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

From: David Moore (
Date: Wed Feb 21 1996 - 17:38:08 EST

Will Wagers <> wrote:

>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.

        I recognize that the model Will is talking about was ubiquitous in
Greco-Roman culture of late antiquity. But I don't think that we can,
Skinner-like, think that such a cultural paradigm will come to rule in
every member of the society in which it is found. There is an interesting
article by Werner Foerster in the TDNT which deals with this matter we
have been discussing, and, although he does not agree with my
interpretation that Gen. 1:1 implies CREATIO EX NIHILO, he mentions some
things about Rabbinic Judaism of Paul's time which are extremely
interesting relative to the theme we are discussing (TDNT, III: 1017).

        He says, in part, "[The interpretation of the creation narrative]
is the point at issue in the debate between a philosopher and R. Gamaliel.
The philosopher grants that the Jewish God is a great artist ([Heb.]
tsayar) but claims that He had good materials to help Him .... Gamaliel
proves from Gn. 1:1 that their creation (BRY'H) is narrated in Scripture"

        Another interesting piece of data he shares is that the Mishnah
shows that the idea of the pre-existence of anything other than God
Himself was foreign to the Rabbis' thinking. One of their points of
speculation concerning this was on pre-existent things that were, in part,
really created and in part arose from the thoughts of God. As examples,
he mentions the Torah and the throne of God (_Ibid._). This latter seemed
especially interesting in the light of what Paul says about the role of
the Son in the creation of all things "whether thrones or dominions or
rulers [ARXAI] or powers - all things have been created through him and
for him" (Col. 1:16). For all the aculturation Paul had relative to the
Greek world, it would seem to me that his convictions about the created
order would have more in common with these aspects of Rabbinic Judaism
than with Pagan philosophy.

David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God Department of Education

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