Sunday, September 11, 2011

Greek philosophers foreshadowing Christ

Jesus Christ: "This is the King of Glory", along with St. Paul the Apostle, and St. Justin the Martyr and Philosopher (

As outlined by numerous Fathers of the Church, Christ was the expectation of all the nations, and as such, many of the writings from disperate cultures throughout the world tell of and indicate the great Redeemer of the whole world Who was to come: Jesus Christ.

Many of the philosophers of ancient Greece seem to point towards Christ in their writings, and thus many Greeks were primed, in a certain sense, to accept the teachings of Christ's apostles. The picture above is part of a series of icons from the Great Meteora Monastery that depict St. Paul and St. Justin the Philosopher leading Greeks to Christ while citing Greek Philosophy. On either side are depicted many ancient Greek philosophers, and quotes from their writings that seem to point to Christ. (It is worth noting that they put a small fence around these icons, most likely that they might not be venerated like icons of the Saints.)

These are newly-painted icons, but they are by no means out of tradition. The "Hermenia" or Painter's Manual by Monk Dionysios of Fourna mentions the names, descriptions and quotes of such philosophers. The Monasteries of Megiste Lavra and Vatopedi on Mount Athos (as examples) also have depictions of such philosophers.

We can see vividly how God works to lead all nations to the Truth. Though their examples pale in comparison to the love, grace and sacrifice of Christ and His Saints, these philosophers help us understand the human condition, and how our longing can only be satiated by Christ.

The following Greek quotes from the depicted philosophers are from, along with my own amateur translations. If you have any suggestions for better translations, or can provide a documented translation or a citation from the philosophers' original writings, please share.


“Η Έλληνίς Σίβυλλα η φιλόσοφος” : “Ήξει ουρανόθεν βασιλεύς αιώνων ο μέλλων κρίναι πάσαν σάρκα και κόσμον άπαντα”.
The Greek Sybil, the Philosopher: "The eternal king has come from heaven, who will judge all flesh and the whole world."

For more on the Sybil of Erythrae foreshadowing Christ, see:

“Ο Έλλην Σόλων ο σοφός και νομοθέτης” : “Ήν δ’ αυτός τώι αυτοπάτορι απάτωρ τρισόλβιος ός [sic: ως] τι φως τριλαμπές ο δε παθών Θεός εστι και ου θεότης πάθεν όστις φως γαρ, βροτόσωμος αυτός Θεός ήδη και ανήρ πάντως φέρων εν θνητοίς”.
The Greek Solon, the Wise and Law-giver: "Being himself the fatherless father, thrice-praised and thrice-radiant as the light, it is God who suffers and not godhead which suffers, who therefore is light, this mortal-body is God, and man always bringing among mortals.

“Ο Έλλην Πυθαγόρας ο φιλόσοφος και μαθηματικός” : “Ο Θεός εστιν νους και λόγος και πνεύμα και λόγος [bis] σαρκωθείς εκ Πατρός”.
The Greek Pythagoras, the Philosopher and Mathematician: "God is nous and word and spirit and word incarnate from the Father."

“O Έλλην Σωκράτης ο φιλόσοφος” : “Και το όνομα αυτού αυξηθήσεται και τιμηθήσεται υπό πάντων εφ’ όλην την οικουμένην”.
The Greek Socrates the Philosopher: "And his name will be increased and honored by all throughout the world."

“Ο Έλλην Απολλώνιος ο φιλόσοφος” : “Ένα Θεόν ύψιστον εν τρισίν λέγω, ός ουρανόν έρξεν άμα και χθόνα, Θεός ήν μεν αεί και εστίν και έσται ούτε αρξάμενος, ούτε παυσόμενος”.
The Greek Apollon, the Philosopher: "I speak of one God exalted in three, who created heaven and earth, God ever was and is and will be, neither changed, nor ceasing."

“Ο Έλλην Όμηρος ο ποιητής” : “Ήξει προς ημάς οψέ γης άναξ απλούς και σάρκα φανείται δίχα τινός σφάλματος”.
The Greek Homer, the Poet: "He came towards us, later on earth, simple in beginning, and appears in flesh without any error."

“Ο Έλλην Θουκυδίδης ο ιστορικός” : “Ου Θεός έτερος ουκ άγγελος ου δαίμων ου σοφία ουκ ουσία αλλ’ ή μόνος Κύριός εστι δημιουργός τού παντός τών απάντων παντέλειος Λόγος”
The Greek Thucydides, the Historian: "Not another God, nor angel, nor demon, nor wisom, nor any thing else in essence, but the Lord alone is creator of all, the all-perfect Word of all things."

“Ο Έλλην Αριστοτέλης ο φιλόσοφος” : “Οψέποτέ τις επί την πολυσχεδή ταύτην ελάσειεν επί [bis] γην δίχα σφάλματος γενήσεται σαρξ ακάματος φύσει Θεός γέννησις εξ αυτού γαρ ο αυτός ουσιούται Λόγος”.
The Greek Aristotle, the Philosopher: "Never before among the many on earth was seen one without error, he will be born flesh from the ceaseless nature of God, and from him is born the essential Word."
“Ο Έλλην Πλάτων ο φιλόσοφος” : “Εκ μητρονύμφου παναμώμου παρθένου μέλλει σπαρήναι του Θεού μόνος γόνος. Άσαρκον, σαρκικόν και γεννητόν εν γήι τέτοκεν τον ουρανού και γης ποιητήν”.
The Greek Plato, the Philosopher: "From the all-pure virgin mother-bride will be born the sole child of God. The fleshless one becomes flesh and is born on earth, he who is the creator of heaven and earth."

“Ο Έλλην Πλούταρχος, ο πατήρ της ιστορίας”: “Καταγγέλλω εν τρισίν ένα μόνον υψιμέδοντα Θεόν, ού λόγος άφθιτος εν αδαεί κόρηι έγκυμος έσεται [sic]. Ούτος γαρ ως τόξον πυρφόρον ίσος διαδραμείται και κόσμον άπαντα ζωγρήσει και τώι Πατρί προσάξει δώρον”.
The Greek Plutarch, the father of histories: "I proclaim in three one sole exalted-ruler God, the endless word within an innocent pregnant girl. For as a fire-bearing bow he spans, and gives life to all the world, and is offered as a gift to the Father."

St. Justin the Martyr and Philosopher, along with Homer the Historian (

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!


Unknown said...

Thank you for assembling these incredible quotations. One point in the translation though..Λογος does not translate to word..Λέξη means word. This is an error too in the gospel of John..λογος is logic and the logos of God is the divine order.
There are volumes written by Aristotle on the concept of Λογος
Thank you once again for a valuable articke

Stephanos said...

Λόγος has many meanings in Greek, one of which IS indeed word. Λέξη refers to a specific, narrowly defined word; whereas Λόγος has the much broader meaning of “word”. English speakers have been translating λόγος as word for over 500 years! Christ the Word! The Word became flesh! Λόγος/Word in this sense has a meaning of: a recitation, a flow of words, a talk, a sermon. In English Protestants will say, the pastor gave the word, i.e. a sermon. Likewise in Greek, a sermon/homily/ομιλία is often called a λόγος! Writings of the Holy Fathers, that were actually given as sermons are often called λόγοι! Λόγος can mean ομιλία, λαλιά, λέξη, θέμα and much more. Λόγος has many meanings, one of which the early translators of the Scriptures into English chose the English word, Word. Teachers/preachers of the Orthodox Faith have to explain the many and profound meanings of the word “Word” (Λόγος) when teaching about the Christ the Word.
Many, especially Protestants, think that Gid the Father created the Earth and all that is in it, when in reality God the Father spoke the Word (ο Λόγος) and breathed the Spirit (το Πνεύμα) and it was so! The All Holy Trinity created together as one!