Hybrid heritage

March 11, 2016 (Kampala):

This morning I read the first chapter in the exciting new book I got: The Book of the Cosmos by Dennis Danielson. It’s an anthology of cosmological literature spanning 4000 years. The first chapter compares ancient Greek and Hebrew views of the universe and its origin. I can summarize as follows:

  • The ancient Hebrews thought of God as a personal being whose causation of and in the the world took the form of speech and action.
  • The ancient Greeks thought of God more as an impersonal Mind whose causation was more through the laws and principles of systems.

Or, put another way: for Hebrews, God is a Divine Person telling and acting out a grand story in creation, while for Greeks, God is a Divine Mind thinking reality into existence and contemplating its beauty and complexity.

Can’t these two views be synthesized? Let me try:

‘God’ is a person-like presence (Hebrew), and since persons have minds, ‘God’ has/is a mind (Greek). Persons tell stories, enact morals, sing songs (Hebrew) but can only do so through the complex system of language grammar (Greek). ‘God’ must be Someone like one who can craft beautiful pieces of literary, musical, and theatrical art (Hebrew) but with a full conscious knowledge of the inner workings of their underlying systems (Greek).

So it is out of this hybrid heritage – Greek and Hebrew – that western thought – and my thought – sprang up. The Old Testament provides the Hebraic soil…as for the Greek soil…for me it is the Hellenized loam of the New Testament and what fertilizer I’ve got from my exposure to Greek philosophy.

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