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Dictionary of Bible Themes – 5441 philosophy
5441 philosophy

5441 philosophy

An ideology or system of values which seeks to understand and, through rational argument, to investigate the nature and meaning of reality. Scripture exposes the emptiness of philosophy based purely upon human wisdom, while affirming that, at its best, human wisdom points towards God, and can serve as a preparation for the gospel.

The gospel represents the height of human reason

Ac 17:18-23

The quest for understanding

Ecc 7:25; Ac 17:18-21 See also Job 34:2-4; Ecc 1:13; Ecc 7:27,29-8:1; Ecc 12:12

The benefit of received wisdom

Job 15:17-18; Pr 1:2-4; Ecc 12:9-11

The limits of human enquiry

Job 11:7-9; Ecc 8:16-17 See also Job 38:36-37; Ps 145:3; Ecc 3:11; Isa 40:28; Isa 55:8-9; Ac 17:23; Ro 11:33-34; Isa 40:13; 1Co 1:20-21

The danger of philosophical speculation

Col 2:8; 1Ti 6:20-21 See also Gal 4:3; Col 2:20; 1Ti 1:4; 1Ti 6:4; Tit 3:9

True insight is given by God

Job 12:13; Ecc 2:26; Mt 13:11 pp Lk 8:10; 2Ti 3:7

True meaning is found in relationship with God

Ac 17:24-28 See also Ecc 12:1; Rev 4:11


Paul meets some Epicureans in Athens Ac 17:16-18 Followers of the Greek philosophy founded by Epicurus (341-270 B.C.). In strong contrast to the Stoics, they taught that pleasure, and the avoidance of all disturbance, pain and fear, was the chief goal of life.

Epicureans’assessment of Paul and his message Ac 17:18,18 Paul’s listeners mistook the Greek word for “resurrection” (“anastasis”) for the name of a strange god. While Epicureans did not deny the existence of gods, they believed they had no interest in the lives of human beings, and that therefore everything in life was the result of mere chance.

Epicurean and Stoic philosophers bring Paul to the Areopagus Ac 17:19-20

The response of Epicureans and others to Paul’s preaching Ac 17:32


Docetism questions the reality of the incarnation 2Jn 7 Docetism is a denial of the physical reality of Jesus Christ’s incarnation that may have been prompted by the typically Greek perception of physical matter as evil. See also 1Jn 2:22-23 Scripture affirms the physical incarnation of Jesus Christ: Jn 1:14; 1Ti 3:16; Heb 2:14 Scripture emphasises the physical death of the Son of God: Ro 8:3; Php 2:6-8; 1Jn 4:10

Docetic views are identified as heretical 1Jn 4:1-3 See also Jn 6:53-56


Contrary to the teaching of Gnosticism, the world is not inherently evil 1Ti 4:4 Gnosticism was a religious philosophy whose fundamental belief in the inherent evil of the created realm led to a number of heretical teachings about creation, human nature, the person of Jesus Christ, salvation and ethics. Creation is God’s work and is therefore good: Ge 1:31; Ne 9:6; Ps 19:1; Ac 17:24; Col 1:15-17; Rev 4:11 Creation, though fallen, will be redeemed and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ: Ro 8:20-21; Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:19-20

Contrary to the teaching of Gnosticism, human beings are not sparks of divinity trapped in evil, fleshly bodies Ac 17:26 Human beings are a good creation of God: Ge 1:26-27; Ge 2:7; Ps 8:3-8 Human beings can know bodily redemption and use their bodies to serve God: Ro 6:12-13; Ro 8:22-23; Ro 12:1; 1Co 6:12-18,19-20; 1Th 5:23 The future existence of glorified human beings will be a bodily existence, not just a spiritual one: Ro 8:10-11; 1Co 15:35-44; 2Co 5:1-4; Php 3:20-21; 2Ti 2:16-18

Contrary to the teaching of Gnosticism, Jesus Christ did not merely appear in human form Jn 1:14 The Son of God became a real flesh-and-blood human being: Lk 24:36-43; Col 2:9; Heb 2:14; 1Jn 1:1-3; 1Jn 4:2-3; 2Jn 7 As a man, the Son of God experienced death on the cross: Jn 19:33-34; 1Co 2:8; Php 2:6-8; Col 1:19-22; 1Jn 5:6

Contrary to the teaching of Gnosticism, salvation is not found simply in a divine revelation of special knowledge Salvation is by faith in the crucified Christ: 1Co 3:18-20; Col 2:8,18-19; 1Ti 6:20-21 All knowledge and wisdom needed for full salvation are to be found in Christ: 1Co 1:18-25; Col 1:19-20; Col 2:2-4,8-10; 2Pe 1:3

Contrary to the teaching of Gnosticism, Christian behaviour is not to be marked by licence and ritualistic self-denial There is no value in empty ceremonial observance or ritualistic self-denial: Mt 15:10-11 pp Mk 7:14-15; Ro 14:5-6; Col 2:16-17,20-23; 1Ti 4:1-5 Christian behaviour is to be marked by liberty, not by licence: 1Co 6:12-20; Gal 5:13; Col 3:5-14; Tit 1:15-16; 1Pe 2:16; 1Jn 1:5-6; 1Jn 2:3-6; 1Jn 3:3-10; Jude 4


Paul encounters the Stoics in Athens Ac 17:16-18 The Stoics were a leading philosophical group based, like their rivals the Epicureans, in Athens. Stoics held that God was the inner reason of the universe and that salvation lay in accepting one’s place in the established order.

Stoics ridicule Paul Ac 17:18

Stoics misunderstand Paul’s message Ac 17:18

Paul presents a view of God very different from that of the Stoics Ac 17:24-25 In contrast to Stoic belief God is the Creator; Ac 17:26-27 In contrast to Stoic belief God is a personal being.

Response of the Stoics to Paul’s message Ac 17:32-34

See also

2033Christ, humanity
5002human race & creation
8237doctrine, false
8748false religion
8750false teachings
9311resurrection of Christ

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