Greek Versus Hebrew Mindset: Worship, Spirituality, Salvation, and Prayer
by Christine Egbert
I recently read an excellent book by Brad Scott, titled: “Let This Mind Be In You.” In it, Scott traces the Christian church’s evolution in its understanding and teaching of Scripture, from Hebrew to Greek. The Church’s Greek worldview is based in the works of Homer, the blind poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
In a nutshell, Socrates taught that man’s evil actions are caused by ignorance. Then Plato took this Greek way of thinking to a whole new level when he introduced what he called the dualism of man, which held that the soul was good and the flesh always evil. The body was just a passing phase to its cosmic existence. What the body did was virtually irrelevant. This contrast to Hebraic thought eventually led to the heresy of Gnosticism, about which the Apostle Paul warned Timothy (1st Timothy 4:1), when he wrote “in latter times some will depart from the faith, cleaving to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons.” Paul then went on to list what these (Gnostic) teachings were: forbidding to marry, abstaining from food which God created (i.e. this means abstaining from those creatures God declared, in His Word, as “food for man”. It is not referring to animals like the pig, which God specifically declared in His Word is NOT food). How do we know this is the correct interpretation? Verse 5 establishes that what God calls food is “sanctified, set apart,” by His word.
Brad Scott then goes on to write, “These great debates were designed to cause peoples’ minds to conceive the demiurge…” The demiurge, Scott explains, is the dualistic, cruel god of battles and bloody sacrifices, who created the world, then later sent his son, the logos, who was a good god. It was this same Greek philosophy that influenced the teaching of the heretic, Marcion, the man who first coined the term “Old Testament.”
Then there was Aristotle, who taught that truth could be discovered by systematic discourse based on premise to conclusion-arguments. The problem with this, Scott points out, is that it relies on human reasoning, which is limited by human experience.
Alexander the Great spread these philosophes to the known-world of his day. On page 16, Scott writes: “Alexander was not only a great military leader, but was savvy and wise as well. His strategy for Greece was to dominate the world by causing the world to conform to Greek thinking. He knew that this could only be accomplished by language…that if you can change a people’s language, you can change their whole life.”
As a result of this spreading Greek philosophy, Scott explains that they exchanged seeking the fundamental nature of reality for various schools of thought which came and went. Scott points out that this was due to the Greek’s concept of gods. Greek gods were fallible and fickle. So schools of thought came and went.
Epicureans believed in the pursuit of pleasure; distancing themselves from distasteful situations by congregating with friends and like-minded people. Stoics, while pursuing virtue, shunned emotion and resigned themselves to fate thereby denying free will. Added to this mix were the Skeptics and the Cynics. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes, because Greeks saw their gods as lacking the insight or will to guide their lives, unlike the God of the Hebrews, YAHWEH, who provides instructions and never changes. These Greek philosophers stepped up to the plate to explain life, which made the Hellenistic Age, according to Scott, “best summed up by the word: mixed!”
The Greeks viewed worship as a specific act of reverence or homage. Modern Christianity, with its Greek mindset, shares a similar view of worship as a “specific act of reverence.” Greeks gathered in great coliseums to idolize and revere their gods through music and dance, which often included nudity and homosexual acts. But remember, in Greek thought the body is irrelevant. It’s only one’s state of mind that interested their gods. Stoics, however, did not find “writhing pleasures of the body,” to be a proper state of mind.
Today, instead of coliseums, Christians gather on Sunday (sun-god day) in mega churches, where praise teams lead their audience in upbeat, fast-tempo praise music, then slow it down for the worship phase. Although, I do not believe most mega churches have sunk to the decadence of nudity and homosexual acts, based on a video I watched recently, titled “Hillsong’s Sleazy Silent Night,” I fear it won’t be long. According to the written information accompanying this particular video clip, “Hillsong leads the way when it comes to churches featuring worldly, gigantic and expensive spectacles to attract a large audience.”
In contrast, while the Hebrew view of worship certainly includes playing instruments, clapping, shouting, singing, and dancing before the Lord, as the book of Psalms attests, it is NOT limited to a specific act of reverence once or twice a week. Worship is every hour of every day. Hebrew thought, unlike Greek, does not separate worship from service.
Scott writes, “In Hebrew culture the word avodah is understood as service, worship, or servitude. Before Yeshua the temple service was called avodah, and false worship was known as avodah zerah. A servant of God was a worshiper of God, and worship was a continuous act.” (pg. 66)
Scott goes on to point out that Hebrews observed Yahweh’s set-times, His Shabbats, Feast Days, and Rosh Chodesh (new moons). But, for the Hebrews, worship never ended. Worship was the continuous act of living. Everything you did–whether farming, going to war, making bread, taking care of a husband, wife, or child, what you ate, and especially the study of God’s word–was worship. The Hebrew did “not separate ordinary, daily activity from his religious duties,” writes Scott. Whatever he did, he approached it with the motivation (Kavanah) that this was his worship; his service to the Almighty. The Hebrew saw himself and his life, the same way he saw God—as one. Shema Israel, Yahweh our Elohim is ECHAD. A unity! “In Hebrew thought,” Scott writes, “all occupations should be holy and sacred, and should be observed as such.”
Spirituality: From The Greek & Hebrew Mindset!
To the Greek mindset spirituality is other-worldly. But in the Hebrew mindset, spirituality means to THINK SCRIPTURALLY, to line up one’s thinking with What God Says! To the Greeks spirituality means living outside of this world, a philosophy which can lead to all kinds of “new age” thinking. Since the gods lived outside this world, a spiritual man would not concern himself with what he did in this life. But in Hebrew thought everything a man DOES is spiritual.
More About Gnostics
Right thinking and ideas were the hallmark of Greek spirituality, from which was birthed Gnosticism. (It doesn’t matter how you live so long as you profess the “Right Doctrines”). For Gnostics, denying oneself was very spiritual; everything physical was thought to be evil. Because of this, as I have already pointed out but will reiterate, Gnostics shunned marriage and abstained from food.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 But the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, cleaving to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons, in lying speakers in hypocrisy, being seared in their own conscience, forbidding to marry, abstaining from foods, which God created for partaking with thanksgiving by believers and those knowing the truth. Because every creature of God is good, and nothing to be thrust away, but having been received with thanksgiving; for through God’s Word (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14) and supplication it is sanctified (set apart).
This non-Hebraic, Hellenistic view of the Gnostics infected the early Christian church, launching the monastic system. At the bottom of page 69 Scott writes: “Early initiates would live together, away from the other people for a time, in order to focus on their thinking. When they returned, they were the truly spiritual people, who only could communicate with the logos. This led to the great gulf between clergy and laity. Yeshua more than likely was referring to this type of thinking when He condemned the Nicolaitans. These men would take a vow of celibacy for life, as they were married to the Lord (as the only true bride.) ”
A far cry from this Greek theology, Hebrews thought that ‘to be spiritual’ meant to celebrate life according to God’s word! Life involved living in this world to the fullest. It affected body, soul, and spirit. Scott writes, “To be spiritual was to be in this world, fully aware and fully focused on your part in all that you do.” Yeshua said, “My words are spirit and they are truth.”
Salvation In The Greek Mindset
To the Greek mind salvation is the eternal status of one’s soul. It is tied up to “right thinking” and is “creedal” in nature. Scott writes: “In Gnostic thought, the concept of keys is mentioned quit liberally. Scriptural terms such as believe, confess, and faith are all tied in with esoteric knowledge given by the gods. These terms were easily transferred to New Testament teaching…let me remind you that in Greek thought the logos was the collective mind or nous of the gods. In order for a soul to be destined for heaven one must believe and confess propositions about the logos.”
Scott points out that during the first two centuries no creeds were established. This is because for the first two hundred years the church remained very Hebraic. The creeds came much later, after the church was dominated by Gentiles. With great persecution, Jewish believers in Yeshua were chased away from both Judaism and Christianity.
In the Hebrew mindset salvation is not limited to the soul, but the whole person: spirit, soul, and body. Salvation is based not on creeds and right confessions, but on relationship with the Father. Salvation starts with trusting God’s word which leads to our right action. Salvation is not limited to leaving this world. It must include involving ourselves in changing what is wrong in this world and sustaining what God says is right. In Scripture, “salvation is constantly portrayed as deliverance from evil or contrary circumstances, not escape to paradise.” In Hebrew thinking salvation is rescue from ways that are contrary to God’s.
Prayer In The Greek Mindset
For the Greek communication with the gods was not an everyday routine. Only when things went wrong did the individual make a spontaneous request for help. Otherwise, prayers were reserved for celebrations, events held in great arenas. There, group participation would be called for to ask the gods for the success of the event.
Prayer In The Hebrew Mindset
In Hebrew thinking prayer is both ritual and spontaneous. It is said for the entire community—Israel—and always blesses God. According to Scott, “Hebrew prayer is short, extremely frequent, and observed at the same times each day.” He goes on to point out that this type of routine prayer insured that Israel was praying in unity, since the Hebrews saw themselves as part of a collective. “Prayers were said as we, us, and our, rather than me, mine or I.” Proof of this is when Yeshua instructed his disciples to pray: “Our Father,” not “My Father.” Finally, Hebrew prayer is done with an attitude of thanksgiving. “Acknowledging what He has done builds strength and trust for what He will do.” Prayer is both spontaneous and request-oriented. Hebrew prayer did, and does, consist of a combination of both ritual prayers, like the Amidah, said three times a day, and spontaneous passionate petitions sent up in our times of need. But remember, God is our Father, and like earthly fathers, I know His heart hurts when His children only want to speak to Him when they’re in trouble and need something.
Greek Linear Versus Hebrew Cyclical Thought
Scott writes: “Another important difference between the two thinking processes is the difference between linear thinking and cyclical thinking.” In our Greek-influenced Western thought, all historical events are seen as unfolding on a time line. “This line,” Scott writes, “comes forth from the fuzzy past at the left and extends toward the right into the fuzzy future.” Every time you see that fictional assent of man poster, it shows a monkey on the far left. Its evolution progresses to the right, and it ends with a man in a suit carrying a briefcase. “The evolutionary journey required that many of our ancestral appendages drop off in various stages of progression, eventually producing the advanced species of humans.”
Brad Scott then makes a most interesting observation. About the time the evolutionary theory “appeared on the scientific scene, the theory of dispensationalism rose to prominence on the religious scene. This theory,” Scott writes, “postulates that God has dealt with His people in dispensational stages over time.”
Most professing Christians scoff at the theory of evolution, in which the primordial soup gets struck by lightning and life begins with a single cell. Over time, this single cell evolves into something with gill slits, fins and a tail. Eventually they fall off. Over more time this creature grows different appendages: wings, then legs and arms. It begins to grunt, and over even more time, it stands erect, puts on a suite and picks up a briefcase.
So why, since most professing Christians reject the theory of evolution, do they believe the lie of dispensations? Dispensationalism teaches that God (who Scripture tells us never changes) deals with His people in different ways at different times (dispensations). Scott points out that, when laid side by side, the bogus geologic column of the evolutionists bears a striking resemblance to the church’s dispensational-column. Brad Scott explains the Christian Church’s “theological evolution” as follows:
“In the beginning, there were the primitive patriarchs floating in a worldwide flood, but soon they came to Mt. Sinai, where lightning bolts struck, energizing them with dietary laws, the Sabbaths and the Feasts. Over time the dietary laws fell off, the Sabbaths faded away, and the Feasts were transformed. They soon grew new laws, a new Sabbath, and celebrated new feasts, until at the end we see (modern) Christian man.”
Paths Or Cycles?
Psalms 23:3 says: He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. The word “paths” was chosen by the King James translators to express the meaning of the Hebrew word “agol”. But this Hebrew word actually signifies much more than a path, which is simply a laid down track in which one walks. “Agol” specifically means a “well-traveled cycle.” In Psalms 23, David pleads with his Creator to lead him in cycles of righteousness.
The monthly appearance of the new moon, (Rosh Chodesh), the weekly 7th day Sabbath, the yearly Feast Days, every sunrise and sunset teaches us HIS righteousness. Substituting Constantine’s-mutations (Sunday, Easter & Christmas) for Yah’s cycles of New Moons, Sabbaths and Feast Days, establishes a manmade righteousness. Sunday-sabbath, Christmas, and Easter are all manmade changes. Mutations! But God, the God of the Bible, never changes, and neither have His instructions.
1 John: 3:7 Little children, let no one lead you astray. The one practicing righteousness is righteous, even as that One is righteous.
Revelations 14: 12 Here is the patience of the saints, here are the ones keeping the commands of God and the faith of Yeshua.
1 John 5: 2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.