Jewish, Christian, & Islamicate Philosophy

The Medieval Search for Meaning

Lesson Objectives

Appreciate the massive role Plato had in the formation of Western religion

Appreciate the ways St. Augustine combined Neoplatonism & Christian theology

Appreciate the contributions of Christian Scholasticism to Western Philosophy

Appreciate the contributions of Avicenna (see my Religion course for more)

Appreciate the contributions of Maimonides (see my Religion course for more)

Appreciate the contributions of St. Aquinas and his explanation of Natural Law

Key Terms



Nicene Creed


The City of God

Ockham's Razor

Ontological Argument for God

Cosmological Argument for God

Maimondes on religion and science

Aquinas' Theory of Natural Law

Platonism & the Church

Plato in History

• For 1000 years, Plato's philosophy is the standard of Greek understanding

• Modern philosopher Alfred Whitehead: "All philosophy is a footnote to Plato."

• When Christian thought arrives in Greece, it combines with ancient Platonism

Platonism & the New Testament

• The Hebrew Bible (ie. Old Testament) predates Platonism.

• Paul (Col. 2:17): "These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." This verse uses the same vocab as the Cave Allegory.

• Gospel of John 1: "At the arche was the Logos, and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God." Here, the gospel writers identify Jesus as the Logos.

The Greek Fathers of the Church

• Justin Martyr: gives the fullest explanation of Christ as the Greek Logos

• St. Origen: scripture is allegorical and God is Aristotle's Prime Mover

• The Cappadocian Fathers: championed the concept of the Trinity

Tertullian & the Latin Fathers of the Church

• With Tertullian, Roman Christian philosophy and terminology turns to Latin

• Tertullian teaches the Trinity as "three persons, one substance" (cf. Chariot)

• 325 CE: Christian doctrine is agreed upon by the bishops in the Nicene Creed

• 392 CE: the books of the Christian New Testament are agreed upon