Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hebrew Influence on Greek Philosophy

"And Aristobulus, in his first book addressed to Philometor, writes in these words: 'And Plato followed the [Mosaic] laws given to us, and had manifestly studied all that is said in them.' And before Demetrius there had been translated by another, previous to the dominion of Alexander and of the Persians, the account of the departure of our countrymen the Hebrews from Egypt, and the fame of all that happened to them, and their taking possession of the land, and the account of the whole code of laws; so that it is perfectly clear that the above-mentioned philosopher derived a great deal from this source, for he was very learned, as also Pythagoras, who transferred many things from our books to his own system of doctrines. And Numenius, the Pythagorean philosopher, expressly writes: 'For what is Plato, but Moses speaking in Attic Greek?' This Moses was a theologian and prophet, and as some say, an interpreter of sacred laws. His family, his deeds, and life, are related by the Scriptures themselves, which are worthy of all credit...." -- Clement of Alexandria, theologian, Stromata, Book I, Chapter XXII, 2nd century

"Thales was a Phoenician by birth, and was said to have consorted with the prophets of the Egyptians; as also Pythagoras did with the same persons, by whom he was circumcised...." -- Clement of Alexandria, theologian, Stromata, Book I, Chapter XV, 2nd century

"Clearchus the Peripatetic says that he knew a Jew who associated with Aristotle." -- Clement of Alexandria, theologian, Stromata, Book I, Chapter XV, 2nd century

"Of all these, by far the oldest is the Jewish race; and that their philosophy committed to writing has the precedence of philosophy among the Greeks, the Pythagorean Philo shows at large; and, besides him, Aristobulus the Peripatetic, and several others, not to waste time, in going over them by name. Very clearly the author Megasthenes, the contemporary of Seleucus Nicanor, writes as follows in the third of his books, On Indian Affairs: 'All that was said about nature by the ancients is said also by those who philosophise beyond Greece: some things by the Brahmins among the Indians, and others by those called Jews in Syria.'" -- Clement of Alexandria, theologian, Stromata, Book I, Chapter XV, 2nd century

"... he [Pythagoras] sailed to Sidon, which he knew to be his native country, and because it was on his way to Egypt. In Phoenicia he conversed with the prophets who were the descendants of Moschus [Moses] the physiologist [natural philosopher], and with many others, as well as with the local hierephants. He was also initiated into all the mysteries of Byblus and Tyre, and in the sacred functions performed in many parts of Syria. He was led to all this not from any hankering after superstition as might easily be supposed, but rather from a desire of and love for contemplation, and from an anxiety to miss nothing of the mysteries of the divinities which deserved to be learned. After gaining all he could from the Phoenician mysteries, he found that they had originated from the sacred rites of Egypt, forming as it were an Egyptian colony. This led him to hope that in Egypt itself he might find monuments of erudition still more genuine, beautiful, and divine. Therefore following the advice of his teacher Thales, he left, as soon as possible, through the agency of some Egyptian sailors, who very opportunely happened to land on the Phoenician coast under Mount Carmel, in the temple on the peak of which Pythagoras for the most part dwelt in solitude." -- Iamblichus, philosopher, Life of Pythagoras, 3rd century

"Then Pythagoras visited the Egyptians, the Arabians, the Chaldeans and the Hebrews, from whom he acquired expertery in the interpretation of dreams, and he was the first to use frankincense in the worship of divinities." -- Porphyry, philosopher, Life of Pythagoras, 3rd century

Eusebius of Caesaria, theologian, Preparation for the Gospel, Book IX, Chapters V-VIII, 313:

[JOSEPHUS] 'BUT Clearchus the Peripatetic philosopher, in his first book Concerning Sleep, attributes to Aristotle the philosopher a statement such as follows concerning the Jews, writing word for word thus:

'But though it would be too long to tell the greater part, it will not be amiss to go through those of his statements which are alike marvellous and philosophical. Now, said he, understand clearly, Hyperochides, I shall seem to you to relate what is as marvellous as dreams. Then Hyperochides modestly replied, Yes, that is the very reason why we all desire to hear it.

'Well then, said Aristotle, according to the rule of the rhetoricians, let us first describe the man's origin, that we may not disobey the teachers of the narrative style.

'Tell it so, if you please, said Hyperochides.

'Well then, the man was by origin a Jew, from Coele-Syria. Now these are descendants of the philosophers of India; and philosophers, it is said, are called among the Indians Calani, but among the Syrians they are called Judaeans, having taken their name from the place. For the place which they inhabit is called Judaea: and the name of their city is very awkward, for they call it Hierusalem.

'This man then, who was hospitably entertained by many on his way down from the inland districts to the sea-coasts, was Greek not only in language but also in spirit. And as at that time we were dwelling in Asia, the man having landed in the same neighbourhood fell into conversation with us and some others of the studious sort, to make trial of their wisdom. And as he had lived in intimacy with many of the learned, he imparted somewhat more than he received.'

Such is the story of Clearchus.


THIS man is mentioned also by our Clement in his first Miscellany, in what he says as follows:

[CLEMENT] 'Clearchus the Peripatetic says that he knew a Jew who associated with Aristotle.'

And afterwards he adds:

'But Numa the king of the Romans, though he was a Pythagorean, received benefit from the teaching of Moses, and forbade the Romans to make an image of God in the shape of man or any animal. So in the first hundred and seventy years, though they built themselves temples, they made no image, neither in sculpture nor yet in painting.

'For Numa used to teach them in secret, that it was not possible for the Perfect Good to be reached by language, but only by the mind.'

Further than this, in what follows below, he speaks thus:

'But most plainly does Megasthenes, the historian who lived with Seleucus Nicator, write as follows in his third book On Indian Affairs.

'All that has been said about nature among the ancients is said also among the philosophers outside Greece, partly among the Indians by the Brachmans, and partly in Syria by those who are called Jews.'

Besides this Clement also mentions Aristobulus the Peripatetic and Numenius the Pythagorean, saying:

'Aristobulus, in his first book addressed to Philometor, writes in these words: Plato too has followed our legislation, and has evidently studied carefully the several precepts contained in it.

'And others before Demetrius, and prior to the supremacy of Alexander and of the Persians, have translated both the narrative of the Exodus of our fellow countrymen the Hebrews from Egypt, and the fame of all that happened to them, and their conquest of the land, and the exposition of the whole Law.

'So it is perfectly clear that the philosopher before-mentioned has borrowed much, for he is very learned; as also was Pythagoras, who transferred many of our precepts into his own system of doctrines.

'And Numenius, the Pythagorean philosopher, writes expressly: "For what is Plato, but Moses speaking in Attic Greek?" '

So far Clement.


ALSO from the Pythagorean philosopher himself, I mean Numenius, I will quote as follows from his first book On the Good:

[NUMENIUS] 8 'But when one has spoken upon this point, and sealed it by the testimonies of Plato, it will be necessary to go back and connect it with the precepts of Pythagoras, and to appeal to the nations of good repute, bringing forward their rites and doctrines, and their institutions which are formed in agreement with those of Plato, all that the Brachmans, and Jews, and Magi, and Egyptians arranged.'

So much then on these points.


ALSO in his third book the same author makes mention of Moses, speaking as follows:

'And next in order came Jannes and Jambres, Egyptian sacred scribes, men judged to have no superiors in the practice of magic, at the time when the Jews were being driven out of Egypt.

'So then these were the men chosen by the people of Egypt as fit to stand beside Musaeus, who led forth the Jews, a man who was most powerful in prayer to God; and of the plagues which Musaeus brought upon Egypt, these men showed themselves able to disperse the most violent.'

Now by these words Numenius bears witness both to the marvellous wonders performed by Moses, and to Moses himself as having been beloved of God.

1 comment:

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

Again the mention of India

What country did they mean by this? Hindu, Indu, India.

Who translated this? What else did they mention of India?