Religion a Bridge between the Visible and Invisible.
IT may be truly said that the founders of the religions of the world have all been bridge-builders. As soon as the existence of a Beyond, of a Heaven above the earth, of Powers above us and beneath us had been recognised, a great gulf seemed to be fixed between what was called by various names, the earthly and the heavenly, the material and the spiritual, the phenomenal and noumenal, or best of all, the visible and invisible world (ὀρατός and ἀνόρατος), and it was the chief object of religion to unite these two worlds again, whether by the arches of hope and fear, or by the iron chains of logical syllogisms1.
This problem of uniting the invisible and the visible worlds presented itself under three principal aspects. The first was the problem of creation, or how the invisible Primal Cause could ever come in contact with visible matter and impart to it form and meaning. The second problem was the relation between God and the individual soul. The third problem was the return of the soul from the visible to the invisible world, from the prison of its mortal body to the freedom of a heavenly paradise. It is this third problem which has chiefly occupied us in the present course of lectures, but it is difficult to separate it altogether from the first and the second. The individual soul as dwelling in a material body forms part of the created world, and the question of the return of the soul to God is therefore closely connected with that of its creation by, or its emanation from God.
We saw while treating of the last problem and examining the solutions which it had received that most of the religions and philosophies of the ancient world were satisfied with the idea of the individual soul approaching nearer and nearer to God and retaining its terrestrial individuality face to face with an objective deity. There was one religion only, or one religious philosophy, that of the Vedânta, which, resting on the firm conviction that the human soul could never have been separate from the Divine Soul, looked upon a return or an approach of the soul to God as a metaphor only, while it placed the highest happiness of the soul in the discovery and recovery of its true nature as from eternity to eternity one with God. This contrast was most clearly shown in Sufiism as compared with Vedântism. The Sufi with all his burning love of God conceives the soul as soaring upward, as longing like a lover for a nearer and nearer approach to God, and as lost at last in ecstatic raptures when enjoying the beatific vision. The Vedântist on the contrary, after having once convinced himself by rigorous logic, that there can be but one Divine Substance, which he calls the Self or Âtman, and that his human self cannot be anything different in its essence from the true and universal Self, from that which was and is and is to be, all in all, is satisfied with having by means of rigorous reasoning recovered his true self in the highest Self, and thus having found rest in Brahman. He knows no raptures, no passionate love for the Deity, nor does he wait for death to deliver his soul from its bodily prison, but he trusts to knowledge, the highest knowledge, as strong enough to deliver his soul from all nescience and illusion even in this life. It is true that some of the Sufis also come sometimes very near to this point, as when Jellâl eddîn says: ‘The “I am He” is a deep mystic saying, expressing oneness with the Light, not mere incarnation.’ Still in general the oneness which is the highest good of the Sufi, is union of two, not the denial of the possibility of real separation.
There are religions in which there seems to be no place at all either for an approach of the individual soul to God, or for its finding itself again in God. Buddhism, in its original form, knows of no objective Deity, of nothing to which the subjective soul could approach or with which it could be united. If we can speak of Deity at all in Buddhism, it would reside in the Buddha, that is in the awakened soul, conscious of its true eternal nature, and enlightened by self-knowledge. But that self-knowledge was no longer the Vedânta knowledge of the Âtman, or, if it was so originally, it had ceased to be so in that Buddhism which is represented to us in the sacred books of that religion.
In Judaism, on the contrary, the concept of the Deity is so strongly marked, so objective, so majestic, and so transcendent, that an approach to or a union with Jehovah would have been considered almost as an insult to Deity. There seem to be some reminiscences in the Old Testament of an earlier belief in a closer relationship between God and man, but they never point to a philosophical belief in the original oneness of the Divine and the human soul, nor could they possibly have led on to the concept of the Word as the Son of God. In the mythological religions of classical antiquity also there was little room for a union between human and divine nature. The character of the Greek and Roman gods is so intensely personal and dramatic that it excludes the possibility of a human soul becoming united with or absorbed in any one of them. The highest privilege that some specially favoured persons might have aspired to consisted in being admitted to the society of the Olympians. But here too we may catch some earlier reminiscences, for it is well known that some of the old poets and philosophers of Greece declared their belief that gods and men came from the same source, that the gods were immortal mortals, and men mortal immortals2.
But though a belief in the eternal oneness of what we call human and divine breaks out here and there3, yet it is in the Vedânta religion only that it has received its full recognition and development. It has been reasoned out there without any of those metaphorical disguises which we find in other religions. One of the most familiar metaphors is that which expresses the essential oneness of the Divine and the human natures under the veil of fatherhood and sonship. Human language could hardly have supplied a better metaphor for expressing intrinsic oneness and extrinsic difference, yet we know to how much legend and mythology this metaphor has given rise. No metaphor can be perfect, but the weak point in our metaphor is that every human father is himself created, while we require a name for a power that begets, but is itself unbegotten. We must not suppose that whoever speaks of God as a Father or of men as the sons of God, expresses thereby a belief in the oneness of the Divine and human nature. That fatherhood of God may be found in almost every religion, and means no more than a belief in the fatherly goodness of God. Moses means no more than that when he says: ‘Ye are the children of the Lord your God’ (Dent. xiv. 1); or when he speaks of ‘the Rock that begat thee, and God that formed thee’ (Deut. xxxii. 18); or when he asks4, ‘Is not he thy father that has bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?’ (Deut. xxxii. 6). These ideas are not the historical antecedents of that belief in the Fatherhood of God and the Divine Sonship of Christ as the Word of God which pervades the Fourth Gospel. Abraham, who in the Old Testament is simply called the Friend of God, is spoken of by later Jews such as Philo, as through his goodness an only son5, while in one passage of the New Testament Adam is singled out as the son of God. But all this belongs to quite a different sphere of thought from that in which the Stoics moved, and after them Philo, and the author of the Fourth Gospel, and Christ Himself. With them the Son of God was the Word of God, and the Word of God as incarnate in Jesus.
The Oriental Influences in Early Christianity.
You cannot have listened to what the ancient Vedânta philosophers of India and the more recent Sufis of Persia had to say about the Deity and its true relation to humanity, without having been struck by a number of similarities between these Oriental religions and the beliefs which we hold ourselves, or which were held by some of the most ancient and most eminent Fathers of the Church. So striking are some of these similarities, particularly with regard to the relation of the transcendent Deity to the phenomenal world and to the individual soul, that for a time it was taken almost for granted that Eastern influences had told on the minds of the early Fathers of the Church. Even Daehne, in his Darstellung der Jüdisch-Alexandrinischen Religionsphilosophie, has not quite discarded that opinion. But though at present, after a more careful study of the Vedânta and Sufi philosophy, the number of similarities has become even larger than before, the idea of a direct influence of Indian or Persian thought on early Christian religion and philosophy, has been surrendered by most scholars.
Borrowing of Religious Thoughts.
The difficulty of admitting any borrowing on the part of one religion from another is much greater than is commonly supposed, and if it has taken place, there seems to me only one way in which it can be satisfactorily established, namely by the actual occurrence of foreign words, or possibly the translations of foreign terms which retain a certain unidiomatic appearance in the language to which they have been transferred. It seems impossible that any religious community should have adopted the fundamental principles of religion from another, unless their intercourse was intimate and continuous—in fact, unless they could freely exchange their thoughts in a common language. And in that case the people who borrowed thought, could hardly have helped borrowing words also. We see this whenever less civilised nations are raised to a higher level of civilisation and converted to a higher religion; and the same thing happens, though in a lesser degree, when there has been a mutual exchange of religious thought between civilised races also. The language of Polynesian converts is full of English terms. The language even of a civilised country like China, after it had been converted to Buddhism, abounds with corrupt Sanskrit words. Even the religious language of Rome, after it had been brought for the first time under the influence of Greece, shows clear traces of its indebtedness. We find no such traces in the language of the early Christians. All the elements of their religious and philosophical terminology are either Greek or Jewish. Even the Jews, who had such frequent intercourse with other nations, and during the Alexandrian period borrowed so largely from their Greek instructors, betray hardly any religious imports from other Oriental countries in their religious and philosophical dictionary. At an earlier time, also, the traces of borrowing on the part of the Jews, whether from Babylonians or Persians, are, as we saw, very few and faint in Hebrew. No doubt neighbouring nations may borrow many things from each other, but the idea that they steal, or borrow silently and dishonestly, has little to support it in the history of the world. Least of all do they carry off the very cornerstones of their religion and philosophy from a foreign quarry. It would have been utterly impossible, for instance, for the early Christian Fathers to disguise or deny their indebtedness to the Old Testament or to Greek philosophy. No one has ever doubted it. But it is very different with Indian and Persian influences. The possibility of some highly educated Persians or even Indians living at Alexandria at or even before the time of the rise of Christianity cannot be disproved, but that Philo or Clement should have been the ungrateful and dishonest pupils of Indian Pandits, Buddhist Bhikshus, of Persian Mobeds, is more than, in the present state of our knowledge, any serious student of the history of human thought could possibly admit.
Nor should we forget that most religions have a feeling of hostility towards other religions, and that they are not likely to borrow from others which in their most important and fundamental doctrines they consider erroneous. It has often been supposed that the early Christians borrowed many things from the Buddhists, and there are no doubt startling coincidences between the legendary life-stories of Buddha and Christ. Put if we consider that Buddhism is without a belief in God, and that the most vital doctrine of Christianity is the fatherhood of God and the sonship of man, we shall find it difficult to believe that the Christians should have taken pride in transferring to the Son of God any details from the biography of an atheistical teacher, or in accepting a few of his doctrines, while abhorring and rejecting the rest.
There is still another difficulty in accepting the opinion that certain religions borrowed from each other. A more careful, historical study of the religions and philosophies of antiquity has enabled us to watch the natural and continuous growth of each of them. When we have learnt to understand how religions and philosophies which at first startled us by their similarities, have each had their own independent and uninterrupted development, we cease to look for foreign influences or intrusions, because we know that there is really no room for them. If, for instance, we take the Vedânta philosophy, we can trace its growth step by step from the hymns to the Brâhmanas, the Upanishads, the Sûtras, and their commentaries, and no one who has once understood that unbroken growth would dream of admitting any extraneous influences. The conception of death as a mere change of habitat, the recognition of the substantial identity of the human and the Divine Spirit, and the admission of true immortality as based entirely on knowledge, and as possible even without the intervention of physical death—all these are intellectual articles of faith which, however different from the primitive religion of the Indian Âryas, are nevertheless the natural outcome of the Indian mind, left to itself to brood from generation to generation over the problems of life and eternity. If then we find traces of the same or very similar articles of faith in the latest phase of Judaism, as represented by Philo, and again in the earliest phases of Christianity, as represented by St. Clement, and other Hellenistic converts to Christianity, we must first of all ask the question, Can we account for the philosophical opinions of Philo who was a Jew, and of Clement who was a Christian, as the natural outcome of well-known historical antecedents, and, if so, is there any necessity, nay is there any possibility for admitting extraneous impulses, coming either from India or Persia, from Buddhism or Manicheism?
Philo and his Allegorical Interpretation.
Let us begin with Philo, and ask the question whether we cannot fully account for his philosophy as the natural outcome of the circumstances of his life. It is going too far to call Philo a Father of the Church, but it is perfectly true that the Christianity of Clement and Origen and other Fathers of the Church owes much of its metaphysical ground-work and its philosophical phraseology to that Jewish school of Alexandria of which Philo is only one, though the best-known representative. Some of the early Fathers were no doubt under the more immediate influence of Greek philosophy, but others came under its sway after it had been filtered through the minds of Jewish philosophers, such as Philo, and of Jewish converts in Egypt and Palestine.
Philo was the true child of his time, and we must try to understand his religious philosophy as the natural outcome of the circumstances in which the old Jewish religion found itself, when placed face to face with Greek philosophy. Philo's mind was saturated with Greek philosophy, so that, as Suidas informs us, it had become a common saying that either Plato Philonizes or Philo Platonizes. It is curious to observe6 that each party, the Greeks and the Jews, and later on, the Christians also, instead of being pleased with the fact that their own opinions had been adopted by others, complained of plagiarism and were most anxious to establish each their own claim to priority. Even so enlightened and learned a man as St. Clement of Alexandria writes: ‘They have borrowed from our books the chief doctrines they hold on faith and knowledge and science, on hope and love and repentance, on temperance and the fear of God’ (Strom. ii. l). These complaints, coming from Clement, may be regarded as well founded. But it is different with men like Minucius Felix on one side and Celsus on the other. These are both eager partisans. When Minucius Felix says that the Greek philosophers imitated the shadow of half-truths from the divine preaching of the Jewish prophets, one wonders whether he thought that Aristotle had studied Isaiah. And when Celsus says that the Christian philosophers were simply weaving a web of misunderstandings of the old doctrine, and sounded them forth with a loud trumpet before men, like hierophants round those who are being initiated in mysteries, did he really wish us to believe that the Apostles, and more particularly the author of the Fourth Gospel, had studied the principal writings of Plato and Aristotle? One thing, however, is made quite clear by their squabbles, namely that Judaism, Christianity, and Greek philosophy were fighting against each other on terms of perfect equality, and that they had all three to appeal to the judgment of the world, and of a world brought up almost entirely in the schools of Stoics and Neo-Platonists. Thus it was said of Origen that in his manner of life he was a Christian, but in his opinions about God, a Greek (Euseb. H. E., vi. 19). Justin Martyr goes so far as to say in a somewhat offended and querulous tone: ‘We teach the same as the Greeks, yet we alone are hated for what we teach’ (Apol. i. 20). The same Justin Martyr speaks almost like a Greek philosopher when he protests against anthropomorphic expressions. ‘You are not to think,’ he writes, ‘that the unbegotten God came down from anywhere or went up.… He who is uncontained by space and by the whole world, does not move, seeing that he was born before the World was born.’ In another place he says (Apol. ii. 13): ‘The teachings of Plato are not alien to those of Christ, though not in all respects similar .… for all the writers (of antiquity) were able to have a dim vision of realities by means of the indwelling seed of the implanted word’ (the Logos).
Even so late as the fourth century, and after the Council of Nicaea, we meet with a curious instance of this mixture of Christian faith with Greek philosophy in a bishop, whose name may be familiar to many from Kingsley's splendid novel, Hypatia. Bishop Synesius (born about 370 A. D.) had actually been an attendant on Hypatia's lectures. Bishop though he was, he represents himself in his writings as very fond of hounds and horses, of hunting and fighting. But he was likewise an ardent student of Greek philosophy, and it is very interesting to watch the struggles between his religion and his philosophy, as he lays them bare in letters to his friends. He was evidently made a bishop, Bishop of Ptolemais, very much against his will, and he sees no reason why, even in his episcopal office, he should part with his horses and hounds. But not only that, but he declares that he cannot part with his philosophical convictions either, even where they clashed with Christianity. He confesses that he was by education a heathen, by profession a philosopher, and that if his duty as a bishop should be any hindrance to his philosophy, he would relinquish his diocese, abjure his orders, and remove into Greece. He seems, however, to have quieted his scruples, and to have remained in office, keeping his Greek philosophy to himself, which, as he says, would do no good to the people at large, and suffering them to live in the prejudices which they had imbibed, whatever that may mean.
If this wavering Christianity was possible in a bishop, and even after the Council of Nicaea, 325, we may imagine what it was in the first and the second centuries, when people who had been brought up on Greek philosophy persuaded themselves for the first time to join the Church of the Christians.
In trying to represent the important process which in the East, and more particularly at Alexandria, had brought the religious thoughts of the Semitic world face to face with the philosophical thoughts of Greece, I have allowed myself to anticipate what properly belongs to my next lectures. There can be no doubt, however, that this process of intellectual amalgamation between East and West, which we see still at work in the fourth century, took its origin much earlier, and chiefly in that school of Jewish thinkers who are represented to us in Philo. He must always remain to us the chief representative of a whole phase of Jewish thought, because though he himself appeals to former teachers, their works have not been preserved7. We should not attribute too much to Philo's personality, powerful though it was. On the contrary, we should try to understand the Philonic phase of Judaism as the natural result of the dispersion of the Jews over the whole civilised world, over ‘Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar and the islands of the sea,’ and of their contact with the best thoughts of these countries. Like most of his fellow-exiles, Philo remained a firm believer in the Old Testament. He is first a Jew, and then a philosopher, though the Jew has to make many concessions in learning to speak and think in the language of Greek philosophy. Philo's position, after his acquaintance with Greek philosophy, reminds one often of that of Rammohun Roy, who was a firm believer in the Veda, when suddenly brought face to face with the doctrines of Christianity. He could not help being ashamed of many things that were found in the sacred books of India, just as, according to Celsus, Jews and Christians were really ashamed of their Bible8. He had therefore to surrender many of the effete traditions of his old faith, but he tried to interpret others in the light received from Christian literature, till at last he formulated to himself a new concept of the Deity and of man's relation to the Deity which seemed to be in harmony both with the intentions of Indian sages and with the aspirations of Christian teachers. The touchstone of truth which he adopted was much the same as that which Philo had adopted from Plato 9, that nothing unworthy of the deity should be accepted as true, however sacred the authority on which it might rest. When this was once admitted everything else followed. Philo, with all his reverence for the Old Testament, nay, as he would say, on account of that very reverence, did not hesitate to call it ‘great and incurable silliness’ to suppose that God really planted fruit-trees in Paradise. In another place Philo says that to speak of God repenting, is impiety greater than any that was drowned in the Flood10. The interpretation which he put on these and similar passages is of much the same character as that which is now put by educated natives of India on the hideous worship of the goddess Durgâ (Anthropolog. Religion, p. 160). Yet, however implausible such interpretations may seem to us, they show at all events a respect for truth and a belief in divine holiness. Neither Philo, nor Clement, nor Origen could bring themselves to accept physical or moral impossibilities as simply miraculous11. Believing as they did in a Logos or Reason that ruled the world, everything irrational became ipso facto impossible, or had to be interpreted allegorically. When we consider how powerful a philosophical thinker Philo was, some of his allegorical interpretations seem almost incredible, as when he explains that Adam was really meant for the innate perceptive faculty of the mind, and Eve for the same in its operative character, which springs subsequently into being, as the helper and ally of the mind. In the same way Abel, according to Philo, stands for perishableness, Cain for self-conceit and arrogance, Seth for irrigation, Enos for hope, Henoch for improvement, Noah for justice, Abraham for instruction, Isaac for spiritual delight. In all this Philo is perfectly serious and firmly convinced of the truth of his interpretations. And why? Because, as he says again and again, ‘no one could believe such stories as that a woman was made out of a man's rib.’ ‘Clearly,’ he says, ‘rib stands for power, as when we say that a man has ribs instead of strength, or that a man is thick-ribbed. Adam then must represent the mind, Eve perception already acting through the senses, and the rib the permanent faculty still dormant in the mind.’ Even thus we must admire in Philo the spirit that is willing, though the flesh is weak.
These allegorical interpretations had become inevitable with Philo, as they had before with some of the more enlightened Greek philosophers, where we find them as early as Democritus, Anaxagoras, and as very popular with the Stoics, the immediate teachers of Philo. Whenever sacred traditions or sacred books have been invested by human beings with a superhuman authority, so that all they contain has to be accepted as the truth and nothing but the truth, what remains but either to call what is unworthy of the deity miraculous, or to resort to allegory? Nor are Philo's allegories, though they are out of place, without their own profound meaning. I shall quote one only, which contains really an excellent abstract of his doctrine. When speaking of the Cherubim who were placed, with a flaming sword that turned every way, to guard the approaches of the tree of life, Philo, after quoting some other attempts at interpretation, proceeds to say: ‘I once heard even a more solemn word from my soul, accustomed often to be possessed by God and prophesy about things which it knew not; which, if I can, I will recall to the mind and mention. Now, it said to me, that in the one really existing God the supreme and primary powers are two, goodness and authority, and that by goodness he has generated the universe, and by authority he rules over what was generated; and that a third thing in the midst, which brings these two together, is Reason (Logos), for that by Reason God is possessed both of rule and of good. (It said) that of rule, therefore, and of goodness, these two powers the Cherubim are symbols, and of Reason the flaming sword; for Reason is a thing most swift in its motions and hot, and especially that of the Cause, because it anticipated and passed by everything, being both conceived before all things and appearing in all things12.’
So far we can follow. But when Philo proceeds to make an application of his interpretation of the Flaming Sword as the symbol of reason in the story of Abraham and Isaac, and explains that Abraham when he began to measure all things by God, and to leave nothing to that which is generated, took ‘fire and knife’ as an imitation of the Flaming Sword, earnestly desiring to destroy and burn up the mortal from himself in order that with naked intellect he might soar aloft to God, we have to hold our breath in utter amazement at so much folly united in the same mind with so much wisdom!
What is important for us, however, is to see that Philo, who is generally represented as almost unintelligible, becomes perfectly intelligible if we once know his antecedents and his surroundings. If, as some scholars supposed, Philo had really been under the immediate influence of Eastern teachers, whether Persian or Indian, we should be able to discover some traces of Persian or Indian thought. Nay, if Philo had commanded a larger view of the religions of the world, it is not improbable that his eyes would have been opened, and that he might have learnt the same lesson which a comparative study of ancient religions has taught us, namely, that mythological language is inevitable in the early stages of religious thought, and that, if we want to understand it, we must try to become children rather than philosophers. In one case Philo boldly declares that the story of the creation of Eve, as given in the Old Testament, is simply mythological13.
These preliminary remarks seemed to me necessary before approaching the problem with which we are more immediately concerned, namely, how the gulf that was fixed in the Jewish mind between heaven and earth, between God and man, could be bridged over. We saw that with Philo the concept of the Deity, though it often retained the name of Jehovah, had become quite as abstract and transcendent as that of the only true Being, τὸ ὄντως ὄν of Greek philosophers. It would not seem likely therefore that the Greek philosophers, from whom Philo had learnt his thoughts and language, could have supplied him with a bond to unite the visible with the invisible world. And yet so it was14. For after all, the Greek philosophers also had found that they had raised their Supreme Being or their First Cause so very high, and placed it so far beyond the limits of this visible world and the horizon of human thought, that unless some connecting links could be found, the world might as well be left without any cause and without any Supreme Being.
This connecting link, this bond between the world and its cause, between the soul and its God, was to Philo's mind the Logos.
Let us lay hold at once on this word. Logos is a Greek word embodying a Greek thought, a thought which has its antecedents in Aristotle, in Plato; nay, the deepest roots of which have been traced back as far as the ancient philosophies of Anaxagoras and Heraclitus. This Greek word, whatever meaning was assigned to it by Christian thinkers, tells us in language that cannot be mistaken that it is a word and a thought of Greek workmanship. Whoever used it, and in whatever sense he used it, he had been under the influence of Greek thought, he was an intellectual descendant of Plato, Aristotle, or of the Stoics and Neo-Platonists, nay of Anaxagoras and Heraclitus. To imagine that either Jews or Christians could adopt a foreign terminology without adopting the thoughts imbedded in it, shows a strange misapprehension of the nature of language. If, as we are told, certain savage tribes have no numerals beyond four, and afterwards adopt the numerals of their neighbours, can they borrow a name for five without borrowing at the same time the concept of five? Why do we use a foreign word if not because we feel that the word and the exact thought which it expresses are absent from our own intellectual armoury?
Philo had not only borrowed the Greek language in which he wrote, he had borrowed Greek thought also that had been coined in the intellectual mint of Greece, and the metal of which had been extracted from Greek ore. No doubt he used his loan for his own purposes, still he could only transfer the Greek words to concepts that were more or less equivalent. If we see such names as Parliament or Upper and Lower House transferred to Japan, and used there either in a translated or in their original form to signify their own political assemblies, we know that however different the proceedings of the Japanese Parliament may be from those of the English Parliament, the very concept of a Parliament would never have been realised in Japan except for its prototype in England. Besides, we see at once that this word, Parliament, and what it signifies, has no historical antecedents in Japan, while in England it has grown from a small seed to a magnificent tree. It is the same with Logos. There may have been some vague and faint antecedents of the Logos in the Old Testament15, but the Logos which Philo adopted had its historical antecedents in Greece and in Greek philosophy only. This is very important to remember, and we shall have to return to it again.
It is often supposed that this Logos of Philo, and the Word which was in the beginning, are something very obscure, some kind of mystery which few, if any, are able to fathom, and which requires at all events a great amount of philosophical training before it can be fully apprehended. It seems to me to require nothing but a careful study of the history of the word in Greece.
Logos in Greek, before it was adopted for higher philosophical purposes, meant simply word, but word not as a mere sound, but as thought embodied in sound. The Greeks seem never to have forgotten that logos, word, has a double aspect, its sound and its meaning, and that, though we may distinguish the two, as we can the outside and inside of many things, they can never have a separate existence. Philo was fully aware of this, as is shown by the following passage from his Life of Moses, iii. 113 (ii. 154)16: ‘The Logos is double both in the universe and in the nature of man. In the universe there are both that which relates to the immaterial and pattern ideas, out of which the intelligible cosmos was established, and that which relates to the visible objects (which are accordingly imitations and copies of those ideas), out of which this perceptible cosmos was completed. But in man the one is inward and the other outward, and the one is, as it were, a fountain, but the other sonorous (γϵγωός), flowing from the former.’
Nothing could supply a better simile for God thinking and uttering the cosmos than the act of man in thinking and uttering his thought. It is only our complete misapprehension of the true nature of words which has led people to suppose that Philo's simile was merely fanciful. The idea that the world was thought and uttered or willed by God, so far from being a cobweb of abstruse philosophy, is one of the most natural and most accurate, nay most true conceptions of the creation of the world, and, let me add at once, of the true origin of species.
I was, I believe, one of the first who ventured to use the traditions of uncivilised races as parallel instances of classical myths, and as helps to the understanding of their origin, and I may venture perhaps on a new experiment of utilising the philosophical thoughts of a so-called savage race as likely to throw light on the origin of what the Greeks meant by Logos.
The Logos among the Klamaths.
The Klamaths, one of the Red Indian tribes, lately described by Mr. Gatchet and Mr. Horatio Hale, believe, as we are told, in a Supreme God, whom they call ‘The Most Ancient,’ ‘Our Old Father,’ or ‘The Old One on high.’ He is believed to have created the world that is, to have made plants, animals, and men. But when asked how the Old Father created the world, the Klamath philosopher replied; ‘By thinking and willing.’ In this thinking and willing you have on that distant soil the germs of the same thought which on Greek soil became the Logos, and in the Fourth Gospel is called the Word.
It may be thought that such an idea is far too abstract and abstruse to arise in the minds of Red Indians of the present day or of thousands of years ago. It is quite true that in a more mythological atmosphere the same thought might have been expressed by saying that the Old Father made the world with his hands, or called it forth by his word of command, and that he breathed life into all living things. The world when created might in that case have been called the handiwork, or even the offspring and the son of God.
It did not, however, require much observation to see that there was order and regularity in nature, or thought and will, as the Klamaths called it. The regular rising of sun and moon would be sufficient to reveal that. If the, whole of nature were mere lumber and litter, its author and ruler might have been a zero or a fool. But there is thought in a tree, and there is thought in a horse, and that thought is repeated again and again in every tree and in every Morse. Is all this like the sand of the desert, whisked about by a sirocco, or is it thought and will, or what the Stoics called it, the result of a λόγος σπϵρματικός? As in our own scientific, so in the earliest age of human observation and thought, the reason which underlies and pervades nature could not escape detection. It answered readily to the reason of every thoughtful observer, so that Kepler, after discovering the laws of the planetary system, could truly say that he had thought again the thoughts of God.
I cannot possibly give you here the whole history of the Logos, and all the phases through which it passed in the philosophical atmosphere of Greece before it reached Philo, the Jewish philosopher, or Christian philosophers, such as the author of the Introduction to the Fourth Gospel, St. Clement, Origen, and many others. In order to do that, I should have to carry you from the latest Stoics whose schools were frequented by Philo at Alexandria, to the Stoa where Aristotle taught his realism, and to the Academy where Plato expounded his ideal philosophy, nay, even beyond, to the schools of Anaxagoras and Heraclitus. All this has been extremely well done by Dr. Drummond in his Philo Judaeus. A short survey must here suffice.
The Historical Antecedents of the Logos.
Before we attempt even a mere survey of these historical antecedents of the Logos, or the Word, let us try to reason out the same ideas by ourselves. Logos means word and thought. Word and thought, as I hope to have proved in my Science of Thought, are inseparable, they are but two aspects of the same intellectual act. If we mean by thought what it means as soon as it is expressed in a word, not a mere percept, not even what it is often mistaken for, a Vorstellung, or what used to be called a sensuous idea, but a concept, then it is clear that a word, taken as a mere sound, without a concept expressed by it, would be a non-entity, quite as much as the concept would be a non-entity without the word by which it is embodied. Hence it is that the Greek logos means both word and thought, the one inseparable from the other.
As soon as language had produced such names as horse, dog, man or woman, the mind was ipso facto in possession of what we call concepts or ideas. Every one of these words embodies an idea, not only a general more or less blurred image remaining in our memory like the combined photographs of Mr. Gallon, but a concept—that is, a genuine thought under which every individual horse or dog can be conceived, comprehended, classified and named. What is meant by the name horse, can never be presented to our senses, but only to our intellect, and it has been quite truly said that no human eye has ever seen a horse, but only this or that horse, grey, black, or brown, young or old, strong or weak. Such a name and such a concept as horse, could not represent the memory of repeated sensuous impressions only. These impressions might leave in our memory a blurred photographic image, but never a concept, free from all that is individual, casual and temporary, and retaining only what is essential or what seemed to be essential to the framers of language in all parts of the world. It is quite true that each individual has to learn his concepts or ideas by means of sensuous perception, by discovering what general features are shared in common by a number of individuals. It is equally true that we have to accept the traditional names handed down to us by parental tradition from time immemorial. But admitting all this, we should ask, Whence sprang the first idea of horse which we during our life on earth see realised in every single horse and repeated with every new generation? What is that typical character of horse which can be named and can afterwards be scientifically defined? Was there no artist, no rational being that had to conceive the idea of horse, before there was a single horse? Could any artist produce the statue of a horse, if he had never seen a horse? Will material protoplasm, spontaneous evolution, the influence of environment, the survival of the fittest, and all the rest—will any purely mechanical process ever lead to a horse, whether it be a horse, or as yet a hipparion only? Every name means a species, and one feels almost ashamed if one sees how much more profound is the theory of the Origin of Species as conceived by Plato than that of modern naturalists.
The Origin of Species.
I confess I have always been surprised that these old elementary teachings of Plato's philosophy have been so completely ignored when the discussion on the origin of species was taken up again in recent times. And yet we should never have spoken of the origin of species but for Plato and his predecessors in Greek philosophy. For species is but a translation of ϵἰ̑δος, and ϵἰ̑δος is almost a synonym of ἰδϵ́α. Is it not perfectly unthinkable that living organic bodies, whether plants or animals, nay, that anything in this universe, could have come to be what it is by mere evolution, by natural selection, by survival of the fittest, and all the rest, unless its evolution meant the realisation of an ides? Let us grant by all means that the present horse is the last term of a series of modifications, brought about by natural causes, of a type which has existed ever since the Mesozoic epoch; yet we cannot but ask Whence that type? and What is meant by type? Was it mere undifferentiated protoplasm that by environment and other casual influences might have become either a horse or a dog? or must we not admit a purpose, a thought, a λόγος, a σπϵρματικὸς λόγος, in the first protoplastic germ which could end in one last term only, a horse or a dog, or whatever else was thought and willed by a rational Power, or by what the ancients called the Logos of God? Professor Huxley himself speaks of the type of horse. What can he mean by that, if not the idea of horse? It matters little how such a type or such an idea was realised, whether as a cell or as a germ, so long as we recognise that there was an idea or a purpose in it, or, to adopt the language of the Red Indians, so long as we believe that everything that exists was thought and willed by the’Old One on high.’ Is there reason in the world or not, and if there is, whose Reason is it ?
That certain species were evolved from lower species, even during the short time of which we possess any certain knowledge, is no doubt a great discovery, but it does not touch the deeper question of the origin of all species. Whenever such transitions have been proved, we should simply have to change our language, and no longer call that a species which has been proved not to be a species. We must use our words as we have defined them, and species means an idea or an ϵἰ̑δος, that is an eternal thought of a rational Being. Such a thought must vary in every individual manifestation of it, but it can never change. Unless we admit the eternal existence of these ideas in a rational Mind or in the Primal Cause of all things, we cannot account for our seeing them realised in nature, discovered by human reason, and named by human language. This becomes still clearer if, instead of natural productions, we think of geometrical forms. Can we imagine that a perfect circle, nay, a single straight line, was ever formed by repeated experiments? or have we not to admit, before a perfect sphere becomes real, if ever it does become real, the concept of a perfect sphere in a rational, that is, a divine Mind? The broad question is whether the world, such as we know it and have named it, is rational or casual. The choice does not lie between a belief in evolution and special creation, whatever that may mean, but between a belief in Reason and a denial of Reason at the bottom of all things.
If we want to account for a rational world and for the permanence of typical outlines in every species our mind has to admit, first of all, a creative thought, or what Professor Huxley calls a type. Do we not see how every horse is moulded, as it were, in a permanent type, however much the Shetland pony may differ from the Arab? It is of no use for Physical Science to shut its ears against such speculations or to call them metaphysical dreams. Physical Science indulges in much wilder dreams when it speaks of protoplasm, of sperms and germs, of heredity, and all the rest. What is heredity but the permanence of that invisible, and yet most real type which Plato called the idea? Human reason has always revolted against ascribing what is permanent to mere accident, even to the influence of environment, to natural selection, survival of the fittest, and all the rest. It demands by right a real cause, sufficient for real effects; a rational cause, sufficient for rational effects. That cause may be invisible, yet it is visible in its effects, nor are invisible things less real than visible ones. We must postulate invisible but real types, because without them their visible effects would remain inexplicable. It is easy to say that like produces like, but whence the first type? Whence the tree before there was a tree, whence man himself, before there was man, and whence that mould in which each individual seems cast, and which no individual can burst? The presence of these types or specific forms, the presence of order and law in the visible world, seems to have struck the human mind at a much earlier period than is commonly supposed. The Klamaths, as we saw, said that the world was thought and willed, Anaxagoras declared that there was Nous or Mind in the world.
And even before Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, after claiming fire, in its most abstract form, as the primitive element of all things, postulated something beside the material element, some controlling power, some force and law; and he too called it Logos, i.e. reason or word. Vague indications of the same idea may be discovered in the mythological tradition of a Moira or Heimarmenê, that is Destiny, and Heraclitus actually used Heimarmenê, which Anaxagoras declared to be an empty name (κϵνὸν ὄνομα, Alex. Aphrod. de Fato, 2) as a synonym of his Logos. This is confirmed by Stobaeus, saying (Ecl. i. 5, p. 178) that Heraclitus taught that the essence of Destiny was the Logos which pervades the substance of the universe. Here the Logos is what we should call law or reason, and what the ancient poets of the Veda called Rita, the Right17. When we ask, however, what seems to us a most natural question, whose that reason was, or who was the law-giver, always acting in the fiery process of the universe, so that in all the wars and conflicts of the elements right and reason prevail, we get no answer from Heraclitus. Some scholars hold that Heraclitus took the Logos to be identical with the Fire, but to judge from certain expressions, his Logos seems rather a mode according to which the Fire acts (κατὰ τ ὸν λόγον). Nor does it seem quite clear to me that Heraclitus would have called the individual soul a part of the Logos, instead of saying that the individual soul also, as an emanation (ἀναθυμίασις) of the universal fire, was under the control of the Logos. It is still more difficult to say what sense Logos possessed before Heraclitus adopted it, and applied it to express the order of the universe. There is nothing to show that like later philosophers he took it in the sense of word as the embodiment of thought and reason. It probably meant no more to Heraclitus, when he adopted it for a higher purpose, than reckoning, rule, proportion, relation, in which sense we see it used in such words as ἀνάλογον, what is ἀνὰ λόγον, or as Heraclitus said, κατὰ λόγον, according to law. It is quite clear that the Logos of Heraclitus had not yet assumed in his mind that definite meaning of a chain of ideas connecting the First Cause with the phenomenal world, which it presented to the Stoics and to Philo. It was as yet no more than that general reason or reasonableness which struck the eyes and the mind of man even on the lowest stage of civilisation.
When Anaxagoras substituted Νου̑ς, Mind, for Logos, he went a step beyond, and was the first to claim something of a personal character for the law that governs the world, and was supposed to have changed its raw material into a cosmos. We may be able to conceive a law without a person behind it, but Nous, Mind, takes a thinker almost for granted. Yet Anaxagoras himself never fully personified his Nous, never grafted it on a God or any higher being. Nous was with him a something like everything else, a χρη̑μα, a thing, as he called it, though the finest and purest of all material things. In some of his utterances Nous was really identified with the living soul, nay, he seems to have looked upon every individual soul as participating in the universal Nous and in this universal chrêma.
Socrates and Plato.
On the problem which interests us more specially, namely the relation of the Logos or Nous to man on one side and to God on the other, we gain little till we come to Aristotle and the Stoics. Socrates, if we take our idea of him from Xenophon, retained the mythological phraseology of Greece, he spoke of many Gods, yet he believed in One God18 who rules the whole world and by whom man was created19. This God is omnipresent, though invisible, and when Socrates speaks of the thought in all (ϕρόνησις ϵ̓ν παντί), he seems to express the same thought as Heraclitus when speaking of the Logos, who always is αἰϵὶ ϵ̓ω̑ν, or as Anaxagoras when speaking of the Nous which ordered all things (διϵκόσμησϵ πάντα χρήματα) (Diog. Laert. ii. 6).
Though we may recognise in all this more or less conscious attempts to account for the presence of something beside matter in the world, to discover an invisible, possibly a divine agent or agency in making, disposing, and ruling the world, and thus to connect the phenomenal with the noumenal, the finite with the infinite, the human with the divine, yet this last deliberate step was not taken either by Socrates, or by Plato. The simple question what the Logos was with respect to the Deity, received no definite answer from these philosophers.
It is well known that what we called before the permanent types of all things were called by Plato the ideas, by the Klamaths, the thoughts, willed by the Creator. These ideas, which taken together formed what Heraclitus meant by the eternal Logos, appear in Plato's philosophy as a system, built up architectonically, as the plan of the architecture of the visible universe. Plato's ideas, which correspond to our natural species and genera, become more and more general till they rise to the ideas of the Good, the Just, and the Beautiful. But instead of the many ideas Plato speaks also of one general and eternal pattern of the world which, like the idea of God, is not the Creator himself, nor yet separable from him. This pattern, though eternal, is yet a creation, though an eternal creation, a world of thought prior to the world of sense20. This comes very near to the Stoic Logos, as known to Philo.
In other places Plato admits a highest idea which allows of no higher one, the last that can be known, the idea of the Good, not simply in a moral, but likewise in a physical and metaphysical sense, the Summum Bonum. This highest idea of the Good is what in religious language would be called the Supreme Being or God. But Plato, as far as I can judge, is never quite explicit in telling us what he conceived this Good to be. It is true he speaks of it as the Lord of Light (Republ. vi. 508), and he speaks of the sun as the son of the Good, whom the Good begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world in relation to sight and the things of sight, what the Good is in the intellectual world in relation to mind and the things of mind.… And the soul, he continues, ‘is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence.… And that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the Idea of Good.’
Here Plato leaves us, nor is he more explicit as to what the relation of that Idea of Good is to the other ideas, and how it can fulfil all that the old idea of God or the Gods was meant to fulfil. Whether it was the only efficient cause of the world, or whether each of the many ideas possessed its own efficient causality, independent of the Idea of Good, is a question difficult to answer out of Plato's own mouth. Plato speaks of God and Gods, but he never says in so many words ‘This, my Idea of the Good, is what you mean by Zeus.’ If we asked whether this Idea of the Good was personal or not, we should receive no answer from Plato. It is important, however, to keep in mind that Plato speaks of one general and eternal pattern of the world which, like the Idea of Good, is not the Creator himself, nor yet separable from him. This pattern, though eternal, is created, a world of thought prior to the world of sense21.
What remains dark and doubtful in Plato's system is the relation of the visible to the invisible world, of the phenomena to, their ideas. The expressions which he uses as to the phenomena participating in the ideal, or the visible being a copy of the invisible, are similes and no more. In the Timaeus he becomes somewhat more explicit, and introduces his theory of the creation of the universe as a living being, and like every living being, possessed of a soul, the soul being again possessed of mind22. This universe or Cosmos or Uranos is there represented as the offspring of God, and what is important to remark, he is called Monogenês23, the only begotten, the unigenitus, or more correctly the unicus, the unique or single, the one of his kind. The imperfections that cannot be denied to exist in the world and in man are explained as due either to the Apeiron, i.e. formless matter, which receives form through the ideas, or in the case of men, to the fact that their creation was entrusted to the minor deities, and did not proceed direct from the Creator. Still the soul is everywhere represented as divine, and must have been to Plato's mind a connecting link between the Divine and the Human, between the invisible and the visible.
Aristotle is far more explicit in defining what in his philosophy is to take the place of Zeus, for it is curious to observe how all these philosophers with all their sublime ideas about the Divine, always start from their old Zeus and speak of their new ideas as taking the place of Zeus, or of the Godhead. It was the Zeus of his childhood or his θϵός which was explained by Aristotle as being really τὸ πρω̑τον κινου̑ν, the Prime Mover, possibly τὸ πρω̑τον ϵἰ̑δος, the Prime Form or idea, as distinguished from ἡ πρώτη ὕλη, the Prime Matter. He tells us also what he considers all the necessary qualities of this Prime Mover to be. It must be one, immoveable, unchangeable, living, intelligent, nay it must be active, i.e. thinking intelligence, intelligence thinking itself (ἡ νόησις νοήσϵως ν#x03CC;ησις, Metaphys. xi. 9, 4). The question of personality does not seem to disturb the Greek thinkers as it does us. Aristotle's transcendent Godhead represents the oneness of the thinker and thoughts, of the knower and the known. Its relation to matter (ὕλη) is that of the form (ϵἰ̑δος) subduing matter, but also that of the mover moving matter. With all this, Aristotle has not in the end elaborated more than a transcendent Godhead, a solitary being thinking himself, something not very different from what the later Valentinians might have called the General Silence, or what Basilides meant by the non-existent God who made the non-existent world out of non-existent materials24. This could not give any satisfaction to the religious sentiment which requires a living God, and some explanation of the dependence of the world on a divine ruler, and of the relation of the soul to a Supreme Being.
We have thus far examined some of the materials which were carried down the stream of Greek philosophy till they reached the hands of Philo and other Semitic thinkers who tried to reconcile them with their ancient beliefs in their own personal yet transcendent God. Before, however, we proceed further to watch the process by which these two streams, the one of Aryan, the other of Semitic thought, became united, at first in the minds of Jewish philosophers, and afterwards in the minds of Christian believers also, we have still to follow the later development of the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle in the schools of their successors, the Stoics and Neo-Platonists. We need not dwell on any of their theories, whether logical, ethical, or metaphysical, except those that touch on the relation of the finite to the infinite, the human to the divine, the ϕαινόμϵνα to the ὄντα.
The Stoics required a God in the old sense of the word. They were not satisfied with the supreme idea of Plato, nor with the Prime Mover of Aristotle. Like their predecessors, they also had discovered law, order, or necessity and causation in the visible world, and they postulated a cause sufficient to account for the existence of that law and order in the phenomenal cosmos. That cause, however, with the Stoics was not transcendent, but immanent. Reason or Logos was discovered by them as present in every part of the universe, as holding the universe together; nay it was itself considered as corporeal, and so far as it represented deity, deity also was to the Stoics something corporeal, though ethereal or igneous25. Yet they placed a difference between Hyle, matter, and the Logos or Supreme Reason or God which pervaded all matter. This Logos, according to them, was not only creative (ποιου̑ν), but it continued to control all things in the world. Some Stoics distinguished indeed between the Logos and Zeus, the Supreme God, but the orthodox doctrine of the Stoic school is that God and the Divine Reason in the world are the same, though they might be called by different names. The Stoics, therefore, were true pantheists. With them, as with Heraclitus, everything was full of the Gods, and they were anxious to say that this divine presence applied even to the meanest and most vulgar things, to ditches and vermin.
The Stoics, however, spoke not only of one universal Logos pervading the whole cosmos, they likewise admitted, as if in remembrance of Plato's ideas, a number of logoi, though in accordance with Aristotle's teaching they held that these logoi dwelt within, and determined all individual things (λόγοι ἔνυλοι, universalia in re). These logoi were called σπϵρματικοί or seminal, being meant to account, like the sperms, for the permanence of the type in the phenomenal world, for what with less perfect metaphor we now call inherited specific qualities.
These Logoi, whether singly or comprehended as the one universal Logos, had to account for all that was permanent in the variety of the phenomenal world. They formed a system ascending from the lowest to the highest, which was reflected in what we should call the evolution of nature. A separate position, however, was assigned to man. The human soul was supposed to have received in a direct way a portion of the universal Logos, and this constituted the intelligence or reason which man shared in common with the gods. Besides this divine gift, the human soul was supposed to be endowed with speech, the five senses, and the power of reproduction. And here we meet for the first time a definite statement that speech is really the external Logos (λ. προϕορικός), without which the internal Logos (λ ϵ̓νδιόθϵτος) would be as if it were not. The word is shown to be the manifestation of reason; both are Logos, only under different aspects. The animal soul was conceived as something material, composite, and therefore perishable, to which the Logos was imparted. Like the Vedântists, the Stoics taught that the soul would live after death, but only to the end of the world (the Kalpa), when it would be merged into the universal soul. Whence that universal soul took its origin, or what it was, if different both from the Logos and from matter (ὕλη), we are never distinctly told. What is clear, however, is that the Stoics looked upon the Logos as eternal. In one sense the Logos was with God, and, in another, it might be said to be God. It was the Logos, the thought of God, as pervading the world, which made the world what it is, viz. a rational and intelligible cosmos; and it was the Logos again that made man what he is, a rational and intelligent soul.
You see now what a large inheritance of philosophical thought and philosophical language was bequeathed to men like Philo, who, in the first century before our era, being themselves steeped in Semitic thought, were suddenly touched by the invigorating breezes of the Hellenic spirit. Alexandria was the meeting-place of these two ancient streams of thought, and it was in its Libraries and Museum that the Jewish religion experienced its last philosophical revival, and that the Christian religion for the first time asserted its youthful strength against the philosophies both of the East and of the West. You will now perceive the important representative character of Philo's writings which alone allow us an insight into the historical transition of the Jewish religion from its old legendary to a new philosophical and almost Christian stage. Whether Philo personally exercised a powerful influence on the thoughts of his contemporaries, we cannot tell. But he evidently represented a powerful religious and philosophical movement, a movement which later on must have extended to many of the earliest Christian converts at Alexandria, whether Jews or Greeks by birth and education. Of Philo's private life the only thing which concerns us is that he was a student who found his highest happiness in the study of his own religion and of the philosophical systems of the great thinkers of Greece, both ancient and modern. Born probably about 20 B.C., he died about the middle of the first century A.D. He was therefore the contemporary of Christ, though he never mentions him.
What concerns us are the salient doctrines of Philo's philosophy. Philo never surrendered his belief in Jehovah, though his Jehovah had not only been completely freed from his anthropomorphic character, but raised so high above all earthly things that he differed but little from the Platonic Godhead. Philo did not, however, believe in a creation out of nothing, but like the Stoics he admitted a Hyle, matter or substance, by the side of God, nay as coeval with God, yet not divine in its origin. Like the Apeiron, the Infinite of Anaximander, this Hyle is empty, passive, formless, nay incapable of ever receiving the whole of what the Divine Being could confer upon it, though it is sometimes said that all things are filled or pervaded by God26, and nothing left empty 27.
And yet the same God in his own essence can never, according to Philo, be brought into actual contact with matter, but he employed intermediate, and unembodied powers (δυνάμϵις), or, as we may call them, Ideas, in order that each genus might take its proper form28.
The Logos as a Bridge between God and the World.
Nothing therefore could be more welcome to Philo than this Stoic theory of the Logos or the Logoi for bringing the transcendent Cause of the World into relation with the phenomenal world. It helped him to account for the creation of the world, and for the presence of a controlling reason in the phenomenal cosmos, and he had only to apply to the Logoi the more familiar name of Angels in order to bring his old Jewish belief into harmony with his new philosophical convictions. As Milman has truly remarked, ‘Wherever any approximation had been made to the truth of one First Cause, either awful religious reverence (the Jews) or philosophical abstraction (the Greeks) had removed the primal Deity entirely beyond the sphere of human sense, and supposed that the intercourse of the Deity with men, the moral government, and even the original creation, had been carried on by intermediate agency, either in Oriental language of an emanation, or in the Platonic of the wisdom, reason, or intelligence of One Supreme.’
Philo, who combines the awful reverence of the Semitic with the philosophical sobriety of the Greek mind, holds that God in the highest sense forms to himself, first of all, an ideal invisible world (κόσμος νοητός, ἀόρατος) containing the ideas of all things, sometimes called the world of ideas, κόσμος ἰδϵω̑ν, or even the idea of ideas, ἰδϵ́α τω̑ν ἰδϵω̑ν. These ideas are the patterns, τὰ πασαδϵίγματα, of all things, and the power by which God conceived them is frequently called the Wisdom of God (σοϕία or ϵ̓πιστήμη). Nay, personification and mythology creep in even into the holy of holies of philosophy, so that this most abstract Wisdom is spoken of as the Wife of God29, the Mother or Nurse of all things sensible (μήτηρ καὶ τιθήνη τω̑ν ὅλων). Yet even thus, this Mother and Nurse is not allowed to bear or suckle her own children30. The Divine Wisdom is not allowed to come into contact with gross matter as little as God himself. That contact is brought about through the Logos, as a bond which is to unite heavenly and earthly things31 and to transfer the intellectual creation from the divine mind upon matter. This Logos is supposed to possess certain predicates, but these predicates which may be called the eternal predicates of the Godhead,—for the Logos also was originally but a predicate of the Godhead,—are soon endowed with a certain independence and personality, the most important being goodness (ἡ ἀγαθότης) and- power (ἡ ϵ̓ξουσία). This goodness is also called the creative power (ἡ ποιητικὴ δύναμις), the other is called the royal or ruling power (ἡ βασιλικὴ δύναμις), and while in some passages these powers of God are spoken of as God, in others they assume if not a distinct personality, yet an independent activity32. Though in many places these powers (δυνάμϵις) are used as synonymous with the Logos, yet originally they were conceived as the might of divine action, while the Logos was the mode of that action.
Logos as the Son of God.
It must always be remembered that Philo allows himself great freedom in the employment of his philosophical terminology, and is constantly carried away into mythological phraseology, which afterwards becomes hardened and almost unintelligible. Thus the intellectual creation in the Divine Mind is spoken of not only as a cosmos, but as the offspring, the son of God, the first-born, the only begotten (υἰὸς του̑ θϵου̑, μονογϵνής, πρωτόγονος); Yet in other places he is called the elder son (πρϵσβύτϵρος υἰός) as compared with the visible world, which is then called the younger son of God (νϵώϴϵρος υἱὸς του̑ θϵου̑), or even the other God (δϵύτϵρος θϵός).
All these terms, at first purely poetical, become after a time technical, not used once or casually, but handed down as the characteristic marks of a philosophical school. To us they are of the greatest importance as sign-posts showing the road on which certain ideas have travelled from Athens to Alexandria, till they finally reached the mind of Philo, and not of Philo only, but also of his contemporaries and successors, whether Jews, or Greeks, or Christians. Wherever we meet with the word Logos, we know that we have to deal with a word of Greek extraction. When Philo adopted that word, it could have meant for him substantially neither more nor less than what it had meant before in the schools of Greek philosophy. Thus, when the ideal creation or the Logos had been called by Philo the only begotten or unique son (υἱὸς μονογϵνής), the son of God (υἱὸς θϵου̑), and when that name was afterwards transferred by the author of the Fourth Gospel to Christ, what was predicated of Him can only have been in substance what was contained before in these technical terms, as used at first at Athens and afterwards at Alexandria. To the author of the Gospel, Christ was not the Logos because he was Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, but because he was believed to be the incarnate Word of God, in the true sense of the term. This may seem at first very strange, but it shows how sublime the conception of the Son of God, the first-born, the only one, was in the minds of those who were the first to use it, and who did not hesitate to transfer it to Him in whom they believed that the Logos had become flesh (σὸρξ ϵ̓γϵ́νϵτο), nay in whom there dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily33.
It is true that Christian writers of high authority prefer to derive the first idea of the Logos, not from pagan Greece, but from Palestine, recognising its first germ in the deutero-canonical Wisdom. That Philo is steeped in Jewish thought who would deny, or who would even assert? That the Hebrew Prophets were familiar with the idea of a Divine Word and Spirit, existing in God and proceeding from God, is likewise admitted on all sides. Thus we read in Psalm xxxiii. 6, ‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth’ (רוּחַ and רבָדָּ) Again, cvii. 20: ‘He sent his word and healeth them;’ civ. 30, ‘Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth;’ cxlvii. 18, ‘He sendeth out his word and melteth them.’ Still, in all these passages the word and the spirit do not mean much more than the command, or communication of Jehovah. And the same applies to passages where the Divine Presence or Manifestation is called his Angel, the Angel of Jehovah. Indeed it would be difficult to say what difference there is between the Angel of Jehovah, Jehovah himself, and God, for instance in the third chapter of Exodus; and again in Gen. xxxii, between God, the Angel, and Man. And this Angel with whom Jacob wrestled is mentioned by so ancient a prophet as Hosea xii. 4.
All these conceptions are purely Jewish, uninfluenced as yet by any Greek thought. What I doubt is whether any of these germs, the theophany through Angels, the hypostasis of the Word of Jehovah (הׄוָהיְ רבַרְּ), or lastly the personification of Wisdom (המָכְהָ) could by themselves have grown into what the Greek philosophers and Philo meant by Logos. We must never forget that Logos, when adopted by Philo, was no longer a general and undefined word. It had its technical meaning quite as much as οὐσία, ὑπϵρουσία, ἅπλωσις, ἕνωσις, θϵ́ωσις. All these terms are of Greek, not of Hebrew workmanship. The roots of the Logos were from the first intellectual, those of the Angels theological, and when the Angels, whether as ministers and messengers of God, or as beings intermediate between God and men, became quickened by the thoughts of Greek philosophy, the Angels and Archangels seem to become mere names and reminiscences, and what they are truly meant for, are the ideas of the Platonists, the Logoi of the Stoics, the archetypal thoughts of God, the heavenly models of all things, the eternal seals imprinted on matter34. None of these thoughts has been proved to be Semitic.
Philo speaks distinctly of the eternal Logoi, ‘which,’ he says, ‘it is the fashion to call Angels35.’
Wisdom or Sophia.
And as little as the belief in Angels would ever have led to the theory of the Logos or the Logoi, as a bond between the visible and the invisible world, can it be supposed that such germinal ideas as that of the Shechinah or the Glory of God, or the Wisdom of God, would by themselves and without contact with Greek thought have grown into purely philosophical conceptions, such as we find in Philo and his successors. The Semitic Wisdom that says ‘I was there when He prepared the Heaven,’ might possibly have led on to Philo's Sophia or Episteme which is with God before the Logos. But the Wisdom of the Proverbs is certainly not the Logos, but, if anything, the mother of the Logos36, an almost mythological being. We know how the Semitic mind was given to represent the active manifestations of the Godhead by corresponding feminine names. This is very different from representing the Intelligible World (the κόσμος νοητός) as the Logos, the Word of God, the whole Thought of God, or the Idea of Ideas. Yet the two ideas, the Semitic and the Greek, were somehow brought together, or rather forced together, as when we see how Philo represents Wisdom, the virgin daughter of God (Bethuel), as herself the Father, begetting intelligence and the soul37. Nay, he goes on to say that though the name of Wisdom is feminine, its nature is masculine. All virtues have the titles of women, but the powers and actions of men…. Hence Wisdom, the daughter of God, is masculine and a father, generating in souls learning and instruction and science and prudence, beautiful and laudable actions38. In this process of blending Jewish and Greek thought, the Greek elements in the end always prevailed over the Jewish, the Logos was stronger than the Sophia, and the Logos remained the First-born, the only begotten Son of God, though not yet in a Christian sense. Yet, when in later times we see Clement of Alexandria speak of the divine and royal Logos (Strom. v. 14), as the image of God, and of human reason as the image of that image, which dwells in man and unites man with God, can we doubt that all this is Greek thought, but thinly disguised under Jewish imagery? This Jewish imagery breaks forth once more when the Logos is represented as the High Priest, as a mediator standing between humanity and the Godhead. Thus Philo makes the High Priest say: ‘I stand between the Lord and you, I who am neither uncreated like God, nor created like you, but a mean between two extremes, a hostage to either side39.
Is it possible that the injunction that the High Priest should not rend his clothes which are the visible cosmos (De Profugis, § 20), suggested the idea that the coat of Christ which was without seam woven from the top throughout, should not be rent, so that both the Messianic and the Philonic prophecies were fulfilled at the same time and in the same manner40?
To the educated among the Rabbis who argued with Christ or his disciples at Jerusalem, the Logos was probably as well known as to Philo; nay, if Philo had lived at Jerusalem he would have found little difficulty in recognising a θϵι̑ος λόγος in Christ, as he had recognised it in Abraham and in Moses41. If Jews could bring themselves to recognise their Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth, why should not a Greek have discovered in Him the fulness of the Divine Logos, i.e. the realisation of the perfect idea of the Son of God?
It may be quite true that all this applies to a small number only, and that the great bulk of the Jews were beyond the reach of such arguments. Still, enlightened Jews like Philo were not only tolerated, but were honoured by their co-religionists at Alexandria. It was recognised that to know God or Jehovah, as He was represented in the Old Testament, was sufficient for a life of faith, hope, discipline and effort; but to know God in the soul, as Philo knew Him, was considered wisdom, vision, and peace.
Philo, however vague and uncertain some of his thoughts may be, is quite distinct and definite when he speaks of the Logos as the Divine Thought which, like a seal, is stamped upon matter and likewise on the mortal soul. Nothing in the whole world is to him more Godlike than man, who was formed according to the image of God (κατ᾽ ϵἰκόνα θϵου̑, Gen. i. 27), for, as the Logos is an image of God, human reason is the image of the Logos. But we must distinguish here too between man as part of the intelligible, and man as part of the visible world. The former is the perfect seal, the perfect idea or ideal of manhood, the latter its more or less imperfect multiplication in each individual man. There is therefore no higher conception of manhood possible than that of the ideal son, or of the idea of the son, realised in the flesh. No doubt this was a bold step, yet it was not bolder on the part of the author of the Fourth Gospel, than when Philo recognised in Abraham and others sons adopted of the Father42. It was indeed that step which changed both the Jew and the Gentile into a Christian, and it was this very step which Celsus, from his point of view, declared to be impossible for any true philosopher, and which gave particular offence to those who, under Gnostic influences, had come to regard the flesh, the σάρξ, as the source of all evil.
Monogenês, the Only Begotten.
We tried before to trace the word Logos back as far as Anaxagoras and Heraclitus; we can trace the term μονογϵνής nearly as far. It occurs in a fragment of Parmenides, quoted above (p. 333), as an epithet of the Supreme Being, τὸ ὄν, where it was meant to show that this Supreme Being can be only one of its kind, and that it would cease to be what it is meant to be if there were another. Here the idea of -γϵνης, meaning begotten, is quite excluded. The same word is used again by Plato in the Timaeus, where he applies it to the visible world, which he calls a ζῳ̑ον ὁρατὸν τὰ ὁρατά πϵριϵ́χον, an animate thing visible and comprehending all things visible, the image of its maker, a sensible God, the greatest and best, the fairest and most perfect, this one world (ouranos) Monogenês, unique of its kind43.
And why did Plato use that word monogenes? He tells us himself (Timaeus 31). ‘Are we right in saying,’ he writes, ‘that there is one world (ouranos), or shall we rather say that there are many and infinite? There is one, if the created universe accords with the original. For that which includes all other intelligible creatures cannot have a second for companion; in that case there would be need of another living being which would include these two, and of which they would be parts, and the likeness would be more truly said to resemble not those two, but that other which includes them. In order then that the world may be like the perfect animate Being in unity, he who made the world (cosmos), made Him not two or infinite in number, but there is and ever will be one only, begotten and created.’
If applied to the begotten or visible world, monogenes might have been and was translated the only begotten, unigenitus, but its true meaning was here also ‘the one of its kind.’ Here, then, in these abstruse Platonic speculations we have to discover the first germs of Monogenes, the only begotten of the Father, which the old Latin translations render more correctly by unicus than by unigenitus. Here, in this intellectual mint, the metal was melted and coined which both Philo and the author of the Fourth Gospel used for their own purposes. It is quite true that monogenes occurs in the Greek translation of the Old Testament also, but what does it mean there? It is applied to Sarah, as the only daughter of her father, and to Tobit and Sarah, as the only children of their parents. There was no necessity in cases of that kind to lay any stress on the fact that the children were begotten. The word here means nothing but an only child, or the only children of their parents. In one passage however, in the Book of Wisdom (vii. 22), monogenes has something of its peculiar philosophical meaning, when it is said that in Wisdom there is a spirit intelligent, holy, monogenes, manifold, subtle, and versatile. In the New Testament, also, when we read (Luke viii. 42) that a man had one only daughter, the meaning is clear and simple, and very different from its technical meaning in υἱὸς μονογϵής as the recognised name of the Logos. So recognised was this name, that when Valentinus speaks of ῾Ο Μονογϵής by himself we know that he can only mean the Logos, or Nous, the Mind, with him the offspring of the ineffable Depth or Silence (Βυθός), which alone embraced the greatness of the First Father, itself the father and beginning of all things. Even so late as the Synod of Antioch (269 A.D.) we can still perceive very clearly the echo of the philosophical language of the Judaeo-Alexandrian school. In their Confession of Faith they confess and proclaim the Son as ‘begotten, an only Son (γϵννητόν, υἱὸν μονογϵνη̑), the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, the Wisdom and Word and Power of God, who was before the ages, not by foreknowledge, but by essence and subsistence, God, son of God.’
Philo, of course, always uses the only begotten Son (υἱὸν μονογϵνής) in its philosophical sense as the Thought of God, realised and rendered visible in the world, whether by an act of creation or by way of emanation. He clearly distinguishes the Supreme Being and the God, τὸ ὄν, from the Thought or Word of that Being, the λόγος του̑ ὄντος. This Logos comprehends a number of logoi44 which Philo might equally well have called ideas in the Platonic sense. In fact he does so occasionally, as when he calls the Logos of God the idea of all ideas (ἰδϵ́α τω̑ν ἰδϵω̑ν, ὁ θϵου̑ λόγος). Whether this Logos became ever personified with him, is difficult to say; I have found no passage which would prove this authoritatively. But the irresistible mythological tendency of language shows itself everywhere. When Philo speaks of the Logos as the first-born (πρωτόγονος), or as the unique son (υἱὸς μονογϵνής), this need be no more as yet than metaphorical language. But metaphor soon becomes hardened into myth. When we speak of our own thoughts, we may call them the offspring of our mind, but very soon they may be spoken of as flying away, as dwelling with our friends, as having wings like angels. The same happened to the Logoi and the Logos, as the thought of God. His activities became agents, and these agents, as we shall see, soon became angels.
What is more difficult to understand is what Philo means when he recognises the Logos in such men as Abraham, Melchizedek, or Moses. He cannot possibly mean that they represent the whole of the Logos, for the whole of the Logos, according to Philo's philosophy, is realised twice only, once in the noumenal, and again, less perfectly, in the phenomenal world. In the phenomenal world in which Abraham lived, he could be but one only of the many individuals representing the logos or the idea of man, and his being taken as representing the Logos could mean no more than that he was a perfect realisation of what the logos of man was meant to be, or that the full measure of the logos as divine reason dwelt in him, as light and as the rebuking conscience45. Here too we must learn, what we have often to learn in studying the history of religion and philosophy, that when we have to deal with thoughts not fully elaborated and cleared, it is a mistake to try to represent them as clearer than they were when left to us by their authors.
Restricting ourselves, however, to the technical terms used by Philo and others, I think we may safely say that whosoever employs the phrase υἱὸς μονογϵνής, the only begotten Son, be he Philo, or the author of the Fourth Gospel, or St. Clement, or Origen, uses ancient Greek language and thought, and means by them what they originally meant in Greek.
Philo was satisfied with having found in the Greek Logos what he and many with him were looking for, the bridge between the Human and the Divine, which had been broken in religion by the inapproachableness of Jehovah, and in philosophy by the incompatibility between the Absolute Being and the phenomenal world. He does not often dwell on ecstatic visions which are supposed to enable the soul to see and feel the presence of God. In a beautiful allegory of Jacob's dream, he says: ‘This is an image of the soul starting up from the sleep of indifference, learning that the world is full of God, a temple of God. The soul has to rise,’ he says, ‘from the sensible world to the spiritual world of ideas, till it attains to knowledge of God, which is vision or communion of the soul with God, attainable only by the purest, and by them but rarely, that is in moments of ecstasy.’
It is clear that this current which carried Hellenic ideas into a Jewish stream of thought, was not confined to the Jews of Alexandria, but reached Jerusalem and other towns inhabited by educated Jews. Much has been written as to whether the author of the Fourth Gospel borrowed his doctrine of the incarnate Logos directly from Philo. It seems to me a question which, it is almost impossible to answer either way. Dr. Westcott, whose authority is deservedly high, does not seem inclined to admit a direct influence. Even Professor Harnack (l.c. i. p. 85) thinks that the Logos of St. John has little more than its name in common with the Logos of Philo. But no one can doubt that the same general current through which the name of Logos and all that it implies, reached Philo and the Jews, must have reached the author of the Johannean Gospel also, Such words as Logos and Logos monogenes are historical facts, and exist once and once only. Whoever wrote the beginning of that Gospel must have been in touch with Greek and Judaeo-Alexandrian philosophy, and must have formed his view of God and the world under that inspiration. In the eyes of the historian, and still more of the student of language, this seems to be beyond the reach of doubt, quite as much as that whoever speaks of ‘the categorical imperative’ has been directly or indirectly in contact with Kant.
The early Christians were quite aware that their pagan opponents charged them with having borrowed their philosophy from Plato and Aristotle46. Nor was there any reason why this should have been denied. Truth may safely be borrowed from all quarters, and it is not the less true because it has been borrowed. But the early Christians were very angry at this charge, and brought the same against their Greek critics. They called Plato an Attic Moses, and accused him of having stolen his wisdom from the Bible. Whoever was right in these recriminations, they show at all events the close relations which existed between the Greeks and Christians in the early days of the new Gospel, and this is the only thing important to us as historians.
We cannot speak with the same certainty with regard to other more or less technical terms applied to the Logos by Philo, such as πρωτόγονος, the first born, ϵἰκὼν θϵου̑, the likeness of God, ἄνθρωπος θϵου̑, the man of God, παράδϵιγμα, the pattern, σκιά, the shadow, and more particularly ἀρχιϵρϵύς, the high priest, παράκλητος, the intercessor47, &c. But the important point is that all these names, more or less technical, were known to Philo, long before they were used by Christian writers, that the ideas contained in them were of ante-Christian origin, and if accepted by the followers of Christ, could at first have been accepted by them in their antecedent meaning only. Nay, may we now go a step further, and say that, unless these words had been used in their peculiar meaning by Philo and by his predecessors and contemporaries, we should never have heard of them in Christian literature? Is not this the strongest proof that nothing of the best thought of the Greek and of the Jewish world was entirely lost, and that Christianity came indeed in the fulness of time to blend the pure metal that had been brought to light by the toil of centuries in the East and in the West into a new and stronger metal, the religion of Christ? If we read the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, almost every other word and thought seems to be of Greek workmanship. I put the words most likely to be of Greek rather than Jewish origin in italics:—In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God48. All things were made by him. In him was life, and the life was the light49 of the world. It was the true light which lighteth every man. And the Word was made flesh—and we behold his glory50 as of the only begotten of the Father. No one hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him51.’
We have thus seen how the Jews, with whom the gulf between the invisible and the visible world had probably become wider than with any other people, succeeded nevertheless, nay possibly on that very account, in drawing the bonds between God and man as closely together as they can be drawn, and that they did so chiefly with the help of inspiration received from Greek philosophy. God before the creation was, according to Philo, sufficient for Himself, and even after the creation He remained the same (De mut. nom. 5, p. 585). When Philo calls Him the creator (κτίστης), the Demiurgos, and the Father, he does this under certain well-understood limitations. God does not create directly, but only through the Logos and the Powers. The Logos, therefore, the thought of God, was the bond that united heaven and earth, and through it God could be addressed once more as the Father, in a truer sense than He had ever been before. The world and all that was within it was recognised as the true Son, sprung from the Father, yet inseparable from the Father. The world was once more full of God, and yet in His highest nature God was above the world, unspotted from the world, eternal and unchangeable.
The one point in Philo's philosophy which seems to me not clearly reasoned out is the exact relation of the individual soul to God52. Here the thoughts of the Old Testament seem to clash in Philo's mind with the teachings of his Greek masters, and to confuse what may be called his psychology. That Philo looked upon human nature as twofold, as a mixture of body and soul (σω̑μα and ψυχή) is clear enough. The body made of the elements is the abode, the temple, but also the tomb of the soul. The body is generally conceived as an evil, it is even called a corpse which we have to carry about with us through life. It includes the senses and the passions arising from the pleasures of the senses, and is therefore considered as the source of all evil. We should have expected that Philo, the philosopher, would have treated man as part of the manifold Divine Logos, and that the imperfection of his nature would have been accounted for, like all imperfections in nature, by the incomplete ascendancy of the Logos over matter. But here the Old Testament doctrine comes in that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. On the strength of this, Philo recognises the eternal element of the soul in the divine spirit in man (τὸ θϵι̑ον πνϵυ̑μα), while Soul (ψυχά) has generally with him a far wider meaning. It comprehends all conscious life, and therefore sensation also (αἴσθησις), though this would seem to be peculiar to the flesh (σω̑μα or σάρξ). The soul is often subdivided by Philo, according to Plato's division, into three parts, which may be rendered approximately by reason (νου̑ς καὶ λόγος), spirit (θυμός), and appetite (ϵ̓πιθυμήα). Sometimes perception (αἴσθησις), language (λόγος), and mind (νου̑ς) are said to be the three instruments of knowledge (De Congr. erud. gr. 18, p. 533). Then again each part is divided into two, making six, while the seventh, or he who divides them, is called the holy and divine Logos (ὁ ἱϵρὸς καὶ θϵι̑ος λόγος). In other places Philo adopts the Stoical division of the soul into seven parts, that is, the five senses, speech, and the reproductive power, but a separate place is reserved for the sovereign or thinking part (τὸ ἡγϵμονικόν, i.e. ὁ νους), and it is said that God breathed His spirit into that only, but not into the soul as the assemblage of the senses, speech and generative power. Hence one part of the soul, the unintelligent (ἄλογον), is ascribed to the blood (αἱ̑μα), the other to the divine spirit (πνϵυ̑μα θϵι̑ον); one is perishable, the other immortal. The immortal part was the work of God Himself, the perishable (as in Plato), that of subordinate powers. What has been well brought out by Philo, is that the senses, which in man are always accompanied by thought, are by themselves passive and dull, and could present images of present things only, not of past (memory) or of future things (νου̑ς). It is not the eye that sees, but the mind (νου̑ς) sees through the eye, and without the mind nothing would remain of the impressions made on the senses. Philo also shows how the passions and desires are really the result of perception (αἴσθησις), and its accompanying pleasures and pains that war against the mind, and he speaks of the death of the soul, when overcome by the passions. This, however, can be metaphorical only, for the higher portion of the soul or the divine spirit breathed into man by God cannot perish. This divine spirit, a conception, it would seem, not of Greek origin, is sometimes spoken of by the Stoic term ἀπόσπασμα, but Philo carefully guards against the supposition that any portion could ever be detached from the Supreme Divine Being. He explains it as an expansion from God, and calls the mind (νου̑ς) which it confers on the soul of man, the nearest image and likeness of the eternal and blessed Idea.
We must not however expect a strictly consistent terminology in Philo, nor allow ourselves to be misled when we sometimes find him using mind or nous in the more general sense of soul (ψυχή). What is important to us is that when it is necessary, he does distinguish between the two. But even then he hesitates between the philosophical opinion of the Stoics, that the mind after all is material, though not made of the four ordinary elements, but of a fifth, the heavenly ether, and the teaching of Moses that it was the image of the Divine and the Invisible53.
But even if the soul is conceived as material, or at all events, as ethereal, it is declared to be of heavenly origin, and believed to return to the pure ether as to a father54.
If, on the contrary, the mind is conceived as the breath (πνϵυ̑μα) of God, then it returns to God, or rather it was never separated from God, but only dwelt in man. And here again the Biblical idea comes in, that some chosen men such as prophets are full of the divine spirit, and different so far from ordinary mortals.
Yet with all his admiration for the Logos as of divine origin, Philo seldom went so far as the Platonists. He never allowed that the soul even in its highest ecstasy could actually see, God, as little, he says, as the soul can see itself (De Mut. nom. 2, p. 579). But in every other respect Reason was to him the supreme power in the world and in the human mind. If therefore an Alexandrian philosopher, familiar with Philo's philosophy and terminology, became a Christian, he really raised Christ to the highest position, short of primary Divinity, which he could conceive. He declared ipso facto his belief that the Divine Logos or the Word was made flesh in Christ, that is to say, he recognised in Christ the full realisation of the divine idea of man, and he claimed at the same time for himself and for all true Christians the power to become the sons of God. This was expressed in unmistakable language by Athanasius, when he said that the Logos, the Word of God, became man that we might be made God, and again by St. Augustine, Factus eat Deus homo, ut homo fieret Deus55. Whatever we may think of these speculations, we may, I believe, as historians recognise in them a correct account of the religious and intellectual ferment in the minds of the earliest Greek and Jewish converts to Christianity, who, without breaking with their philosophical convictions, embraced with perfect honesty the religion of Christ. Three important points were gained by this combination of their ancient philosophy with their new religion, the sense of the closest relationship between human and divine nature, the pre-eminent position of Christ as the Son of God, in the truest sense, and at the same time the potential brotherhood between Him and all mankind.
How far this interpretation of the Logos, as we find it not only in Philo, but among the earliest converts to Christianity, may be called orthodox, is not a question that concerns the historian. The word orthodox does not exist in his dictionary. There is probably no term which has received so many interpretations at the hands of theologians as that of Logos, and no verse in the New Testament which conveys so little meaning to modern readers as the first in the Gospel of St. John. Theologians are at liberty to interpret it, each according to his own predilection, but the historical student has no choice; he must take every word in the sense in which it was used at the time by those who used it.
Jupiter as Son of God.
That the intellectual process by which the Greek philosophy adapted itself to the teaching of Christianity was in accordance with the spirit of the time, is best shown by an analogous process which led Neo-Platonist philosophers to discover their philosophical theories in their own ancient mythology also. Thus Plotinus speaks of the Supreme God generating a beautiful son, and producing all things in his essence without any labour or fatigue. For this deity being delighted with his work, and loving his offspring, continues and connects all things with himself, pleased both with himself and with the splendours his off spring exhibits. But since all these are beautiful, and those which remain are still more beautiful, Jupiter, the son of intellect, alone shines forth externally, proceeding from the splendid retreats of his father. From which last son we may behold as an image the greatness of his Sire, and of his brethren, those divine ideas that abide in occult union with their father56.
Here we see that Jupiter, originally the Father of Gods and men, has to yield his place to the Supreme Being, and as a phenomenal God to take the place of the son of God, or as the Logos. This is Greek philosophy trying to pervade and quicken the ancient Greek religion, as we saw it trying to be reconciled with the doctrines of Christianity by recognising the divine ideal of perfection and goodness as realised in Christ, and as to be realised in time by all who are to become the sons of God. The key-note of all these aspirations is the same, a growing belief that the human soul comes from God and returns to God, nay that in strict philosophical language it was never torn away (ἀπόσπασμα) from God, that the bridge between man and God was never broken, but was only rendered invisible for a time by the darkness of passions and desires engendered by the senses and the flesh.