Plato’s Teachers

The early Greek philosopher, Plato, is indebted to the Hebrews for his understanding of God and the Good.

At least that’s what the second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr thought. In his work “Dialogue with Trypho” Justin Martyr outlines the influences in Plato’s thought. When it comes to God, Martyr says, Plato comes really close to what the Hebrews believed for centuries before Plato emerged from Socrates’ tutelage to become the world’s most influential Athenian philosopher. I love Justin’s final line in the excerpt — his prayer for philosophy to lead many others to a closer apprehension of the one true and living God:

Whence, O Plato, is that hint of the truth which thou givest? Whence this rich copiousness of diction, which proclaims piety with oracular utterance? The tribes of the barbarians, he says, are wiser than these; I know thy teachers, even if thou wouldst conceal them. You have learned geometry from the Egyptians, astronomy from the Babylonians; the charms of healing you have got from the Thracians; the Assyrians also have taught you many things; but for the laws that are consistent with truth, and your sentiments respecting God, you are indebted to the Hebrews:

Who do not worship through vain deceits
The works of men, of gold, and brass, and silver, and ivory,
And images of dead men, of wood and stone,
Which other men, led by their foolish inclinations, worship;
But raise to heaven pure arms:
When they rise from bed, purifying themselves with water,
And worship alone the Eternal, who reigns for evermore.

And let it not be this one man alone–Plato; but, O philosophy, hasten to produce many others also, who declare the only true God to be God, through His inspiration, if in any measure they have grasped the truth.

You can read the entire dialogue here.