Nothing could be both new and true. It was a general conviction of the age that what was 'oldest' was always best, that the 'ancients' lived nearer to the gods and the beginnings of things and therefore knew much more about them.9 To claim, then, that Moses and the prophets were older than any of the Greek lawgivers or sages was to assert the superiority of the former and the necessary dependency of the latter. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc may be a logical fallacy, but it could be an effective strategy in a milieu in which so much authority was conceded to antiquitas summa.
'I will present the evidence', Justin declares, 'that what we say ... is alone true and older than all the writers who have ever lived.' This proposition, announced at 1 Apologia 23.i and worked out in detail in subsequent chapters, serves as the main bearing beam of Justin's argument for the superiority of his 'Christian philosophy'. To prove his case, he produced a number of'philosophical parallels', chiefly between Moses (the putative author of the Pentateuch) and Plato. Justin claims, for example, that 'when Plato said, "The blame is his who chooses, and god is blameless" [Rep. 6i7e], he took this from the prophet Moses', who first taught that God is not the cause of evil when he said, 'Behold, before thy face are good and evil: choose the good' (1 Apol. 44.i, quoting Deut 30:i5, i9). In other words Justin contends that Plato's teaching on fate, free will and the problem of evil was taken directly from Moses. Similarly, when Plato came to write the cosmological section of the Timaeus he once again relied on Moses. 'So that you may learn that Plato borrowed from our teachers . . . when he said that God made the cosmos by changing formless matter, hear the exact words of Moses, who as we said above was the first of the prophets and more ancient than all the writers among the Greeks.' There follows a quotation from Gen i:i-3, and then Justin concludes: 'So by God's word the entire cosmos was made out of this substratum spoken of beforehand by Moses, and Plato, and those who agree with him, have learned it from [Moses]' (1 Apol. 59.i-5; cf. 20.4).
Perhaps the most striking proof that Plato had actually 'read' Moses occurs in the next chapter of 1 Apologia. Here Justin claims that 'the physiological discussion concerning the son of god in the Timaeus of Plato, where he says, "He placed him crosswise in the universe", he [Plato] likewise took from Moses' (60.i). Justin has in mind the account of Moses' bronze snake in
9 On this, see Armstrong, 'Pagan and Christian traditionalism'.
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