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The Worldview of the Bible Part 1

The Worldview of the Bible Part 1

Gospel Foundations Course – 1a



This first class introduces some of the influence which the Greek philosophical tradition has exercised historically on the development of the theology of the Church.




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The Worldview of the Bible



A. Gentile Arrogance

20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. 22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! 25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Ro 11:20–27 NIV)

B. Realized Eschatology

16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. (2 Ti 2:16–18 NIV)



A.The Historical Nature of Truth


1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Ti 4:1–4 NIV)



A. What Is A Worldview?

…the culturally structured assumptions, values, and commitments/allegiances underlying a people’s perception of reality and their responses to those perceptions.[1]

4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2Cr 10:4-5 NIV)

B. Around 300 years before Jesus’ ministry a worldview – mostly devised by a small group of Greek philosophers – was formed. This worldview [2] was developed primarily by two men named Socrates and Plato. The bedrock of this view is a form of metaphysical dualism, which divides reality into two radically different ‘realms’ of existence. (See Fig. 1B)

C. The first being the ‘intelligible realm, or the realm of ideals. Plato taught that this ‘realm’ was an ethereal and non-physical realm, invisible to human perception, wherein every perfect ‘form’ or ideal concept exists. Ultimately the ideals within the intelligible realm are presented as the solution for the problems of humanity – e. the material realm.

D. The other realm, according to Plato, is the ‘perceptual’ realm. Within this view, everything physical ultimately is the corrupt ‘copy’ of an ideal ‘form’ in the intelligible realm. The distinguishing element of these two realms is that which can be perceived is physical and material – therefore inherently corrupt.

E. Thus, the worldview which Plato devised explains existence this way:



[1] Charles Kraft, Anthropology for Christian Witness (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), 52

[2] While there have been a multitude of different theories amongst various Greek philosophers throughout history, the most influential within the Church historically – and thus the Western world – is that of Platonic dualism.



The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. [1]

A. While Socrates and Plato were the two who are credited with the development of the fundamentals for the worldview, these two names – along with their lofty ideas – would be almost completely unknown to us if it weren’t for a few events that would take place within just a few decades of Plato’s death.

B. One of Plato’s chief pupils was Aristotle – who tutored a young man named Alexander. Alexander, having become thoroughly convinced that Hellenism presented the solution to the problems of the world, made it his mission in life to advance this worldview. Alexander “the Great” set out on a campaign to advance the Greek culture through military might. Within 10 years, he had conquered much of the known world.What Is A Worldview?

C. One of the first cities established by Alexander was Alexandria in Egypt. Alexandria became one of the primary sources of learning and scholasticism within the ancient world. It boasted the world’s largest library and became the global center of Hellenistic propagation.

D. The next stage of the Hellenization of the West also came out of this city. Clement (150-211), then Origen (c.182-251) founded a school in an attempt to assimilate Christianity with Greek philosophy. The teachings from this school have been devastating to Christianity in light of the influence ultimately attributed to Origen. [2]

“Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration. ‘For thy foot,’ it is said, ‘will not stumble, if thou refer what is good, whether belonging to the Greeks or to us, to Providence.’ For God is the cause of all good things; but of some primarily, as of the Old and the New Testament; and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring ‘the Hellenic mind,’ as the law, the Hebrews, ‘to Christ.’ Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ.” [3]

E. The primary fruit of the Alexandrian School was the first systematic allegorical or “spiritual” interpretation of the Scriptures. Based on the contemporary Stoic practice of allegorizing the sacred Greek texts to make them more palatable for the modern mind, Origen taught that truly spiritually minded Christians would read the Scriptures as an allegory.

F. The Swiss theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar stated, “there is no thinker in the Church who is so invisibly all-present as Origen. The Bible scholar David Noel Freedman said of him, “Origen’s influence was immense…through them and others [various church fathers AFTER the Nicene Counsel] Origen became the father of scriptural study and systematic theology in the Christian tradition.[4]

G. While Origen did produce over 6,000 works in his lifetime – like Plato – his affect on history did not come through his immediate influence. In 386 A.D. a young philosopher named Augustine who was very influenced by Plato, was converted to Christianity. His conversion was strongly persuaded by the writings of Origen. [5] Augustine of Hippo became the Father of nearly every modern theological stream within the Church. [6]

H. The next stage that truly cemented our foundational understanding of life within this Platonic worldview was the Renaissance. The Renaissance was a re-emergence of Hellenistic thought and culture which followed Constantinople’s fall to the Ottoman Empire in the mid fifteenth century. Several Greek lecturers and thinkers like John Argyropoulos (1415-1487) fled from Constantinople and landed in Italy where they re-introduced Greek philosophy to some of Italy’s most influential Universities.

I. A couple of centuries later disillusionment and cynicism griped Europe after the devastation left by the Thirty Years’ The war, which was initiated by a battle between Protestants and Catholics, eventually escalated to involve every major empire within Europe. The contempt for religion as a dominant institution which resulted form the war ushered in the “Age of Enlightenment,” in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority (vs. divine right). Convinced that they were leading Europe into an ‘Enlightened Age’ of progress, the Enlightenment thinkers sought to liberate the people of Europe from the tyrannical clutches of Church ‘authority’.

“The most fundamental concept of the Enlightenment were faith in nature and belief in human progress…Accordingly, both human righteousness and happiness required freedom from needless restraints, such as many of those imposed by the state or the church. The Enlightenment’s uncompromising hostility towards organized religion and established monarchy reflected a disdain for the past and an inclination to favor utopian reform schemes. Most of its thinkers believed passionately in human progress through education. They thought society would become perfect if people were free to use their reason.” [7]

J. This created a scenario of contention in which the proponents for a ‘supernatural’ [8] worldview (i.e. etherealized heavenly realm) within the church opposed the ‘natural’ worldview (i.e. centralization of reality around human perception) of the Enlightenment thinkers. This debate has largely remained the central debate to the present day with secular naturalism on the one hand and ‘supernatural dualism’ on the other.

[1] [Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929); corrected edition, ed. David R. Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (Free Press, 1979).]

[2] Platonic ideas began making inroads into Christian theology through the writings of Philo (ca. 20 BC–AD 50). An Alexandrian Jew, Philo admired Greek culture and was enamored with Platos philosophy. He was also proud of his Jewish heritage. In his desire to offer the Greeks the best of Judaism and the Jews the best of Greek philosophy, he allegorized Scripture. He did so in contrast to the literal interpretation of many rabbis. Philos ideas caught on, and Alexandria became the home of a new school of theological thought.

[3] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, (Bk. I, Ch. V)

[4] David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 5:47.

[5] See György Heidl, The Influence of Origen on the Young Augustine (Gorgias Press, 2009)

[6] While the Catholic, Anglican, and all Protestant denominations all take their theology from Augustine the Orthodox Church does not agree with Augustine on many key issues. While they disagree, however, on various points with Augustine, the finer points of worldview and allegorical hermeneutic were presupposed as correct.

[7] Lewis Hackett, “The Age of Enlightenment: The European Dream of Progress and Enlightenment,” International World History Project (1992); available from

[8] The term ‘supernatural’ (from Medieval Latin: supernātūrālis: supra “above” + naturalis “nature”; meaning ‘that which is above or not subject to natural laws’) was developed in the early 16th century. The word – or anything which could be used as a Greek/Hebrew equivalent – is completely absent from the Scripture. The word itself – rooted in ‘Fideism’ (cf. William Ockham) – betrays a Platonic view of God and creation by establishing God’s sovereignty over creation by means of placing Him outside of it. In this same way, modern supernaturalists interpret the power of the Holy Spirit as God’s means of subduing rebellious ‘nature’.



A. The Scriptures – A Hebrew Stewardship

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Ro 3:1–2 NASB95)

3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, (Ro 9:3–4 NASB95)

•        3 He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.”… I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Is 49:3-6 NASB95)

•        2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Ge 12:2–3 NASB95)



A. The Heavens – An expanse amidst the waters

1 In the beginning God created the heavens (heb. ‘shamayim’, KJV ‘heaven’) and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters…6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse (heb. raquia’) in the midst of the waters (heb. mayim’), and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven (heb. ‘shamayim’, NIV/NRSV/NLT ‘sky’)…. (Gen 1:1-8 NASB)


B. The heavens are an expanse (’raquia) [1] which lies in the midst of the waters. (cf. Gen. 1:7; Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Is. 42:5; 44:24; 51:13; Jer. 10:12; Zech.12:1)

5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens (heb. shamayim’) and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isa 42:5 NASB)

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven (heb. shamayim’) like a tent curtain. 3 He lays the beams (heb. qarah, NLT rafters’) of His upper chambers (heb. aliyah’) in the waters; … (Psa 104:1-3 NASB)

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! 4 Praise Him, highest heavens (heb. shamay hshamayim’), And the waters that are above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. (Psa 148:1-5 NASB)

C. The heavens are located geographically above the earth. (cf. Gen. 6:17; 7:19; 11:4; 28:12; Deut. 4:40; 11:21; 30:12; Jos. 2:11; 1 Ki. 8:22ff; 2 Chr. 7:1; Job 28:24; Ps. 50:4; 85:11; 113:6; Is. 14:12; 24:21; 44:23; 51:6; Jer. 10:11; Mt. 3:16; 28:2; Jn. 1:51; 3:13; 6:33ff; Acts 1:9ff; 7:55f; 10:11ff; Eph. 4:8ff; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 12:10ff; 18:1; 21:2)

17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. (Gen 6:17 NIV)

39 “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. (Deu 4:39 NASB)

1 Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. (2Ch 7:1 NASB)

11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Act 1:11 NASB)

D. The heavens (the ‘shamayim) are the dwelling place of God.

15 ‘Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel… (Deu 26:15 NASB)

30 “Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive. (1Ki 8:30 NASB)

21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens (heb. shamayim’) like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. (Isa 40:21-23 NASB)

E. The Heavenly Temple. (cf. Ps. 11:4; 28:2; 29:9; 96:6; Is. 6:1; Mic. 1:2; Hab. 2:20; Jon. 2:7; Heb. 8:2; 9:24; Rev. 11:19; 15:5ff)

9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. … 12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here”… 25:8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. (Exd 24:9-25:9 NIV)

3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. (Rev 8:3-4 NIV)

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (Hbr 9:24 NIV)

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. (Isa 6:1-6 NASB)

F. The highest heavens. (cf. Deut. 10:14; 1 Ki. 8:27; 2 Chr. 2:6; 6:18; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 148:4)

14 “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens (heb. shamay h’shamayim), the earth and all that is in it. (Deu 10:14 NASB)

15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place… (Isa 57:15 NASB)

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven. (2Cr 12:2 NASB)

[1] The heavens are frequently described in figurative language as having windows (Gen 7:11; 2Kings 7:2…), gates (Gen 28:7), doors (Psa 78:23), pillars (Job 26:11), and foundations (2Sam 22:8). They are stretched out and spread out like a tent or a curtain (Isa 40:22). The use of such figurative language no more necessitates the adoption of a pagan cosmology than does the modern use of the term ‘sunrise’ imply astronomical ignorance… Thus a disobedient Israel would find the heavens to be like iron (Lev 26:19) or like bronze (Deut 28:23), not yielding the much-needed rain. Note that if the heavens were conceived of as a metallic vault, as is commonly suggested from Gen 1:8, 14 etc., the above passages would be meaningless, since the skies would already be metal. The word raqîa° (q.v.) comes from the verb meaning ‘to hammer out’ and ‘stretch (a piece of metal) out’ as an overlay. It is the idea of spreading out that carries over to the noun, not the idea of a metallic substance. ‘Expanse’ is an acceptable translation.” (“shāmayim,” TWOT, 2407a)



A. God’s throne in the highest heavens. (cf. 1 Ki. 22:19; 2 Ki. 19:15; Ps. 2:4; 103:19; 113:5; 123:1; Is. 6:1; 40:22; 63:15; 66:1; Jer. 17:12; Ez. 1:26ff; 10:1; Dan. 7:9; Rev. 4:2ff; 20:11)

19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psa 103:19 ESV)

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (Rev 4:2 NASB)

1 A Song of Ascents. To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! (Psa 123:1 NASB)

4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them. (Psa 11:4 NIV)

B. Enthroned over the heavens and the earth [1]

2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested [2] (Heb. ‘shabbot’) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. (Gen 2:2 NASB)

15 Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned (Heb. ‘yashab’) above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth (cf. Gen 11 – tower of Babel). You have made heaven and earth. (2Ki 19:15 NASB)

4 The LORD is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. 5 Who is like the LORD our God, Who is enthroned on high, 6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth? (Psa 113:4-6 NASB)21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits (Heb. ‘yashab’, NIV ‘enthroned’) above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isa 40:21-22 NASB)

C. The Powers in the Heavens (cf. Job 1:6f; Ps. 82:1ff; Is. 24:21; 34:5; Dan. 7:9ff; Eph. 1:10; 21; 3:10; 6:12; Phil. 2:10; Col. 1:16; Rev. 12:7ff; 14:6)

21 In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below. 22 They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. 23 The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders—with great glory. (Is 24:21–23 NIV)

26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Lk 21:26 NASB95)

16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (Col 1:16 NIV)

A Psalm of Asaph. 1 God (heb. ‘elohim’) has taken his place in the divine council (lit. ‘the counsel of el’ or ‘the divine counsel’); in the midst of the gods (heb. ‘elohim’) he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods (heb. ‘elohim’), sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! (Ps 82 ESV)

6 For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the Lord, 7 A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, And awesome above all those who are around Him? (Ps 89:67 NASB95)

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6 NASB95)

[1] We cannot overstate it’s importance since the whole of redemptive history is reliant upon this assumption. The work of George E. Mendenhall, for example, was vital towards understanding the actual context for the covenants in the Scripture. It was discovered that the framework in which the covenants throughout the OT were given utilizes the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty format – in which a great monarch would initiate a treaty with a vassal ruler (utilizing the language of the medieval feudal system). In these treaties promises, stipulations, and the resulting curses and blessings were made known in order to ensure faithfulness to the treaty. In other words, the Biblical concept of covenant rests upon the existence of a real King who has real power to enforce real consequences based on the obedience of the vassal to the stipulations.

[2] The Hebrew words ‘yashab’ and ‘shabbot’, while not etymologically related, fit within the same semantic domain. They are related much like the association of sitting as the means of resting.



A. Time and Eternity

The word used to express eternity, αἰών (‘age’), is the same word that is also applied to a limited division of time; otherwise expressed, between what we call eternity and what we call time, that is between everlasting continuing time and limited time, the New Testament makes absolutely no difference in terminology. Eternity is the endless succession of the ages (αἰώνες)[1]

B. Time and Heaven

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Ge 1:1 NASB95)

1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Re 8:1 NASB95)

8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (2 Pe 3:8 NASB95)

4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night. (Ps 90:4 NASB95)

12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. (Heb 10:12–13 NASB95)

[1] Oscar Cullman (Christ and Time: The Primitive Christian Conception of Time and History) Westminster 1950 Pg. 62



All Christian theology is dependent, to an extent at least, on contemporary Greek philosophy, primarily Platonism, but some Christian thinkers fall particularly strongly under Platonic influence, and properly merit the title of Christian Platonists. [1]

A. Practically speaking, the impact of Platonism on Western theology[2] begins – like our Bibles – with Genesis. Genesis 1:1 became interpreted as the creation of two realms. One material, the other ethereal and immaterial. Platonic/Gnostic thoughts about the beginning then birthed a gnostic Eschatology (e. thoughts/doctrines about the end of this age), which ultimately lead to a gnostic Soteriology (i.e. thoughts/doctrines about salvation).

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1 NASB)

B. The Beginning: The Alexandrian school was ultimately successful in it’s synthesis of Christianity with Greek philosophy in that it was able to relegate heaven to the intelligible realm. This is why heaven is assumed to be transcendent, immaterial, timeless, eternal, static, and unchanging,

C. The other affect on the worldview of the church was the relegation of the earth to the perceptual realm. Its existence became viewed inherently as evil and corrupt, and even physical matter itself was viewed as evil. This fundamental change in the framework for existence ultimately paved the way for many early heresies in the early church. [3]

D. Salvation: Within this framework the logical end of redemption was turned from the earth to heaven. Just as the intelligible realm is the goal of Platonism, so heaven became the collective goal of Christianity.

“And again he says, ‘We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ [I Th. 4] We are therefore to suppose that the saints will remain there [in their progress to heaven] until they recognize the twofold mode of government in those things which are performed in the air… If any one indeed be pure in heart, and holy in mind, and more practiced in perception, he will, by making more rapid progress, quickly ascend to a place in the air, and reach the kingdom of heaven, through those mansions, so to speak, in the various places which the Greeks have termed spheres, i.e., globes, but which holy Scripture has called heavens; in each of which he will first see clearly what is done there, and in the second place, will discover the reason why things are so done: and thus he will in order pass through all gradations, following Him who hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, who said, ‘I will that where I am, these may be also.’ And of this diversity of places He speaks, when He says, ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions.’” [4]

“Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, godless, and foolish… For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines delivered by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this truth, and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians… But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.” [5]

“Origen clearly represents and develops a construction of the Christian faith in which eschatology has been swallowed up in an emphasis upon transcendence… “Heaven” as cosmographic place now occupies the central position once occupied by the eschatological kingdom of God in Jesus’ teaching.” [6]

E. As in Platonism, Gnostic Christianity taught that death was the individualized end of salvation, thus escaping the perceptual realm and entering our ‘heavenly destiny’. The goal of our time in this age is to be suited for our eternal destiny. In this way, all of the common soteriological (about salvation) terms[7] were re-interpreted as ‘spiritual realities’ attained spiritually by the believer, better suiting him for heaven.

F. Eschatology: Following the relegation of the heavens to the intelligible realm and the earth to the perceptual realm, the ascension of Jesus was then interpreted as His return to an etherealized (and thus holy) state. Thus, He shed His physical body, ridding Himself of the corrupt perceptual realm forever. [8]

G. The plain logic behind a physical second coming to the earth was undermined since Jesus was too holy to return to dwell in the wicked and corrupt material realm. In this way, a new eschatology was first introduced into the church.

Having sketched, then, so far as we could understand, these three opinions regarding the end of all things, and the supreme blessednesswe must suppose that an incorporeal existence is possible, after all things have become subject to Christ, and through Christ to God the Father, when God will be all and in all… then the bodily substance itself also being united to most pure and excellent spirits, and being changed into an ethereal condition in proportion to the quality or merits of those who assume it… [9]

[1] David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 5:380.

[2] Yet again, in other words, we find people capitulating to the prevailing disease of western Christianity, which refuses to look the New Testament’s teaching in the face and prefers to play the tune of the story of Jesus while filling in the harmony from Plato’s philosophy. – N.T. Wright (Jesus the Risen Judge and Forgiver – transcript from a sermon in Durham Cathedral at the Eucharist on Easter Morning April 8th, 2007)

[3] Gnosticism, being the most well known of the early heresies, was dramatically influenced by Platonic dualism. Gnostics attempted to explain reality, and even the teachings of Jesus through the lens of Platonism. Marcionism (rejection of God of OT), Docetism (Jesus’ ‘body’ was incorporeal, an illusion of materiality), and Manichaeism (spirit realm of light was gradually removed from the physical world of darkness over the course of human history) were simply an outworking of Platonism.

[4] Origen, De Principiis, Book II, chapter 11

[5] Justin Martyr (103-165), Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 80

[6] (Jacob Neusner and Bruce Chilton, Jewish and Christian Doctrines [Routledge, 2000], 183)

[7] New Testament soteriological terminology (i.e. Salvation, redemption, resurrection, restoration, reconciliation, regeneration, etc…) all has its origin within the prophetic writings about the day of the Lord and the resurrection from the dead at the end of the age.

[8] “With the transformation of Chris’s body from an earthly physical body to a heavenly spiritual body, and with his ascension from the earthly realism to the heavenly Jerusalem with its heavenly throne and the outpouring of his Holy Spirit, the earthly material symbols were done away and the spiritual reality portrayed by the symbols superseded the shadows.” Waltke, Bruce, “Kingdom Promises as Spiritual”, Continuity and Discontinuity, p 282, Crossway Books

[9] Origen, De Principiis, Bk II, Ch iii

Bill Scofield (52 Posts)

Bill is husband to Charis, and father to their 6 children. He is a Bible teacher, elder, and missions trainer.

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