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Christopher Rusyniak

Professor Brown

Perspectives

September 24, 2006

On a superficial level the Jewish religion and Greek philosophy are polar opposites.

They have opposite fundamental principles. Each others flaws are reciprocated as benefits of the

opposed. However, in the end they are one in the same. They aim at one end.

In geometry a postulate is “a proposition that requires no proof, being self-evident, or that

is for a specific purpose assumed true, and that is used in the proof of other propositions; axiom.”

(“postulate” 6) It is precisely the same in religion and philosophies. There are various postulates

that you must accept as permanently and undeniably true.

In the Jewish religion these are all laid out to us and set up in the book of Genesis of the

Pentateuch. One of the prevailing messages is God’s way being the only way. This is clearly

demonstrated in countless passages throughout the book and one of the more creative ways is as

follows. When Joseph is prophesizing in the form of interpreting dreams, in analysis he states,

“This is its interpretation…” (Genesis 14.6) There is only one interpretation, he infers, while any

literature major will tell you that there are many ways to interpret metaphors and such. There is

only one interpretation, there is only one way, and that is God’s.

Rather ironically, another certainty is that nothing God does is certain or necessarily

logical in the perspective and estimation of mankind. As one read one sees the figures He

chooses to be His spokespeople, prophets, did not resemble anything a spokesperson should be.

Things happen because God wills them to happen that way.


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On the contrary, the philosophical standpoint claims the human is completely sovereign

and must use reason to determine what is good and then strive to achieve that. “Good is at which

all things aim.” (Aristole 3) He proves this by saying that there are many goods, even immediate

goods such as bodily pleasures, etc. It is very easy to get confused. “In many cases good thing

bring bad results,” (Aristole 5) however, and for that reason we must use the contemplative

capacities we have been furnished with to determine a final good or good as an end.

Once again appearing in contrast with the Jewish religion, the philosophers will claim

that the people have the responsibility to create a good state, and that a good state will then rub

off on the people and make good people. Whereas in the bible when people began creating their

own cities God was enraged and ruined the Tower of Babel.

They both additionally have seemingly opposing views of God(s.) The philosopher’s god

is the ultimate aristocratic being. He contemplates and therefore understands everything.

Therefore god to the philosopher is a goal that he must bring himself closer to and essentially

imitate Him. The Jewish God, on the other hand, claims He alone is God. “I Am Who Am” and

one shall have no other idols, and when Adam and Eve tried to eat of the tree of knowledge to

become more like God they were struck down by God and were humbled, similar things happen

to the Jews when they begin to believe they can like without God.

After some analysis it is safe to say that the flaws of one ideology are reversed as benefits

of the opposite body’s dogma. For example, many can say a major flaw in the Bible’s ideology

is it’s paradoxes. One of the prevailing paradoxes is that if humans are to be punished for what

they do, they must be free to do what they want, so that they may be held accountable for their

actions. However, if God is absolutely sovereign and events occur only by his will then people

are not free, and cannot be held accountable, and therefore punishment is not warranted. This is
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demonstrated by the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. “I have hardened his heart and the heart of

his officials, in order that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell

your children and grand children how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have

done among them-so that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10.1) Nevertheless, the

Egyptians get punished several times for something they could not justly be held responsible for.

In the Greek philosopher’s perspective the individual obviously takes full responsibility

for his actions, but also has full control over his actions. A flaw however takes shape when you

consider the life of an aristocrat. They would claim that the unexamined life in not worth living,

I would counter that with the converse of that statement: the unlived life is not worth examining.

In the Jewish culture the path of life has been and will be you just have to trust and take it.

This brings up another flaw of the Jewish perspective, humans have a natural affinity for

understanding. If you try to do something on your own you will be punished, humans are wired

to make decisions for themselves and God tells them he has them all made already. Apparently

the philosophical approach is conscious of the happiness that comes of knowing, reasoning, and

understanding, and uses that as an ideology.

Until now these two worlds of thought are in every respect juxtaposed. I would argue,

however that the superior approach is a hybrid of both. Impossible you say! Blasphemy to the

highest degree! Not so. The Jewish God is seen as omniscient, he is able to show you the path

because he knows, he has contemplated and understands all. We are unable to make as sound

decisions because we are not omniscient as He.

The most difficult to reconcile is probably the human use of reason. I would venture and

say that God sets up a path, law, the Ten Commandments, and we are to decide using reason

whether or not any action is sanctioned or not by the Lord. We are to consider the greatest good
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when determining which commandments are superior to others when two commandments are in

conflict. Attempting to do things on your own, without the Law as a guideline, with lead you to

failure, death. The Pharaoh and his people, in my opinion, were not being punished for the

present inevitable hardening of Pharaoh’s. That is merely a consequence. Instead, they were

punished for countless years of having enslaved the Jews, God’s chosen people.

Examples where Aristotle’s teachings and Exoduses’ Ten Commandments coincide are in

mean behavior. Aristotle states that you should always conduct yourself away from extremes,

but rather take the mean of those to extremes and conduct yourself in that manner. Let’s take for

example Courage. If you are rash (in battle) you could kill yourself, violating “You shall not

murder.” (Exodus) However if you are cowardly, you may put in danger the lives of others by

not giving of yourself and therefore violating the same commandment.

Every aspect of the Law can be made to coincide with Greek philosophy, with minimal

flexibility. After all in the first chapter of genesis God saw that his creations are “good.” In the

same fashion the goal of philosophy is to recognize and head toward good. God and philosophy

were made for each other and superior approach on how to lead life in therefore a combination of

the two approaches.


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Works Cited

"postulate." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Based on the Random House Unabridged


Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006. 25 Oct. 2006. <Dictionary.com
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=postulate>