Re: Physical Models in the NT (Something from Nothing)

From: Will Wagers (
Date: Tue Feb 20 1996 - 16:10:14 EST

David L. Moore (I am forever confusing you with David Meadows) writes:

> First, it seems precarious to ascribe Platonistic thought to Paul
>whereas his writings show very little influence of the sort. One might
>make a better case for the writer of Hebrews along this line, but, even
>in his case, one would be hard put to show that Platonism provides more
>than cultural window dressing for the message of the Gospel. That is to
>say, the Gospel message, with its Hebrew roots, is presented in a way
>that is culturally acceptable to the writer's Helenized audience.

1. It is not necessary to characterize Paul as a Platonist. The Standard
Model is ubiquitous in the ancient world. It was common knowledge.
We are not looking for direct influence, as in Paul reading Plato. We
are looking for the influence of the paradigm which Plato and Paul
shared. The mere fact that Paul used the Septuagint as a resource might
account for some of the carryover. Paul was obviously aware of the
general philosophical currents of the time, because he had to do battle
with them to win over churches. Did Paul have access to Jn 1? And, there
is considerable philosophical baggage built into the use of the Greek
language: this might create some correspondence to the model in a
passive manner.

2. The nature of a paradigm is not "cultural window dressing". To the
contrary, it is the most fundamental building block of understanding and
analysis of a culture. It incorporates the scientific, mythological, and
philosophical assumptions of the times as understood by the culture as
a whole. It is rather like the "mind" of the culture. It is the structure
which makes communication possible through shared imagery and common
analogies. It is the most fundamental unit of meaning, conditioning all
expressions of that culture. It is the very thing which is missing when
we go to make translations - the context. Modern writings cannot be
fully understood without reference to the modern paradigm of evolution,
for example. The Standard Model begins in pre-history and persists
today in Christianism, Judaism, and Islamism.

3. The audience for the Gospel message was not Hebrew, but Hellasian.
Greek was the philosophical, scientific, and theological lingua franca.
One learned Greek my copying or transcribing Greek texts, often
philosophical. Paul may or may not have written in Greek, but his target
audience certainly did.

4. I would argue that the Gospel message has Greek roots, rather than
Hebrew, which I view is grafted on.

5. To the degree that Paul "packaged" his message for Hellasian audiences,
this might account for some of the correspondences with the model. And,
Paul himself is Hellenized. Nevertheless, we are not talking about some
missionary in Upper Volta localizing his message, we are talking about the NT.

> Second, can we really assume that 1st-Century believers (and
>specifically the apostles) took their cosmology from the science and
>Pagan philosophy current in their day?

We need not assume that "1st-Century believers (and specifically the
apostles) took their cosmology from the science and Pagan philosophy
current in their day", although, if one is to going to assume, that is the
obvious choice. I think the burden of proof would fall naturally on the
shoulders of anyone who opposes the assumption. You can assume that
people don't grow up in a vacuum, especially in times which were even
more tradition-bound than our own. Even those who escape tradition
are deeply marked: their very rebellion is defined in terms of the pole
from which they differentiate themselves. But, I suggest that we examine
the evidence instead.

> What we would really need to get at the biblical view on this
>matter is a good exegesis of Gen. 1:1. Maybe someone can get that going
>on b-hebrew.

I, also, would like to see a discussion on B-HEBREW. The model is present in
Gn 1:1, where it is certainly not due to the influence of Plato.



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