Since Christianity, as a world religion, was heavily influenced by the Greeks, students of the Bible are well advised to learn something about the ancient world of the Greeks. Alexander the Great made his contributions to the ancient world three hundred years before Christianity appeared.
Caution: The Greek system emphasizes principle and abstraction.
For a fuller discussion of these ideas, students may wish to read Jesus Christ: Sun of God ,upon which these notes are based in part. You will note that "Sun" rather than "Son" is used in this title, revealing a particular perspective taken in the ensuing discussion.
Theory of Knowledge
Initiation: We inherit a world of external experiences but also, one of inner understanding, and the initiatory experience moves us from appearance to insight, from darkness to light.The typical situation of humanity is that of appearance, becoming, and change as opposed to essences or pure principle, Being, and permanence.
The universe may be viewed as a theophany: a manifestation of the divine.
Before Christianity, the sun was regarded as a doorway between the sensible and intelligible worlds.
In Plato, thought is divided into levels: an upper world of forms, principles, Being; a lower world of appearances. Individuals follow four pathways in their initiation: sensation, opinion, scientific or analytic reason, and direct knowledge.
Sensation--not always reliable
Opinion (pistis)--belief or faith, can be true or false
Scientific analysis--divisive, compares and contrasts, differentiates between this and that, subject and object
Direct knowledge (gnosis)--mind becomes unified with the object of knowledge.
Inadequacy of Language
One of the supreme challenges the student faces is language and its limitations. If we accept the existence of higher cognitive states, we also have to admit language is inadequate to describe them. Words exist as symbols, removing us from reality: if, for example, a circle exists in pure form, then we must distinguish the pure reality from the name, the definition, the representation, and knowledge of the circle that exists in the interior state. The fullness of reality as it exists and is experienced can never be fully expressed. Mythology and symbolism permit expressions of the Eternal which transcends shallow, one dimensional experience.
The ancients were concerned to reach knowledge of higher realities: to know the secrets of the kingdom of God (in Christianity), the hidden pattern of creation which underlies the foundation of the world.
The Structure of the Universe
The universe is both one and many, a unity and a multiplicity, as reflected in the sacred symbolism of Delphi: Apollo represents the principle of unity; Dionysus represents multiplicity; Apollo, recollection; Dionysus, manifestation.
The Nature of God
The idea of one God is an old one:
Xenophanes (half a millenium before Christ) spoke of one God;
Maximus, at the time of Jesus, speaks of one God, king of all and father;
For the Egyptians, the physical sun was a symbol of the one transcendent God;
Divinities were often associated with fertility, the vegetation cycle, and the power resurrection and reanimation:
The Babylonians represented superior gods as a whole number;
The letters of both the Hebrew and Greek alphabet stood for numbers; a system evolved whereby number was regarded divine; Christian gnostics employed gematria and mathemathics;
The Greeks understood that creation required that Unity express itself in Diversity.
Interestingly, the Greeks evolved a concept of actual number (arithmetic), number in space (geometry), number in time (harmony), and number in space and time (astronomy).. The Greek conceptual system emphasized both the quantitative (counting) and qualitative (relationships) aspects of number. The system holds in dialectical tension a part to whole relationship, time to space, and multiplicity to unity. The cosmos itself is beauty and harmony. Harmony is achieved as a joining together of parts, a harmonizing or mediation of extremes. To know ourselves (Socreates) is to know our place in the universe; to achieve harmony, we avoid extremes, doing nothing to excess (Paul).
The Divine Nature of Numbers
Pythagoras taught that all things are arranged and defined by Number.
The Pythagoreans believed Number represented a celestial power.
The Babylonians represented their superior gods by number (20 Shamesh; Sin 30; Ea 40; Bel 50; Anu 60).
The Greek and Hebrew alphabets also stood for numbers: words can be represented as numbers and numbers as words. This usage is known as gematria, its earliest use recorded on Babylonian clay tablets.
The Alexandrine Basilides, a gnostic teacher, identifies Abraxas, the solar deity, as the ruler of 365 heavens, the numbers equaling the number of days in the year.
St. Jerome reports that the name of the solar divinity Mithras is also equivalent to 365.
666 in Revelation is a reference to gematria: associated with the sun, the magic square contains the first 36 numbers arranged in a 6 X 6 grid, so that each line of numbers, whether added verticaly, horizonally, or diagonally from corner to corner equals the number 111 with the value of the entire square being 666. In the Hebrew Kabbalah, Sorath, the Spirit of the sSun, is 666 while Nakiel, the Intelligence of the Sun, is 111.
Triple numbers were thus thought to have solar significance
The name Jesus, in fact, has numerical significance: Jesus is a perfect name encompassing all of creation, reflected in the perfection of the 24 letters of the classical Greek alphabet: 8 letters denoting hundreds, 8 denoting tens, 8 denoting ones. The Greek letters of Jesus add up to 888. The name Jesus contains the Alpha and the Omega, the all encompassing spiritual plentitude.
Gematria also has to do with geometry from which it takes its name: the value of heaven is 891 (the circle) while God has 284 (the circumference). The abode of the divinity then is the heavenly sphere.
The Divine Logos
Logos designates the power of reason, pattern or order of things, the principle of relationship, and an organized articulation of something: 1)order or pattern 2)ratio or proportion 3) oratio, a discourse, articulation or account, even a sermon 4) reason 5) principle 6)mediation or harmony. Logos, as a principle, is the natural order of things which exists both within the natural fabric of the universe and within the human mind. The logos in a cosmic sense encompasses all of these meanings and refers to the underlying order of the universe, the blueprint on which all creation is based.
Logos represents the heart of the cosmic pattern and the source of existence; its emblem is the sun, the source of light and life.
In Hellenistic Alexandria, the sun came to be regarded as the doorway linking together the sensible and the intelligible spheres.
In Hellenistic cosmology, the First Cause was envisioned as transcendending human understanding.Logos is the first harmonically differentiated image of the First Cause, representing the first level of the manifestation of Being. Logos is the emanation of the Transcendent Absolute. Light and Life were associated with the Logos. Eternity is the image of God; Cosmos is the image of Eternity; the Sun is the image of the Cosmos, and Man is the image of the Sun. The Celestial Man is the perfect archetype and exemplar of humanity.
An early Christian idea of the churck (ekklesia) was seen by some to be a social manifestation of the celestial harmony, whereby all individuals might be unified and uplifted into a greater whole.
Some see the Fourth Gospel as reflecting Hellenistic thought:
Logos--in the beginning, the Source, the Fount of existence, contains principles of Light and Life; shines out and illuminates darkness, matter, forgetfulness, unawakened spiritual nature; Logos becomes flesh, became incarnate via the Humanity; Logos became "tabernacled" in the human body; Logos reveals God (whom no one has seen)through consciousness and through the structure of the universe itself. In Greek thought, the Logos is a celestial mediator, the "geometric mean" between extremes, the connecting principle whereby the many are joined back to the One.
John--withness concerning the Light.
Kosmos--reflection of Logos, existing here and now in the world; Logos is required to become aware of the higher realities.
New Law--Logos manifested among humanity, as was the Old Law given through Moses.
Other religions have a similar personification: Greeks represented Logos in Apollo, god of geometry and music, number and harmony; Hermes was also called "the Logos" by Greeks: Hermes is the Word who expressed and fashioned the universe--things that have been, are, and will be; in Egypt, Hermes is identified with Thoth, personification of universal order, the heart and the tongue of the sun god Ra; Thoth was the means by which the will of the gods was translated into speech. Greek Hermetic tractates (100 B.C.E to 350 C.E.)emphasize the mystery of the soul's rebirth, transfiguration, and the discovery of the inner man. Consider, The Secret Discourse Concerning Rebirth: Tat proclaims, "I know not, thrice greatest one, from what womb a man can be born again, nor from what seed."