How Plato Influenced Our View of Yahuwah

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Many Christians sitting in the pew believe that their view of Yahuwah, indeed orthodoxy’s view, is derived solely from the Bible. They would never suspect, however, that the roots of their belief in a triune God comes, not from Scripture, but from Greek philosophy. Nor could they imagine that the respected early Church Fathers were to blame for synthesizing pagan philosophy, such as Plato’s, with the sacred texts. While the average Christian is unaware of such matters, Biblical scholars find this to be old news. To be sure, the topic of Greek philosophy’s influence on Christianity is well researched and well documented in academic circles. One such academician, William Inge, professor of divinity at Cambridge University, observed:

Platonism is part of the vital structure of Christian theology . . . . [If people would read Plotinus, who worked to reconcile Platonism with Scripture,] they would understand better the real continuity between the old culture and the new religion, and they might realize the utter impossibility of excising Platonism from Christianity without tearing Christianity to pieces. The Galilean Gospel, as it proceeded from the lips of Jesus, was doubtless unaffected by Greek philosophy . . . . But [early Christianity] from its very beginning was formed by a confluence of Jewish and Hellenic religious ideas.”[1] (emphasis added)

Moreover, James Strong, Biblical scholar and author of the famous Strong’s Concordance, also took note of Plato’s influence on Christianity:

Towards the end of the 1st century, and during the 2nd, many learned men came over both from Judaism and paganism to Christianity. These brought with them into the Christian schools of theology their Platonic ideas and phraseology.[2] (emphasis added)

Plato is often counted among the most influential philosophers to have impacted Western thought.[3] Who was Plato, and what did he believe? How did his views influence the early Church Fathers and subsequently how we view Yahuwah today? How do his beliefs differ from Scripture, and does it even matter? Thankfully, both history and the Bible answer these questions.

Who was Plato?

platoPlato (c.428-347 B.C.), whose real name was Aristocles, was born into an influential aristocratic family in Classical Greece. The belief in pagan gods permeated his world. His own father was said to be a descendant of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.[4] Plato’s pagan views were influenced by philosophers such as Heraclitus (c. 600 BC) and the Pythagoreans (c. 500 BC). But it is Socrates who is credited with having the greatest influence on him.[5] Sometime after Socrates’ death, Plato founded a society in Athens known as the Academy. It consisted of intellectuals who pursued scholarly subjects such as philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.[6] His most famous pupil was Aristotle who became a philosopher of lasting influence in his own right.

Plato’s Beliefs


Plato is best known for his dualistic worldview in which the higher world consisted of ideas or forms while the lower world consisted of matter. Known as the Theory of Forms, the Athenian reasoned that in the higher world everything, whether an object or an idea, existed in an ideal state while the lower world consisted of imperfect copies of the ideas or forms. For Plato, the ultimate form was an impersonal force called the Good.

Heraclitus was thought to be the first to apply the word logos to divine reason or wisdom which he believed to be a kind of power or influence that coordinated the universe. Plato expounded on the idea by teaching that the logos was a part of a divine triad consisting of the Good, Ideas (Logos), and the World-Spirit.[7] He did not think that Logos (wisdom, reason, etc.) was a literal person, but rather a governing principle or force. Aristotle, while he did not fully subscribe to Plato’s Theory of Forms, also believed in a triad. He wrote:

For, as the Pythagoreans say, the world and all that is in it is determined by the number three, since beginning and middle and end give the number of an “all,” and the number they give is the triad. And so, having taken these three from nature as (so to speak) laws of it, we make further use of the number three in the worship of the Gods.[8] (emphasis added)

Over time, this divine triad would give rise to the idea of a triune God. The Church Fathers, many of whom were trained in Greek philosophy, interpreted Scripture through their Greek worldview instead of the Jewish perspective in which it was written. They identified Plato’s Good with Yahuwah, the Ideas with the Logos of John 1:1, and the World-Spirit with the Holy Spirit, thus forming a Christian version of philosophy’s divine triad. Historians and theologians alike testify of the impact Plato’s triad had on Christianity. For example, historian Edward Gibbon, in his History of Christianity, sums up the Greek influence on the adoption of the Trinity doctrine by stating:

If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism [basic religion, in this context] of the first Christians … was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief [9] (emphasis added)

On the other hand, Scripture never teaches that Yahuwah is a Trinity. Even Trinitarian scholars will attest to this. For example, Baptist theologian, William N. Clarke, writes:

The word Trinity is never used, and there is no indication that the idea of Trinity had taken form. It has long been a common practice to read the New Testament as if the ideas of a later age upon this subject were in it, but they are not. In the days of the apostles the doctrine of the Trinity was yet to be created…after the lapse of three or four centuries, there was wrought a doctrine of the Trinity...This historic doctrine differed widely from the simplicity of the early faith.[10] (emphasis added)
Shema, Kitab Ulangan 4:6

The Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4

The Bible does not teach that Yahuwah is three persons in one essence. But what it does teach, repeatedly and without ambiguity, is that Yahuwah is one.

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NASB) “Hear, O Israel! Yahuwah is our Elohim, Yahuwah is one! (emphasis added)
Mark 12:32 (NASB) The scribe said to Him [Yahushua], “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; (emphasis added)

In addition to Plato’s view of the divine triad and the Logos, his belief in the immortal soul also influenced how post-Biblical generations viewed Christ. Plato reasoned that all souls were eternal and literally pre-existed before being born,[11] that is, before being incarnated.[12] This belief served as a filter through which the Hellenized Church Fathers[13] poured the gospel accounts. The result being the notion that Yahushua literally pre-existed before being incarnated in Mary’s womb since it’s what all souls were said to experience. However, traditional Hebrew thought did not believe in a literal pre-existence of the soul. Rather, it taught that things first “pre-existed” with Yahuwah in His plan or foreknowledge. For example, instead of literally pre-existing in heaven before we are born, Scripture teaches that we are foreknown by Yahuwah and a part of His plan:

Psalm 139:15-16 (NASB) My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (emphasis added)

Scripture also speaks of this type of figurative pre-existence by saying that things were in Yahuwah’s mind or foreknowledge before “the foundation of the world.” This classical Hebraic view of pre-existence is how Scripture speaks of Yahushua. He did not literally exist in heaven before the world began, as Plato’s followers would have understood it, rather he was foreknown by Yahuwah and a part of His pre-determined plan.

1 Peter 1:20 (NASB) For He [Yahushua] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you… (emphasis added)
Acts 2:22-23 (NASB) “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Yahushua the Nazarene, a man attested to you by Yahuwah with miracles and wonders and signs which Yahuwah performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of Yahuwah, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (emphasis added)

Peter could have said, and certainly would have if it were true, that Yahushua pre-existed in heaven as Yahuwah-the-Word. Instead the text says Yahuwah foreknew Yahushua, something that was also said of the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:5 (NASB) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (emphasis added)

Plato and the Church Fathers

That Plato influenced the Church Fathers cannot be overstated. Church historian Philip Schaff offers a good synopsis of Plato’s influence on the Church Fathers:

And many of the early Christians, in turn, found peculiar attractions in the doctrines of Plato, and employed them as weapons for the defense and extension of Christianity, or cast the truths of Christianity in a Platonic mold. The doctrines of the Logos and the Trinity received their shape from Greek Fathers, who, if not trained in the schools, were much influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Platonic philosophy, particularly in its Jewish-Alexandrian form. That errors and corruptions crept into the Church from this source can not be denied… Among the most illustrious of the Fathers who were more or less Platonic, may be named Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Ireneus, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Minutius Felix, Eusebius, Methodius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Augustine.”[14] (emphasis added)
Athenagoras of Athens

Athenagoras of Athens

Let’s take a brief look at some of the Church Fathers who were deemed to be “Platonists.”

Athenagoras of Athens, was an apologist from the 2nd century A.D. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says, ” His theology is strongly tinged with Platonism…”(emphasis added). [15] And Encyclopedia Americana states:

"Athenagoras frequently combined the beliefs of the Greek poets and philosophers, particularly Plato, with the doctrines of Christianity.”[16] (emphasis added)
Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD), perhaps the most influential of the Church Fathers, expressed his esteem for Plato when he said, “The utterance of Plato, the most pure and bright in all philosophy, scattering the clouds of error ….”[17] Richard Tarnas, author of the acclaimed, The Passion of the Western Mind, wrote of Augustine’s ardor for Plato:

“... It was Augustine’s formulation of Christian Platonism that was to permeate virtually all of medieval Christian thought in the West. So enthusiastic was the Christian integration of the Greek spirit that Socrates and Plato were frequently regarded as divinely inspired pre-Christian saints …” (emphasis added)[18]
Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215 AD) taught at the famous institution of higher learning in Alexandria. Albert Outler writes in the Journal of Religion that the philosopher:

...occupies a crucial place in what is called “the hellenization of Christianity…It is generally recognized that Clement went as far as any orthodox Christian ever did in appropriation and use of hellenistic philosophical and ethical concepts for the expression of his Christian faith. Plato was his favorite philosopher.[19] (emphasis added)

Clement believed that Greek philosophy was a type of tutor that helped prepare the way for Greeks to accept Christ. [20] The problem is that instead of abandoning Platonic thought and other expressions of pagan philosophy in favor of the Jewish Scriptures, Clement of Alexandria, like so many other Church Father’s justified its integration with Christianity.

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa (335 – 395 AD), one of the Church Fathers instrumental in developing the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Constantinople (381 AD), is said to have “…describe[d] Christ’s saving work in the language of the Platonic forms.” [21] Harry Wolfson, in The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, speaks of the compromise that occurred when Gregory tried to harmonize Jewish monotheism with Greek philosophy:

"It’s a solution by harmonization, an attempt to combine, as Gregory of Nyssa characterizes it, the monotheism of the Jews and the polytheism of the Greeks. The method of harmonization used by them was to thin down the Jewish monotheism as a concession to Greek philosophy.” [22] (emphasis added)

Why it matters that Plato influenced the Church Fathers

Some may ask why it matters that Plato influenced the Church Fathers and our understanding of Yahuwah. Is the synthesis of Greek thought with the Jewish Scriptures really so adverse? The answer is a resounding, yes! Exchanging the cultural framework of the Scriptures in favor of a Greek, post-Biblical worldview, skews and obfuscates the original intent and meaning of the sacred texts. Moreover, many influential Church Fathers believed man could grow in his knowledge of Yahuwah through Greek philosophy (philo + sophia = love of wisdom), but Paul said that man did not come to know Yahuwah through the wisdom of the world.

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 (NASB) Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not Yahuwah made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of Yahuwah the world through its wisdom did not come to know Yahuwah, Yahuwah was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (emphasis added)

In fact, Paul specifically warned the Church not to be taken captive by philosophy:

Colossians 2:8 (NASB) See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (emphasis added)

Tragically, the Hellenized Church Fathers patently ignored this command. The consequence of which is a belief in a God that is foreign to the true monotheism of the Bible. As Old Testament scholar, N.H. Snaith, concluded:

Our position is that the reinterpretation of Biblical theology in terms of the ideas of the Greek philosophers has been both widespread throughout the centuries and everywhere destructive to the essence of the Christian faithChristianity itself has tended to suffer from a translation out of the Prophets and into Plato.[23] (emphasis added)

We must remember that Plato was an unbeliever, a pagan, lost and without the one true God of the Bible. As Christians, we are not to be bound with unbelievers:

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (NASB) Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

Scripture is sufficient as Yahuwah’s revelation to mankind.[24] It provides us with all we need to know about who He is and His great plan regarding salvation through Yahushua and the coming kingdom. Jude, the Master’s brother, wrote that we are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (emphasis added) [25] Notice that the handing down of the Christian faith wasn’t partial or incomplete. The New Testament writers didn’t urge Christians to wait three hundred years until the Church Fathers could provide the language or insight to help us understand what Yahuwah had failed to explain to us in His word. Rather, the faith was most decidedly handed down complete.

In addition, Paul said that when he taught believers about Yahuwah and the Lord Yahushua Christ, that he had withheld nothing from them that was profitable.[26] However, Paul never taught that Yahuwah is three persons in one essence. Conversely, he taught that there is one God, the Father and that Yahushua is not the one God, but the Christ (Messiah) whom Yahuwah made Lord.[27]

1 Corinthians 8:6 (NASB) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Yahushua Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

We must decide whether we are going to rely on Scripture and the testimony of Yahushua who prayed “Father…You [are] the only true God,”[28] to tell us who Yahuwah is, or if we are going to ignore them and the historical record and accept a Trinitarian God that has its roots in Plato.

[1] W.R. Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus (London: Longmans, 1918), p. 12, 14.

[2] James Strong, John McClintock, “Trinity” in Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 10, (New York: Harper, 1891), p. 553.)

[3] “Top Ten Ancient Greek Philosophers,” Ancient History Lists, accessed 8-11-19,

[4] “Plato,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed 8-8-19,

[5] “Plato,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed 8-8-19,

[6] “All About Plato’s Famous Academy,” ThoughtCo., accessed 8-8-19,

[7] Charles Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alexandria, 1886, p. 249.

  1. Aristotle, On the Heavens, Book 1, chapter 1.

[9] Edward Gibbon, History of Christianity (1883, p. xvi). As quoted in Is God a Trinity? (United Church of God, 2012).

[10] William Newton Clarke, The Christian Doctrine of God, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1909), p. 230-231.

[11] Plato, Timaeus

[12] Robert G. Olson, A Short Introduction to Philosophy, (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 2003), p. 62.

[13] The term Church Fathers, for the purposes of this post, may include the Apostolic Fathers such as Justin Martyr.

[14] “Platonism and Christianity,” The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1957, Vol. IX, p. 91

[15] “Athenagoras,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, p. 831. Online edition accessed 8-8-19,

[16] “Athenagoras,” Encyclopedia Americana, s.v. (2001), Vol. 2, 605.

[17] David Davidson, Take it From the Church Fathers: You Should Read Plato, accessed 8-7-19,

[18] Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, (Ballantine Books, 1991), p. 103.

[19] Albert C. Outler, (1940). “The “Platonism” of Clement of Alexandria”. The Journal of Religion (1940), Vol. 20 (3), p. 217–240.

[20] David Davidson, Take it From the Church Fathers: You Should Read Plato, accessed 8-7-19,

[21] Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism 16 [52], 32 [80 – 81].

[22] Harry Austryn Wolfson, The Philiospohy of the Church Fathers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 578-579.

[23] Norman H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, (London: Epworth Press, 1955), p. 187, 188.

[24] 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21

[25] Jude 1:3

[26] Acts 20:20

[27] Acts 2:36

[28] John 17:1 and 3.

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We have taken out from the original article all pagan names and titles of the Father and Son, and have replaced them with the original given names. Furthermore, we have restored in the Scriptures quoted the names of the Father and Son, as they were originally written by the inspired authors of the Bible. -WLC Team