From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Smith's Bible Dictionary [1]

Philosophy. It is the object of the following article to give some account;

(I). Of that development of thought among the Jews which answered to the philosophy of the West;

(II). Of the systematic progress of Greek philosophy as forming a complete whole; and

(III). Of the contact of Christianity with philosophy.

I. The Philosophic Discipline of The Jews. - Philosophy, if we limit the word strictly to describe the free pursuit of knowledge of which truth is the one complete end is essentially of western growth. In the East, the search after wisdom has always been connected with practice. The history of the Jews offers no exception to this remark: there is no Jewish philosophy, properly so called. The method of Greece was to proceed from life to God; the method of Israel, (so to speak), was to proceed from God to life. The axioms of one system are the conclusions of the other. The one led to the successive abandonment of the noblest domains of science which man had claimed originally as his own, till it left bare systems of morality; the other, in the fullness of time, prepared many to welcome the Christ - the Truth.

The philosophy of the Jews, using the word in a large sense, is to be sought for rather in the progress of the national life, than in special books. Step by step, the idea of the family was raised into that of the people; and the kingdom furnished the basis of those wider promises, which included all nations in one kingdom of heaven. The social, the political, the cosmical relations of man were traced out gradually in relation to God. The philosophy of the Jews is, thus, essentially a moral philosophy, resting on a definite connection with God.

The doctrines of Creation and Providence, of an infinite divine person, and of a responsible human will, which, elsewhere, form the ultimate limits of speculation, are here assumed at the outset. The Psalms, which, among the other infinite lessons which they convey, give a deep insight into the need of a personal apprehension of truth, everywhere declare the absolute sovereignty of God over the material and the moral world. One man among all is distinguished among the Jews as "the wise man". The description which is given of his writings serves as a commentary on the national view of philosophy.  1 Kings 4:30-33. The lesson of practical duty, the full utterance of "a large heart,"  1 Kings 4:29, the careful study of God's creatures, - this is the sum of wisdom. Yet, in fact, the very practical aim of this philosophy leads to the revelation of the most sublime truth.

Wisdom was gradually felt to be a person, throned by God and holding converse with men.  Proverbs 8:1. She was seen to stand in open enmity with "the strange woman", who sought to draw them aside by sensuous attractions; and thus, a new step was made toward the central doctrine of Christianity: - the incarnation of The Word .

Two books of the Bible, Job and Ecclesiastes, of which the latter at any rate, belong to the period of the close of the kingdom, approach, more nearly than any others, to the type of philosophical discussions. But, in both, the problem is moral and not metaphysical. The one deals with the evils which afflict "the perfect and upright;" the other with the vanity of all the pursuits and pleasures of earth.

The captivity necessarily exercised a profound influence. The teaching of Persia, on Jewish thought, seems to have been designed to supply important elements in the education of the chosen people. But it did yet more than this. The contact of the Jews with Persia, thus, gave rise to a traditional mysticism. Their contact with Greece was marked by the rise of distinct sects. In the third century B.C., the great Doctor Antigonus of Socho bears a Greek name, and popular belief pointed to him as the teacher of Sadoc and Boethus; the supposed founders of Jewish rationalism. At any rate, we may date, from this time, the twofold division of Jewish speculation, The Sadducees appear as the supporters of human freedom in its widest scope; the Pharisees of a religious Stoicism. At a later time, the cycle of doctrine was completed, when, by a natural reaction, the Essenes established as mystic Asceticism.

Ii. The Development of Greek Philosophy. - The various attempts which have been made to derive western philosophy from eastern sources have singularily failed. It is true that, in some degree, the character of Greek speculation may have been influenced, at least in its earliest-stages, by religious ideas, which were originally introduced from the East; but this indirect influence does not affect the real originality of the Greek teachers. The very value of Greek teaching lies in the fact that it was, as far as is possible, a result of simple reason, or, if faith asserts its prerogative, the distinction is sharply marked.

Of the various classifications of the Greek schools which have been proposed, the simplest and truest seems to be that which divides the history of philosophy into three great periods, the first reaching to the era of the Sophists, the next to the death of Aristotle, the third to the Christian era. In the first period, the world objectively is the great centre of inquiry; in the second, the "ideas" of things, truth, and being; in the third, the chief interest of philosophy falls back upon the practical conduct of life. After the Christian era, philosophy ceased to have any true vitality in Greece, but it made fresh efforts to meet the conditions of life at Alexandria and Rome.

The pre-Socratic schools. - The first Greek philosophy was little more than an attempt to follow out in thought the mythic cosmogonies of earlier poets. What is the one permanent element which underlies the changing forms of things? - this was the primary inquiry, to which the Ionic school endeavored to find an answer. Thales, (circa, B.C. 639-543), pointed to moisture, (water), as the one source and supporter of life. Anaximenes, (circa, B.C. 520-480), substituted air for water. At a much later date, (circa, B.C. 460), Diogenes of Apollonia represented this elementary "air" as endowed with intelligence.

The Socratic schools. - In the second period of Greek philosophy, the scene and subject were both changed. A philosophy of ideas, using the term in its widest sense, succeeded a philosophy of nature, in three generations, Greek speculation reached its greatest glory in the teaching of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The famous sentence in which Aristotle characterizes the teachings of Socrates, (B.C.465-399), places his scientific position in the clearest light. There are two things, he says, which we may rightly attribute to Socrates - inductive reasoning and general definition. By the first, he endeavored to discover the permanent element, which underlies the changing forms of appearances and the varieties of opinion; by the second, he fixed the truth, which he had thus gained.

But, besides this, Socrates rendered another service to truth. Ethics occupied in his investigations, the primary place which had hitherto been held by Physics. The great aim of his induction was to establish the sovereignty of Virtue. He affirmed the existence of a universal law of right and wrong. He connected philosophy with action, both in detail and in general. On the one side, he upheld the supremacy of Conscience, on the other, the working of Providence.

The post-Socratic schools. - After Aristotle, philosophy took a new direction. Speculation became mainly personal. Epicurus, (B.C. 352-270), defined the object of philosophy to be the attainment of a happy life. The pursuit of , for its own sake, he recognized as superfluous. He rejected dialectics as a useless study, and accepted the senses, in the widest acceptation of the term, as the criterion of truth. But he differed widely from the Cyrenaics in his view of happiness. The happiness at which the wise man aims is to be found, he said, not in momentary gratification, but in life-long pleasure. All things were supposed to come into being by chance, and so pass away. The individual was left master of own life.

While Epicurus asserted, in this manner, the claims of one part of man's nature in the conduct of life, Zeno of Citium, (circa, B.C. 280), with equal partiality advocated a purely spiritual, (intellectual), morality. Opposition between the two was complete. The infinite, chance-formed worlds of the one stand over against the one harmonious world of the other. On the one side are gods regardless of material things, on the other, a Being permeating and vivifying all creation. This difference necessarily found its chief expression in Ethics.

Iii. Christianity in Contact with Ancient Philosophy. - The only direct trace of the contact of Christianity with western philosophy, in the New Testament, is in the account of St. Paul's visit to Athens,  Acts 17:18, and there is nothing in the apostolic writings to show that it exercised any important influence upon the early Church. Compare  1 Corinthians 1:22-24.

But it was otherwise with eastern speculation, which penetrated more deeply through the mass of the people. The "philosophy" against which the Colossians were warned,  Colossians 2:8, seems undoubtedly to have been of eastern origin, containing elements similar to those which were, afterward, embodied in various shapes of Gnosticism, as a selfish asceticism, and a superstitions reverence for angels,  Colossians 2:16-23 , and in the Epistles to Timothy, addressed to Ephesians, in which city St. Paul anticipated the rise of false teaching,  Acts 20:30, two distinct forms of error may be traced in addition to Judaism, due more or less to the same influence.

The writings of the sub-apostolic age, with the exception of the famous anecdote of Justin Martyr, (Dial. 2 - 1), throw little light upon the relations of Christianity and philosophy. Christian philosophy may be, in one sense, a contradiction in terms, for Christianity confessedly derives its first principles from revelation, and not from simple reason; but there is no less a true philosophy of Christianity, which aims to show how completely these meet the instincts and aspirations of all ages. The exposition of such a philosophy would be the work of a modern Origen.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

The Old Testament . Biblical philosophy is not an abstract monologue but a dialogue with God. The Bible never attempts to prove the existence of God, bur starts from the premise that God exists (i.e.,  Genesis 1:1 ); philosophy, in contrast, takes up questions concerning the nature of the universe and existence that do not necessarily presume the verity of God. Therefore, philosophy can be an effective tool if properly used as a means of understanding pretheological questions, but not as a method of supplanting the revelation already made available by faith through God's Scriptures. The limitations of human reason, especially in light of the moral degeneracy in humans, requires God's help in resolving philosophical questions.

The sacrificial structure of the Hebrew Scriptures reveals a simple, nonesoteric approach to the questions concerning solidarity with God and oneself. Faith was a prerequisite for abiding in the covenant. There is rarely a philosophical concern, although in the psalms occasionally deeper questions concerning the afterlife are considered in the light of theodicy.

The New Testament . It is not surprising that Paul, "the apostle to the Gentiles, " is more philosophical and deals with the problem of onerous philosophy more than any other writer in the New Testament because of the pragmatic issues of polytheism and atheism he confronted. The only time the world "philosophy" is used in the Bible is in  Colossians 2:8 . The problem addressed by Paul is probably an incipient form of gnosticism. One fascinating aspect of this passage is the idea that one can be taken "captive" through philosophy. Paul is not anti-intellectual, as is evidenced by the fact that he quotes Greek poets in  Acts 17:28; also, in  Acts 17 he directs his teachings toward Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, which shows that he was knowledgeable of their philosophy. He even agreed with it where he could. But, when the apocalyptic element is understood, it becomes clearer the philosophical deficiency that Paul was pointing out. The recipients of the second-person plural pronoun in   Colossians 2:8 are Gentiles (e.f., 1:27). The philosophy is more clearly spelled out in 2:16: "Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths" (NRSV). Food laws and calendar observance were not required for the Gentiles' newfound faith. The observance of these nationalistic requirements was synonymous with being under the influence of "elemental spirits of the universe, " that is, the evil spirits that swarmed the cosmos. To be under this demonic influence was not necessary because Christ "disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it" (  Colossians 2:15 ).

Another aspect of the philosophy was esoteric speculation. Two examples are given: "worship of angels" and "dwelling on visions."  Hebrews 1 also addresses the problem of the worship of angels (Christ was erroneously thought to be an angel). In Colossians, Paul contrasts arrogant, earthly, speculative philosophy with humble, transcendental, and righteous philosophy derived from God.

The problem of exploitative philosophy in  Colossians 2:8 is not simply an aversion toward a theory of analysis underlying deportment, thought, knowledge, and the constitution of the universe. Rather, it is unwarranted speculation that encroaches on the freedom of another. The regulations "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" (v. 21) reveal that a personal, introspective analysis concerning one's desire for meaning is not in view, but a philosophy that requires a change in behavior in another. It is the type of conjecture that places cultural, not moral demands on one and begins with the supposition of ethnic and religious superiority. This predicament was precisely the quandary of gnosticism. The elitism that proliferated gnosticism was largely based on the philosophical premise that gnostics were superior and held a secret knowledge.

The term "philosopher" (literally "lover of wisdom") appears in  Acts 17:18 . It is clear that the first time Christianity was taught in Athens, an intellectual hub of the ancient world, the message of monotheism was equated with obtuseness. Ironically, much of their philosophy was derived from superstition.

Epicurean philosophy originated from its founder Epicurus, who died in 270 b.c. Epicureans did not believe in an afterlife; therefore, one should neither fear death nor believe in supernatural beings. There was no jurisdiction over the state of affairs of humans. That which brought the most felicity now was the highest aim in life. Unlike the Stoics, the Epicureans rejected fate because there were no governing principles or beings that controlled one's destiny. The body was an indispensable part of human nature. Eventually, against the concept envisaged by Epicurus, this philosophy became associated with hedonistic practices because there was no infinite reference point to dictate morality.

Stoic philosophy was founded by Zeno around 300 b.c. In contrast to Epicurean philosophy, individuals achieve well-being and peace through their consonance with nature (which was in a constant state of change) by having the qualities of bravery, justice, self-control, and a competent intellect. All people have the divine spark of godhood (i.e., the logos) within them. Stoicism was monistic or even pantheistic because of the belief that divinity was so immanent that nature itself was part of the divine spark.

Therefore, providence governed the affairs of humans. The form of Stoic philosophy found in the New Testament was amalgamated with Roman polytheism. Paul was "deeply distressed" because the city was "full of idols." Undoubtedly, some of these idols were worshiped by the Stoics (not the Epicurean atheists).

Paul's sermon is directed toward Stoic and Epicurean philosophy. Addressing Stoic fatalism, he points out that God created the world and does not dwell in idols (17:24). Unlike Stoic pantheism, God "gives to all mortals life and breath and all things" (v. 25). God is not so immanent that he is the creation itself.

Unlike the Epicureans, Paul announces that God requires repentance by all (v. 30) "because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness" (v. 31). The resurrection of Christ is the "assurance" that all will raise from the dead and stand before God (v. 31). The resurrection of Christ, with the subsequent philosophical and logical argument that Paul makes in  1 Corinthians 15 , stands in sharp contrast to hedonistic Epicureanism. Like  Colossians 2 ,  Acts 17 demonstrates how philosophy, erroneously applied, can lead to "captivity" (e.g., Epicurean hedonism) and the control of "elemental spirits of the universe" (e.g., Stoic idolatry).

Even though Paul's philosophy in  Acts 17 is logical, it is not acrimonious. Paul practices the principle he sets forth in   1 Corinthians 9:22 : "I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some." The fact that Paul quotes some of their poets (17:28) corroborates the notion that he was not anti-intellectual; instead, he gives a reasonable, philosophical deposition when challenging the intellectuals of Athens.

Another example of Paul's cultural sensitivity can be found in  Acts 19:9 . Paul argued in the Hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus for two years. Tyrannus was probably a school named after a Greek philosopher. The Jewish apostle to the Gentiles was undoubtedly skilled in Greek rhetoric and philosophy.

In Romans 1:18-23Paul's philosophical logic is essential a "teleological" argument, that is, a testimony of the existence of God based on the order and purpose of the universe. Paul uses philosophical reasoning to discredit pagan superstition.

Eric W. Adams

Bibliography . J. Guttmann, Philosophies of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig  ; J. Hick, ed., Classical and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Religion  ; C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain  ; G. Vesey, ed., The Philosophy in Christianity  ; H. A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

in general, is defined, "the knowledge and study of nature and morality. founded on reason and experience." Philosophy owes its name to the modesty of Pythagoras, who refused the high title of σοφος , wise, given to his predecessors, Thales, Pherecydes, &c, as too assuming; and contented himself with the simple appellation of φιλοσοφος , quasi φιλος της σοφιας , a friend, or lover of wisdom: but Chauvin rather chooses to derive the name from φιλια , desire to study, and σοφια , studium sapientiae; and says that Pythagoras, conceiving that the application of the human mind ought rather to be called study than science, set aside the appellation of wise, and, in lieu thereof, took that of philosopher.

A knowledge of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, or the science of natural history, was always an object of interest. We are informed that Solomon himself had given a description of the animal and vegetable kingdoms,  1 Kings 4:33 . Traces of philosophy, strictly so called, that is, the system of prevailing moral opinions, may be found in the book of Job, in the thirty-seventh, thirty-ninth, and seventy-third Psalms; also in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, but chiefly in the apocryphal book of Wisdom, and the writings of the son of Sirach. During the captivity, the Jews acquired many new notions, particularly from the Mahestani, and appropriated them, as occasion offered, to their own purposes. They at length became acquainted with the philosophy of the Greeks, which makes its appearance abundantly in the book of Wisdom. After the captivity, the language in which the sacred books were written was no longer vernacular. Hence arose the need of an interpreter on the sabbatic year, a time when the whole law was read, and also on the Sabbath in the synagogues, which some think had been recently erected, in order to make the people understand what was read. These interpreters learned the Hebrew language at the schools. The teachers of these schools, who, for the two generations preceding the time of Christ, had maintained some acquaintance with the Greek philosophy, were not satisfied with a simple interpretation of the Hebrew idiom, as it stood, but shaped the interpretation so as to render it conformable to their philosophy. Thus arose contentions, which gave occasion for the various sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. In the time of our Saviour, divisions had arisen among the Pharisees themselves. No less than eighteen nice questions, if we may believe the Jewish rabbins, were contested at that period between the schools of Hillel and Shammai; one of which questions, was an inquiry, what cause was sufficient for a bill of divorce. If the Shammai and Hillel of the Talmud are the same with the learned men mentioned in Josephus, namely, Sameas and Pollio, who flourished thirty-four years before Christ, then Shammai, or Sameas is undoubtedly the same with the Simeon who is mentioned,  Luke 2:25-35; and his son Gamaliel, so celebrated in the Talmud, is the same with the Gamaliel mentioned,  Acts 5:34;  Acts 22:3 .

Anciently, learned men were denominated among the Hebrews חכמים , as among the Greeks they were called σοφοι , wise men. In the time of Christ, the common appellative for men of that description was γραμματευς in the Hebrew סופר , a scribe. They were addressed by the honorary title of rabbi, רבי , "great," or "master." The Jews, in imitation of the Greeks, had their seven wise men, who were called rabboni. Gamaliel was one of the number. They called themselves the children of wisdom: expressions which correspond very nearly to the Greek φιλοσοφος ,   Matthew 11:19;  Luke 7:35 . The heads of sects were called "Fathers;" the disciples were denominated "sons," or "children,"  Matthew 12:27;  Matthew 23:1-9 . The Jewish teachers, at least some of them, had private lecture rooms; but they also taught and disputed in synagogues, in temples, and, in fact, wherever they could find an audience. The method of these teachers was the same with that which prevailed among the Greeks. Any disciple who chose might propose questions, upon which it was the duty of the teachers to remark and give their opinions,  Luke 2:46 . The teachers were not invested with their functions by any formal act of the church, or of the civil authority: they were self-constituted. They received no other salary than some voluntary present from the disciples, which was called an "honorary," τιμη , honorarium,   1 Timothy 5:17 . They acquired a subsistence, in the main, by the exercise of some art or handicraft. That they took a higher seat than their auditors, although it was probably the case, does not follow, as is sometimes supposed, from  Luke 2:46 . According to the Talmudists, they were bound to hold no conversation with women, and to refuse to sit at table with the lower class of people,  Matthew 9:11;  John 4:27 . The subjects on which they taught were numerous, commonly intricate, and of no great consequence; of which there are abundant examples in the Talmud.

St. Paul bids the Colossians beware lest any man should spoil them "through philosophy and vain deceit;" that is, a vain and deceitful philosophy, such as was popular in that day, and had been compounded out of all preceding systems, Grecian and oriental. An explanation of this philosophy is given under See Gnostics , and See Cabbala .

On these ancient systems of pretended wisdom, Dr. Burton justly remarks: "Philosophy is indeed the noblest stretch of intellect which God has vouchsafed to man; and it is only when man forgets that he received his reasoning powers from God, that he is in danger of losing himself in darkness when he sought for light. To measure that which is infinite, is as impossible in metaphysics as in physics. If it had not been for revelation, we should have known no more of the Deity than the Heathen philosophers knew before: and to what did their knowledge amount? They felt the necessity of a First Cause, and they saw that that Cause must be intrinsically good; but when they came to systems, they never went farther than the point from which they first set out, that evil is not good, and good is not evil. The Gnostics thought to secure the triumph of their scheme by veiling its weaker points in mystery, and by borrowing a part from almost every system. But popular, and even successful, as this attempt may have been, we may say with truth, that the scheme which flattered the vanity of human wisdom, and which strove to conciliate all opinions, has died away, and is forgotten; while the Gospel, the unpresuming, the uncompromising doctrine of the Gospel, aided by no human wisdom, and addressing itself not merely to the head, but to the heart, has triumphed over all systems and all philosophers; and still leads its followers to that true knowledge which some have endeavoured to teach ‘after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.'"

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [4]

This word (φιλοσοφία = ‘the love and pursuit of wisdom’) is found only once in the NT ( Colossians 2:8). But, as Christianity claims the whole realm of human thought and life as its sphere, it could not be indifferent to so important a subject. Nevertheless, the gospel is supremely a proclamation of salvation, and hence its relation to philosophy in apostolic days was incidental and dependent on special circumstances. Moreover, as Hatch points out, the majority of those to whom Christianity was preached were not concerned with philosophy, and the former appealed to a standard which the latter did not recognize (Influence of Greek Ideas, p. 124).

St. Paul’s only recorded contact with philosophers occurred in Athens, where he met some Epicureans and Stoics ( Acts 17:18). Unfortunately, nothing certain is known of this interview, though many believe that in his subsequent speech he showed friendliness towards the Stoics. In his Epistles several references are found to certain forms of ‘wisdom’ or philosophy. In  1 Corinthians 1:17-31;  1 Corinthians 2:1-6 he asserts the superiority of the gospel to human wisdom, but the gospel wisdom was only for the mature. In the later Epistles to the Col., Tim., and Tit. he attacks false teaching of a philosophical nature. This insisted on some obsolete Jewish practices, inculcated ‘a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels’ ( Colossians 2:16-18), and was concerned with fables and genealogies, knowledge ‘falsely so called,’ and asceticism ( 1 Timothy 1:4;  1 Timothy 4:1-4;  1 Timothy 4:7;  1 Timothy 6:20,  Titus 1:14;  Titus 3:9). Some suppose that we are here confronted with the Gnosticism of the 2nd cent., and that these writings belong to that period; but this is improbable. The ideas and practices condemned are partly Jewish, and the philosophy is in an undeveloped state. Nor does Essenism give us the clue, as it had not as yet extended so far. The errors are probably an amalgam of later Jewish speculations regarding an angelic hierarchy (cf. Book of Enoch) and the Oriental speculations which were at that time very prevalent in Asia Minor. The result was to endanger the purity and simplicity of faith in Christ, hence the Apostle’s alarm.

The writer (or writers) of the Gospel of John and 1 John deals with the contention that Jesus Christ did not come ‘in the flesh’ ( 1 John 4:1-3)-a theory which is perhaps to be attributed to Cerinthus, a contemporary of St. John.

The Epistles of Jude ( Judges 1:4;  Judges 1:7;  Judges 1:10;  Judges 1:19) and 2 Peter ( 2 Peter 2:2;  2 Peter 2:10;  2 Peter 2:21-22) denounce a specially obnoxious type of antinomianism. And from the description of the Nicolaitans in  Revelation 2:6;  Revelation 2:15 it is easy to perceive Docetism again, and probably an early stage of Gnosticism.

From these passages it appears that the writers of this period alluded to philosophy only when it was opposed to their teaching concerning Christ and the purity of the Christian life, and that in such cases it met with their uncompromising condemnation. See, more fully, artt._ Epicureans, Gnosticism, Stoics, etc.

Literature.-Comm. on Epp., etc., mentioned above, also artt._ on same in HDB_, EBi_, EBr_11; artt._ on ‘Philosophy,’ in HDB_, Smith’s DB_; on ‘Gnosticism’ in HDB_, EBr_11; on ‘Gnosis’ in EBi_; on ‘Wisdom’ in Dcg_; P Wernle, Beginnings of Christianity, Eng. tr._, 1903-04; C. v. Weizsäcker, Apostolic Age, Eng. tr._, 1894-95; A. Harnack, History of Dogina, Eng. tr._, 1894-99; E. Hatch, Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, 1890; F. J. A. Hort, Judaistic Christianity, 1894; A. C. McGiffert, History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age. 1897; W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, 1895.

J. W. Lightley.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

Love of Wisdom, in the New Testament means the vain and pernicious speculations of human reason; the wisdom of this world, and "science falsely so called,"  1 Corinthians 1:18-27   1 Timothy 6:20 , in opposition to gospel truth. Paul cautioned the Colossians lest any man should spoil or plunder them through "philosophy,"  Colossians 2:8; and it is one of the most melancholy proofs of the depravity of the human heart, that it has been able so to pervert that noble faculty, the reason. The loftiest human intellects have often been the blindest as to religious truth; and the range and vigor of men's reasoning powers have been the measure, not of their knowledge and love of God, but of their pride, rebellion, and folly,  Matthew 11:25   1 Corinthians 2:14   3:18-20 . In Athens, the Epicurean, and Stoic philosophers made a jest of Paul's discourse; and in many places of his epistles, he opposes the false wisdom of he age, that is, the pagan philosophy, to the wisdom of Jesus Christ, and the true religion, which to the philosophers and sophists seemed to be mere folly, because it was built neither on the eloquence nor the subtlety of those who preached it, but on the power of God, and on the operations of the Holy Ghost in the hearts and minds of believers; and because it did not amuse and flatter man, but probed him a guilty rebel against God, in perishing need of a Savior.

As there arose, under the influence of philosophy, several sects among the Greeks, as the Academics, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics, so also there arose among the Jews several sects, as the Essenes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. The Pharisees had some resemblance to the Stoics, the Sadducees to the Epicureans, the Essenes to the Academics. The Pharisees were proud, vain, and boasting, like the Stoics; the Sadducees, who denied the immortality of the soul, and the existence of spirits, freed themselves at once, like the Epicureans, from all solicitude about futurity: the Essenes were more moderate, more simple and religious, and therefore approached nearer to the Academics.

The danger against which Paul warned the church in his day still exists. Pride of intellect naturally allies itself with the atheism and impenitence of the heart, refuses to yield to the claims of revelation, and rejects whatever displeases its taste or rises above its comprehension. True wisdom, on the contrary, is humble and docile. "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein."

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

The Greek manifold gropings after truth ( Acts 17:27) and the failure of even the divine law of Moses to appease conscience and give peace were the appointed preparation for the Christian scheme, which secures both to the believer. Holiness toward God, righteousness toward man, and the control of the passions, rest on love, not merely to an abstract dogma, but to the person of Him who first loved us and bought us at the cost of His own blood. Though "foolishness to the Greek, Christ crucified is the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1; 2). Nothing but divine interposition could have given a nation, cradled amidst the superstitions of Egypt and surrounded in maturity by the Canaanite idolaters, and in no way noted for learning and culture, a pure monotheistic religion, bringing man into holy fellowship with the personal loving God and Father.

Moses' ritual trained them for the spiritual religion which was its end. What Greek philosophy in vain tried to effect through the intellect, to know God, one's self, and our duty to God, man, and ourselves, and to do from the heart what we know, God by His Spirit revealing His Son Jesus Christ in the heart thoroughly effects by the motive of love ( 2 Corinthians 10:4-5;  Colossians 2:3). After Nebuchadnezzar's capture of Jerusalem, Thales traveled into Egypt and introduced philosophy thence into his native land, Greece. His theory that water was the first principle of all things, and that God was the Spirit who formed all things out of water, is evidently derived from primitive tradition ( Genesis 1:2). "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

Thales brought also from Egypt the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Brucker (Hist. Philos.) infers from the unconnected dogma-like form of the utterances of the seven sages of Greece that their wisdom was the fruit of tradition rather than independent reasonings. It is striking that the higher we trace the religions of the old world the more pure and uncorrupted they are found. The nearer we approach to the sources of Eastern tradition the more conspicuous appears the radiance of the heavenly light of original revelation; we find no mortals yet exalted to divinities, no images in their temples, no impure or cruel rites (Juvenal, Sat. 13:46;  Romans 1:21); in the great pyramid on idolatrous symbol appears.

King James Dictionary [7]

PHILOS'OPHY, n. L. philosophia Gr. love, to love, and wisdom.

1. Literally, the love of wisdom. But in modern acceptation, philosophy is a general term denoting an explanation of the reasons of things or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter. When applied to any particular department of knowledge, it denotes the collection of general laws or principles under which all the subordinate phenomena or facts relating to that subject, are comprehended. Thus, that branch of philosophy which treats of God, &c. is called theology that which treats of nature, is called physics or natural philosophy that which treats of man is called logic and ethics, or moral philosophy that which treats of the mind is called intellectual or mental philosophy, or metaphysics.

The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.

True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.

2. Hypothesis or system on which natural effects are explained.

We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy and the doctrines in our schools.

3. Reasoning argumentation. 4. Course of sciences read in the schools.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [8]

1: Φιλοσοφία (Strong'S #5385 — Noun Feminine — philosophia — fil-os-of-ee'-ah )

denotes "the love and pursuit of wisdom," hence, "philosophy," the investigation of truth and nature; in  Colossians 2:8 , the so-called "philosophy" of false teachers. "Though essentially Greek as a name and as an idea, it had found its way into Jewish circles ... Josephus speaks of the three Jewish sects as the "philosophies" ... It is worth observing that this word, which to the Greeks denotes the highest effort of the intellect, occurs here alone in Paul's writings ... the Gospel had deposed the term as inadequate to the higher standard whether of knowledge or of practice, which it had introduced" (Lightfoot).

Webster's Dictionary [9]

(1): ( n.) Practical wisdom; calmness of temper and judgment; equanimity; fortitude; stoicism; as, to meet misfortune with philosophy.

(2): ( n.) A treatise on philosophy.

(3): ( n.) Literally, the love of, including the search after, wisdom; in actual usage, the knowledge of phenomena as explained by, and resolved into, causes and reasons, powers and laws.

(4): ( n.) A particular philosophical system or theory; the hypothesis by which particular phenomena are explained.

(5): ( n.) The course of sciences read in the schools.

(6): ( n.) Reasoning; argumentation.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [10]

Properly denotes love, or desire of wisdom. Pythagoras was the first who devised this name, because he thought no man was wise, but God only; and that learned men ought rather to be considered as lovers of wisdom than really wise.

1. Natural philosophy is that art or science which leads us to contemplate the nature, causes, and effects of the material works of God.

2. Moral philosophy is the science of manners, the knowledge of our duty and felicity. The various articles included in the latter, are explained in their places in this work.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [11]

PHILOSOPHY . This word occurs in EV [Note: English Version.] only in   Colossians 2:8 , where it refers to an unsound and pernicious form of teaching. ‘Philosophy’ proper falls outside the scope of the present work. Some points of contact between it and the Bible will be found in such articles as Gnosticism, Logos, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom; cf. also Epicureans, Stoics.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [12]

The meaning of the word is a rover of wisdom, but most wretchedly applied, when spoken of in reference to the wisdom of this world. See proofs, of it,  Romans 1:21, etc.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

is the highest department of human speculation, the most abstract knowledge of which the human mind is capable.

Importance of the Subject. The character of the investigations with which philosophy is concerned, and still more the superabundance during the last century of what has professed itself to be philosophy, render it excessively difficult either to define this branch of inquiry, or to determine what may be legitimately included under the wide designation. Sir William Hamilton devoted seven lectures of his course of metaphysics to the discussion of this single topic. The vagueness of the term, the instability and indistinctness of the boundaries of this department of knowledge, and the dissensions in regard to all its details, have led many quick and ingenious minds to repudiate the study altogether, and to deny to it any valid existence. Nevertheless it is necessary to recognise its reality, in spite of the uncertainty of its nature, of the confusion thus produced, and of the pretensions sheltered under its honorable name. It was a profound and keen reply, which was said to have been made by Aristotle to the assailants and abnegators of philosophy, that "whether we ought to philosophize or ought not to philosophize, we are compelled to philosophize" ( Εἴτε Φιλοσοφητέον Φιλοσοφητέον , Εἴτε Μὴ Φιλοσοφητέον Φιλοσοφητέον , Πάντως Δὲ Φιλοσοφητέον , David. Prolegom. Phil., ap. Schol. Aristot. page 13, ed. Acad. Berol.), for philosophy is required to demonstrate the inanity and nugatoriness of philosophy: "But the mother of demonstrations is philosophy." The same deep sense of the irrecusable obligation is manifested by Plotinus, when, in a rare access of humor, he utters the paradoxical declaration that all things, rational and irrational animals, plants, and even minerals, air and water too alike yearn for theoretical perfection (or the philosophical completion of their nature, Ennead. 3:8:1); and that nature, albeit devoid of imagination and reason, has its philosophy within itself, and achieves whatever it effects by theory, or the philosophy which it does not itself possess. "There is reason in roasting eggs," and philosophy in all things, if we can only get at it:

"the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears." Philosophy is, like death, one of the few things that we can by no means avoid, whether we welcome or reject it; whether we regard the irresistible tendencies of our intellectual constitution to speculative inquiry, or the latent regularity, order, and law controlling all things that fall under our notice, when they develop themselves in accordance with their intrinsic nature (see Sir W. Hamilton, Metaphysics, lecture 4, page 46; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philosophy, volume 1, § 1, page 5).

There is no longer reason to dread the rarity of philosophy; there has been no occasion for such alarm for more than two thousand years; the terror has been produced by the redundance of what claims this name. There are philosophers of all sorts, who deal with all varieties of subjects. There is mental, moral, political, economical, and natural philosophy; there is the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of enthusiasm, and the philosophy of insanity; the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of rhetoric, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of grammar; there is the philosophy of history, the philosophy of law, the philosophy of the inductive sciences; there is the philosophy of colors, the philosophy of music, the philosophy of dress, the philosophy of manners, the philosophy of cookery, the philosophy of building, etc. All imaginable topics reveal an aptitude for philosophic treatment, and pretend to furnish a basis for some special philosophy. It would occasion no surprise to encounter a philosophy of jack-straws, and other infantile amusements. There must be some legitimacy, however slight, in these numerous pretensions, some semblance of truth in such easy assumption, or such professions would not continue to be repeated and tolerated. There must be some common element, some cord of similitude, uniting together under one category these multitudinous forms of inquiry, and the unnumbered inquiries which are left unnamed.

Scope of the Term. The word philosophy first appears in the Father of History. It is applied by Croesus to Solon, in his travels in search of knowledge and information, and is used as almost equivalent to theory, which in the context means scarcely anything more than sight-seeing or observation (Herodot. 1:30). It next appears in Thucydides. Pericles speaks of the Athenians as "philosophizing without effeminacy," where the term seems to denote the acquisition of information and culture (Thuc. 2:40). The origination of the word is ascribed to Pythagoras in a familiar anecdote, which reports that, being asked by Leon, the chief of Phlius, "What were philosophers?" he replied, with a happy allusion to the concourse at the Olympic Games, that " they were those who diligently observed the nature of things," calling themselves " students, or lovers of wisdom," and occupied with "the contemplation and knowledge of things" (Cicero, Tusc. Qu. 5:3, 9). He is supposed to have thus repudiated the designation of "wise man," or "sophister," previously in vogue, and to have modestly proposed in its stead the appellation of "philosopher," a lover of wisdom. The authenticity of the anecdote has been gravely questioned; and the designation, alleged to have been rejected in this manner, continued in habitual use, with no invidious sense, and was applied to Socrates and the chiefs of the Socratic schools (Grote, Hist. of Greece, part 2, volume 8, chapter 67, page 350). To the numerous passages cited by Grote may be added Androtion, Fr. 39; Phan. Eretrius, Fr. 21; and Synesii Dio, apud Dion Chrysostom, 2:329, ed. Teubner). The censures of the Sophists by Plato and Aristotle, the character of the Socratic teaching, and the almost exclusively inquisitive and indeterminate complexion of the Platonic speculation, appear to have given currency to the designation of philosophy, as a more modest and inconclusive appellative than "sophia," or wisdom.

Originally, then, philosophy imported only the loving pursuit of knowledge, without any implication of actual attainment; but it soon acquired a more positive and distinct acceptation. In the Republic Plato defines philosophy as "the circuit, or beating about of the soul in its ascending progress towards real existence;" and declares those to be philosophers "who embrace the really existent," and "who are able to apprehend the eternal and unchanging." In the Euthydemus he goes farther, and describes philosophy as "the acquisition of true knowledge." In the definitions ascribed to Plato, which, though not his, may preserve the tradition of his teaching, it is only "the desire of the knowledge of eternal existences." Xenophon rarely employs the term, but applies "sophia" to the Socratic knowledge. In one passage where he uses it it signifies the knowledge and practice of the duties of life (Mem. 4:2, page 23).

A great step towards the definite restriction of the meaning of philosophy was made by the Platonic writings, though the name continued, and has always continued, to be employed with great latitude. Aristotle, who gave a sharp, scientific character to nearly everything which he touched, first confined the term to special significations, and gave to it a limited and, in some cases, a purely technical meaning. He calls philosophy "the knowledge of truth;" and he endeavored to discover a "first philosophy," or body of principles common to all departments of speculative inquiry, and dealing solely with the primary elements and affections of being (Met. 1:1, page 993; Phys. 1:9, page 5; Simplicii Schol. page 345). This first philosophy, or "knowledge of the philosopher," corresponds to metaphysics in its stricter sense a division of speculative science receiving its name from the remains of Aristotle, and, in great measure, constituted by his labors. It is the science of being as being ( Τὸ Ὀν Ὄν , Met. 6:1, page 1026; 11:3, page 1060; 4, page 1061). Thus, with the Peripatetics, philosophy included all science, but especially theoretical science, and was peculiarly attached to metaphysical science. With this accords the definition of Cicero, which is evidently derived from Peripatetic sources (De Off. 2:2, 5).

This historical deduction is not unnecessary. Many words grow in meaning with the growth of civilization. Many gradually lose with the advancement of knowledge their original vague amplitude, and acquire a definite and precise significance. The real import of either class of words can be ascertained only by tracing their development through their successive changes. The history of the term philosophy enables us to understand the still subsisting vacillation in its employment, and to detect the common principle which runs through all its various and apparently incongruous applications. It brings us, at the same time, to the recognition of the mode and measure of its most rigorous employment.

Philosophy is the earnest investigation of the principles of knowledge, and most appropriately of the first principles, or principles of abstract being. It is not science, but search (Kant, Program. 1765-66; Sir William Hamilton, Metaph. lectures 1, 3; Discussions, page 787). It is distinctively zetetic, or inquisitive, rather than dogmatic. Its chief value consists in the zeal, perspicacity, simplicity, and unselfishness of the persevering desire for the highest truth, not in its attainment; for the highest truth is, in its nature, unattainable by the finite intelligence of man. It has not, or ought not to have, the pretension or confident assurance of knowledge, though this claim has frequently been made ( Φιλοσοφία Γνῶσίς Ἐστι Πάντων Τῶν Ὄντων , David. Interpr. X. Categ. Schol. Aristot. page 29, ed. Acad. Berol.). It is only a systematic craving and continuous effort to reach the highest knowledge.

"For man loves knowledge, and the beams of truth

More welcome touch his understanding's eye

Than all the blandishments of sound his ear,

Than all of taste his tongue" (Akenside).

Philosophy was called by the schoolmen "the science of sciences;" and wherever the recondite principles of knowledge are sought, there is philosophy, in a faint and rudimentary, or in a clear and instructive form. Hence it admits of being predicated of investigations far remote from those higher exercises of abstract contemplation to which it is most properly applied.

What is man? What are his faculties and powers? Whence is he? Whither is he going? How shall he guide himself? What is this vast and varied universe around him? How did it arise? How is it ordered and sustained? What is man's relation to it, and to the great Power behind the veil, manifested by its wondrous movements and changes? What is the nature of this power? What are man's duties to it, to himself, and to his fellow-men? What knowledge of these things can he acquire? What are his destinies, and his aids for their achievement? These questions, and questions like these, constitute the province of philosophy proper. They present themselves dimly or distinctly to every reflecting mind; and they will not be gainsaid. Our intellectual constitution compels us to think of them; and to think of them, however weakly and spasmodically, is the beginning of philosophy. They all admit of partial solution of an answer at least, which stimulates further investigation. None of them can receive a full and complete reply from the human reasonthey stretch beyond its compass. All of them, in every age, have met with some response, either in the poetic and bewildering fancies of the prevalent mythology, or in the wild guesses of popular credulity; either in the aphorisms of the prudent, or in the conclusions of those who have sedulously devoted themselves to the unravelling of these enigmas. This latter class have been the philosophers of each generation, from the commencement of rational inquiry to the current day, as they will continue to be till the closing of the great roll of time; for of philosophy there is no end.

This constant disappointment and continual renewal of effort are strange phenomena, and have often proved utterly disheartening. Hence has proceeded tie objection so frequently urged that philosophy is ever in restless and fretful activity, but does not advance. The allegation of an entire failure of progress is unjust; but the same questions constantly reappear with changed aspects, and the same solutions are offered under altered forms. But the change in the aspects and the alteration in the forms are themselves an advancement. The true source of encouragement is, however, to be derived less from the progress which can never pass the boundaries imposed by the same old questions than from the knowledge that the pursuit is more than the impracticable attainment the race more important than the arrival at the goal could be at least in this finite life, with our finite powers. From this habitual disappointment, and the apparent failures which bring the disappointment, have arisen, too, this variety of solutions which have been proposed for the numerous riddles that philosophy propounds to man. Varro enumerated two hundred and eighty- eight possible sects, apparently on the basis of ethics alone (August. De Civ. Dei, 19:1); and the number of distinguishable schemes of philosophy, to say nothing of diversities of opinion in regard to details, is countless. Yet each of these has contributed something to our knowledge: in the more precise statement of the problems to be solved, in the clearer determination of their conditions, in the refutation of former errors, in the exposure of previous misapprehensions, in presenting the inquiries under new and brighter lights, or in adding to our positive information in regard to these dark and difficult subjects. The gratitude which Aristotle expresses, in a remarkable passage (Met. 1), towards his predecessors, who had gone astray, or who had failed to see the truth, is due to all philosophical inquirers. They have contributed something towards the result, however incomplete that result may remain ( Καὶ Γὰρ Ουτοι Συνεβάλοντο Τι Τὴν Γὰρ Ἕξιν Προήσκησαν Ἡμῶν ; and see Alexander Aphrodis. Schol. Aristot. ad loc. Γὰρ Τὼν Καταβεβλημένων Δοξῶν Εὐπορία Εὑρετικωτερους Ἡμᾶς Τῆς Ἀληθείας Παρασκευάσει ).

History of the Subject. The hopelessness of satisfactory attainment, with the inevitable persistency of the search, and the gradual approximation, or appearance of approximation, to a goal which is never reached, but is ever receding, eventuate in changes, expansions, fluctuations, and revolutions in opinion, which are recorded and appreciated in the history of philosophy. This history chronicles the origins and original phases of philosophical inquiry, its mutations, progresses, and recessions, and the causes of them; it notes the introduction of new doctrines, new methods of procedure, new modes of exposition; the dissensions and controversies which spring up and minister to new developments; the reduction of kindred views to a coherent body, and the constitution of sects and schools; the fortunes of such schools, the development or perversion of the sev. eral successive or contemporaneous schemes of speculation in the bosom of the schools themselves, either in consequence of their own internal activity, or of the necessities suggested or enforced by external attack. In this manner, and from these motives of change, philosophy exhibits unceasing activity and frequent novelty of form, notwithstanding the substantial identity of the questions debated, and the sameness of the ground surveyed. In these vicissitudes of opinion there is, however, an element which ought never to be overlooked, and which gives an immediate and urgent interest to all the variations. The philosophy of an age or sect is largely influenced by recent experiences, and by the present demands of the society or circle to which it is addressed; and, in turn, it exercises a most potent influence in determining the views of the rising and succeeding generations, not only within the range of theoretical inquiry, but also in government, social organization, manners, habits of thought, arts, and in everything which concerns the daily life of the people. The condition of Athenian politics and morals directly engendered the Socratic inquiries and the Socratic schools. The personal degradation and servility of the Romans under the empire provoked the revival and ardent advocacy of stoicism. The repugnance to Islamism, and the dialectical needs of Christendom, gave birth to medieval scholasticism. The antagonism which issued in the English commonwealth furnished the hotbed in which germinated the philosophy of Hobbes. Locke and the encyclopaedists were the prophets and guides of the French revolutionary spirit; and the materialism of the current years has received form as well as vitality from the predominance and achievements of the physical sciences, and the enormous fascinations of material interests and gratifications. Thus the alternations of philosophy explain and are explained by the concurrent modifications of society.

The history of philosophy admits of two distinct principles of division, both of which are simultaneously employed. It may be divided either with reference to its special subject-matter, as a part of the general domain of philosophy, or with reference to its chronological successions. Each of these distributions of course permits further subdivision.

Plato practically, though not expressly, divided philosophy into dialectics, physics, and ethics, including theology and much of metaphysics, along with natural philosophy, under the head of physics. (See Platonic Philosophy)

The division of Aristotle is indistinct and apparently variable. But he did not complete his system. His metaphysics, which corresponds nearly with his first philosophy, or with philosophy in its strictest sense, was an incomplete collection of unfinished papers, gathered and arranged after his death. Science, or knowledge, he distributes between practice, production, and theory (Metaph. 6:1, Frag. 137, page 94, ed. Didot). Ueberweg mistakes this for a formal division of philosophy, but the third head is the only one to which Aristotle would have assigned the name of philosophy. He elsewhere distinguishes theory into physical, mathematical, and theological-the last corresponding with philosophy proper (Metaph. 11:7). In one of his fragments, philosophical problems are declared to be of five kinds: political, dialectical, physical, ethical, and rhetorical (Aristot. Frag. 137, page 108). This division excludes the greater part of philosophy. The uncertainty and confusion which these several divisions are calculated to produce may be accounted for and excused by the loose acceptation of the term physics in the Socratic schools; and by the fact that metaphysics, or philosophy, in Aristotle's estimation, lay beyond the domain of physics. Dividing philosophy into metaphysics,physics, and ethics, we now habitually exclude physics, or natural philosophy, and set it apart as the realm of exact science. The other two are assigned to philosophy. But metaphysics and ethics may be united as together constituting philosophy, or they may be kept distinct and variously subdivided. Sir William Hamilton, who, in deference to the narrowness of the Scotch school, at times almost identifies psychology with philosophy, enumerates, by a strained construction, five branches of the former: logic, ethics, politics, aesthetics, and theology (Metaph. lecture 3, page 44). Remusat incidentally distributes philosophy under the five heads of psychology, logic, metaphysics, theodicy (or the philosophy of religion theology), and morals (Vie d'Ablard, liv. 2, chapter 3, volume 1, page 351 sq.). Ampere, in his ingenious and fantastic classification of human knowledge, by a septuple series of violent dichotomies, manufactures eightyfour distinct departments of philosophical inquiry. For the present purpose, the sufficiency or the insufficiency, the validity or the invalidity, of these various divisions and subdivisions is unimportant. The history of philosophy includes them all, either as definite members or as subordinate parts. Each may be treated separately, or all may be embraced in one treatment, or a distinct discussion may be bestowed upon several of them combined in one view. Thus there may be a history of mental philosophy, and a history of ethics, like the supplements of Dugald Stewart and Sir James Mackintosh to the Encyclopedia Britannica; or a history of logic, like Mr. Blakey's very feeble treatise on that subject; or a history of heretical opinions, like those so common in the earlier ages of the Christian Charch; or a general history of philosophy, like Brucken's or Tennemann's or Ueberweg's. This is. the mode in which the history of philosophy may be divided.

The other process of division regards primarily the Succession of philosophical systems, or of philosophical schools, where the systems are identified with particular schools. A very loose and general distribution of this kind is.into ancient, mediseval, and modern, each of which has often been handled separately. The distinction between these divisions is mainly the difference of time. They frequently run into each other. In many characteristics, both of doctrine and method, they repeat each other. The scholastic procedure is discernible in Plotinus and Joannes Damascenus, while John Scotus Erigena approached more nearly to the NeoPlatonists than to the schoolmen. Occam and Gerson exhibit many modern features; and among the moderns there are many wide differences, not only in doctrine, but in character. Hence other divisions, more precise than are attainable by these indistinct chronological periods, have latterly won more favor. The following may be offered as an example of such distribution :

I. The commencements of philosophy, chiefly among the Orientals, with whom philosophy, mythology, and the ology were inseparably intertwined.

II. The philosophy of the Greeks, which comprehends of course the philosophy of the Romans, as it was essen tially Greek from Cicero to Boethius.

III. The philosophy of the Schoolmen, which in part overlaps modern systems. To this the philosophy of the Jews and Saracens may be joined as an appendix, since it affords the transition to it from the Greeks.

IV. The philosophy of the Renaissance, or Transition Age, commencing with Gemistus Pletho and the Medicean Academy, and ending with Pascal and Gassendi.

V. The philosophy of Modern Times from Francis Bacon and Descartes. Each of these periods has many subdivisions, which have been variously constituted by different historians, and necessarily vary with the variation of the aspects urder which philosophy is contemplated by the several chroniclers of its fluctuations.

Literature. The fullest repertory of works on the several schemes of philosophy, on its general and special history, and on the history of the philosophers themselves, and of particular doctrines, may be found in Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, translated by George S. Morris (N.Y. 1875, 2 volumes, 8vo). Up to the date of that work the fullest treatise on the subject was H. Ritter's Geschichte der Philosophie (Gotha, 1854, 12 volumes, 8vo). A convenient summary is Maurice's Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy (Lond. 1850-56, and later 4 volumes, 8vo), which gives a historical review of the whole subject. (G.F.H.)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

fi - los´ṓ - fi ( philosophı́a ):

1. Definition and Scope

(1) Intuitive Philosophy Is Universal

(2) Speculative Philosophy Belongs Mainly to Western Thought

2. Greek Philosophy

3. Philosophy in Old Testament and Judaism

(1) Of Nature

(2) Of History

(3) Post-exilic

(4) Alexandrian

4. Philosophy in the New Testament

(1) The Teaching of Jesus Christ

(2) Apostolic Teaching

(3) Attitude of New Testament Writers toward Philosophy


1. Definition and Scope:

Only found in  Colossians 2:8; literally, the love and pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. In its technical sense, the term is now used for the conscious endeavor of thought, by speculative process, to interpret the whole of human experience, as a consistent and systematic unity, which would be the ultimate truth of all that may be known. The term is also used, in a wider sense, of all interpretations of experience, or parts of experience, however obtained, whether by revelation, intuition or unconscious speculation. No hard-and-fast line can be drawn between the two kinds of philosophy. Some of the ruling conceptions of speculation, such as God, spirit, order, causation, true and false, good and evil, were not discovered by reason, but given in experience.

(1) Intuitive Philosophy Is Universal.

The human mind has always and everywhere furnished itself with some kind of explanation of the universe. From the lowest animism and fetishism up to the higher religions, ideas are found which served men as explanations of those features of experience which attracted their attention. They were often regarded as given by vision, intuition or some other method of revelation. In the higher religions, the mind reflected upon these ideas, and elaborated them into systems of thought that bear some resemblance to the speculative theories of western thought. In China, both Confucianism and Taoism developed theories of human life and destiny that bear some resemblance to Stoicism. The religions of Assyria and Babylonia enshrined in their legends theories of the world and of man and his institutions. In India, men's belief in the Nature-gods gradually developed into pantheistic Brahmanism, which reduced the multiplicity of experience into one ultimate being, Brahma. But the desire for moral salvation and the sense of pain and evil produced a reaction, and led to the pessimistic and nihilistic philosophy of Buddhism. In Persia, the moral consciousness awoke earlier, and the attempt to systematize the multiplicity of polytheism issued in the dualistic philosophy of later Zoroastrianism. The whole realm of being was divided into two kingdoms, created and ruled by two lords: Ahura Mazda , the creator of light and life, law, order and goodness, and Aǹrō Mainyuš , the author of darkness, evil and death. Each was surrounded by a court of spiritual beings kindred to himself, his messengers and agents in the world (see Persian Religion (ANCIENT)). Of all these religious philosophies, only those of Assyria and Babylonia, and of Persia, are likely to have come into any contact with Biblical thought. The former have some affinity with the accounts of creation and the flood in Genesis; and the influence of the latter may be traced in the dualism and angelology and demonology of later Judaism, and again in the Gnostic systems that grew up in the Christian church, and through both channels it was perpetuated, as a dualistic influence, in the lower strata of Christian thought down through the Middle Ages.

(2) Speculative Philosophy Belongs Mainly to Western Thought.

It arose in Greece about the beginning of the 6th century BC. It began with the problem of the general nature of being, or ontology . But it was soon forced to consider the conditions of knowing anything at all, or to epistemology . These two studies constitute metaphysics , a term often used as synonymous with philosophy in the stricter sense. Speculation about ideal truth again led to inquiries as to the ultimate nature of the kindred ideas of the good ( ethics ) and the beautiful ( aesthetics ). And as these ideas were related to society as well as to the individual, the Greeks developed theories of the ideal organization of society on the basis of the true, the good and the beautiful, or politics and pedagogics . The only branch of speculation to which the Greeks made no appreciable contribution was the philosophy of religion , which is a modern development.

The progress of philosophy in history divides itself naturally into three main periods: ( a ) ancient , from the 6th century Bc to the 3century AD, when it is almost exclusively Greek, with some practical adaptations of Greek thought by Roman writers; ( b ) medieval , from the 3to the 16th century, where some of the ruling conceptions of Greek thought were utilized for the systematization of Christian dogma, but speculation was mainly confined within the limits of ecclesiastical orthodoxy; there were, however, some independent Arabian and Jewish speculations; ( 100 ) modern , from the 16th century to the present time, in which thought becomes free again to speculate upon all the problems presented by experience, though it only realized its liberty fully in the hands of Locke, Hume and Kant.

2. Greek Philosophy:

Greek philosophy was the only speculative system that could have had any influence upon Biblical thought. Its main development was contemporaneous with the later Old Testament writers, but the two peoples were in every way so remote one another that no interchange of ideas was probable.

During the last two centuries BC, Greek thought spread so widely that it came to dominate the cultured thought of the world into which Christianity entered, and it would have been strange if no trace of its influence were found in the New Testament. In the first stage of its development, from Thales to Socrates, it was concerned almost entirely with attempts to explain the nature of reality by reducing the phenomenal world into some one of its elements. Socrates changed its center of gravity, and definitely raised the problems of morality and knowledge to the position of first importance. His principles were developed by Plato into a complex and many-sided system which, more than any other, has influenced all subsequent thought. He united ultimate reality and the highest good into one supreme principle or idea which he called the Good, and also God. It was the essence, archetype and origin of all wisdom, goodness and beauty. It communicated itself as intermediary archerypal ideas to produce all individual things. So that the formative principles of all existence were moral and spiritual. But it had to make all things out of preexisting matter, which is essentially evil, and which therefore was refractory and hostile to the Good. That is why it did not make a perfect world. Plato's system was therefore rent by an irreconcilable dualism of mind and body, spirit and matter, good and evil. And his mediating ideas could not bridge the gulf, because they belonged only to the side of the ideal. Aristotle was Plato's disciple, and he started from Plato's idealistic presuppositions, but endeavored to transcend his dualism. He thus applied himself to a closer and more accurate study of actual experience, and added much to the knowledge of the physical world. He organized and classified the methods and contents of knowledge and created the science of logic, which in the Christian Middle Ages became the chief instrument of the great systematic theologians of the church. He tried to bring Plato's ideas "down from heaven," and to represent them as the creative and formative principles within the world, which he conceived as a system of development, rising by spiritual gradations from the lower to the higher forms, and culminating in God, who is the uncaused cause of all things. But underneath all the forms still remained matter as an antithetical element, and Aristotle rather concealed than solved the dualism of Plato.

Meanwhile, the moral principles of Socrates were being developed with a more directly ethical interest, by the Cyrenaics and Epicureans , into a system of Hedonism, and, by the Cynics and Stoics , into a doctrine of intuitive right and duty, resting inconsistently upon a pantheistic and materialistic view of the universe. But the spiritual and ethical elements in Stoicism became only second to Platonism in the preparation of the Greek world for Christianity. During the last two and a half centuries BC, Greek philosophy showed signs of rapid decline. On the one hand, Pyrrho and his school propounded a thoroughgoing skepticism which denied the possibility of all knowledge whatsoever. On the other hand, the older schools, no longer served by creative minds, tended to merge their ideas into a common eclecticism which its teachers reduced into an empty and formal dogmatism. The most fruitful and fateful product of Greek thought in this period was its amalgamation with Jewish and oriental ideas in the great cosmopolitan centers of the Greek world. There are evidences that this process was going on in the cities of Asia, Syria and Egypt, but the only extensive account of it remaining is found in the works of Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (see Philo Judaeus ). He tried to graft Plato's idealism upon Hebrew monotheism.

He starts with Plato's two principles, pure being or God, and preexisting matter. In his endeavor to bridge the gulf between them, he interposed between God and the world the powers of God, goodness and justice; and to gather these into a final unity, he created his conception of the Loges of God. In the formation of this conception, he merged together the Platonic idea of the good, the Stoic world-reason, and a number of Jewish ideas, the glory, the word, the name, of God, the heavenly man and the great high priest, and personified the whole as the one mediator between God and the world. Christian thought laid hold of this idea, and employed it as its master-category for the interpretation of the person of Christ. See Logos .

3. Philosophy in Old Testament and Judaism:

There is no speculative philosophy in the Old Testament nor any certain trace of its influence. Its writers and actors never set themselves to pursue knowledge in the abstract and for its own sake. They always wrought for moral purposes. But moral activity proceeds on the intellectual presuppositions and interpretations of the experiences within which it acts. Hence, we find in the Old Testament accounts of the origin and course of nature, a philosophy of history and its institutions, and interpretations of men's moral and religious experiences. They all center in God, issue from His sovereign will, and express the realization of His purpose of righteousness in the world. See God .

(1) Of Nature:

All nature originated in God's creative act ( Genesis 2 ) or word ( Genesis 1 ). In later literature the whole course and order of Nature, its beauty and bounty, as well as its wonders and terrors, are represented as the acts of God's will ( Isaiah 40 through 45;   Psalm 8:1-9 :19; 29; 50; 65; 68; 104, etc.). But His action in Nature is always subordinated to His moral ends.

(2) Of History:

Similarly, the course and events of the history of Israel and her neighbors are the acts of Yahweh's will ( Amos 1:1-15; 2;  Isaiah 41:2;  Isaiah 43:3;  Isaiah 45:9 ,  Isaiah 45:10 ,  Isaiah 45:14 ) In the historical books of Samuel and Kings, and still more of Chronicles, all the events of history are represented as the acts of God's moral government. In a more general way, the whole of history is set forth as a series of covenants that God, of His free grace, made with man (see Covenant ). The Noachic covenant fixed the order of Nature. The covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob accounted for the origin and choice of Israel. The covenants with Moses and Aaron established the Law and the priesthood, and that with David, the kingship. And the hope of the future lies in the new covenant ( Jeremiah 31:31-35 ). God's covenants were all acts of His sovereign and gracious will.

(3) Post-Exilic:

In post-exilic times, new experiences, and perhaps new intellectual influences, drove the Jews to probe deeper into the problem of existence. They adhered to the cardinal principle of He thought, that God's sovereign will, working out His purpose of righteousness, was the first cause of all things (see Righteousness ). But they found it difficult to coordinate this belief with their other ideas, in two ways. Ethical monotheism tended to become an abstract deism which removed God altogether out of the world. And the catastrophes that befell the nation, in the exile and after, raised the problem of suffering and evil over against God's goodness and righteousness. Therefore in the Wisdom literature we find some conscious speculation on these subjects. See Wisdom .

( a ) The Book of Job discusses the problem of evil, and repudiates the idea that life and history are the process of God's rewards and punishments. ( b ) Ecclesiastes comes to the conclusion that all phenomenal experience is vanity. Yet its ultimate philosophy is not pessimistic, for it finds an abiding reality and hope in the fear of God and in the moral life (  Ecclesiastes 12:13 ,  Ecclesiastes 12:14 ). The same type of thought appears in Ecclesiasticus. Both books have been attributed to the circle of the Sadducees. Some would find in them traces of the influence of Epicureanism. ( c ) In Proverbs a more optimistic side prevails. Wisdom is gathered up into a conception or personification which is at once God's friend, His agent in creation, His vicegerent in the world, and man's instructress and guide (chapter 8). ( d ) The teaching of the Pharisees especially reveals the tendency to dualism or deism in later Judaism; they interposed between God and the world various agents of mediation, the law, the word, the name, the glory of God and a host of angels, good and bad. They also fostered a new hope of the future, under the double form of the Messianic kingdom, and of resurrection and immortality. How far these tendencies were due to the influence of Persian dualism cannot here be considered. ( e ) Essenism represents another effort to get from the world to God by a crude kind of mysticism and asceticism, combined with an extensive angelology.

(4) Alexandrian:

Among the Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria, Aristobulus, the authors of The Wisdom of Solomon and 4 Maccabees, and preeminently Philo, all deal with the two chief problems of Judaism, dualism and evil. But they approach them under the direct influence of Greek thought. The Hebrew idea of wisdom was merged into the Greek conception of the Logos , and so it becomes the mediator of God's thought and activity in the world.

4. Philosophy in the New Testament:

Philosophy appears in the New Testament as intuitive, speculative and eclectic.

(1) The Teaching of Jesus Christ:

Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law and the prophets, and, out of His filial consciousness of God, He propounded answers to the practical demands of His time. His doctrine of God the Father was a philosophy of Nature and life which transcended all dualism. In the kingdom of heaven, the good would ultimately prevail over the evil. The law of love expressed the ideal of conduct for man as individual, and in his relation to society and to God, the supreme and ultimate reality. This teaching was given in the form of revelation, without any trace of speculation.

(2) Apostolic Teaching:

The apostolic writings built upon the teaching and person of Jesus Christ. Their ruling ideas are the doctrines which He taught and embodied. In Paul and John, they are realized as mystical experiences which are expressed in doctrines of universal love. But we may also discover in the apostolic writings at least three strands of speculative philosophy. ( a ) Paul employed arguments from natural theology, similar to those of the Stoics (  Acts 14:15-17;  Acts 17:22-31;  Romans 1:19 ff), which involved the principles of the cosmological and teleological arguments. ( b ) John employs the Philonic term " Logos " to interpret the person of Christ in His universal relation to God, man and the world; and the main elements of Philo's scheme are clearly present in his doctrine, though here it is no abstract conception standing between God and man, but a living person uniting both (Jn 1:1-18). Although the term " Logos " is not mentioned, in this sense, in Paul or Hebrews, the Philonic conception has been employed by both writers ( Romans 5:8;  Romans 8:29;  1 Corinthians 15:24 ,  1 Corinthians 15:25;  2 Corinthians 5:18 ,  2 Corinthians 5:19;  Philippians 2:6;  Colossians 1:15-17;  Colossians 2:9 ,  Colossians 2:10;  Hebrews 1:1-3 ,  Hebrews 1:5 ,  Hebrews 1:6 ). Paul also expresses his conception of Christ as the manifestation of God under the category of wisdom ( 1 Corinthians 1:20;  1 Corinthians 2:7;  Ephesians 1:8;  Colossians 2:3 ). ( c ) Both in Paul and He appear original speculations designed to interpret individual experience and human history as they culminate in Christ. Paul's interpretation consists of a series of parallel antitheses, flesh and spirit, sin and righteousness, law and grace, works and faith, Adam and Christ. But the author of He adopts the Platonic view that the world of history and phenomena is but the shadow or suggestion of the spiritual and eternal reality which lies behind it, and which partially expresses itself through it.

(3) Attitude of New Testament Writers Toward Philosophy:

In the one place in which the term philosophy appears in the New Testament ( Colossians 2:8 ), it seems to mean "subtle dialectics and profitless speculation ... combined with a mystic cosmogony and angelology" (Lightfoot, at the place), the first beginnings of Gnosticism in the Christian church. Paul warns his readers against it, as he also does the Corinthians against the "wisdom" of the Greeks ( 1 Corinthians 1:19 ff;   1 Corinthians 2:5 ,  1 Corinthians 2:6 ). A similar tendency may be in view in the warning to Timothy against false doctrines ( 1 Timothy 1:4;  1 Timothy 4:3;  2 Timothy 1:14 ,  2 Timothy 1:16 ff). But with the true spirit of philosophy, as the pursuit of truth, and the endeavor to express more fully and clearly the nature of reality, the spirit and work of the New Testament writers were in complete accord.


Introductions to philosophy by Kulpe, Paulsen, Hoffding, Watson and Mackenzie. Histories of Greek philosophy by Ritter and Preller, Burnet, and Zeller, and of general philosophy by Erdmann, Ueberweg, Windelband and Rogers; E. Caird, The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophies  ; Hists of the Jews by Schurer, Graetz and Kent; Old Testament Theologies by Schultz and Davidson; New Testament Theologies by Beyschlag and Weinel; Philo's works and treatises thereon by Dahne, Gfrorer and Drummond; Harnack, What Is Christianity? Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria  ; Lightfoot, Colossians.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [15]

The science of sciences or of things in general, properly an attempt to find the absolute in the contingent, the immutable in the mutable, the universal in the particular, the eternal in the temporal, the real in the phenomenal, the ideal in the real, or in other words, to discover "the single principle that," as Dr. Stirling says, "possesses within itself the capability of transition into all existent variety and varieties," which it presupposes can be done not by induction from the transient, but by deduction from the permanent as that spiritually reveals itself in the creating mind, so that a Philosopher is a man who has, as Carlyle says, quoting Goethe, "stationed himself in the middle (between the outer and the inner, the upper and the lower), to whom the Highest has descended and the Lowest mounted up, who is the equal and kindly brother of all." "Philosophy dwells aloft in the Temple of Science, the divinity of the inmost shrine; her dictates descend among men, but she herself descends not; whoso would behold her must climb with long and laborious effort; may still linger in the forecourt till manifold trial have proved him worthy of admission into the interior solemnities." Indeed philosophy is more than Science ( q. v .); it is a divine wisdom instilled into and inspiring a thinker's life. See The Thinker .