I'm aware of multiple sources describing exactly the opposite - the sheer influence of the Greek culture, language, economy, science and general worldview on the Sages and Judaism.

The Greek culture bloomed at times of the first Temple (c.900-500BCE), long before the era of our Sages and far away geographically. The Gemmorah brings a couple of encounters between Alexander the Great and the Sages (e.g. Tamid 32) but those are very late and, while the king showed a great deal of respect to the Sages, show no signs of any influence.

Are there sources (Jewish or not) that speak of the [possible] influence of the early Jewish thought on the Greek philosophy, like Socrates or Plato?

Reddit: did Plato or Socrates heard about or read the Old Testament,
Quora: did Aristotle-and-Socrates-read-the-Pentateuch

  • This sounds like a history question, not a Judaism one. history.stackexchange.com is probably a more appropriate place to ask the question. Jun 4, 2019 at 13:51
  • @Salmononius2 and everyone else who wanted to put the question on hold: the question raises the issue of the legitimacy of hashkafos that draw from Greek Philosophy. Which is why the Zohar explains that the post-Socratics were influenced by Daniel and the other nevi'im in the Babylonian court, and that's why so many of the Zohar's ideas have variants in Greek Thought. Jun 5, 2019 at 14:27
  • The short answer would be that almost the entire country of Greece nowadays belongs to a certain religion, which started out initially as a rather unorthodox offshoot of Judaism. A longer version would probably have to mention a certain pagan philosopher, called Socrates, who, without denying either the power or the existence of pagan gods, nevertheless started speaking about a sole primordial principle, called Mind (Nous), who, through Thought (Logos), set order (Logic) into Chaos (disorder), thus setting into motion the entire Theogony of Greek deities. Jews used this to their advantage.
    – Lucian
    Jun 5, 2019 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


One early non-Jewish source, De Doctrina Christiana (Augustine of Hippo, c. 400 CE) (PDF) Book II, Section 43:

As to the utility of history, moreover, passing over the Greeks, what a great question our own Ambrose has set at rest! For, when the readers and admirers of Plato dared calumniously to assert that our Lord Jesus Christ learnt all those sayings of His, which they are compelled to admire and praise, from the books of Plato — because (they urged) it cannot be denied that Plato lived long before the coming of our Lord! — did not the illustrious bishop, when by his investigations into profane history he had discovered that Plato made a journey into Egypt at the time when Jeremiah the prophet was there, show that it is much more likely that Plato was through Jeremiah's means initiated into our literature, so as to be able to teach and write those views of his which are so justly praised?

For not even Pythagoras himself, from whose successors these men assert Plato learnt theology, lived at a date prior to the books of that Hebrew race, among whom the worship of one God sprang up, and of whom as concerning the flesh our Lord came. And thus, when we reflect upon the dates, it becomes much more probable that those philosophers learnt whatever they said that was good and true from our literature, than that the Lord Jesus Christ learnt from the writings of Plato,—a thing which it is the height of folly to believe.

And a Jewish source, Torat HaOlah by R. Moshe Isserles, c. 1550 CE, Part I Chapter 11:

For in truth, all the wisdom of the philosophers and researchers came from Israel, and all of their wisdom is encompassed in the Torah, as the Rav of the Moreh {Nevuchim?} goes on at length to teach; that all the wisdom of the philosophers is found in the midrashim of Chazal and their aggadot.

And know that I have perused an extremely old sefer and there were sketched in it all the philosophers in their form and their wisdom, how it came about {?}. And it was written in it that Socrates, who is the one that the philosophers call Socrat the Godly, that he was the one who brought out at first in Philosophy that there was a separate reality {?}. And after him were drawn other philosophers. And it is written there that he received the wisdom from Asaf the Korchi {who was in the time of King David} and from Achitofel.

And it is further written in Shevilei Emunah {I think this sefer from R' Meir Ibn Aldabi} that the wisdom of Aristotle was stolen from King Solomon, peace be upon him, for when Alexander the Macedonian conquered Yerushalayim, he set his teacher, Aristotle, to govern over the collection of the books of Solomon.

And every good thing he found in them, he wrote his name upon them, and intermixed in them some of the bad positions, such as the Antiquity of the World and the denial of Providence, in order to cover for himself, so that people who came after him would not know that he stole this wisdom from the Jews.

And it is possible that everything that he did not find a clear-cut proof for in the words of Solomon he did not believe. Regardless, it is explained that all the wisdom are dependent upon the vine {see a similar idea in Ibn Yachya}.

And in truth, it is so that it is fitting for every Jewish person to believe this belief, and not to give our praise and our glory to strangers, the scholars of the nations. And behold, the verses praise Solomon, peace be upon him, that "He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall." And if the source of this wisdom was not stolen from him, what was his greatness over Aristotle and those who came after him, who researched into all aspects of nature, as is made clear in their words. Therefore, it is fitting to believe these words, that as we have written, so it is.

(Translation courtesy of R. Josh Waxman. Check out his fascinating blog on the topic.)

  • +1 --A particular example, in his De civitate Dei, St. Augustine of Hippo suggests specifically that Plato's Timaeus was directly influenced by Genesis Jun 4, 2019 at 15:58

R. Joseph Ibn Kaspi (c.1300) discusses this in a number of places.

In Chapter Two of Sefer Hamussar he writes:

ובאר דבריהם אריסטו בס' המדות באור שלם כי בזמן בית שני היה זה החכם ומהם למד וכל מה שאמר אמת ואין אני זוכר שיצא מגדר דבריהם רק בענין הקדמות ובענין מזלות חוזרן וגלגל קבוע שהודו הם בעצמם ובזה נצחו חכמי אומות העולם לחכמי ישראל

And Aristotle explained their words completely in Sefer Hamidot, for this sage [Aristotle] was in the time of the Second Temple and he learned everything from them [the Jewish Sages]. And everything that he said is true, and I don't recall that he deviated from the boundary of their words except in the matter of the eternity [of the universe] and "the galgal is fixed and the mazalot return", where they themselves admitted and in this [case] the sages of the nations of the world were victorious over the sages of Israel.

In Chapter Seven he writes:

על כן קנא הרב השלם קנאה גדולה כאשר ראה שאריסטו התנשא לפרש המצות היקרות שלנו וייחס פירושם לעצמו תחת אשר גנב כל זה מספרי שלמה ע"ה וזולתו שחוברו בענין זה

Therefore, the complete master (Rambam) had a great jealousy when he saw that Aristotle raised up to explain our precious commandments and he attributed their explanations to himself when he instead stole all this from the books of Solomon of blessed memory, and others that were written on this topic.

In Chapter Eleven he writes that the Greek philosophers instructed people to follow the Torah.

In his commentary to Genesis 28:12 he writes:

גם אריסטו ותלמידו למדו מן התורה וזכרו זה המשל בספריהם אוי לנו כי הם ידעו התורה שלנו יותר ממנו

Aristotle and his students also learned from the Torah, and they mention this parable in their books. Woe unto us for they know our Torah better than we do.

R. Gedaliah Ibn Yachyeh (c.1580) discusses Aristotle's relationship with Judaism at length in Shalshelet Hakabalah, citing various sources.

  • Thank you, this is an interesting approach - while we forgot what we learned from our Sages, the Greek stole it from us and won the arguments. Is this what he's saying? I see that many mentions Solomon's books that the Greeks read, but isn't it forbidden to write the Oral Torah?
    – Al Berko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 11:05

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