Where Greek Logic Entered the Church
by Tim DeLaMatter
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How Greek Logic filtered into the Church!
The Church teaches you can look at all Scripture through an approach called Allegorical Interpretation, and find nuggets of truth hidden within by this approach.
I think this type of interpretation is dangerous, and not useful when looking at what Jesus said or did.
Allegorical Interpretation came to prominence by a Third Century Believer named Origen. It wasn't something new, he just adapted the Hellenistic philosophy he received at the feet of his Father, to the Scriptures. It was natural for him to do this.
He was a very pious believer, who castrated himself because he read in the Gospel that Jesus said if anything causes you to sin, cut it off.
After he castrated himself he realized this was probably not how Jesus wanted His Words to be followed. He decided this teaching must mean something different.
He was right about it meaning something different than the literal interpretation he used, but he left Hebraic or Rabbinic wisdom on these things, and followed instead, Greek or Neo-Platonic logic to understand what Jesus meant.
Greeks used Allegory for understanding public entertainment, political speeches, works of art, or religious stories. Origen was the first to introduce this way to Interpret Jesus’ sayings et. al.
Origen talked about Scriptures this way;
“Scripture contains three levels of meaning, corresponding to the threefold Pauline (and Platonic) division of a person into body, soul and spirit. The bodily level of Scripture, the bare letter, is normally helpful as it stands to meet the needs of the more simple. The psychic level, corresponding to the soul, is for making progress in perfection.… [The] spiritual interpretation deals with 'unspeakable mysteries' so as to make humanity a "partaker of all the doctrines of the Spirit's counsel"*
This Model, which Origen is introducing here, was not accepted by the Leaders of his day, quite the contrary. The Church Leaders of his day condemned him.
What Origen failed to mention was Paul, happened to be a Pharisee of Pharisee's. He never would have used a Platonic model to understand, or teach Scripture. He would have used the model handed down by men like Hillel, Shammai, and his own teacher Gamaliel.
The Bishop of Alexandria when Origen wrote his first book was Demetrius. Origen became the President of the Catechetical School, when the Bishop had been forced out by persecution.
Origen at this time became Ordained as a Priest, whether by an act of his own authority or not scholars are debating this, this Ordination was summarily dismissed when Demetrius came back to Alexandria and found out about it.
Origen taught a student by the name Heraklas, this man became the first person who had the title pope. A letter from one Bishop to another signifies Heraklas was a pope, even though this title didn’t become official until much later. In any event, Heraklas banished, Origen his former teacher, when he became Bishop.
Some Scholars now, who say he may not have castrated himself, also say he may have been banished simply because of this self-castration. In Rome of that day, self-castration was seen as a capital offense. If the Church would have been known to be harboring someone like this they may have faced persecution. Needless to say this history is cloudy.
No matter the reason, Origen was the first Christian writer to explain Neo-Platonic ideas, and insert them into the Gospels, Pauline Epistles, and other Apostolic Writings. He even ‘fixed’ what he said was problems with the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), mainly in Daniel, and some Prophetic books.
He wrote many treatises and delivered them to the Bishop in Alexandria. Each treatise was summarily dismissed. I would submit, because of its ties to Greek Linear logic, rather than Rabbinic or Talmudic, logic of Interpretation.
He became widely known because of a rich Alexandrian who paid for him to publish and distribute his works. Without this man we probably would never even hear of Origen.
Origen was one of the first Intellectuals to break from Hebraic understanding to Greek, in respect to looking at the New Testaments Writings. If you read him now, you will understand him much better than the Church of his own day.
It’s telling that he knew Hebrew. He must have learned Hebrew for the set purpose of understanding the Scriptures, as his Father taught him the Scriptures before being martyred. Origen used the Scriptures, but not Hebrew logic for interpretation. He instead introduced a Platonic or Greek model of understanding the NT.
Origen used Greek thinking on what constituted souls, what the Creators character was, and what we as humans needed to do to be ‘good’. His Neo-Platonic logic made the Church move from its base of knowledge that had been cultivated for literally thousands of years before him.
Today Origen is put on a pedestal of being the first true Theologian. He is seen as a man who was misunderstood because the Church was in its infancy. I submit, he introduced a Greek way of thinking which emptied the New Testament of its basis, the Torah.
I believe Torah Study; from a decidedly Jewish focus, can bring us back to provable methods of Evangelization, Prayer, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Love of our Savior. Without the Torah we have no basis for a true Biblical approach.
Torah Study can give us a true understanding of how the Israelite Community would have saw this story. Within Torah study, we see these Scriptures in light of how the writers would have written it, how the initial readers would have seen it, and how to properly fit it into other teachings of Jesus.
Source for Origen Quote. http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/origen.php
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