Introductory Notes on Greek and Jew

Reinhold Niebuhr= “The [Greek] classical culture, elaborated by Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, is a Western and [more] intellectual version of a universal type of ahistorical spirituality” [p 16, ‘Faith and History’, 1949].

Oswald Spengler= “The static, geometric, visual, and unhistorical thinking of the Greeks”
[p 207, in Boman, ‘Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek’, 1960].

John Macquarrie= “The [Jewish] prophets called upon men to face the radically temporal and historical character of human existence and come out from the timeless womb of mythology” [p 40, ‘Existentialism’, 1972].

And= “History has a.. destiny, if we do not merely drift, but ‘seize the day’.”

1,

The Greeks describe reality as Divine Being.
The Jews describe reality as Divine Action.

Greeks= Knowledge of Divine Being.
Jews= Action in accord with the Divine Will.

Greeks= Knowing and Being are inherently linked.
Jews= By faith, the heart of humanity, in action, relies upon the heart of God, in action.

2,

Typical of the Greeks, Plato starts with the concrete and physical, and works toward the abstract and spiritual. Begin with the derivative, and work back to its Origin, is his method.

It is necessary to follow that sequence in describing the ‘metaphysical ontology’ of the Greeks.

In sharp contrast, the Jews do not start with the creation and work towards the Creator. They do not begin as an account of the created vis a vis the Uncreated. Rather, they are confronted by a mysterious, yet personal, divine presence ‘other’ to the entire sweep of all the realms, material and spiritual. The Jews are not permitted to see, nor speculate on, ‘what’ God is; it is revealed to them ‘who’ God is, and what this God calls them to ‘do’ as his chosen people in time, the world, history. They are called ‘out’ of the cosmic and natural pattern of the Great Round, in order to take up a different, and difficult, task.

It is necessary to follow that reversed sequence in describing the ‘existential situation’ of the Jews.

The Greeks look back to a pristine cosmos that is suffused with divinity. The Jews accept as a burden a world that is broken, and look forward to a time when it will be repaired, its Fallenness overcome, and not only its ‘original nature’ restored, but also a new human heart achieved from the terrible struggle.

Greeks= space; static; pictorial.
Jews= time; dynamic; narrative.

That the Greeks dwell in a spirituality of ‘space’, and the Jews abide in a spirituality of ‘time’, is a fundamental difference, of huge significance.