From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Thu Mar 12 1998 - 11:42:43 EST

Carl Conrad wrote:

>At 8:17 AM -0600 3/12/98, Edgar Foster wrote:

>>Some commentators assign a negative denotation to FILOSOFIAS, others say it has
no "meaning" apart from context. Then there is the argument that the word
has an "unmarked meaning" apart from context, but context provides the marked meaning.

Which is it?? :)<<

I made a mistake. I should have said "connotation" instead of "denotation." Thanks
for clearing that up Carl.

>>I'd say that it does NOT have a negative connotation in Acts 17:18 but pretty clearly
DOES have a negative connotation in Col 2:8.<<

Since beginning Biblical exegesis, I have considered FILOSOFIAS to be utilized in
a negative sense in the NT. Therefore, it seemed as if one could condemn philosophy
in toto by invoking this one verse. By implication, Acts 17:18 would appear to communicate
the same message. Upon taking a closer look at the context of Col. 2:8, I am given
food for thought. In particular, Paul is condemning the FILOSOFIAS of the Judaizers,
the native Phrygians of Colossae, and the Gnostics (See Petr Porkorny on Colossians).
It would seem, in view of the context, that Paul is condemning certain types of FILOSOFIAS
(he is not making a blanket judgment).

Lightfoot notes: "in his [Paul's] age it [FILOSOFIAS] had come to be associated generally
with the idea of subtle dialectics and profitless speculation; while in this particular
instance [Col. 2:8] it was combined with a mystic cosmogony and angelology which
contributed a fresh element of danger" (Lightfoot 179, Words in Brackets Mine).

>>Similar to Col 2:8 are Paul's remarks about human wisdom in the first four chapters
of 1 Cor. I don't think it is really safe to say that this word has a distinct universal
connotation apart from its denotation either in the NT or in early Christian literature<<

I agree with your remarks about the ill-advisedness of imputing a universal connation
apart from the word's usus loquendi. Paul's words to the Corinthians, however, does
make it seem as if he **did** see fit to condemn FILOSOFIAS entirely.

>>and indeed the whole
matter of "philosophy" is a lengthy chapter in any account of early
Christian thought; offhand I'd say that there's an entire spectrum
stretching from Tertullian on one end with his celebrated rhetorical
question, "What have Athens and Jerusalem to do with each other?" to an opposite
extreme of what some might call an uncritical open-mindedness toward any and all
sophisticated thought in the Hellenic and Hellenistic traditions, as in Clement of
Alexandria and Origen. Between these, it seems to me there's quite a range of open-minded
and closed-minded attitudes toward serious pagan thought.<<

Origen is an interesting case study. He employed Platonist philosophy profusely in
his writings, yet he clearly gave precedence to PASA GRAFH. Origen once said that
while philosophers seemed to err in many intellectual matters, they could occasionally
stumble onto truth. He used the proverb about a drunk accidentally getting a thorn
stuck in his hand. As mentioned, however, there have been extremes on both sides
of Christianity.

>I'd be curious
>what Edgar Krentz and Edward Hobbs, to mention only two of our elder statesmen on
the list, might have to say on this issue, with particular focus on the connotations
of FILOSOFOS and FILOSOFIA in actual NT usage.<<

I would appreciate this myself.

BTW, thanks for the Louw-Nida comments.

Edgar Foster
Classical Languages Major

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