Info

In other words, the distortions and corruptions with which contemporary Platonism was riddled could be compensated for through a process of triangulation among the doctrines of Plato, the precepts of Pythagoras and the rites, doctrines and institutions of the most ancient 'barbarian' peoples. The result of this process would be the recovery and reconstitution of philosophy itself.19

Numenius is representative of a movement that traced back Greek philosophy, and in particular Platonism and Pythagoreanism, to 'barbarian' sources. He also provides an example of the way in which 'new' ideas could be legitimated by representing them as 'ancient'. It was in this intellectual context that Justin constructed his interpretation of the history of philosophy and Christianity's place in it. Indeed, the similarities that exist between Numenius and Justin in this respect suggest that the latter may have adapted his own perspective from the former, whether directly or indirectly. It was Numenius after all who had asked, 'What is Plato but Moses speaking Attic Greek?'20 The importance of this remark, that Plato was Moses, and not, for instance, Zoroaster, 'Atticising,' should not be underestimated, especially since Zoroaster was a popular figure among some Middle Platonists. It may be that Justin knew of Numenius' claim and that this provided the impetus for his own assertion that Plato had actually 'read' Moses. Like Numenius, Justin traced Platonic philosophy back to an ancient barbarian source, but whereas Numenius allowed that this Ur-philosophy derived from a variety of ancient nations and theologians, Justin claimed that the writings of Moses and the prophets were the exclusive source. The 'Christian philosophy' therefore was not one, or even the best, among many philosophical schools; according to Justin, it was the only philosophy insofar as it was the reconstitution and restoration of the original, primordial truth.

A 'pagan' response

The contemporary effectiveness of Justin's apologia for Christianity can best be gauged by the impassioned efforts to undermine it made by Celsus, an otherwise unknown Platonist philosopher, who, about the year 175 ce, published a polemical tract entitled the Alethes logos, by which he meant 'The true

19 In this same treatise Numenius singled out Moses as one of the ancient theologians and identified him with the legendary Musaeus, see fr. 9 (ed. des Places) = Euseb. P.E. 9.8.1-2.

20 Fr. 8 (ed. des Places) = Clem. Str. 1.150.4; see Stern, Greek and Latin authors, vol. 11,209-11 (nos. 363 a-e).

0 0

Post a comment