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The Rise of the Philosophers

Most people are familiar with the names of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Socrates lived in the days of Nehemiah, and Plato was contemporary with Malachi, while Aristotle come about 40 years later. If you pick up a book on the history of philosophy, however, it begins with Thales, Pythagoras, and Parmenides, which means that philosophy began around 600 BC, when Daniel was in Babylon. Philosophy didn’t even exist in ancient times, in the days of the Old Testament.

 

It can be argued that philosophical religion also began around this time. Gautama Buddha lived around the time of Esther, 480 BC, although opinions are divided about whether it was right before or right after this date. Siddhartha Gautama was born into a rich and privileged family in India. At some point in this life, however, he jumped from extreme indulgence to the extremely poor life of a monk. Then, meditating under a tree, he had the enlightenment that he should follow a middle way between hedonism and asceticism. The picture we have here is of a man meditating and trying to figure out the best way to live. Polytheistic Brahmanism existed long before, but philosophical religion began around the time of Esther.

 

Other religions began around the same time. Confucius, like Buddha, lived in the time of Daniel and Esther. His thinking became the official philosophy of the Han, Tang, and Song dynasties and has especially influenced thinking in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Although Jainism claims great age, it is first found in the Haryanka dynasty of India in the 6th century BC. Philosophical Taoism is thought to have begun with the semi-legendary Lao-Tzu, or Laozi, who also lived in the 6th century BC. Zoroaster, who is thought to have established the state religion of Persia, is traditionally dated to the 6th century BC. The Magi are associated with this religion. Many state religions were founded around the 6th century BC on philosophical speculation.

 

As this study ventures back in time to explore the ancient world, it should be remembered that none of the philosophies or religions mentioned above existed at the times that we are exploring. People did not think the way we think today. It is incorrect to impose modern thought on ancient civilizations. It is unfair to think that ancient man was less enlightened because he believed in the existence of a realm of spiritual beings that influenced life on earth. In fact, the only way to understand the deep past is to appreciate their faith in spiritual beings as a good thing rather than ignorant superstition.

 

Philosophy is the opposite of revelation. Today, philosophy is king. Before philosophy, society believed that truth came from God or the gods rather than from man. Even paganism was based on revelation. Priests, oracles, astrologers, and necromancers sought answers from beyond this world. The city of Ephesus, for instance, believed that the image of Diana or Artemis came down from heaven (Acts 19:35). The ancient Sumerian culture was thoroughly convinced that kingship, or the divine right to rule, had been bestowed upon the city of Kish. Ancient man, with all his faults, looked to the heavens for answers.

 

If God spoke to man anywhere, He spoke to the Jewish nation. This was neither superstition nor philosophy. The worst that one could imagine is that the Jewish prophets all suffered from the same delusion. They believed they heard God speaking to them in a clear and intelligent way. Buddha never did. At Mount Sinai, the entire nation claimed to have heard God speaking to them audibly. More than 1,300 times, the prophets used phrases such as “thus says the Lord” to introduction direct quotations of the very words that God was said to have spoken to them. Such statements occur over 400 times in the historical books and 700 in the Pentateuch. Over half of the book of Exodus is comprised of words that come directly from the mouth of God. Perhaps we should have a red letter edition of the Old Testament.

 

The rise of philosophies and philosophical religions did not replace religions that were based on revelation. It only added confusion to an already confused world.

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