Apr 7, 2011

35 Did Plato get many of his ideas from the Jews

Believer says: The Greek philosopher Plato knew the Torah (Old Testament). And that’s how he came up with many of his ideas.

But skeptic says: There's one instance in which Plato (fourth century BC) appears know Genesis. 

But first an aside: Plato, a polytheist, supported the public worship of the Greek gods to the degree of Big Brother of 1984, George Orwell’s totalitarian story. That is, Plato's Republic recommends that the state should reindoctrinate the citizens who fail to adhere to the state-religion. 

Anyway, in Timaeus 9, Plato's beginning of creation opens like Genesis. But the difference is that Plato's craftsman-creator created from cosmic building blocks that have existed by themselves eternally. So the creator didn't create from nothing. 

The craftsman god--Plato doesn't give it a name--fashioned the cosmos and created the Olympian gods and human souls. The craftsman then handed things over to the Olympian gods for them to finish creation. Humans possessed souls that were not extinguished at death. Thus Plato's creation might start out like Genesis but soon sounds unlike the Bible. 

In fact inTimaeus 10 Plato teaches that the earth is a living soul, too. 

And in Phaedo 79d-84b, people who lived righteous lives returned to a star from where they had come. People who hadn't lived righteously got reborn in lesser bodies until they lived justly. Thus Plato teaches that people get reborn, the doctrine of reincarnation.

Recap: Jewish literature may have influenced Plato a little. But he sounds as if he learned from the Buddhist and Hindu doctrines, too.

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