During the second and third centuries, the awe inspiring knowledge of the `agape' of Christ began to retreat in the second and third centuries the face of the Hellenization of the Church, as the Greek philosophies which infiltrated the early Church were accompanied by the pivotal doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, which is the one doctrine which defines all others and is the basis of commonality of all pagan religions. Thus the doctrine of the conditional mortality of the soul - which gives knowledge of Christ experiencing the `second death' on behalf of the penitent believer and thus defines the agape of Christ, was gradually replaced by the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, with the result that the unconditional love (agape) of God became obscured by the self-seeking love, or eros of the Greeks, resulting in the belief that God plays hide and seek from us, and we must go in search of Him so that we might find Him. This error lay at the foundation of a host of other errors which then multiplied upon it, as an attempt was made by the early Church Fathers to explain how Christ could save fallen man while not having His divinity corrupted by the material plane of existence. As a result, the apologists were men who lived between 100 and 200 A.D, and utilized the reason of Greek logic in an attempt to defend Christianity against paganism. While they believed that the dangers which were confronting the early Church were the obvious errors which were professed by the gnostics of the day, they did not perceive that within the very arguments which they used to defend the Church lay the seeds of abject heresy which later served to destroy it:
`The true fountain of theological apostasy was not found in the wild theories of the Christian Gnostics and other heretics whose notions were so obviously non-biblical that even the unlearned could see their errors. Rather, it was found in the background of Hellenism that pervaded the Gentile world at the time of Christ. Christ and His apostles had warned the early Church against false prophets and false teachers (Matt. 7: 15, 24: 11, 24. Mark 13: 22, 2 Pet. 2: 1; 1 John 4: 1). Their warning did not relate to some distant future threat. They were immediate and urgent. The Saviour's warning in Matthew 7: 15 was in the present tense. The warning in 2 Peter 2: 1, written in about 66 A.D., was in the future tense, but the similar warning issued by John in 1 John 4: 1, written more than 25 years later, indicates that Peter's prophecy was already being fulfilled. The Apologists were aware of these warnings and believed they were aimed at the heretics, especially the Jewish and Christian Gnostics and other groups that ignored the Bible to import an almost paganistic theology into Christianity. Thanks to the Apologists, these hereticial groups were ultimately put down by the end of the second century, but their own errors have proved far more difficult to excise.' (`How Greek Philosophy Corrupted the Christian Concept of God', R. Hopkins, 2009, pp. 19, 20.)
`Ignatius Theophorus (c. 30 A.D - c. 107 A.D), was the third Bishop of Antioch, is regarded as an apostolic Father of the Church and is reputed to have been one of the babies blessed by Christ - theophorus means"blessed of God". Polycarp(69 A.D - 155 A.D), was Bishop of Smyrna and is believed to have sat at the feet of the disciple John as a child. Remaining true to the faith, these men followed in the footsteps of the apostle Paul as viewing Christ crucified as the central tenet of their faith. How could it be otherwise when men such as these received their heritage directly from the disciples of Christ? For while they lived the pagan philosophies of the Greeks could make little headway into the Church. However, this all changed shortly toward the end of the second century when the influence of these men began to wane: `The ancient Church differs most of all from Hellenism in its belief in the Resurrection. Christian tradition affirmed the 'Resurrection of the flesh,' which the Apologists opposed to the Hellenistic doctrine of the 'Immortality of the soul.' The antithesis was conscious and intentional, for at no point so much as this was their opposition to the Hellenistic spirit felt by the early Christians. The Platonic, Hellenistic doctrine of the Immortality of the soul seemed to the Apologists a godless and blasphemous doctrine, which above all they must attack and destroy(Justin Dial. lxxx. 3-4). Their motto in this regard might well be Tatian's word: 'Not Immortal, O Greeks, is the soul in itself, but mortal. Yet it is possible for it not to die.' (Tatian `Oratio and Graecos, xiii. 1).
The difference between Christian and non-Christian in this matter was so great that belief in the 'Resurrection of the flesh' could become a shibboleth. One who believes in the 'Immortality of the soul' shows thereby that he is not a Christian. As Justin [Martyr] says: 'If you have fallen in with some who are called Christians... and who say that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians.' (Dial. lxxx. 4.) (`Agape and Eros', Anders Nygren, tr. by Philip S Watson, 1969, pp. 280 - 281.)
These philosophies could not readily gain acceptance into the early Church before she had first accepted the doctrine of the `natural immortality of the soul', as it is this doctrine which is the foundation of all pagan religions - simply because it teaches that death does not result in the entire dissolution of the entire person, body and soul, but is instead the gate through which we must pass so that we might enter into a more enlightened existence. It is no coincidence that `Babel' is derived from two words Bab, meaning gate, and El, meaning God; which literally translates as the gateway of God; for in the pagan `Mystery' religions, which originated at Babylon, we find that the pagan conception of the Trinity was the means by which the soul might return to the one-in-all pantheistic god from which it first emanated. Therefore the majority of Christians of the first and second centuries strenuously resisted the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, as it completely negates the idea that sin results in the entire dissolution of the entire individual body and soul, unless one accepts Christ as their personal Saviour! For this reason, Justin Martyr and other early Christians took the extreme position that one could not be considered a Christian if they believed in this doctrine!
`It was not until the second and third century that the doctrine of an immortal soul gained a foothold in the church. J. A. Beeth summed it up very well."The phrase, the soul immortal, so frequent and conspicuous in the writings of Plato, we have not found in pre-Christian literature outside the influence of Greek philosophy; nor have we found it in Christian literature until the latter part of the second century. We have noticed that all the earliest Christian writers who use this phrase were familiar with the teachings of Plato; that one of these, Tertullian, expressly refers both the phrase and doctrine to him; and that the early Christian writers never support this doctrine by appeals to the Bible, but only by arguments similar to those of Plato . . . We have failed to find any traces of this doctrine in the Bible . . . It is altogether alien, both in phrase and thought, to the teaching of Christ and the apostles." Immortality of the Soul, Pages 53, 54. Tertullian is truthful about where his belief came from when he said he based it on Plato, not the Bible. He said, "For some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many . . . I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, 'Every soul is immortal' " Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, Page 1916.' (`The Resurrection and Immortality', W. West, 2006, p. 100.)
It is during the second and third centuries that we begin to see the apostolic faith of the apostolic Fathers begin to be replaced by the faith of apologists whose philosophies were derived from the same well from which Justin Martyr had drunk; for he assumed the robe of the philosopher as he sought to differentiate what he believed to be the philosophy of Christianity from the philosophy of the Greeks in his defence of Christianity, by using Greek logic, or reason as his defence. On the one hand he attempted to point out some of the more obvious errors of Platonism, such as the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, while on the other he attempted to reconcile the areas of Platonism which he was in agreement with, to Christianity: `Without doubt Justin Martyr deserves his reputation as "the most important second-century apologist" because of his creative ideas about Christ as cosmic Logos and about Christianity as true philosophy. Many later Christian thinkers simply assumed the truth of Justin's suggestions and arguments in these areas and built on them in developing their own theologies . . . Tradition (from [historian] Eusebius) has it that Justin continued to wear his philosophical robe or tunic after converting to Christianity - no doubt a matter of some gossip and controversy among Christians in Rome when Justin arrrived there to begin teaching Christianity about 150. It is clear from Justin's writings that he considered himself a Christian philosopher - a philosopher of Christ - just as he had been a philosopher of Plato. Also it is clear that he considered the two compatible upon many points. He referred to Plato's teacher Socrates as a "Christian before Christ." It may have been against Justin that Tertullian coined his famous rhetorical question "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? [He then went on to say`What concord is there with the [Platonic} Academy and the Chruch? What between heretics and Jerusalem?]" (`The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform', 1919, R. Olsen, p. 59.)
Obviously, in Justin's mind there was little difference between Greek Platonic philosophy and Christianity, as he believed them to be of a similar faith which is ultimately derived from the same source! Tertullian (c. 160 - c. 220 A.D.) could not have been much better, for although he protested the syncretisation of Greek philosophy with Christianity, and regarded neo-Platonism as heresy, he clearly admitted that his belief in the immortality of the soul was derived from Plato, and not the Bible!
`The Trinity doctrine was developed in succession to the binitarian [two god] theology of Irenaeus and the Apologists during the course of the 3rd and 4th centuries. This development owed something to the philosophical concepts and traditions; for example Justin and the trinitarians Clement and Origen (in different ways) were heavily influenced by Platonism, and Tertullian was a Stoic before he became a Christian. Converted around 195, he was at first apparently a binitarian, inheriting the Logos doctrine from the Apologists. In about 207 Tertullian converted to Montanism, a sect that emphasized spiritual gifts, and to whom the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, was a substantial divine Person in its own right (he later left the Church over its refusal to recognise Montanism). It is understandable therefore that Tertullian would have believed in three distinctive divine persons. However, Tertullian was also a firm believer in the unity of God. The consequence was the first attempt to define God in terms of three persons, but only one being or substance.' (`Is God a Trinity?', D. Kemball-Cook, p. 34.)
Tertullian's conception of the Trinity is also derived from Platonism and for that reason is also suspect. As the pagan conception of the immortality of the soul expresses the belief that the soul yearns to return to the One from which it first came, and the first two`Forms' were considered to be divine emanations of the One, then therefore the doctrine of the immortality of the soul cannot be divorced from that of the Trinity - for the two doctrines are so firmly welded together that it could even be said that at its basis, the natural immortality of the soul is indeed a revelation of Trinitarian process. As it was with the pagan conception of the Trinity, so it is with Christianity today. The Christian conception of the Trinity has retained the idea that the soul is of natural right immortal, and Christ, as the Logos of God, and the Holy Spirit, which is perceived as the Redeemer of God, echoes the pagan conception of the emanation of `the Forms', from whence it first came, and is the Christian `gateway to God'; just at the pagan conception of the Trinity was considered to be the very same thing. For just as the pagans believed that this doctrine is a `Mystery' that cannot be fully understood, so also do Christians: `The doctrine of the Trinity is a great mystery, such as cannot be comprehended by a finite mind . . . namely, that though a doctrine be revealed, it cannot be fully comprehended. It is in this sense that we call the doctrine of the Trinity a mystery.' (`A Body of Divinity', Vol. 1, T. Ridgely, J. Wilson, 1855, p. 138.)
Yet the Bible completely refutes this, for as we are informed in Paul's Epistle to the Romans: `For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.' (Romans 1: 18 -20.)
The Bible clearly informs us that if we believe this, we are without excuse, for the eternal power and Godhead can be understood, and is clearly seen! The following prophecy warns us in the direst terms of Christianity imbibing of the tenets of the `Mystery religions' of ancient Babylon, which (as we have already noted) found their culmination in Greek philosophy: `And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.' (Revelation 17: 15. NKJV)
The primary reason why the Bible warns us of these `Mysteries' which found their way into the early Church, is because they ultimately obscure the character of God, by positing God as the God of Eros of the Greeks. Instead of Christianity owing its development to doctrines which are found with the pages of Scripture, it instead owes its development to the doctrines which were believed by Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexndria (his contemporay) Origen Adamantius (Clement's pupil) - and which then influenced Athanasius, whose writings influenced the formation of the Nicene and Athanasian (Chalcedonian)Creeds, the three Cappadocians, who saw these creeds arrive in a settled form, Augustine - whose doctrines further influenced the further developmnent of the Catholic Church and Protestantism - particularly in the doctrine of `original sin', and Thomas Aquinas, who primarily built upon the work of Augustine, and lived about eight hundred years after him. So if one views the Catholic Church as the Mother Church, and the Protestant Churches as her daughters, then this prophecy is entirely correct, as the two doctrines which the two systems of belief hold in common are the Mystery of the Trinity, which is ultimately derived from ancient Babylon, and the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, which is also derived from the same source. The sanctification of Sunday also goes hand in hand with these accompanying doctrines. For even the basic philosophies which girded the French Revolution were founded upon Platonic philosophy - Roussseau's Social Contract, which was published in 1762 mirrored Aristotle's deistic Prime Mover and paved the way for the French Revolution, which utilized the catch-cry of `liberty, equality and fraternity' as its basis: `The object of every revolution is to bring about a universal happiness, and this was surely declared in the French revolutionaries' principle of liberty, equality and fraternity. After almost two hundred years we see the result of their efforts, and they are not enviable. Of liberty, there is not a shred left; of equality, there is scarcely a trace; while of fraternity, there has never been a sign. Yet in spite of such observations and the dismal record of industrial growth of that nation throughout the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth, the socialist ideal spread throughout Europe and, in its wake, toppled the crowned and mitred heads of authority.' (`In the Minds of Men, Darwin and the New World Order', Ian Taylor, 3rd ed. 1994, p. 35.)
Charles Darwin, whose book `On the Origian of the Species' changed forever contemporary views on the origin of man also appealed to Aristotle as support for his theories on natural selection: ` . . . Darwin attached an historical sketch to the fifth (1869) and sixth (1872) editions of his Origins, in which he quoted Aristole as the classical forerunner for natural selection (p. xv). This was Darwin's only reference to the Greek philosophers, and in that he tripped up rather badly. He had taken the quote from Aristotle's Physics, where Aristotle (1961 ed., 36) set out Empedocles' argument for chance processes and then proceeds to show how impossible that must be. Aristotle had always maintained that nature herself is the builder, proceeding according to an inner plan and idea (teleology) and always striving for the better. Whether we call that inner working nature, an intelligence, or plainly God, this is theistic evolution and was precisely the view that Darwin would not entertain, in spite of the fact that he had paid lip service to the Creator in the conclusion to the Origin (Darwin 1860, 488). He had taken Aristotle out of context and turned him on his head to support his own theory of evolution based on chance.' (`In the Minds of Men, Darwin and the New World Order', Ian Taylor, 3rd ed. 1994, pp. 368, 369.)
It is patently obvious that a study of the historical record of the development of the Church, is that notwithstanding his good intentions, Justin Martyr is one of the first men who formulated philosophies of which the Christian world are still ensnared in today, for it is obvious that he could not grasp the difference between the agape of Christ, and the eros of the Greeks, for the donning of the philosopher's robe while he attempted to defend Christianity testifies to this, and it is from Justin where we first find the pure stream of apostolic Christianity being muddied by the speculative elements of Greek philosophy. The apostle Paul predicted that this would happen, and warned of following of philosophies which are found 'after the tradition of men':
`Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2: 8.)
Consequently, the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul became absorbed into Christianity shortly after the death of Justin; which thus opened the door for error being multiplied upon error - and much of that error still remains in various degrees in the Protestant and Catholic Churches today - for none have a clear conception of the agape of God. Or if they do, they refuse to preach it, out of fear of offending their ecumenical brethren in the name of so-called `unity of fellowship'. For although the majority of theologians are in agreement as to the origins of what is today passed off as Christian doctrine, few pastors are aware of it, and the vast majority of Christians would in fact be shocked to learn that Christianity has been adulterated by Greek philosophy, just as the apostle Paul feared it would be: `The story of Christian theology is deeply influenced by philosophy - especially Greek (Hellenistic) philosophy. That comes as a surprise and often a shock to Christtians who assume that Christianity and philosophy are opposed to one another . . . One rift running right down the middle of Christian theology from very early on has been that between Christian thinkers who wish to meet critics on their own ground and argue the faith reasonably and even philosophically, and Christian thinkers who see that endeavor as a dangerous accomodation to enemies of the faith . . . The apologists were Christian writers of the second century who attempted to defend Christianity against pagan opponents such as Celsus. While a few of them like Tertullian rejected the philosophical approach, most of the apologists attempted to demonstrate similarities between the Christian message and worldview and the best of Greek philosophy. A few even considered Christianity "true philosophy" and attempted to show its superiority as philosophy to Hellenistic thought. In the process, of course, they had to compare and contrast the two in a way that implied their commensurability.' (Olsen, p. 59.)
If we are to look at the earliest extant records which portray Christians as confusing eros with agape by calling God eros, it is to the pen of Origen Adamantius (c. 185 - 254 A.D), which we turn to, for less than a mere two hundred years after the death of Christ, we find Origen doing just that. There can be little wonder why, for as the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul specifically portrays God as `eros', and as this is a doctrine which Origen fervently believed in, then Origen's natural reaction was to promulgate the perfidy of the doctrine as sublime truth. He noted that when Ignatius was martyred, in his dying breath he exclaimed "My eros has been crucified"; which Origen attributed to as Christ - in the sense that Christ is depicted as the `eros' which has been crucified:
`Nor do I think one could be blamed if one were to call God Eros, just as John called him 'Agape'. And besides that one of the saints named Ignatius said of Christ, 'But my eros has been crucified.' (`Eros unveiled: Plato and the God of love', C. Osborne, 1996, p. 73, fn. 44; `ComCt, 71-2.)
Although there is some debate as to what Ignatius actually meant, one could hardly expect a disciple who had sat at the feet of Christ to suddenly declare that the character of Christ is `eros'! The following comment gives a far more reasonable explanation:
`This is a curious comment, for Ignatius, who did at times show an almost mystical devotion to Jesus, in this passage is not referring to Christ, but his own sensual nature, and is taking up Paul's words that`they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof'. Origen however had his own purposes. He wanted to interpret the sensual language of the Song of Songs as a mystical allegory of the relation between Christ the Bridegroom, and his Church. More specifically, he wanted to leave room for the integration of his own Platonic philosophy with the language of scripture. He was followed in this by Pseudo-Dionysius [late 5th or early 6th century], who discussed the propriety of Eros as a name of God at some length, and it passed from there into the language of mystical piety.' (`Moral Values in the Ancient World', 1959, p. 101.)
The penchant which Origen had for allegorizing away the plainest passages of Scripture, undoubtedly resulted from the baleful influence of Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - c. 215 A.D.), his teacher, who is to have been in turn a pupil of Pantanaeus (d. apx. 200 A.D), who was a Sicilian Stoic philosopher who some believe had converted to Christianity while visiting India. About 180 A.D (which was about fifteen years after the death of Justin) Pantaneus founded the Didascalia, otherwise known as the Catechetical School of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt. Although the Didascalia taught many subjects and was open to all who wanted an education, it was called a catechetical school because it was identical in some ways to a modern seminary; a catechism is a summary of Christian theology which is given in question and answer form - and the main purpose of the Didascalia was to instruct neophytes of doctrine. Clement had been a disciple of Pantaneus from about 180 A.D.; but was forced to close the school in 202 A.D when the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus forced him to flee Alexandria for Palestine, from which he never returned. Origen, his successor, had an encyclopaedic memory and is arguably one of the most brilliant and influential theologians the world has seen, ranking with St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jean Calvin, Martin Luther and Karl Barth (1886 - 1968); for over the centuries, the theologies of all of these men have greatly influenced the various streams of Christianity. Origen's father Leonidas was a teacher who taught him to love Greek literature and Scripture. Leonidas was martyred for his faith under the persecution of Severus in 203 A.D and Origen followed the example of his father and embarked upon a career as a teacher; teaching grammar and philosophy, and helped families who had been victims of persecution, as he had been. He had also been a pupil of Ammonius Saccas (c. 160 - c. 242 A.D), who was a Greek philosopher from the Platonic School in Alexandria, who coincidentally also taught Plotinus. After the persecution by Servetus ceased in 211 A.D., Origen reopened the Catechetical School. He was imprisoned and tortured for his faith by the Roman Emperor Decius, in c. 252 A.D., and reputedly died two years later of the injuries.
While Alexandria was initially set up to instruct neophytes of doctrine, ultimately its design was to meet pagan philosophers on their own ground:
“In such a city as Alexandria - with its museum, its libraries, its lectures, its schools of philosophy, its splendid synagogue, its avowed atheists, its deep-thinking Oriental mystics - the Gospel would have been powerless if it had been unable to produce teachers who were capable of meeting Pagan philosophers and Jewish Philoists on their own ground. Such thinkers would refuse their attention to men who could not understand their reasonings, sympathize with their perplexities, refute their fundamental arguments, and meet them in the spirit of Christian courtesy."(`Matter's Hist. de l'Ecole d'Alexandrie'.)
This explains why Justin donned the philosophers garb after his conversion to Christianity - while the Apologists of the second century endeavoured to meet the pagan philosophers on their own ground, in doing so they imbibed of subtle heresies which they themselves failed to discern: `The apologists' enterprise of examining and defending Christianity in light of Greek philosophy was not entirely new. A century or more earlier the Jewish scholar Philo had attempted to wed Judaism and Greek philosophy in Egypt. His great influence there among both Jews and Gentile God-feareres probably helps to explain why Alexandrian Christians in the second and third centuries were most open to this project of explaining the Bible and Christian beliefs philosophically. Some of the apologists emulated Philo's positive evaluation of Greek philosopers. Philo, for instance, had taught that Plato's philosophy and Moses' teachings were both based upon divine revelation and at heart were similar if not identical. In order to make this work he had to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures allegorically. By using that method, he was able to blend Greek and Hebrew ways of thinking about God, creation and humanity. Philo's approach to Jewish thought was already widely accepted (though not without controversy) among Jews of the diaspora, and Christian apologists of the second century built on that foundation in order to show a similar consistency between the best of Hellenistic thought and their own fairly sophisticated versions of the Christian message.' (Olsen, p. 55.)'
While the apologists used Paul's discourse in Athens about the "unknown god" (Acts ch. 17) to justify their reasons for meeting pagan Platonism with so-called Christianised neo-Platonism (for reason that he quoted from their own poets so he could meet them on common ground which they would then understand); this in fact provided the apologists with only the slimmest of excuses, as Paul didn't imbibe of these same philosophies which he took great pains to warn the churches about, for he merely used them to meet the Stoics and Epicurians on their ground! But this did not content the Apologists, for they also imbibed of these very same philosophies themselves.
Saul, or Paul, as he came to be known after he was literally blinded by the light on the road to Damascus, was well aware of the Platonic influences which were beginning to flood the early Church while he was alive, and strenuously laboured with the Corinthian Church which (to a large degree) consisted of Greek converts who still retained pagan conceptions of God which were marred by Greek philosophy. This led him to warn the Greek converts that Christians should beware of the foolishness of the wisdom of men, which was at that time was epitomised by the Platonic philosophies which many of these Greek converts retained after they were baptized into the Church; for Paul drove home the point that he did not come among amongst them to baptize them, but instead `to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ be made of no effect':
`For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For all of you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.' (1 Corinthians 1: 17 - 27.)
When Paul warned the Corinthians of `the wisdom of the wise' and `the disputer of this world', he was specifically warning them of the different sub-sets of Platonic philosophy, such as the Stoics and Epicureans, who discussed and disputed the various philosophies which abounded about God. And as we have also already noted, any philosophy which taught that God has left the lofty heights of heaven to risk having His divinity corrupted by assuming a body which was considered to be evil because it had been corrupted by the material plane of existence in which we dwell, was considered by them to be foolishness! And as the Corinthian Church was rather affluent and did have some rich converts as brethren, he then informed that Church that `not many wise man after the flesh [philosophers], not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise' (1 Cor. 1: 26). Confound the wise Platonic philosophers God most certainly did; for reason that they considered the philosophies which taught of Christ to be complete foolishness! The following statement relates the views of Plotinus, and gives insight to what the Greeks believed about what they believed to be a bifurcation of the body and soul:
`In the Platonic tradition there was a tenacious belief that the body is a drag and a hindrance . . . the body's unremitting need for food, the diseases which beset it, passions, desires and fears, the body's love of money, "which causes all wars," all add up to a major distraction from philosophical thinking . . . . Plotinus had no hesitation in labelling the body as an evil on the ground of its materiality, whereas the incorporeal soul is free of evil.' (`Late Antiquity: a Guide to the Postclassical world', Bowersock, Lamont Brown & Grabar, 1991, p. 62.)
Paul also warned the Colossian Church of the dangers of Greek philosophy, and in the following passage described Platonism as `philosophy and vain deceit', and then informed the Colossians of a concept which was absolutely impossible for the Greek philosophers to believe, namely that `in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily':
`Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.' (Colossians 2: 8-9)
The Platonists were simply unable to grasp the concept that the Divine Son of God Himself could descend into this material plane of existence and take upon Himself a body which was `tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin' (Hebrews 4: 15), yet have His divinity remain uncorrupted. As a result, the early Church Fathers were aware of the Platonising influences which were already threatening the infant Church in the first two centuries, and strenuously resisted this, for as this exhortation from Ignatius Theophorus (c. 30 - c. 107 A.D.) demonstrates, they believed that when we die we `sleep together' in the dust of the earth, and then `awake together as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God' when Christ returns:
`Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together [in death]; and awake together [in the resurrection], as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God.' (`Epistle to Polycarp', Ignatius, A.N.F, ch. 6)
The Syriac translation of `awake together' has been translated as `rise together', which indicates that it is indeed death which Ignatius was speaking of when he used the word `sleep'. Ignatius suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Emperor Trajan's reign (98 -117 A.D.) and wrote this epistle to Polycarp (69 - 155 A.D), who suffered martyrdom in 155 A.D for his faith. Both men are reputed to have sat at the feet of John, the `beloved disciple of Christ' and John also, testified to this same belief, for he tells us in his gospel that when Christ described Lazurus as `sleeping' in the grave, His disciples believed that He was speaking of natural sleep:
`Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Nevertheless Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, "Lazarus is dead".'(John 11: 13 - 14)
Obviously, John `the beloved disciple of Christ' was instructed by Jesus Himself of this doctrine. The apostle Paul was a contemporary of John, and was in agreement with John on this doctrine. Ignatius and Polycarp were students of John and received this doctrine from him, for the Ignatian epistle to Polycarp reveals that not only were the two men close friends, but Polycarp received instruction from Ignatius, and the two men were in agreement on this doctrine. Therefore we have an unbroken testimony of witnesses from Jesus Himself, to John, the apostle Paul and the early Church Fathers Ignatius and Polycarp, who all taught that we `sleep' in the grave until the Resurrection, at which time our corruptible bodies are rendered incorruptible, and we `put on' immortality. But if one is to instead believe in the `natural immortality of the soul' instead of the conditional immortality of the whole man, then the whole idea of a judgment that takes place sometime in the future becomes a completely absurd notion - for why is this necessary, as we either go straight to heaven or hell when we die, or our bodies are resurrected with our souls which are already waiting for us when Jesus returns? Why, indeed - for it is impossible for God to lie. One of the main problems with doctrines such as this, is how the original autographs have been interpreted, as most translations of the Bible do not closely follow the original Greek - simply because they have a doctrinal bias which favours the doctrine of the `natural immortality of the soul', when (as we have already noted) the original Greek does not teach this doctrine at all!
`The image or concept which has dominated popular ideas about our "afterlife" and future destiny is probably the immortality of the soul. This shift occurred already in primitive Christianity when the parousia or second coming of the Lord at the end of the world did not quickly take place as expected. Speaking of the immortal souls of the faithful departed as being with God became a way to describe existence during the period intervening between the death of the believer and the bodily resurrection expected at the end of the world . . . As any real existential significance of the resurrection on the last day faded . . . consequently, the fundamental conviction of the New Testament that the resurrection involves the human person as a whole, material as well as spiritual, was obscured. This was precisely the point for Paul, who argues in 1 Corinthians 15 against those who deny the resurrection. Judging from Paul's somewhat sarcastic retort ("But some will ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' "), it is quite possible that his educated opponents believed in the immortality of the soul and found the notion of bodily resurrection crude and ridiculous. But despite their sarcasm, Paul insistently argues for bodily resurrection rather than the immortality of the soul.' (`Handbook of spirituality for Ministers', Vol. 1, R. Wicks, 1995, p. 433.)
So as time went by, and Christ failed to return, Christians began to imbibe Greek philosophical conceptions of hades and purgatory as a means by which the interminable delay of Christ's return could be explained. Unfortunately, the construct which these men imbibed has (in the view taken by some Protestant Churches), degraded the second coming of Christ to a mere spiritual event which takes place in the life of the sinner when they are converted to Christ, as the `second coming of Christ' is relegated to have already taken place when Jerusalem was raised by the armies of Titus, the Prince and General of Emporer Vespasian in 70 A.D, and is associated with a mode of prophetic interpretion which is called Preterism, which teaches that :
`The dominant version of Preterism says that everything - everything - associated with the second coming of Jesus happened in A.D. 70, in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem as an act of judgment on OT Israel. This includes the antichrist, the man of sin, the second coming of Jesus, the rapture, the resurrection, and the judgment day. Everything predicted in Matthew 24 and in the Book of Revelation (which preterists date c. A.D. 65) was fulfilled at that time. The only way to affirm this, of course, is to say that many of the prophecies were fulfilled not literally or visibly, but spiritually. Jesus return was not visible. . . when Christ came (in A.D. 70), "he literally, yet spiritually, gathered those that were alive to be caught up in the kingdom with Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ spiritually returned with the believers to the earth, to ever be with them. This was a spiritual event that was visibly manifest in the destruction of Jerusalem" ("Rapture"). The "resurrection of the deatd happened in A.D. 70 when Christ emptied Hades and took the saved to heaven in "heavenly" bodies; they will experience no further resurrection. The "old heaven and earth" was replaced by a new "heaven and earth," or the New Covenant world. The world we now live in will never be destroyed: it will just continue on without end, with its death and evil enduring forever.' (`The Faith once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today', J. Cotrell', 2002, p. 541.)
So much for living the victorious life in Christ! In this rather depressing view of salvation, there can be no victory over sin, and we are condemned to live in a world where sin and evil is perpetuated forever. Christ `returns' to us when we are converted to Christianity, and will never physically return, as promised by Scripture. If this is indeed true, well can we say that: `If humans were souls and death was a release of the person from the body, then there would be no reason to retrieve one's body at the end of the world.' (`The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes's Leviathan', P. Springborg, 2007, p. 379.)
It should also be noted that the Catholic interpretation of prophecy is also Preterist; but in the Catholic interpretation, it is the Church, but not Christ which is triumphant, as it defeated the perceived antichrist in the form the Imperial pagan Roman Empire, and specifically the Roman Emporer Nero in 68 A.D:
`Perhaps the most significant figure in the origin of this preterist method of interpretation was the Jesuit from Seville, Luis de Alcazar (1554 - 1613). He is often credited with establishing the preterist scheme of interpretation in the post-Reformation Roman Catholic tradition. In his commentary on Revelation Alcazar put forward the view that the book spoke only of the period of the early Church, predicting its conquest over Judaism and paganism. Nero is the Antichrist and the New Jerusalem the Roman Catholic Church. The millenium of Revelation 20 is the period of the Church and hence the period currently enjoyed by Catholic Christians. The book of Revelation does not speak of the future or, except in its description of the millenium, the present. The Antichrist has been and gone . . . ' (`Apocalypse and Millenium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis', K. Newport, 2000, p. 72.)
As the infant Church grew, its philosophies were challenged by the wisdom of `learned men' in the strictly Platonic schools who opposed it - but in trying to defend herself against their arguments, she inculcated (in a diluted form) these very same philosophies as she attempted to do so, and applied these philosophies to her conception of the Godhead:
`When the Church developed a serious intellectual tradition of its own, as it did in the second and third centuries, the driving forces were defence of the Christian faith against learned opponents (an enterprise known as "apologetics") and the development of Christian doctrine. For such purposes, the logical tools developed within Greek philosophy proved indispensable.' (`The Beginnings of Western Science', D. Lindberg, 2007, p. 149.)
The Greek philosopher Celsus lived in the late second century and was one such `learned man' man. He thought that Christianity is a thoroughly objectionable creed, and that Jesus was a charlatan who learnt magic from the Egyptians, and then proclaimed himself a God':
`[Celsus] accuses [Jesus] of having `invented his birth from a virgin,' and upbraids Him with being `born in a certain Jewish village, of a poor woman of the country, who gained her subsistence by spinning, and who was turned out of doors by her husband, a carpenter by trade, because she was convicted of adultery; that after being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greately pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God.' (Origen, ANF, `Contra Celsus', vol. 4, Book 1, ch. 28.) His main objection to Christianity was the standard Platonic objection - that it is unthinkable for God to descend into the material world and thus risk corrupting His divinity - for God is the ultimate essence of virtue, and cannot change:
`And again', he says, `let us resume the subject from the beginning, with a larger array of proofs. And I make no new statement, but say what has been long settled. God is good, and beautiful, and blessed, and that in the best and most beautiful degree. But if he come down among men, he must undergo a change, and a change from good to evil, from virtue to vice, from happiness to misery, and from best to worst. Who, then, would make choice of such a change? It is the nature of a mortal, to undergo change and remoulding, but of an immortal to remain the same and unaltered. God, then, could not admit of such a change . . . ' (ibid, Book 4, ch. 14.)
Thus, the early Church Fathers ignored the warnings which the apostle Paul had given the infant Church about the philosophies of the Greeks, and applied these very same philosophies so that they might arrive at a rational explanation of the inter-relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: