DID YESHUA THE MESSIAH

Have a Pre-Carnal Existence? - Chapter 8

Part II – The Enhanced Public Debate Presentation

 

By Larry Acheson

 

A Response to Chuck Henry’s book

Trinity, Oneness, Duality, and Pre-Existence

 

 


 

 

VIII.  Ad Hominem Attacks

Maligning Philo and Justin Martyr

       

  

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ome readers may wonder why I was compelled to incorporate testimony from first century ce Jewish believer Philo, as well as second century ce theologian Justin Martyr, into my debate presentation. Briefly put, these two universally respected, highly regarded believers serve as the thread that weaves it all together.  Scripture has the truth, but when controversies such as this one arise, it is always refreshing to know that ancient believers understood Scripture the same way we do.  As it turns out, the testimonies of both Philo and Justin Martyr just happen to coincide with the way I believe in this matter.  As for Biblical Unitarians, they have no thread—no historical support whatsoever for their position, unless you want to consider the Ebionites, who rejected nearly all the New Testament writings, including those of the Apostles John and Paul.  In fact, the only New Testament writing they accepted was the Book of Matthew; they rejected the first two chapters of even that writing.[1]  The reason they rejected nearly all the New Testament should be obvious:  Unlike contemporary Biblical Unitarians, they understood the meaning of such passages as John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:12-18, Philippians 2:5-8, John 17:5, John 6:60-62, John 8:58, Hebrews 1:2, 10, Revelation 3:14, Revelation 19:13, and Revelation 22:8-17. The Ebionites considered the Apostle Paul to be an apostate and they regarded the Apostle John’s account in much the same way that Chuck Henry regards Justin Martyr.  As we’re about to see, when the Apostle John writes something to validate Yeshua having had a pre-carnal existence, Chuck insists that we misunderstand John.  It turns out that Chuck is the one who misunderstands John; the Ebionites understood John quite well, which is why they rejected his writings.  When Philo and Justin Martyr write virtually the same thing that the Apostle John wrote, it’s no longer a matter of “misunderstanding” him; indeed, Philo and Justin Martyr’s writings validate the way I understand the Word of Yahweh in both the Old and New Testaments, including the writings of John.  For those who don’t appreciate this validation, Philo and Justin Martyr are branded “pagan Gnostics.”

      Biblical Unitarians cannot accept the notion that the Apostle Paul presents Yeshua as the “Firstborn of all creation” in Colossians 1:15, nor can they accept that He’s the creator of “all things” (Colossians 1:16).  This conundrum is why the Ebionites of old were compelled to reject nearly all of the New Testament.  Biblical Unitarians, aware of their predicament, yet also aware of the ramifications of rejecting the New Testament writings, are thus compelled to come up with alternate explanations that suit their doctrinal position. That’s where Philo comes in.  Contrary to Biblical Unitarian doctrine, Philo agrees with our view that the Logos is indeed Elohim’s firstborn Son, the “eldest of His Angels.”  Philo thus validates our interpretation of Colossians 1:15.  Philo also refers to the Logos as the creator of “all things,” thus validating our understanding of Colossians 1:16.  Before I go any further, I need to establish that just because I consider Philo a trustworthy source on ancient Judaism’s understanding of the Logos, this should not be misconstrued as my agreeing with everything the Philo wrote.  I have never said such a thing.  Nevertheless, it will come out that I am persuaded that Philo generally represented the practice and belief of normative Judaism during and preceding the first century ce.

 

Translating the Greek Title Theos as “God”:  Would you?

 

      Some of you who watched the debate video may wonder why Chuck seemed so well-prepared to address my “historical evidence” commentary wherein I supplied quotations from Philo and Justin Martyr.  Chuck was by then very well acquainted with my having cited both men because not only did I present my summary during the debate held in Rising Star, TX, but I likewise presented the same information during the warm-up debate held in our home three months earlier.  In addition to I incorporating the historical testimony they offer as a means of bolstering my case, I also knew that Chuck had previously supported my citing Philo for validating such issues as the Jewish stance on how to determine the weekly Sabbath, how to count to Pentecost, and even the issue of abortion.  Philo not only sheds light on how to interpret some controversial Bible texts, but he can be heralded as a bonafide representative of Jewish practice and belief during the first century ce. As such, prior to our warm-up debate of March 2019, I felt that incorporating Philo’s understanding of Logos would serve to dissuade Chuck of his position and this issue would thereby be resolved with no further need of discussion!  However, one of my greatest weaknesses, in addition to my ADHD limitations, is that of naïveté.  I didn’t realize at that time that Chuck had already made up his mind. 

      Not only had Chuck already been firmly “sold” on the notion that Yeshua did not have a pre-carnal existence, but he opted to use my March 2019 “Philo Connection” commentary as the springboard for launching an ad hominem attack on Philo during our follow-up debate in June.  Since Chuck did not leave our home dissuaded of his position in March, I probably should have anticipated his “Philo attack” in June and wow, did he ever “lay it on.”  First, he laid a foundation highlighting how ancient Greek philosopher Plato influenced early Christianity.  Chuck didn’t go into detail as to exactly “how” Plato influenced early Christianity, but just throwing out an ancient pagan Greek philosopher’s name is all he felt he needed to sully Philo’s name.  Once Chuck established the Philo/Plato connection, it was time for him to take swipes at both Philo and Justin Martyr.  Of course, during the debate there was no time to research any of the claims he made about these men.  Once the debate was over, I found the time I needed to examine Chuck’s claims a little more thoroughly.  In this study, I will quote the full, unabridged ad hominem attack that Chuck perpetrated on Philo and Justin Martyr, but unlike the debate format, I will take the liberty of interrupting Chuck as needed.  To better assist separating my reactions from Chuck’s commentary, I decided to put Chuck’s words in blue typeface.

      Before getting to Chuck’s debate commentary, I might also draw your attention to the fact that Chuck exhibits a penchant for using the title “God” when quoting both Philo and Justin Martyr, even though he knows neither of those men ever referred to the Almighty with that name/title.  Trust me, he knows this.  I know, I know, the average student would expect to find the name/title “God” when reading English translations of these men’s writings and they would most likely think nothing of it.  However, if you’re not an average student, then you might know that neither Philo nor Justin Martyr ever referred to the Almighty as “God” and, moreover, they would have been insulted if they would have known that’s how men would translate their writings in the future.  The title “God” only began appearing in English Bibles after it was “borrowed” from the Teutonic people after their conversion to Christianity around the year 1000 ce.[2]

      Further, it can be demonstrated that the Teutonic people in turn borrowed “God” from heathens who worshipped an idol by that name.[3]  Moreover, according to the Hebrew text of Isaiah 65:11, an idol named God is worshipped by those who have forsaken Yahweh.  (It doesn’t sound like Yahweh likes God).   When the Hebrew scholars who translated the Septuagint into Greek came to Isaiah 65:11, they translated “God” as “demon.”  While I am persuaded that they should have transliterated “God” instead of translating it, their translation choice should help you to understand how the Greek-speaking world regarded “God.”  They considered “God” to be a demon.  The first-century Greek-speaking world, including Philo and Justin Martyr, understood this to be true and 21st century author Chuck Henry knows it as well.  Few others do. 

      As for me, since it can be demonstrated that neither Philo nor Justin Martyr ever referred to Yahweh as “God,” I do my best to supply a much more suitable English translation of the Greek title they used.  Isn’t that basic respect?  When quoting from others’ writings, I only support using the name/title “God” when those whom I quote actually used that name or title. The title used by both Philo and Justin Martyr is Θες, pronounced Theos in English.  Theos is simply a generic Greek term for deity.  Its Hebrew equivalent is Elohim and in English terms such as “The Almighty” or “Mighty One” are universally accepted translations that have no connection to pagan worship.  Therefore, in my own quotations from the writings of Philo and Justin Martyr, I often use the Almighty, Mighty One or the Hebrew Elohim.  While I am disappointed that Chuck does not follow this same principle when citing translations of ancient writings, in retrospect I understand that one of his debate tactics was to “pull all the stops” he could to disparage those believers who are at odds with his understanding of the Logos.  Painting Philo and Justin Martyr as “god worshippers” is one way to subliminally turn his audience against them.  Was it fair?  Well, no, it wasn’t.  Ad hominem attacks are never fair, but I’ve learned that in a debate situation, tactics can take precedence over ethics.  When it comes to treating the writings of others fairly, we’re about to see that Chuck doesn’t draw the line at the name/title that others used in reference to our Heavenly Father.  Think of it like this:

      Try asking Chuck how he would like it if, 500 years from now, some translators, while translating his writings into some futuristic language, produce the following: “… the only true HaSatan” in place of Chuck’s “… the only true Elohim.”  The way this world is going, by that time the majority of the world may very well worship “HaSatan,” and the translators may think nothing of producing such a “fine” translation.  In the same way, to those Greeks who understood that “God” is a demon or “devil,” that’s essentially the dignity with which Chuck treats the writings of ancient believers who spoke Greek.  I highly doubt that either Philo or Justin Martyr would have appreciated knowing that translators in later years would render their references to Theos as “God,” especially in view of the fact that the Hebrew scholars who translated Isaiah 65:11 into Greek rendered the name “God” [גד] as “devil” (Gr. δαιμονιω, #1140 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary). 

      Chuck thus purposely gives his nod of approval to rendering the Greek title Theos as “God” in English, at least when it comes to quoting those writers who are at odds with his position.  I say “purposely,” not only because I know Chuck understands that neither Philo nor Justin Martyr ever referred to the Almighty as “God,” but also because if you listen to his entire debate commentary, he never once uses this title in any Bible references to Yahweh, the only exception being when he quotes specifically from a certain translation for emphasis purposes and says “God, quote, unquote.”[4]  Chuck understands that just because a translator chooses to translate Theos as “God,” this doesn’t mean he needs to go along with their translation choice any more than he needs to go along with the King James Version translators’ decision to render either Theos or Elohim as “God.”[5]  Let’s just say that Chuck’s decision to retain the translators’ use of “God” when citing Philo and Justin Martyr was a clever debate stratagem in terms of swaying his audience, but he knows it was disrespectful to those whom he quoted and attempted to malign.  I guess, using modern terminology, I am “calling out” Chuck for this decision on his part.  I maintain he knew what he was doing, he knows where I stand regarding the name/title “God,” and he knew it would present scholars who aren’t alive to defend themselves in a negative light.  That’s why I am persuaded that his method of quoting these ancient scholars was no “accident”; it was on purpose, it was subtle and it was wrong of him to do.  Chuck clearly misrepresented the writings of Philo and as we will see in the following chapter, Justin Martyr.  If it can be demonstrated that Chuck misrepresents the writings of these men, should we be concerned about other writings that he misrepresents?

      For the record, I uphold quoting any source as accurately as possible, using translations when necessary, but applying the same principle we use when quoting Scripture:  Transliterate names from the original language the best you can, especially the names of our Heavenly Father and His Son.  They deserve that.  When referring to either Yahweh or Yeshua, choose titles that honor Them.  When Philo referred to Yahweh as “Theos,” he did not choose a “pagan title” and he would not have dared use “God.”  The title he chose for our Heavenly Father, Theos, is simply a generic Greek term for deity in the same way that we use “The Almighty” as a generic term.  It’s not borrowed from the name of a pagan idol.  Sadly, “God” is and I’m always glad to share “how and why” for those who are not satisfied with the information found in our studies on this topic.  I’m certainly not about to imitate those who refer to our Heavenly Father as their “God.”  If my debate opponent had not been aware of this principle, I would have looked the other way as I composed this study.  I will let it go at that.

  

Chuck’s Ad Hominem Attack on Philo

 

       Chuck took me by surprise when, during our public debate, instead of agreeing that Philo, like the Apostle John, regarded the Logos as the Creator, he chose to employ a debate stratagem known as ad hominemAd hominem is where you attempt to discredit an individual so as to shift the audience’s focus away from the actual issue.  In this instance, my opponent presented Philo as a confused pagan philosopher, who mixed heathen philosophies with his Jewish beliefs.  Those heathen philosophies included the worship of multiple deities, not the One creator, Yahweh.  Certainly, then, any attempt to use Philo as an historical reference must be negated and rejected because of the pagan philosophies he “mingled” into his Jewish faith.  Or so Chuck would have us to believe.  With the above background information in mind, here’s the full text of Chuck Henry’s debate commentary pertaining to Philo and Justin Martyr:[6]

 

Now let’s look at Philo. Larry mentioned Philo and talked quite a bit about him. Philo, who lived from about 20 BCE to 50 CE, also known as Philo Judaeus and Philo of Alexandria, was a Hellenistic Jew, philosopher, and historian who lived in Alexandria, Egypt.  Besides Philo’s writings, he is known for leading a delegation of the Jewish community of Alexandria to Rome. And we find that documented in the Encyclopedia Judaica and there’s other places where it’s documented.

 

As Larry mentioned, he believes that Philo’s statements represent the ancient Jewish understanding of Scripture. Let’s look at some statements by Philo and I quote:

 

For it was impossible that anything mortal should be made in the likeness of the Most High God the Father of the universe; but it could only be made in the likeness of the second God, who is the Word of the other. — Philo, “On Providence, Fragment I”

 

Next excerpt, and I quote:

 

No mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the Supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the Supreme Being. —“Questions and Answers on Genesis, II,” p. 1134

 

Please notice that according to Philo’s own words, he identifies the Word as the “second God” and the “second deity.”  Remember that Philo was a Hellenistic Jew living in Alexandria, Egypt.

      Larry’s interruption:  I need to interrupt Chuck here, something I wasn’t able to do during the debate, nor would the following have likely popped into my head on such short notice:  Philo stated that the “second deity” is the Word and Chuck chooses this quote to ridicule him?  But didn’t the Apostle John essentially say the same thing in John 1:1?  John stated that in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with Elohim and the Word was Elohim.  Or, as the King James Version translators rendered it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (quote, unquote).  Now if the Word was with God, how can the Word be God – unless there’s a “second deity”?  Please keep in mind I’m only using “God” here so as to come down to Chuck’s playing level.  If there’s a “second deity,” the phrase makes sense, especially since we know from verse 14 that “the Word became flesh.”  Did both Father and Son “become flesh”?  Of course not, so it appears there must be a “second deity.”  By the way, the literal translation of Greek text of John 1:1 reads, “In (the) beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Theon, and Theos was the Word.”  We have already established and proven that there is more than one Elohim, despite Chuck’s attempt to reduce the Angel of Elohim to “representative of Elohim” status, i.e., “not really Elohim.”  As you may recall, the Angel of Elohim plainly identified Himself as Elohim.  In summary, Philo did nothing wrong, but that won’t stop Chuck from attempting to malign him. 

      Chuck continues the verbal assault on Philo:

 

The following excerpts document the influences of foreign thought on Philo:

 

The Werner Encyclopædia states:

 

Beyond the limits of Palestine thought took a wider range. In adopting the Greek language the Hellenistic Jews had also become open to the influences of foreign speculation, and the schools of Alexandria, whose greatest teacher, Philo, was contemporary with the foundation of Christianity, had in great measure exchanged the faith of the Old Testament for a complicated system of metaphysico-theological speculations upon the Absolute Being, the Divine Wisdom, the Logos, and the like, which by the aid of allegorical interpretation were made to appear as the true teaching of Hebrew antiquity.[7]

 

From the article “Bible” in the Werner Encyclopædia. 

      Larry’s interruption:  Exchanging the faith of the Old Testament for a complicated system of metaphysico-theological speculations is a serious charge that warrants a display of evidence proving Philo’s guilt.  Just what exactly did he teach that brought on such a scathing assault by the encyclopedia author?  Chuck offers nothing, just the words of an accuser.  Shouldn’t he have presented evidence to back up such a serious charge instead of taking the accuser’s word for it?  Chuck, like so many others who have already made up their minds, would likely say, “Philo is obviously guilty of idolatry! What further need do we have of witnesses?” 

      But he continues: 

The Encyclopædia Britannica states:

 

By far the greatest figure in Alexandrian Jewish literature is Philo, who has come to be recognized as the first Jewish theologian. His use of Greek philosophy, particularly that of Plato, to explicate the ideas of the Torah and his formulation of the Logos (Word, or Divine Reason) as an intermediary between God and the world helped lay the foundations of Neoplatonism, gnosticism, and the philosophical outlook of the early Church Fathers.[8]

 

This is the background of Philo from the article, “Judaism” in the Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

       Larry’s interruption Prior to my debate with Chuck, I’m not even sure I had ever heard of “Neo-platonism.”  I wonder if anyone in the audience had?  I wonder if Chuck had?  Afterwards, I took the time to at least look up the word to see what it means.  Our dictionary defines it as “A philosophical and religious system originated in the 3rd century, composed chiefly of elements of Platonism and Oriental mysticism, later influenced by Christianity.”[9]  This, for me, is too vague, so I tried an online search for “Neoplatonism.”  The first “definition” I found consisted of an extensive article that I estimate would have taken me an hour to read and even longer to absorb it all. It’s from the Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I skimmed some of the article and pretty much concluded that Neoplatonism essentially boils down to man’s attempt to determine what the essence of Elohim is.  So it’s not like these men worshipped the sun or the moon, they were just trying to figure out what constitutes “Elohim,” or as they would have put it, “Theos.”  The Bible obviously doesn’t tell us what makes up the physical attributes of “Elohim,” we’re just told that He’s Spirit, whereas we are flesh and blood.  On that basis, I don’t see the need to probe any further.  Others with inquiring minds want to know more.  I think that would be a brief summary of “Neo-platonism.”  Or you can just read the full, complete article and tell me where I’m mistaken. All I know is, when I finished skimming the article, in the author’s concluding remarks he wrote the following: 

The history of Neoplatonism until the present day is much too diverse and complex to be done justice to in an introductory article such as this. [10] 

      So after such a lengthy exposé, all we’ve read in that online encyclopedia is an “introductory article”?  Of course, as Chuck works at laying a heathen, “god worshipping” foundation for Philo, the audience by this time doesn’t really care what “Neoplatonism” means.  To them it’s another nail in Philo’s scholarly, yet heathen, coffin.  Keep in mind that Philo never espoused Neoplatonism because Neoplatonism didn’t exist until the 3rd century ce and Philo died around the year 50 ce.  This won’t stop men from giving Philo credit for “laying its foundation.” 

      One more thing about the Greek Philosopher Plato before we continue with Chuck’s commentary:  Plato never had access to Torah writings in his lifetime because he spoke Greek, not Hebrew, and the Greek Septuagint wasn’t translated until the 3rd century bce.  Plato died in the 4th century bce, some 100 years earlier.  Plato had some rather unorthodox views, many of which Philo did not agree with, including reincarnation.  Nevertheless, as it turns out, Plato believed there is an omniscient and benevolent creator, which is a unifying factor in a world dominated by idol-worshippers.  Philo, instead of distancing himself from Plato’s devotees, most likely attempted to reconcile the Creator of the Bible with Plato’s perceptions of the Creator and it is this conciliatory attempt that, in my opinion, is at the heart of Chuck Henry’s attack.  Consider the following from Plato’s Symposium.  In this writing, Plato quotes from a female philosopher and priestess named Diotima and addresses an Athenian aristocrat named Phaedrus: 

(Plato, addressing Phaedrus, but quoting Diotima): “But what if man had eyes to see the true Beauty—the divine Beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life—thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of the Almighty [Theos] and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?’

 

(Plato, addressing Phaedrus): Such, Phaedrus—and I speak not only to you, but to all of you—were the words of Diotima; and I am persuaded of their truth. And being persuaded of them, I try to persuade others, that in the attainment of this end human nature will not easily find a helper better than love. And therefore, also, I say that every man ought to honour Him as I myself honour Him, and walk in His ways, and exhort others to do the same, and praise the power and spirit of love according to the measure of my ability now and ever.[11] 

      I’m not about to claim that I agree with everything that Plato believed, yet when reading those ancient words exhorting others to honor the Almighty, praising the power and spirit of love, I can’t help but think of such Bible verses as 1 John 4:8, where we read, “He that loveth not knoweth not the Almighty; for the Almighty (Greek Theos) is love.”  Or how about Psalms 128:1 – “Blessed is every one that feareth Yahweh; that walketh in his ways”?  Maybe I have some serious differences with Plato’s overall theology, but I try to get along with others and I can at least respect someone whose desire is to become a “friend of the Almighty” and who wants to honor Him and walk in His ways.  If Philo made the attempt to reconcile Plato’s desire to honor the Almighty with his own understanding of Elohim’s love for His children, I can at least respect that, especially when Philo writes such things as how we exhibit our love for the Almighty by obeying Him.  For example: 

The one most powerful relaxation of the soul leads to the sacred love of the one living Mighty One [Theos], teaching mankind to take the Almighty as its guide in all their plans, and words, and actions.[12] 

      Philo understood and taught that the most powerful “relaxation of the soul” leads to the sacred love of that Almighty, which in turn leads to accepting Him as our guide in everything we think, do and say.  Will Biblical Unitarians focus in any way on how Philo understood that loving the Almighty includes obeying Him?  Not likely – an ad hominem attack focuses solely on throwing any “dirt” they can find, even if it means taking comments out of context and even if it means quoting accusers before determining whether or not the accused is guilty.  However, as the saying goes, “When you throw dirt, you’re losing ground.”  I think Chuck’s attack on Philo and Justin Martyr gained some ground with his supportive audience, but I’m more interested in whether or not it gained ground with Yahweh.  My personal conclusion is that it did not. 

      I have expended considerable space towards defending Philo in the interest of offering a more balanced view than the one presented by Chuck Henry during the debate.  I could offer considerably more commentary and insights from unbiased authors, and indeed I will do so later.  For now, we will resume with Chuck’s presentation.  Of course, Chuck wasn’t quite finished with his attack on Philo, so let’s see what else he had to say

The Encyclopedia Judaica states:

 

Most famous and influential are Philo’s interpretations of the story of creation and the Patriarchs. In both areas he enriched Scripture with motifs from Greek literature. Philo rewrote the story of creation by inserting a distinctly Platonic perspective.[13]

 

“Platonic” refers to the philosophies of the Greek philosopher Plato. — “Philo Judaeus,” Encyclopædia Judaica. 

      Larry’s interruption I would like to interrupt Chuck’s commentary here to ask, “How exactly did Philo ‘rewrite the story of creation’?”  If Chuck had chosen to read the next few sentences from the above reference, he would have answered my question and let’s just say I have no problem with what Philo wrote about the creation story.  In fact, I do not feel he “re-wrote” it at all.  We’re all free to speculate and I have no problem with Philo’s speculation.  I do not see how he “rewrote” anything because “rewriting the story” would require contradicting the original and Philo did no such thing.  Let’s read an expanded quote from the encyclopedia article with the additional quote highlighted for easy reference: 

Most famous and influential are Philo’s interpretations of the story of creation and the Patriarchs. In both areas he enriched Scripture with motifs from Greek literature. Philo rewrote the story of creation by inserting a distinctly Platonic perspective.  Relying on Plato's Timaeus, he argued that such a beautiful world could only have been created as a copy of an ideal model. Distinguishing between an active cause and the passive material, which is shaped into ever new forms, Philo describes the activity of God as initially creating the ideal cosmos in His own mind and then modeling the material cosmos in its image (Opif. 1–25).[14] 

      Please understand that Chuck Henry omitted sharing with his audience exactly “how” Philo rewrote the creation account.  I would say there’s a reason for that and it’s not because he was concerned about time constraints.  Chuck, as Philo’s accuser, would accuse Philo of agreeing with Plato that such a beautiful world as the one we live in could only have been created as a copy of an ideal model.  Oh, my goodness!  What a pagan concept!  I’m being cynical here to emphasize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Philo’s way of thinking on how this world is the copy of an ideal model.  When the Apostle John, in Revelation 21:2-3 describes the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven and a great voice from heaven declaring that the tabernacle of Elohim is now with mankind, is this not a glimpse at the heavenly tabernacle in comparison with the earthly copy?  There is a pattern – a pattern that Philo understood and even if he didn’t understand it perfectly, do any of us?  I would hardly use Philo’s “Platonic perspective,” at least in this particular instance, as an opportunity to malign him – unless I were desperate for any “sleaze material” I can get my hands on.   Chuck can call me a pagan if he wishes, but I would like to say that I’m on both Philo’s and Plato’s side, at least on this one.  Again, to be clear, I don’t agree with everything Philo wrote, nor have I ever claimed such a thing.  My only point all along has been that Philo agreed with the Apostle John regarding the identity of the LogosChuck draws his audience away from this fact, painting an image of a pagan philosopher who was out of touch with Biblical truth.  Never mind that he wrote essentially the same thing that John wrote!  Chuck continues: 

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

 

Minor phenomena aside, three principle movements characterized the time:  the Pagan reaction, or reversion to forms of religion that had sufficed the peoples of the Roman empire hitherto--this manifested itself strongly with Augustus, and entered its decline with perhaps the death of Plutarch, circa 120 AD; the appearance of Christianity; and what is known as Syncretism, or interfusion between the conceptions of different races, especially in religion, philosophy and morals--a circumstance which affected the fortunes of Christianity deeply, found its chief exponent in Philo, and maintained itself for several centuries in theosophical systems of the Gnostics and neo-Platonists.

 

Another excerpt from the same article:

 

Philo’s doctrine of God, like that of the neo-Platonic school, which he heralded, is thoroughly dualistic.[15]

 

“Dualistic” meaning more than one El; more than one Mighty One. 

      Larry’s interruption Please pardon this brief interruption, but please notice that Chuck here hones in on “more than one El; more than one Mighty One,” as though such a thought or belief is the epitome of sacrilege.  Of course, the question of whether or not there is more than one El is what this entire discussion is all about:  Is there more than one Elohim?  The mere notion of such a thing is an abomination to Chuck, even though we have already proven that, in addition to the “one true Elohim,” there’s an Elohim who serves as the physical manifestation of Elohim – a second Elohim.  In short, I support Philo’s “dualistic” understanding of Elohim in spite of Chuck’s attempt to portray him as a heathen “god worshipper.” 

     Chuck now moves on to address the Logos

Let’s talk about a little bit about Philo’s logos. Regarding Philo’s use of logos, The Encyclopædia Judaica reports, “Logos as an independent entity appeared in Jewish literature suddenly in the writings of Philo.”  Recall that Philo lived about 20 BCE to 50 CE. Consequently, the sudden appearance in Jewish literature of logos as an in-dependent entity — that is, as an independent being or existence — in Philo’s writings indicates that this does not reflect ancient Jewish understanding of the Scriptures. 

      Larry’s interruption I must once again interrupt Chuck’s commentary, this time to point out that his reference, The Encyclopædia Judaica, is mistaken with its assertion that Logos, as an independent entity, appeared “suddenly” in the writings of Philo. Greek-speaking Jews who lived before Philo also used Logos as an in-dependent entity in their writings as well.  These include Aristobulus of Alexandria (181–124 bce).  Within the writings of Aristobulus we find an allusion to the Logos as the Creator.  The following is an excerpt from Celia M. Deutsch’s book From Hidden Wisdom and the Easy Yoke: Wisdom, Torah and Discipleship in Matthew 11.25-30:

     We find a teacher’s invitation in a fragment of Aristobulus in which Aristobulus has ‘corrected’ an Orphic text in such a way as to demonstrate through Orphaeus’ own words that all pagan philosophy is derived from the Law of Moses.  Two statements in the corrected text are particularly significant here.  First, Orphaeus bids Museaeus, his addressee, to listen to him, for he has truths to tell.  Second, Orphaeus concludes with the words: ‘Draw near in thought, my son; but guard thy tongue with care, and store his doctrine in thy heart.’

     Orphaeus exhorts Museaeus to look to the divine Logos, who is alone One, who is the Creator and who brings all things to perfection--the beginning, middle and end of all.  While the text focuses on knowledge through the Logos of God as Creator, it alludes briefly to the question of theodicy.[16] 

      We thus see that, regardless of how one feels about the identity of the Logos, contrary to The Encyclopædia Judaica article cited by Chuck, its appearance in Jewish literature pre-dates Philo. 

      Chuck concludes his exposé on Philo as follows: 

Philo versus Bible history: Remember, according to Philo’s own words, he identifies the “Word” as the second God and the second deity.  If Philo’s statements on the Logos represent the way Yahweh’s people believed from ancient times, where are similar historical comments from Moses, Isaiah, Malachi and Job?  Not only are such statements lacking, but instead, we find the opposite stated and I’ve already read some of those scriptures today. 

      Larry’s interruption Chuck asks, “Where are similar historical comments from Moses, Isaiah, Malachi and Job?”  He then answers his own question, but his answer is incorrect.  He states that such statements are lacking, but all he needs to do is read the text of the Septuagint to see that Logos is woven throughout the Old Testament.  For example, King David wrote, “For with thee is forgiveness: for thy name’s sake have I waited for thee, O Yahweh, my soul has waited for thy Word (Logos).”[17]  I counted 49 times in the first five books of the Bible where Logos is used.  Although the likes of Moses, Isaiah, Malachi and Job did not speak Greek, they were certainly familiar with its Hebrew equivalent:  The Dabar of Yahweh. 

      Chuck’s ends his scathing rebuke of Philo with the following question: 

      So my question is, “Who shall we believe? Philo or the Bible?” 

      This is where Chuck officially, albeit unfairly, proclaims a dichotomy between Philo and the Bible.  Let’s answer Chuck’s question:  Philo upheld the sanctity and inspiration of Scripture above that of men, including himself.  As such, I’m persuaded that Philo would answer, “The Bible Only believe me as I am supported by the Bible.”  The fact that Philo devoted his life to studying Scripture demonstrates that creating a dichotomy between him and the Bible is something that only those who are not well-acquainted with his works would think to do. I have demonstrated that Philo is not mistaken in stating that there is a “second Elohim” – the physical manifestation of Yahweh (Gen. 32:28, Ex. 3:2, 13-16).  Thus, as authoritative as Chuck attempted to appear with his question above, he proved nothing

      An ad hominem attack wouldn’t be an ad hominem attack if it were balanced.  Chuck’s sole focus on Philo was that of disparaging pretty much everything about him.  During our March 2019 debate in our home, when I initially gave Chuck my information on how Philo regarded the Logos, I mistakenly assumed that Chuck would either (a) be persuaded that Philo’s understanding of the Logos matches my interpretation of the New Testament writers, which would in turn end the debate, or (b) produce contradictory historical evidence validating that some “heavy hitter” scholars of the first century (or earlier), like Chuck, regarded the Logos or Dabar as an insentient “thought, plan or reasoning process.” Unable to produce either, Chuck devoted the ensuing three months to digging up whatever “dirt” he could find on Philo, regardless of how unbiased his sources would be.  Frankly, I did not believe Chuck was capable of perpetrating an ad hominem attack.  It never occurred to me that he would stoop to such a level. 

 

The Logos and High Priest

 

      I was able to delve much more deeply into Philo’s use of Logos with additional commentary during our private March 2019 debate.  During the interim time between that debate and the follow-up debate held in Rising Star, TX three months later, I put together some additional slides with the intention of weaving at least a few of them into that debate.  Regrettably, I soon discovered that there was simply not room for all of them.  In March, I strongly felt that once Chuck saw the historical understanding of “who” the Logos is, i.e., it’s not a “Plan,” he would realize the folly of teaching that Yeshua did not have a pre-carnal existence.  Once the March debate was over, I realized that Chuck had already made up his mind, so it became clear that nothing Philo wrote will dissuade him from his position.  Regardless of how Chuck views the historical testimony, my focus must remain on presenting truth, not on what might contribute towards changing Chuck’s mind.  For those who would like to know more about how Philo regarded the Logos, including the fact that he regarded the Logos as the high priest, the following “unused” slides may be of interest. 

      My first slide in this section addresses the fact that Philo regarded the Logos as a “suppliant.”  What is a “suppliant”?  Not being familiar with that word, I had to look up its definition.  Our dictionary defines it as “A humble petitioner.”  That is precisely the role that Yeshua performs as our High Priest, petitioning the Father on our behalf.  Did Philo know more about the role of Logos than Biblical Unitarians are willing to admit?  Here’s a slide from our March 2019 debate:

  

      Philo wrote that the Logos is “continually a suppliant [“humble petitioner”] to the immortal Elohim on behalf of the human race.”  Does this remind you of anyone?  If not, please re-read such verses as Hebrews 2:14-18 or Hebrews 7:23-27, which is displayed below: 

23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto Elohim by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 

      The author of Hebrews understood that Yeshua ever lives to make intercession for those the turn to Elohim through Him.  “Intercession,” by definition, is “The act of interceding; mediation; entreaty, prayer, or petition in behalf of another.”[18]  Yeshua is the Mediator between us and the Father.

     Here’s another slide I put together to highlight a striking parallel between how Philo describes the Logos and how the author of the book of Hebrews describes Yeshua the Messiah:

 

      Let’s think about the above slide for a moment before we move on.  The Word, the Logos, is a “humble petitioner to the immortal Elohim”?  How did Philo come up with such a notion as this?  Was this some sort of pagan ideology that he borrowed from the Greeks?  And what’s this about Yeshua “ever living to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25)?  Just what is “intercession”?  Our dictionary defines it as, “The act of interceding; mediation; entreaty, prayer, or petition in behalf of another.”  This is the role of a mediator; as Philo put it, “a suppliant [“humble petitioner”] to the immortal Elohim.”  This is Yeshua.  This is the Logos. 

      The author of the book of Hebrews unabashedly refers to Yeshua as our high priest who makes intercession for us before Elohim.  Philo, who never even knew who Yeshua was, referred to this same Logos as high priest.  Here are two samples from Philo’s writings:

  

 

Chuck Henry’s Reaction to Philo Identifying the Logos as “Mediator”

 

      As I mentioned in my introduction to this section, I displayed the above slides during the private debate I had here in our home with Chuck Henry in March 2019.  I was surprised at Chuck’s reaction to Philo identifying the Logos as a Mediator between Elohim and mankind.  I guess I should have regarded his reaction as a prelude to the ad hominem attack he perpetrated on Philo three months later, but I did not.  In his response, Chuck presented the view that in Old Testament there was no mediator between man and Yahweh.  Since our March debate was recorded, here’s a transcript of what Chuck had to say in response to the above PowerPoint slides:[19] 

Larry would have us believe that Philo believed that there was a Mediator waaaay back there, who was the firstborn Word, by which all the world was made.  I find in the book of Job, which is a Scriptural reference, this is what Job said, chapter 9, verses 32 through 33, “For He is not a man” [speaking of Yahweh Elohim], “He is not a man as I am, that I may answer Him, And that we should go to court together, Nor is there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us both.” So Job, we find back in his days, there was no mediator between him and Yahweh. 

      Again, I was surprised by the above commentary, even shocked; but I was not given an opportunity that day to rebut Chuck’s words, especially given that it would take some time to adequately research what Job meant when he said there was no mediator between him and the three “friends,” who were apparently there to pour salt on Job’s already painful sores, not to mention his broken spirit.  Now that I’ve had some time to look into Chuck’s argument a little more carefully, I am hopeful that someday he will retract the above as an argument – because it utterly fails

      First, hopefully we all recognize Yeshua as our High Priest, who is also our Mediator; we should give thanks every day that He is our Mediator.  Isn’t mediating what a high priest does?   Doesn’t the high priest mediate between the people and the Almighty?  So when Yeshua became our High Priest, does this mean all those other high priests were not mediators between mankind and Yahweh?  Were they mere figureheads without a purpose for their time period?  Apparently, that is Chuck’s view, at least based on the above commentary.  Certainly, Chuck should recognize that Moses was a mediator, as Paul establishes in Galatians 3:19: 

19 Why the law then? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made, and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator

      Who was the mediator described in the above verse?  Of course, it was Moses.  Moses not only mediated on behalf of the Israelites in terms of receiving the law from the Angel and passing it along to the people, but he also mediated between the Israelites and Yahweh when Yahweh was about to annihilate the Israelites due to their rebellion during what is known as the “Golden Calf Incident.”  Displayed below is Exodus 32:9-14

9 And Yahweh said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may grow hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

11 And Moses besought [Heb. chalah, #2470] Yahweh his Elohim, and said, Yahweh, why doth thy wrath grow hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?  Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

14 And Yahweh repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. 

      Thanks to Moses’ successful mediation, thousands of Israelites’ lives were spared; they certainly deserved to die, but thanks to a mediator they were saved.  In the many discussions I have had over the years with fellow believers, most, if not all, of us consider ourselves to very likely be descendants of the now-dispersed and scattered Israelites.  If our hunches are correct, just think for a moment where we might be today if Moses had not assumed the role of mediator between our ancestors and Yahweh that day.  Would any of us have even been born?  Please think about that for a few minutes!  I would ask Chuck, “Do you still believe there was no mediator ‘waaaay back there?

      Please take note of the Hebrew word chalah, as used in verse 11 above.  It’s translated “besought” in the King James Version.  This verb is translated by different versions in a variety of ways, such as “entreated,” “sought the favor of,” “begged,” “implored,” “pleaded,” and Jay P. Green, Sr., in his The Interlinear Bible, renders it “prayed.”  When Moses expressed chalah to Yahweh, he did all those things because he loved his people and did not want them wiped off the face of the earth in spite of their rebellious nature.  In doing what he did, Moses interceded on behalf of his people, the Israelites.  Is not intercession something performed by a mediator?  In fact, here’s how the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates Exodus 32:11: 

11 But Moses interceded with the LORD his God: LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people You brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand? 

      Was Moses the only mediator in what is known as the Old Testament?  What about Abraham pleading with Yahweh concerning what was about to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18:17-33)?  Were there other mediators as well?  As we’re about to see, the answer is yes.  But let’s go back to Chuck’s commentary from the book of Job for a moment.  Let’s just say that Job needed a mediator between him and Yahweh because he wanted to know why he was being punished in such a tragic way.  It didn’t help matters any that his three “friends,” Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, were there to pour salt on his wounds!   But think about why Job wasn’t granted a mediator:  Yahweh had already agreed with Satan that he (Satan) could do to Job as he wished, just not take his life.  Was Yahweh supposed to send a mediator to Job under these circumstances and say, “Job, you’re on the right track here – it’s just that you’re being tested to see how strong your faith is!  Take courage, keep on enduring the pain, as well as the accusations from your friends a little longer and things will turn out fine!”  Is that what Chuck thinks should have happened?  Does Chuck truly think that Job’s not having a mediator means there were simply no mediators in the days of Job?  I maintain that this was an isolated incident in the life of one man, not the status quo for mankind; in fact, in a fascinating turn of events, it turns out that Yahweh Himself ended up being Job’s Mediator. 

      As we know from the story of Job, in spite of his protests to the contrary, the three accusers relentlessly persisted in letting Job know that his own sins had brought this horrible calamity upon himself.  Nothing Job said in his defense swayed them.  It was them against him, three against one.  As Job rightly lamented, there was no one available to mediate on his behalf.  Not between him and Yahweh and certainly not between him and his accusers.  He was literally on his own.  No mediator to defend his causeOr was there?  Job had to endure nearly 20 more chapters of scathing reproof from Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar with no “apparent” mediator in sight.  Then, suddenly, abruptly, things changed in chapter 38.  A Mediator intervened!  And who was this Mediator?  None other than Yahweh Himself!  I think Chuck would agree that Job couldn’t have found a better Mediator than Yahweh Himself! 

      Try looking at it like this:  Although Job lamented not having a mediator between him and Yahweh, in the end Yahweh was Job’s Mediator – providing the ultimate defense of Job’s character in deference to his accusers. 

      A few days after the “warm-up” debate had ended, as Chuck’s words from that particular commentary slowly jelled in my brain, I remember thinking, “Hey, wait a minute!  Weren’t the priests mediators as well?”  At least isn’t that what they were supposed to do?  Of course, the answer is yes, but I’m not the only one who has this understanding.  Scholars of all ages have reached the same conclusion as me.  Here’s what we find in the 1915 edition of The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Mediation is in a peculiar sense the function of the priest. In the main he stands for the principle in its God-ward aspect. Yet in the early period it was the man-ward aspect that was most apparent; i.e. the priest was at first regarded as the medium through which Jeh [Yahweh] delivered His oracles to men, the human mouthpiece of supernatural revelation, giving advice in difficult emergencies by casting the sacred lot. Before the time of the first literary prophets, the association of the priests with the ephod and the lot had receded into the background (though the high priest theoretically retained the gift of interpreting the Divine will through the Urim and Thummim, Ex 28 30; Lev 8 8); but the power they lost with the oracle they gained at the altar. First they acquired a preferential status at the local sanctuaries; then, in the Deuteronomic legislation, where sacrifice is limited to the Jerus sanctuary, it is assumed that only Levite priests can officiate. Finally, in the Levitical system as set forth in the PC [Priestly Code] (which regulated Jewish worship in the post-exilic times), the Aaronic priests, now clearly distinguished from the Levites, have the sole privilege of immediate access to God in His sanctuary (Nu 4 19.20; 16 3-5). God's transcendence and holiness are now so emphasized that between Him and the sin-stained people there is almost an infinite chasm. Hence, the people can only enjoy its ideal right of drawing nigh unto God and offering sacrifice to Him through the mediation of the official priesthood. The mediatorship of priests derived its authority, not from their moral purity or personal worth, but from the ceremonial purity which attached to their office. All priests are not on the same level. A process of graduated sanctity narrows down their number as the approach is made to the Most Holy Place, which symbolizes the presence chamber of Jeh [Yahweh].[20] 

      Although the information supplied by this reference from over 100 years ago is still sound today, my primary reason for offering it here is to validate the fact that, contrary to Biblical Unitarian Chuck Henry, there have always been mediators.  It was apparent from Abraham’s mediation in the attempt to save Sodom and Gomorrah; it was apparent when Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites during the “Golden Calf Incident,” but it was never more apparent, at least during OT times, than through the office of the priesthood.  I can appreciate the following commentary as found in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible

On the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) is found the climax of the whole OT approach to God.  It is here that in the clearest fashion is depicted the mediatorial office of the priest toward GodAs the prophet mediates God’s Word to His people, the priest mediates man’s word to God.  On the Day of Atonement the whole nation drew near and the priest sought forgiveness for the sins of the whole people.  It is easy to see typified here what the NT means when Christ dies for all men.  The Day of Atonement was a community action and when the priest went into the Holy of Holies, he met God as a representative of God’s people and carried out in action what God had set forth as acceptable worship.[21] 

      Chuck Henry, in his attempt to refute Philo’s statement that the Logos continually serves as a “suppliant,” or humble petitioner, to the mortal race, sought a supportive Scriptural validation.  He thought he found it in the book of Job.  Did Chuck realize he chose the one specific instance in the Old Testament in which a righteous man was purposely abandoned by Yahweh and left without any hope for mediation?  I see a striking parallel between how Yahweh abandoned the righteous Job in the OT and how Yahweh abandoned His sinless Son as He was mercilessly beaten and left to die on His own, forsaken by His Father.  In both cases, the ever-merciful Yahweh Himself later intervened. 

 

Philo Believed That Elohim is ONE

 

      The most difficult aspect of this controversy involves how to reconcile the fact that there is a “second Elohim” with the fact that “Elohim is ONE.”  If reconciling these two facts were easy, we wouldn’t be having this discussion and there wouldn’t have been a debate.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that a Man who was also an Angel wrestled with Jacob in Genesis 32 and that same Man identified Himself as Elohim.  This poses a core problem for Biblical Unitarians.  Was He Elohim or wasn’t He?  Their answer, as we have seen, is no, he wasn’t – the angel was merely a “representative” of Elohim.  They’re wrong about that and their defense of their error is non-existent.  They then reinforce their view that non-Biblical Unitarians worship a second Elohim, which is idolatry.  So believing what the Word says makes me an idolater? 

      I am persuaded that 1st and 2nd century believers, Jewish and Christian alike, had a significantly greater handle on the truth of the matter than we do and it turns out they understood a second Elohim.  Justin Martyr understood that this second Elohim was none other than the pre-incarnate Yeshua.  Other scholars agreed, but that’s when things began to get a bit more complicated.  That’s when the first seeds of the Trinity Doctrine were about to be sown. However, more than a century before the ratification of the Trinity Doctrine, one thing nearly all believers agreed on was this:  The Logos is the Firstborn Son of the Supreme Elohim; He is the physical manifestation of Elohim and it is this same Logos who created the worlds; He is an Elohim with whom mankind can converse face to face and when He did so, He identified Himself as Yahweh.  It is for this belief that those of my persuasion are rejected as idolaters, not only by Biblical Unitarians, but by Trinitarians as well, because we worship a “second Elohim.” 

      The burning question, then, is, “Is Yahweh ONE or not?”  How do we interpret such verses as Deuteronomy 6:4, which is often referred to as the Shema?  Well, if I might borrow from the reasoning I presented in Part 1 of this study, if we can understand that it was an Angel who gave Moses His commandments, then we know this same Angel identified Himself as Yahweh.  When Moses told the Israelites, “Hear, O Israel:  Yahweh our Elohim is one,” this validates worshipping the One who gave Moses the commandments – the Angel.  If we can understand that Yeshua did indeed appear to mankind in the form of an Angel, then He is the One to whom we are to direct our worship.  When we worship the Son – the physical manifestation of His Father – we simultaneously worship the Father as well.  If the pre-incarnate Yeshua told Moses that we are to have “no other elohim before Me” (Yeshua), then this in turn would mean that if there is an Elohim greater than Yeshua, mankind has to go through Yeshua to worship Him.  This understanding gives enhanced meaning to Yeshua’s words in John 14:6: 

6 Yeshua saith unto him [Thomas], I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me

      That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s always been.  When Yeshua states that no man comes to the Father but by Him, this means Yeshua comes first.  He alone is the means to the Supreme Father.  If we can understand that this same Yeshua, in His pre-incarnate state, gave orders that we are to have no other elohim before HIM, then we can simultaneously understand that “before HIM” meant “before” that very Angel – the pre-incarnate Yeshua.  We are to have no Elohim before Yeshua, Who is our only means of gaining access to His (and our) Father, Yahweh the Supreme Most High. 

        If we can somehow grasp the above understanding, then hopefully we can better appreciate Philo when he simultaneously recognizes the Shema and the fact that there’s a “second Elohim.”  Here’s what Philo wrote: 

Why does (Scripture) say, as if (speaking) of another Elohim [Theos], ‘in the image of Elohim [Theos] He made man’ and not ‘in His own image?’ Most excellently and veraciously this oracle was given by Elohim [Theos]. For nothing mortal can be made in the likeness of the most high One and Father of the universe but (only) in that of the second Elohim [deuteron Theon], who is His Logos (ekeinou logos).  For it was right that the rational (part) of the human soul should be formed as an impression by the divine Logos, since the pre-Logos Elohim (Theos) is superior to every rational nature. But He who is above the Logos exists in the best and in a special form – what thing that comes into being can rightfully bear His likeness?[22] 

      Essentially, the question posed to Philo is, “Since there’s only one Elohim, why doesn’t Scripture simply state that Elohim made man ‘in His own image’ instead of phrasing it that ‘Elohim made man in the image of Elohim,’ as if there’s another Elohim?”  For many readers, this question may seem confusing because Scripture does say “… in His own image”!  At least that’s what it says in most Bibles because most Bible translations are translated from what is known as the Hebrew Masoretic Text.  In the Masoretic text of Genesis 1:27, it truly does say, “So Elohim created man in His image,” but it includes the phrase, “… in the image of Elohim created he him; male and female created he them,” which merely comes across as redundant phrasing.  So it does say, “Elohim created man in the image of Elohim,” but it also has “in His image,” effectively removing any impressions that there may have been a “second Elohim” involved.  Here’s the literal reading from the Hebrew text: 

      Since most of us only have access to translations from the Hebrew Masoretic text, Philo’s answer to the question, “Why doesn’t Scripture say Elohim made man in His image?” may seem nonsensical.  However, Philo used the Septuagint translation, which, as I presented in chapter four, can actually be shown to be more reliable than the Masoretic Text.  If you read the actual text of Genesis 1:27 in the Septuagint version, it does not say “in His image.”  Here’s what it says: 

27 And Theos [Elohim] made man, according to the image of Theou [Elohim] he made him, male and female he made them. 

        Displayed below is a screen capture of the Septuagint’s translation of Genesis 1:27:

        As displayed above, the critical phrase “in His image” is not found in the Septuagint version of Genesis 1:27.  Essentially, here is how Philo interpreted Genesis 1:27:  It is the Supreme Most High Elohim/Theos who made man, but He made him in the image of the “second” Elohim/Theou because, as Philo put it, nothing mortal can be made in the likeness of the Supreme Most High Elohim.  I’m not interested in discussing whether or not I agree with Philo’s interpretation of Genesis 1:27.  It’s an interpretation, after all.  The point is, Philo understood a “second Elohim.”  Rabbinical Judaism of today would likely have supported stoning Philo for daring to write such a thing, as would Biblical Unitarians.  The Jews of his day, however, had great respect for Philo, as did first century Jewish historian, Josephus.  Josephus, who was only in his early teens when Philo passed away, was well aware of Philo’s legacy within the ranks of Judaism and how he risked his life to save his fellow Jews from the terrors being inflicted on them by their heathen counterparts.  Philo earned the respect of Josephus.  Here’s what Josephus had to say: 

There was now a tumult arisen at Alexandria, between the Jewish inhabitants and the Greeks; and three ambassadors were chosen out of each party that were at variance, who came to Gaius.[23] Now one of these ambassadors from the people of Alexandria was Apion, who uttered many blasphemies against the Jews; and, among other things that he said, he charged them with neglecting the honors that belonged to Caesar; for that while all who were subject to the Roman empire built altars and temples to Gaius, and in other regards universally received him as they received the gods, these Jews alone thought it a dishonorable thing for them to erect statues in honor of him, as well as to swear by his name. Many of these severe things were said by Apion, by which he hoped to provoke Gaius to anger at the Jews, as he was likely to be. But Philo, the principal of the Jewish embassage, a man eminent on all accounts, brother to Alexander the Alabarch, and one not unskillful in philosophy, was ready to betake himself to make his defense against those accusations; but Gaius prohibited him, and bid him begone; he was also in such a rage, that it openly appeared he was about to do them some very great mischief. So Philo being thus affronted, went out, and said to those Jews who were about him, that they should be of good courage, since Gaius’s words indeed showed anger at them, but in reality had already set God against himself.[24] 

      Shall we now expect an ad hominem attack on Josephus for composing such an admirable tribute to Philo?  I recommend reading Philo’s full account of his visit to Rome in his essay On the Embassy to Gaius.  Once you finish reading, please ask yourself, “Would I, like Biblical Unitarians, think to charge Philo with idolatry?” 

        Recapping Philo’s interpretation of Genesis 1:27, Philo answers that the reason Elohim made man according to the image of Elohim instead of “in His image” is because there’s a second Elohim and this “second Elohim” is the Logos, the Elohim with whom man can converse face to face without fear of death and it is in the image of this “second Elohim” that we were fashioned be-cause nothing mortal can be made in the image of the Supreme Most High Elohim.  If Philo’s interpretation is correct, then if the Logos created the heavens and the earth, it was His Father, Yahweh the Supreme Most High Elohim, who formed man out of the dust of the earth. 

      So when it comes to the Shema, the famous verse in Deuteronomy 6:4 wherein we are told that Yahweh is ONE, did Philo deny the veracity of that verse?  Did he reject the notion that Yahweh is One?  Before I answer that question, let’s read Deuteronomy 6:4-5: 

4 Hear, O Israel:  Yahweh our Elohim is one:

5 And thou shalt love Yahweh thy Elohim with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 

      The clear testimony from Moses is, “Yahweh is one,” not two, not three.  Yet Philo stated that there’s a “second Elohim.”  Shouldn’t his fellow Jews have cast him out as an idolater for writing such a thing?  Some would say he should have been stoned.  However, as we just read from Josephus, his Jewish counterparts instead selected him to represent them before the Roman emperor. 

      Philo understood that the “second Elohim” is the Logos, the manifestation of the Supreme Most High with whom mankind can converse face to face.  It is Yahweh in a form that we can see and touch.  It is not an “extra Yahweh,” as Biblical Unitarians try to make out that it is.  Philo even understood that the Logos is Yahweh’s firstborn Son – a perfect description of who Yeshua is.  For someone who stands accused of idolatry in this, the 21st century, Philo did a decent job of defending himself in the first century, i.e., he doesn’t really need any help from me.  Here’s what he wrote in The Decalogue

Let us, then, engrave deep in our hearts this as the first and most sacred of commandments, to acknowledge and honor one Almighty Who is above all, and let the idea that mighty ones are many never even reach the ears of the man whose rule of life is to seek for truth in purity and guilelessness.[25] 

      It would hardly make any sense for Philo to express the notion that there’s a “second Elohim” while simultaneously upholding the Shema — unless there’s a contingency that we’ve been overlooking.  We can either conclude that he was a confused man or we can agree that the Almighty does indeed has a physical manifestation of Himself, a manifestation described by Philo and the Apostle John as the Logos

      If you read Philo’s On the Embassy to Gaius, you can almost place yourself there in Rome alongside Philo as he and his fellow ambassadors risk their lives in a failed attempt to sway Emperor Gaius Caligula to command an end to the hostilities being inflicted upon the Jews.  If you can imagine being in a place where you are surrounded by opponents who would love to watch your execution, where you are taunted and berated, not only by your accusers, but by “Judge Gaius” himself for not recognizing him as deity – if you can imagine finding yourself in such a setting, not knowing if you will escape with your life, yet you are willing to die rather than worship any but the One and only Elohim, that is where Philo found himself.  Parts of Philo’s essay, especially the introduction, are difficult to wade through; other parts are fascinating – the Jews’ alarming reaction to the news that Gaius was to have a statue of himself erected in the Holy of Holies, the intriguing story of how Gaius’s plan came to naught, the chauvinism exhibited by King Agrippa, and even Philo’s apt description of the first century’s equivalent to Hollywood.  I challenge Biblical Unitarians to read On the Embassy to Gaius, and assuming they’re able to put themselves in Philo’s shoes as he attempted to mediate a resolution to the horrors being perpetrated on his fellow Jews, let me know that they still consider him an idolater. 

      Ironically, Philo had all but given up hope that he and his fellow Jews would survive their visit to Rome, and if they had been executed, it would have been for refusing to recognize Gaius Caligula as deity, i.e., refusing to be idolaters.  That was in the first century.  Here in the 21st century, Biblical Unitarian Chuck Henry presents Philo in the opposite light – from Chuck’s perspective, in his “court,” Philo should be judged guilty of idolatry for recognizing a “second Elohim.”  Chuck’s fellow Biblical Unitarians echo the resounding charge of “Guilty!” 

      We will shortly see that Chuck renders the same judgment of 2nd century believer, Justin Martyr. 

 

The Jewish Scribe and the Shema

 

      During the debate, although I presented Philo as upholding the Shema, Chuck went to no small effort to present Philo in the opposite light.  As part of his presentation, Chuck quoted from Scripture texts supportive of the Shema, as though they clashed with what I believe.  He made a point of bringing up the discussion Yeshua had with a Jewish scribe about “Which is the first commandment of all?”  Hopefully, we all know the Greek word translated first in that verse (prote) could also have been translated chief, as in “greatest.”  So the question was, “What’s the greatest commandment of all?”  Yeshua answered that the greatest commandment is, “Hear O, Israel, Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one.”  Chuck used that answer as a validation of his doctrinal belief, as though Yeshua’s answer was diametrically opposed to what I believe.  Here’s a transcription of Chuck’s commentary: 

And then, Deuteronomy 6:4, which has already been mentioned, how that it’s the “Great Shema” verse, or “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one.” Very interestingly, we have commentary on that verse in Mark 12:28 through 34. I won’t read all the verses, but Yeshua and a Jewish scribe had a conversation about this matter, and Yeshua was asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” and when Yeshua answered, He started with the Shema:  “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one.’” At the end of this conversation, the scribe, towards the end of it, the scribe said, “You have spoken the truth, for there is one Elohim, and there is no other but He” – singular. In Verse 34, Yeshua saw that the scribe answered wisely. So the Messiah and the scribe agreed! They agreed!  There is one Elohim and there is no other but He, thus confirming what is meant by “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4.[26] 

      Listening to Chuck’s commentary is painful for me because it was a clear, unfair attempt to pit Yeshua against my belief, as though what Yeshua and the scribe agreed upon is contrary to what I believe.  Chuck knew this wasn’t true when he issued his commentary, yet he nevertheless attempted to portray me as not agreeing that Yahweh is one.  I know this strategy worked for those who had not listened carefully enough to my earlier presentation.  Chuck’s approach here reminds me of the famous manipulation strategy used by unethical lawyers when they ask the defendant, “When did you stop beating your wife?”  Even though the defendant may be innocent, the lawyer successfully creates an impression in the jurors’ minds that the man is an abusive husband and since most people take on a guilty appearance as they vehemently deny the charge, the precise effect the lawyer was hoping to achieve is produced.  Chuck worked this same approach with his “Yeshua came as a Man” spiel.[27] 

      I have never claimed to understand the essence of Yahweh, so although it’s a Scriptural fact that an Angel can be and is Elohim – as well as the physical manifestation of the Supreme Most High Elohim – this does not mean I should be expected to explain or even understand how that process works.  Nevertheless, what I have stated above – that an Angel is Elohim – is a fact that Biblical Unitarians cannot seem to handle, so I suppose that may be why their best defense is to simply cite the Shema as though I’m opposed to the Shema.  The fact that an Angel is Elohim presents a quandary that Biblical Unitarians are unable to satisfactorily resolve and their attempt to do so (relegating the Angel to a subordinate “representative of Elohim” instead of “very Elohim”) is feeble beyond measure.  They evade addressing the fact that an Angel literally identified Himself as Elohim to Jacob and as Yahweh Elohim to Moses.  He’s the Angel who has His own temple, another fact for which Biblical Unitarians have no answer, but when Yeshua states that Yahweh is one, this serves as Chuck’s apparent “springboard” to refuting Yeshua’s pre-carnal existence.  After all, as Chuck would reason, Yeshua recognized that Yahweh is one, which means there can be no one else, not even a physical manifestation of the Almighty that can appear to man. 

      This is where I stand with Philo in my determination that Yahweh is one, while at the same time recognizing that the Logos is Yahweh’s firstborn Son, the instrument through whom the world was created and the instrument through whom Yahweh reveals Himself to mankind.  Through all this, Yahweh is still one.

        

I Who Made Them

 

      One of the points that Chuck makes in his book is that if Yeshua created mankind, He missed a golden opportunity to call that “fact” to the Jews’ attention in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6.  These parallel passages consist of Yeshua’s response to the Pharisees’ question about whether or not it’s lawful for a man to put away his wife.  Here’s what we read in Matthew 19:3-5: 

3¶ The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 

      Chuck is persuaded that if Yeshua is the creator, then He should have revealed as much in His answer to the Jews’ question.  In other words, He should have replied, “Have ye not read, that I which made them ….”  Displayed below is a screen capture from page 46 of Trinity, Oneness, Duality, and Pre-Existence: 

      Here’s a summary of Chuck’s reasoning above:  In citing the Scriptural record, Yeshua pointed out that when Elohim made mankind, HE made them male and female.  Since “HE” made them, this points away from Yeshua, proving that Yeshua could not have been the “HE who made them.”  This, Chuck reasons, establishes that Yeshua could not have been the “HE” because if it truly was Yeshua who made them, He would have said, “I who made them” instead of “He who made them” during his discourse with the Pharisees. 

      So, in other words, if I understand Chuck’s reasoning correctly, when the Pharisees asked Yeshua if it’s lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause, was Yeshua supposed to have responded, “Have you not read, that I which made them at the beginning made them male and female?”  There are several problems with the above potential answer, the first of which is the fact that no one in his right (Scriptural) mind would have read “… I which made them” in any Scripture text.  Such a quotation would have been a misrepresentation of the text.  In other words, if Yeshua is the Creator of Adam and Eve, here’s how Chuck believes the text of Genesis 1:27 should read: 

27 So I, Elohim, created man, in My own image, in My image I created I him, male and female created I them. 

      Assuming for the sake of argument that the word “I” would have been in the original text, should those Pharisees of Yeshua’s day been expected to recognize that Yeshua was the “I” of Genesis 1:27? 

      Next, let’s assume for now that Yeshua is indeed the “He” (3rd person singular pronoun) of Genesis 1:27.  Should we assume that Yeshua could not and would not have spoken of Himself in the third person?  Consider the author of the very book from which Chuck quotes, i.e., Matthew.  Matthew has unquestionably been considered the author of the book of Matthew, but notice what he wrote about himself in Matthew 9:9: 

9 And as Yeshua passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me.  And he arose, and followed him. 

      So did Matthew write that Yeshua saw Matthew, i.e., in reference to himself?  Yes, that’s the understanding.  Sure, he could have written, “I, Matthew, was seated at the receipt of custom when Yeshua approached and said, Follow me.”  But he didn’t.  There are other examples of Bible characters speaking in the third person, such as Paul writing about Paul in Philemon 9.  Thus, if we can for the moment assume that Yeshua, in a pre-carnal state, created mankind, then He could very well have been expected to speak clandestinely of Himself as creator, unbeknownst to the Pharisees.  There would have been little point in Him, in His flesh and blood form, to have explained to the Pharisees that He’s the one who created mankind from the dust of the earth!  What might such an enlightenment have accomplished in that setting? 

      I am reminded of a late 1990’s commercial for Wendy’s restaurant.  Dave Thomas, the founder, often appeared in Wendy’s commercials and was well known for his folksy, sometimes self-effacing humor.  In this particular commercial, a gruff cowboy approaches the counter to let the counter attendant know how much he loves Dave Thomas’s new Monterey Ranch Crispy Chicken sandwich.  Little does he know that the counter attendant just happens to be Dave Thomas himself.  As the cowboy finishes raving about the delicious sandwich, he says, “If Dave were here, I’d give him a hug!” 

        With his folksy smile, Thomas replies, “I’m sure he’ll be sorry he missed you!” 

      This is just a humorous modern-day example of how people sometimes speak of themselves in the third person.  In the situation just described, the viewer is expected to understand that Dave Thomas didn’t really want a hug from the cowboy, so he cleverly avoided revealing his true identity.  In that particular setting, Dave Thomas didn’t want to reveal his true identity to the cowboy.  By the same token, if Yeshua is the one who created mankind, that particular setting was not the place for Him to make such a thing known to the Pharisees. 

      Finally, if I properly understand Philo’s interpretation of Genesis 1:27, he doesn’t attribute the creation of mankind to the Logos, i.e. the “second Elohim.”  You may recall from Philo’s testimony above that by his interpretation of Genesis 1:27, Elohim (i.e., the Supreme Most High Elohim) could not have made man in His image because, as Philo put it, what mortal can bear His likeness?  So, according to Philo, the Most High Elohim made man in the image of Elohim, i.e., the “second Elohim.”

 

 

 

Philo in Perspective

 

      For those who are interested in balance with regard to whether or not we should consider Philo’s testimony, I would like to reiterate that I have never stated that I agree with everything Philo wrote, nor have I even read everything he wrote.  The scope of this chapter is not about that.  Nevertheless, in view of Chuck Henry’s ad hominem attack, I will defend Philo against the charge of idolatry (that’s what this entire issue is all about, by the way).  An important point I made earlier, which bears repeating, is that out of some 100,000-plus Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt, Philo’s fellow Jews selected him to lead the delegation to Rome for the purpose of negotiating a peaceful solution to the pogroms being perpetrated on Jews in Alexandria.  A “pogrom,” by the way, is not some trivial matter.  “Pogroms” have been described as “legalized massacres,” wherein local governments more or less look the other way when citizens’ property is confiscated and the property owners killed if they protest.[28]  In this “life-and-death” situation, Judaism turned to Philo for help and that should tell any reasonable critic something about his reputation among his fellow Jews. 

      The question is, “Would those Jews have chosen Philo to plead their cause before the emperor of Rome if he didn’t represent their overall beliefs?”  Let me just say that when I vote for a political candidate, I vote for the one who best represents my religious values.  So let me just also say that those 100,000-plus Jews didn’t cast their votes for just “any” candidate.  They selected the guy they felt was in the best position to persuasively present their case and defend their cause based on their values.  Naturally, those who are biased against Philo will either scoff at or dismiss the reasoning I’ve just presented; I do not consider such individuals to be reasonable.  I am addressing this study, not to unreasonable individuals, but to those who are reasonable and willing to examine things from a balanced, unbiased perspective. 

      I can understand that it is easy for those of us living in a country where we are for the most part free to worship as we please to take our religious freedoms for granted.  I’m not aware of any believers having their property confiscated due to their “fanatical” religious beliefs, nor have I heard about religious groups being targeted for attack with government approval.  Indeed, when a lone gunman recently targeted Jews in a synagogue while they worshipped, the police were on the scene within minutes after being called and officers were wounded in their efforts to defend and protect the worshippers.[29]  That is a far cry from what Philo and his fellow Jews experienced in first-century Alexandria, Egypt!  I’m asking you to try to imagine yourself living under those conditions and once you grasp the danger in being identified as one who daily practices Torah observance, consider how harsh you would be in your treatment of Philo. 

      Under the circumstances described above, would you, oh brave and faithful soul, speak out against and even denounce those who do not share your beliefs, pointing out how vain their idol worship is?  And is that what you would teach your children to do, knowing the price they would most likely pay?  Might you instead try a gentler, more diplomatic approach, maybe attempting to point out some similarities between the two differing faiths in an effort to find some common ground?  I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s diplomatic reaction to the heathens’ worshipping the “unknown theos” (translated “unknown god” in most Bibles).[30]  Instead of ridiculing their “unknown” deity, Paul eloquently pointed out “Who” that unknown Mighty One is!  I’m thinking those allegedly brave souls out there who are so “bold” in their faith would sing a different tune if they knew their accusatory words would endanger not only their lives, but the lives of their families as well.  One modern-day “brave” soul who comes to mind is the owner/webmaster of www.scripturenews2use.org. This individual has openly mocked those who believe Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence, boldly affirming his (or her) belief that this is a salvational issue, yet no one seems to know who he or she is because he or she is apparently too timid to reveal his or her identity.  I have personally found that those who are the most accusatory towards others are those who safely hide behind anonymous screen name masks (and yes, even web site masks).  Not that I’m much into quoting pagan philosophers, but in this situation I find myself in agreement with Aesop’s Fables’ related observation:  “It is easy to be bold from a safe distance.”[31]  Aesop’s remark certainly rings true in this (and any) situation. 

      On the other hand, those who seek to pursue peaceable, conciliatory dialogue tend to be more transparent and accessible.  Philo, for his part, wasn’t out to ridicule or condemn; rather, much of his work seems aimed at explaining Jewish practice and belief while incorporating a philosophical air, something that for the culture and time period in which he lived, apparently seemed fitting … and safe.  To give us some perspective, in the current modern-day United States of America culture, it is considered “safe” to criticize our nation’s government; it is even considered “safe” to broadcast on YouTube your religious beliefs while simultaneously criticizing opposing ones.  However, it is not safe to do this in the workplace, at least not if you want to keep your job.[32]  That might explain why some of the most outspoken religious zealots I’ve run into over the years are self-employed.  So it’s easy to play the modern-day USA equivalent of “armchair quarterback” and criticize Philo from across the millennia, but what would you have done if you found yourself living in the city of Alexandria, Egypt during that time period – a time during which it wasn’t safe to even identify yourself as Jewish, let alone speak out against the prevailing culture?  How safe would you have felt then?  The online Jewish Virtual Library offers some insight into how Judaism of Philo’s day attempted to cope with the pagan environment that surrounded them on all sides: 

Jewish Culture                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

The Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria were familiar with the works of the ancient Greek poets and philosophers and acknowledged their universal appeal. They would not, however, give up their own religion, nor could they accept the prevailing Hellenistic culture with its polytheistic foundations and pagan practice. Thus they came to create their own version of Hellenistic culture. They contended that Greek philosophy had derived its concepts from Jewish sources and that there was no contradiction between the two systems of thought. On the other hand, they also gave Judaism an interpretation of their own, turning the Jewish concept of God into an abstraction and His relationship to the world into a subject of metaphysical speculation. Alexandrine Jewish philosophers stressed the universal aspects of Jewish law and the prophets, de-emphasized the national Jewish aspects of Jewish religion, and sought to provide rational motives for Jewish religious practice. In this manner they sought not only to defend themselves against the onslaught of the prevailing pagan culture, but also to spread monotheism and respect for the high moral and ethical values of Judaism.[33] 

      I am certain that Philo knew and respected the dangers of either ridiculing or condemning the heathen beliefs of the society in which he lived.  Somehow, he found a way to defend and even promote a lifestyle of Torah obedience while not distancing himself from those with whom he interacted on a daily basis.  Under the auspices of a totalitarian government, you can either “play it safe” by sharply ridiculing and condemning those who don’t share your beliefs — while safely tucked away behind a cloaked identity, or you can “play it safe” by creatively finding ways to respectfully present and explain differing viewpoints — while simultaneously highlighting the views that unite us.  Philo chose the latter option. 

      Once Chuck finished passing sentence on Philo and his understanding of the Logos, he turned his attention to the other guy I had in my historical evidence arsenal:  Justin Martyr.  I had initially intended to combine Chuck’s attacks on both men into a single chapter; however, due to the already-excessive length of this chapter, I decided to split Chuck’s commentary – and my response – into two chapters. 

      In the meantime, what follows are screen shots from a separate PowerPoint presentation that I brought with me to the August 2019 Unity Conference held in rural Sterling, Illinois.  One of my reasons for attending that conference was out of consideration that Chuck Henry might potentially use the conference as an opportunity to plug his book, while potentially incorporating some of his debate material.  Such being the possibility, I decided to attend, bringing along a follow-up presentation incorporating material that I wasn’t able to include with my June debate, in addition to a separate rebuttal of Chuck’s ad hominem attack on Philo, just in case the opportunity presented itself.  As it turns out, Chuck didn’t attend the conference, so I didn’t use my “Philo Attack Rebuttal” there, but I’m incorporating some of those slides below. 

      For some background information about the following slide, I admit I didn’t even know what an ad hominem attack was until my daughter pointed out that this is the strategy Chuck used in response to my having cited both Philo and Justin Martyr as historical evidence supporting my position.  Essentially, an ad hominem attack boils down to a presenter who, not being able to refute an opposing individual, does the only thing he can to “save face”:  he digs up dirt or anything negative about the person while ignoring the actual points that person brings to the table.  In this case, Chuck couldn’t refute what Philo wrote, especially since Philo went right along with what the New Testament writers wrote, so he did his best to make Philo look like a pagan philosopher.  With this in mind, I incorporated a slide into this study to help the audience recognize what an ad hominem attack is:

      Ad hominem attacks are nothing new.  I’d say the second century Roman historian Tacitus presented a classic case of an ad hominem attack in The Histories.  Here’s a slide displaying Tacitus’ example of an ad hominem attack:

      Ad hominem attacks, like Tacitus’ unfair commentary about Judaism posted above, are typically unbalanced.  In other words, the original focus is drawn away from the actual topic of discussion and is instead shifted onto what the attacker has to say about a person or group of people, and the reader (or listener) is expected to believe it without question, overlooking whatever rational points those targeted individuals may otherwise have, unaware of the fact they have been sidetracked from the actual issue.  As I listened to Chuck’s unbalanced attack on Philo and Justin Martyr, I knew something was horribly wrong with his approach, but I didn’t know his stratagem had a name, ad hominem, until my daughter pointed it out to me.  I remain extremely disappointed that the otherwise noble Chuck Henry would resort to such a tactic. On the one hand, I do understand the concern raised by the scholarly references that Chuck cited, so I do support making allowance for their observations and testimony, while carefully examining them with the following question in mind:  Is their testimony balanced?  Or is it, like Tacitus’ observation of Judaism, unfairly biased?  I believe I presented a balanced approach in my “Philo in Perspective” section above.  Chuck’s was not. 

      Carlos Lévy is Professor Emeritus of Roman Philosophy and Literature at Université Paris-Sorbonne, and he has written extensive papers on such topics as Cicero, Philo of Alexandria, Ancient Skepticism, and Rhetoric.  His overall summary sketch of Philo does not line up with Chuck’s narrative:

      I appreciate Dr. Lévy’s balanced approach to Philo’s writings in contradistinction to that of Biblical Unitarian Chuck Henry.  Some may question why I don’t criticize Dr. Lévy for referring to the Almighty as “God.”  In response to such criticism, please note, first of all, that Dr. Lévy did not quote from Philo’s works, at least not in the above commentary.  Chuck, on the other hand, translates Theos as either the very noble “Elohim” or “Mighty One” when quoting from the New Testament, but translates this same word as “God” when quoting an author he’s out to malign.  Next, even if Dr. Lévy had used “God” in translating anything authored by Philo, I would not have expected him to have rendered Theos as either “Yahweh” or “Elohim” because, frankly, I’ve come to understand that most scholars out there see absolutely nothing wrong with the name/title “God.”  That’s just what they do because that’s how they believe.  It would have been an unexpected blessing if a scholar of Dr. Lévy’s standing had referred to the Almighty as “Yahweh Elohim.”  In short, with all due respect to Dr. Lévy’s scholarship, he doesn’t know any better than to refer to the Almighty as either “God” or the French version, “Dieu.”  Chuck, on the other hand, does know better.  I definitely recognize the veracity and value of Lévy’s remark, i.e., his assessment that Philo gathers concepts and themes of philosophy and frees them, i.e., to bring them into the light of the Mighty One of the Torah.  He, unlike Biblical Unitarians, does not see Philo as a “pagan philosopher.” 

      I’m afraid Chuck, in his attack on Philo, throws the proverbial baby out with the bathwater because Philo serves as an excellent ancient witness validating the ancient Jewish understanding of several controversial Scriptural topics, on many of which Chuck and I agree.  One such topic is that of a continuously-repeating weekly Sabbath.  Contrary to claims made by lunar sabbatarians, the historical evidence supplied by the likes of Philo supports the understanding that the weekly Sabbath is determined by a continuously-repeating seven-day cycle.  If we’re going to throw out Philo’s testimony about the identity of the Logos while branding him a pagan, god-worshipping philosopher, then we may as well throw also out his commentary on how to reckon the weekly Sabbath.  This method of determining credibility, after all, seems to be the “Biblical Unitarian way,” i.e., “Our interpretation of the Bible doesn’t need to take into consideration how the ancients understood it.”

      Biblical Unitarians, modern-day Rabbinical Judaism and Lunar Sabbatarians are not the only ones who despise Philo. There are many “Scriptural New Moon is the Conjunction” believers out there who would likely launch their own ad hominem attacks on Philo after reading the following:

      Those who believe the Scriptural new month begins at the conjunction of the moon, when the moon is not visible to the outward senses, prefer to reject Philo’s historical testimony of how the Jews of his day understood the beginning of a new month, going instead with their interpretation of the Bible.  That’s why you won’t likely see any “conjunction” proponents citing anything from Philo’s writings. 

      Finally, for those who truly seek a balanced view of Philo, I suggest reading a rather extensive article on Philo of Alexandria in The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  It consists of eight pages of details, some positive, some negative.  That’s okay – I’ve never said I agreed with Philo on everything.  Nevertheless, I have already pointed out that Philo was well-enough respected by his fellow Jews in Alexandria, Egypt that out of the hundreds of thousands of Jews residing there, he was the one selected to lead a delegation representing his peers before the Roman emperor.  Philo clearly had the respect of his fellow Jews in Alexandria, but did his practice and belief reflect that of all of normative Judaism?  Time and space doesn’t permit me to quote The Anchor Bible Dictionary’s entire article on Philo, but the author’s concluding summary sets a more balanced tone than the one offered by Biblical Unitarians:


[1] C.f., for example, the Wikipedia article “Ebionites,” (2020, April 3). Ebionites. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:54, May 7, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ebionites&oldid=948916277.

[2] According to such references as Encyclopedia International, Vol. 8, Grolier Incorporated, New York, NY, 1972, article “God,” p. 52, “The word ‘God’ and its cognates existed in the Germanic family of languages (German Gott, Danish Gud) in pre-Christian times, and referred to that which is worshipped or invoked in sacrificial offerings.  With the conversion of the Teutonic peoples to Christianity, its pre-Christian meanings were largely reshaped and absorbed into the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

[3] For further information about the origin of the word “God,” please read our study titled “Tracing the Origin of the Word God.

[4] For example, at the 1:16:24 mark of the debate, Chuck states, “Let's look at Revelation 4:8-11:  ‘The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Yahweh El Shaddai,’ – or the New King James Version says, quote, ‘Lord God Almighty,’ unquote, … ‘Who was and is to come.’”

[5] I will here concede the possibility that Chuck may have no problem with English translators translating either the Hebrew Elohim or its Greek equivalent, Theos, as “God.”  Although he has privately told me that there are certainly better translation choices to use for Elohim or Theos than “God,” nevertheless, he has never expressed agreement with my contention that referring to Yahweh as “God” is a dishonor to Him.  In his book, Chuck frequently employs “Elohim” when citing various Scripture texts, but when doing so he also puts “God” in brackets, a potential indicator that he may approve of also referring to Yahweh as “God.”  I would be glad to be corrected on this aspect of the discussion if Chuck would be so inclined to contact me.  My point here is this:  In all Bible references to Yahweh during Chuck’s debate commentary, he never once accommodates the King James Version translators’ choice of rendering Elohim or Theos as “God.”  However, when citing translated quotations from ancient writers with whom he disagrees, Chuck translates Theos as “God,” a subtle attempt to present writers such as Philo and Justin Martyr in the most negative light possible.

[6] Chuck’s commentary on Philo begins at the 1 hour, 20 minute, 30 second mark of the debate video.

[7] This same article is also available for reading online at the following link:  https://www.1902encyclopedia.com/B/BIB/bible-08.html

[8] From Encyclopædia Britannica (online), article “Judaism.”  The entire article is currently available at the following link: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Judaism/Religious-rites-and-customs-in-Palestine-the-Temple-and-the-synagogues

[9] New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, “Neoplatonism,” the Delair Publishing Company, Inc., 1971, p. 638.

[10] Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy, article “Neoplatonism,” can be read online at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neoplatonism/.

[11] Plato, Symposium 211–212.  The entire text of Plato’s speech can be read online at the following link: http://www.john-uebersax.com/plato/myths/diotima.htm

[12] Philo, excerpt from the last book of the Questions arising in Exodus, found in The Works of Philo, translated by C. D. Yonge, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1993, p. 891.

[13] This article is available at encyclopedia.com, article “Philo Judaeus.”  Here’s a link: https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/philosophy-and-religion/philosophy-biographies/philo-judaeus

[14] You can read the entire article on Philo Judaeus at the following link: https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/philosophy-and-religion/philosophy-biographies/philo-judaeus.

[15] From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online, article “Philo Judaeus,” published in 1939 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.  The entire article on “Philo Judaeus” is accessible online at the following link: https://www.internationalstandardbible.com/P/philo-judaeus.html

[16] From Hidden Wisdom and the Easy Yoke: Wisdom, Torah and Discipleship in Matthew 11.25-30, by Celia M. Deutsch, Sheffield Academic Press, 1987, p. 113.

[17] Psalms 129:4-5 in the LXX; Psalms 130:5 in Hebrew text.  Note: Due to the fact that the name “Yahweh” appeared in the most ancient fragments of the LXX instead of Kurios, I restored that name in the text I cited.

[18] New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, “Intercession,” the Delair Publishing Company, Inc., 1971, p. 501.

[19] Just for the record, Chuck’s commentary begins at the 4:52:29 mark of the recorded debate.

[20] The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. III, James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor, article “Mediation; Mediator” by David Miall Edwards, The Howard-Severance Company, 1915, p. 2,019.  This volume may be accessed online here.

[21] The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 4, Merrill C. Tenney, General Editor, article “Mediator, Mediation,” by A. H. Leitch, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1978, p. 154.

[22] Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis II (62), translated by Ralph Marcus, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1953).

[23] It should be noted that the number of delegates for each party in this dispute, as described by Philo, was five (c.f., Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius, ch. XLVI [370]).  The fact that Josephus only specifies three furnishes evidence that Josephus obtained his information about Philo and his Jewish delegation from somewhere other than Philo’s writing.

[24] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews , Book XVIII, ch. 8. § 1.

[25] Philo, The Decalogue, ch. XIV (65).  See also Philo, On the Creation, ch. XXXIII (100).

[26] This commentary by Chuck Henry begins at the 1:08:03 mark of the recorded debate.

[27] See Preaching to the Choir: He Came as a Man, chapter VI.

[28] Our dictionary defines “pogrom” as follows:  “Any organized massacre or attack on a minority people, esp. one directed against the Jews.”  (New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, “pogrom,” the Delair Publishing Company, Inc., 1971, p. 734).  It is actually a Russian word meaning, “To wreak havoc, destroy violently.”

[29] Reference made to “Pittsburgh synagogue shooting” of 10/27/2018, Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pittsburgh_synagogue_shooting&oldid=956238530 (accessed May 14, 2020).

[30] Cf., Acts 17:16-31.

[31] Taken from Aesop’s Fables, “The Wolf and the Kid,” https://www.bartleby.com/17/1/16.html.

[32] A famous example of this involves former major-league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, who was fired as a Major League Baseball analyst from ESPN after posting anti-transgender comments on Facebook:  https://money.cnn.com/2016/04/20/media/espn-dismisses-curt-schilling/index.html.  His comments have also kept him from being voted into the Hall of Fame despite his repeated World Series heroics.  His stats include over 3,000 career strikeouts and an 11-2 postseason record while contributing to three World Series championships.

[33] Jewish Virtual Library, © 1998 - 2020 American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, article “Alexandria, Egypt,” https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/alexandria.

       

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This is the name of our Creator, Yahweh, sometimes called the Tetragrammaton.  It is given here in (A) the Phoenician script, (B) the Ivrit Kadum (Paleo-Hebrew) script, and (C) the Modern Hebrew script (a stylization of Aramaic).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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