altogether he foreknows all their actions and passions." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Third Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book III, Chapter XXIX.)

"Again there are times when we determine to abide by the same judgment that we have formed; but those who join us do not equally abide by theirs, so that our opinions of necessity change as well as theirs; for it is impossible for us, who are but men, to foresee all the contingencies of future events, or to anticipate the opinions of others; but to God, as dwelling in pure light, all things are visible; for he penetrating into the very recesses of the soul, is able to see, with the most perfect certainty, what is invisible to others, and being possessed of prescience and of providence, his own peculiar attributes, he allows nothing to abuse its liberty, and to stray out of the reach of his comprehension, since with him, there is no uncertainty even in the future, for there is nothing uncertain nor even future to God. . .so that there is nothing future to God, who has the very boundaries of time subject to him; for their life is not time, but the beautiful model of time, eternity; and in eternity nothing is past and nothing is future, but everything is present only." (Philo Judaeus, On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter VI.)

"But everything is known to God, not only all that is present, and all that is past, but also all that is to come. What need, then, has he of an answer which cannot give any additional knowledge to the questioner?" (That the Worse is Wont to Attack the Better, Chapter XVII).

One odd contention in the letter to Hebrews,— that 'today' in scripture always means that, it never passes into 'back then,' is explained by Philo: "But the passions are concealed and destroyed by the wise man, and that too not for a brief space of time, but up to this present day, that is to say, for ever, for all time is measured by the present day, for the cycle of one day is the measure of all time." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The Third Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book III, Chapter VIII.)

Along with Philo's familiar conceptions are others less so. Examining what Bible words, Hebrew in the original, might mean in Greek translation is akin to the 'Bible Code' approach. His habit of describing the body as a 'tomb' or a 'prison' leaves Christians cold, whose hope is not of dispensing with the body in eternity, rather, "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." (2 Corinthians 5:4). Philo played a role in the formation of 'Logos Christology,' but proved ultimately unable to help the church to comprehend Bible truths such as John 5:23: "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him." That the Logos is true God who must be worshipped even as men honor the Father went beyond his ability to understand.

While Philo was a respected leader of the Alexandrian Jewish community during his lifetime, afterwards his entire approach was rejected by the synagogue, which came to associated Greek learning with heresy, i.e., Christianity:

"It was said about A'her: Greek melody ceased not from his mouth, as it was said of him (A'her), that at the time when he stood up to go out of the college many books of the Minim used to fall from his lap." (The Babylonian Talmud, Volume Vi., Section Moed, Tract Hagiga, Chapter II, Kindle location 26044).

The 'minim' are heretics, usually Christians; 'A'her,' the 'Other,' was an apostate from legalistic Judaism, though what exactly his mature views are is never made clear. The Rabbis came to feel that Philo was trouble, so they dropped him. He was welcomed by the church, although the Logos Christology developed from his theology would not ultimately do justice to the revelation of God in Christ in the New Testament. When people are talking about what first century Jews believed, this is a road still open, still mainstream, that was only barred and gated subsequent to the split with Christianity. That Philo believed in our familiar God ought to serve as a hindrance to the open theists who want to substitute a lower, unformed or malformed god in His place. To suggest that Philo learned of his God from the pagan Plato encounters the obstacle that Plato did not know this God.

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There are other works of the inter-testamental period which are, in some respects, a half-way house between Christianity and Judaism. These works likewise are neither inspired nor authoritative for the Christian, however they do supply a useful check against 'Oneness' Pentecostal claims about what the people of that period thought and believed. When these writers are allowed to speak in their own voice, they sound in some ways more like Christians than like Unitarians:

Wisdom of Solomon

This work was written in the first century B.C. by an unknown author. This writing is counted as deuterocanonical by the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches although it is an evident forgery; the author claims to be King Solomon of ancient Israel. The real author falls within our time period, and is of particular interest for his understanding of Wisdom, which he describes in almost the same language as is found in Hebrews 1:3:

God the Father

"They said to themselves in their deluded way:...'Down with the poor and honest man!...He knows God, so he says; he styles himself 'the servant of the Lord'.  He is a living condemnation of all our ideas.  The very sight of him is an affliction to us, because his life is not like other people's, and his ways are different.  He rejects us like base coin, and avoids us and our ways as if we were filth; he says that the just die happy, and boasts that God is his father.  Let us test the truth of his words, let us see what will happen to him in the end; for if the just man is God's son, God will stretch out a hand to him and save him from the clutches of his enemies.  Outrage and torment are the means to try him with, to measure his forbearance and learn how long his patience lasts.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for on his own showing he will have a protector.'" (Wisdom, 2:1-20).

"Desire for gain invented the ship, and the shipwright with his wisdom built it; but it is thy providence, O Father, that is its pilot, for thou hast given it a pathway through the sea and a safe course among the waves, showing that thou canst save from every danger, so that even a man without skill can put to sea." (Wisdom, 14:2-3).

The Word

"For it was neither herb nor poultice that cured them, but thy all-healing word, O Lord." (Wisdom 16:12).

"So thy sons, O Lord, whom thou hast chosen, were to learn that it is not the growing of crops by which mankind is nourished, but it is thy word that sustains those who trust in thee." (Wisdom 16:26).



  • "For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth."
  • (Wisdom 18:14-16)




Wisdom

"For wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her is an understanding spirit holy, one only, manifold, subtle, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good, kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pure, and most subtil, spirits. For wisdom is more moving than any motion: she passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness." (Wisdom 7:22-26).

Holy Spirit

"For the spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and that which holds all things together is well aware of what men say." (Wisdom 1:7).

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Baruch

"This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob his servant, and to Israel his beloved. Afterward did he shew himself upon earth, and conversed with men." (Baruch 3:35-37).

This apocryphal work equates wisdom with God, though the announcement of Wisdom's incarnation has to raise eyebrows. Is it just a Christian interpolation?

Ecclesiasticus

This inter-testamental work by Jesus son of Sirach identifies 'wisdom' with 'the word:'

"Hear the praise of wisdom from her own mouth, as she speaks with pride among her people, before the assembly of the Most High and in the presence of the heavenly host: 'I am the word which was spoken by the Most High; it was I who covered the earth like a mist. My dwelling-place was in high heaven; my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone I made a circuit of the sky and travered the depth of the abyss. The waves of the sea, the whole earth, every people and nation were under my sway.'" (Ecclesiasticus, The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, 24:1-6).

Unfortunately the author also describes Lady Wisdom as a created being. How the Roman Catholics, who include this work in their canon of scripture, reconcile this new discovery with the Christian teaching that the word was in the beginning, I cannot say. Like much of this material, this is heading somewhat in the right direction, but does not arrive at the destination.

On the issue of God's omniscience, contra the open theists, this writing is on board with Philo's theology:

"He fathoms the abyss and the heart of man,
he is versed in their intricate secrets;
for the Lord possesses all knowledge
and observes the signs of all time.
He discloses the past and the future,
and uncovers the traces of the world's mysteries.
No thought escapes his notice,
and not a word is hidden from him
He has set in order the masterpieces of this wisdom,
he who is from eternity to eternity;
nothing can be added, nothing taken away,
and he needs no one to give him advice." (Ecclesiasticus, 42:18-21)

The open theists claim that Biblical theology was polluted by contact with pagan theology, that our familiar ideas about God's omniscience are derived from Greek philosophy, not revelation. If so, when was the Biblical stream ever pure? When is the God of the Bible not omniscient, when does He not inform the prophets about the events of futurity? Certainly not when Isaiah was penning his 40's chapters. Not when ben Sirach wrote. This alleged contamination with pagan theology, if such it is, was already accomplished long before Christianity split off from its parent stem.

Some of these authors, for example the writer who produced the Wisdom of Solomon, do seem to maintain a commitment to Platonic philosophy. Believers should be aware that there are aspects of this philosophy, such as reincarnation and the real existence of multiple independent, self-subsistent, eternal entities, which are not consistent with Biblical revelation; neoplatonism is a much better fit. But certainly no believer deserves to be lectured by materialistic Epicureans like the open theists. Talk about an ancient Greek philosophy, and talk about a bad one. . .

Up

Book of Enoch

As with the Wisdom of Solomon, let me stress I don't accept this pseudepigraphical work as inspired. 'Enoch' was a flat-earther! The book of Enoch talks about the Messiah being "named" and "hidden" before the creation of the world:

"And at that hour that Son of Man was named
In the presence of the Lord of Spirits,
And his name before the Head of Days.

"Yea, before the sun and the signs were created,
Before the stars of the heaven were made,
His name was named before the Lord of Spirits.

"He shall be a staff to the righteous
Whereon to stay themselves and not fall,
And he shall be the light of the Gentiles,
And the hope of those who are troubled of heart.

"All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him,
And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits.

"And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him,
Before the creation of the world and for evermore."

(Book of Enoch, Chapter 48).

The pre-existence of the Messiah was an idea already in the air in the century prior to Christ's first advent: not that He had pre-existed as a 'plan' or a 'concept', but in very truth, as the Bible also testifies. The Son of Man was from the beginning, "hidden" with God: "For from the beginning that Son of Man was hidden, and the Most High kept him in the presence of His power, and revealed him only to the chosen." (Book of Enoch, Chapter 62:7). While there is no evidence that any of these authors exerted any influence on the New Testament authors, there is also no reason not to take the New Testament authors at their word when they testify to the truth of the Trinity; this is in no way an impossible view for a 'first century Jew' to take.



The Fourth Book of Ezra

'Ezra' is a work of imaginative fiction, which shares in the popular theme that the Messiah pre-existed His earthly advent:

"This is the interpretation of the vision: As for your seeing a man come up from the heart of the sea, this is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages, who will himself deliver his creation; and he will direct those who are left." (The Fourth Book of Ezra, The Sixth Vision, 13:25-27, p. 552, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, James H. Charlesworth).

As with most of these works, the pre-existing Messiah is both distinguished from God the Father, but also assigned characteristics not shared by any mortal. On the one hand, one cannot over-emphasize the uniqueness of the revelation of God in Christ: "But no previous model seemed adequate, at least to those Christians whose efforts framed what became more classic Christological doctrine." (Larry W. Hurtado. How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Kindle Locations 643-644).) On the other hand, in order to rebut a spurious parallel, one must resist the efforts to back-date the Talmud with its anti-Christian polemics into the first century. Muslims are Unitarians. Talmudic Jews are Unitarians. First century Jews, not so much. First century Jews, as a matter of historical fact, did not believe what anti-trinitarians are obliged to pretend they believed.





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