Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy


 Damien F. Mackey

“Mount Zion, true pole of the earth …”.

 Psalm 48:2

“I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece”.

 Zechariah 9:13

Tertullian: free Jerusalem from Athens and the church of Christ from the Academy of Plato.”

 (Tertullian, De praescriptione, vii).


This last comment, by Tertullian, will become a kind of mantra for this article, though not entirely according to the context of Tertullian, but according to the context of our AMAIC historical revisions.

For, according to the description of our site,

Lost Cultural Foundations of Western Civilisation


“Much of Western culture, mythology and religion has been appropriated from the cultures of the Fertile Crescent region, especially from the Hebrews (Jews)”.

This is a companion to our site,

Lost Cultural Foundations of Eastern Civilisation

whose description is the same, but with reference to Eastern culture, etc.

Now this description, as it applies to the west, basically encapsulates the phenomenon that is the history of ancient philosophy, that has been presented to us as being entirely Greco-Roman (Ionian-Italian), but which I intend to argue was actually Hebrew (Israelite/Jewish) and biblical.

Certainly the Fathers of the Church appreciated at least the seminal impact that the Hebrews had had upon Greco-Roman thinking, though without their having taken the extra step that I intend to in this article, of recognising the most famous early western (supposedly) philosophers as being originally Hebrew.

To give just a few examples from the Fathers and early legends:

“According to Clement [of Alexandria], Plato plagiarized revelation from the Hebrews; this gave the Athenian’s highest ideas a flavor of divine authority in the estimation of Clement”. (

Clement of Alexandria even believed that Sirach had influenced the Greek philosopher. Heraclitus (Strom. 2.5; Bright 1999:1064).


Tertullian: “… free Jerusalem from Athens and the church of Christ from the Academy of Plato.” (De praescriptione, vii).


Eusebius of Caesarea believed that Plato had been enlightened by God and was in agreement with Moses. (

Aristobulus was among many philosophers of his day who argued that the essentials of Greek philosophy and metaphysics were derived from Jewish sources. Philosopher Numenius of Apamea echoes this position in his well known statement “What is Plato but Moses speaking Attic Greek?” (1.150.4) Aristobulus maintained, 150 years earlier than Philo, that not only the oldest Grecian poets, Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, etc., but also the most celebrated Greek thinkers, especially Plato, had acquired most of their wisdom from Jewish sages and ancient Hebrew texts (Gfrorer i. p. 308, also ii. 111-118) (Eusebius citing Aristobulus and Numenius Ev ix. 6, xi. 10).

The Arabic-Christian legends identify [the biblical] Baruch with Zoroaster, and give much information concerning him. (

Saint Ambrose (Ep. 34) “suggested that Plato was educated in Hebraic letters in Egypt by Jeremiah.

Some of these situations (e.g. Sirach influencing Heraclitus and Plato meeting Jeremiah) are chronologically impossible in the present context of ancient history. However, in our revised scheme they may not be.

Here I am going to take four of the key early, supposedly “Ionian” Greek and Italian, philosophers of antiquity, Thales and Heraclitus (Ionian) and Empedocles (Sicilian) and Pythagoras, all pre-Socratics, nd reveal their biblical prototype of which these four were merely ghostly replicas, chronologically, ethnically and geographically misplaced.

Thales is most important as presumably having begun it all.

Thus (

Thales of Miletus (c. 624 BCE – c. 546 BCE) was an ancient (pre-Socratic) Greek philosopher who is often considered the first philosopher and the father of Western philosophy. His approach to philosophical questions of course cannot compare to modern or even later Greek philosophers, however, he is the first known person to use natural explanations for natural phenomena rather than turning to supernatural world and his example was followed by other Greek thinkers who would give rise to philosophy both as a discipline and science.

Heraclitus is considered by some to have been the founder of metaphysics.

Thus (

Heraclitus is in a real sense the founder of metaphysics. Starting from the physical standpoint of the Ionian physicists, he accepted their general idea of the unity of nature, but entirely denied their theory of being. The fundamental uniform fact in nature is constant change (πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει);everything both is and is not at the same time. He thus arrives at the principle of Relativity; harmony and unity consist in diversity and multiplicity. The senses are “bad witnesses” (κακοὶ μάρτυρες); only the wise man can obtain knowledge.

Empedocles was the one to name the four elements (earth, air, fire and water).

Thus (

Empedocles (pronounced: /ɛmˈpɛdəklz/;Greek:Ἐμπεδοκλῆς; Empedoklēs; Ancient Greek: [empedoklɛ̂ːs]; c. 490–430 BC) was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles’ philosophy is best known for being the originator of the cosmogenictheory of the four Classical elements.

Pythagoras was thought to be the one who coined the term ‘philosopher’.

Thus (

This most famous philosopher was born sometime between 600 and 590 B.C., and the length of his life has been estimated at nearly one hundred years. …. Pythagoras was said to have been the first man to call himself a philosopher; in fact, the world is indebted to him for the word philosopher. Before that time the wise men had called themselves sages, which was interpreted to mean those who know. Pythagoras was more modest. He coined the word philosopher, which he defined as one who is attempting to find out.

Thus four very significant individuals in the history of early philosophy! Yet historians admit to knowing so little about them. This is apparent from these quotes, respectively, from the above sites:

Thales: “Not much is known about the philosopher’s early life, not even his exact dates of birth and death”.

Heraclitus: “Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom”.

Empedocles: “Very little is known about his life”.


Pythagoras: “The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Pythagoras must have been one of the world’s greatest persons, but he wrote nothing, and it is hard to say how much of the doctrine we know as Pythagorean is due to the founder of the society and how much is later development. It is also hard to say how much of what we are told about the life of Pythagoras is trustworthy; for a mass of legend gathered around his name at an early date”.



Given these stark admissions, it is not surprising that the original version of each of these sages could be lost in the mists of obscurity.

My purpose in this article will be to try to restore the original in relation to Thales, Heraclitus, Empedocles and Pythagoras, leaving aside at this stage the more important Socratics (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), whose proper identities really need to be established, and thereby to uncover the original foundations of wisdom (or philo-sophy).

Why is it important to ‘free Jerusalem from Athens’, to use Tertullian’s phrase?

Firstly, because of my belief that the aforementioned great thinkers were Hebrews rather than Greeks.

And, secondly, because genuine wisdom thinking and writings could not have been generated by a thing so corrupt and perverse as pagan Greco-Roman culture.



To be continued

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