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 contrasts the never-changing Scriptural (Hebraic) mindset with an ever-evolving Greek (Western) mindset that has its foundation in the works of Homer.
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander
Socrates taught that man’s evil actions are caused by ignorance.
Plato then took that view to a new level when he began to teach the “dualism” of man. According to Plato, the soul is good but the flesh is evil. It was just a passing phase of our cosmic existence. Therefore, whatever the body does is virtually irrelevant. This flawed thinking led to a heresy known as Gnosticism. “These great debates,” Scott writes, “were designed to cause peoples’ minds to conceive the demiurge…” The demiurge is the dualistic, cruel god of battles and bloody sacrifices, who created the world, then later this demiurge sent his son, the logos, who was the good god.
Aristotle taught that truth can be discovered through a systematic discourse based on what he called a “premise to conclusion” argument. The problem with this theory, Scott points out, is that it relies on human reasoning which is limited by human experience.
Alexander the Great then spread these Greek philosophies to the known world of his day. On page 16, Scott writes, “Alexander was not only a great military leader but savvy and wise as well. His strategy for Greece was to dominate the world by causing it to conform to Greek thinking. Alexander knew that this could only be accomplished through language. When you change a people’s language, you can change their whole life.”
The Greeks, who saw their gods as both fickle and fallible, sought truth, not in the fundamental nature of reality, but in various schools of thought that came and went.
Epicureans believed in the pursuit of pleasure. They distanced themselves from distasteful situations by congregating only with like-minded friends.
Stoics pursued virtue but shunned emotion. They resigned themselves to fate, denying free will.
Skeptics and the Cynics
Greeks saw their gods as lacking the insight or will to guide their lives—unlike the LORD (Yahweh), the God of the Hebrews, who never changes and provides instruction for His people to live by—thus Greek Skeptics and Cynics did whatever was right in their own eyes.
The Greeks viewed worship as reverence or homage to their gods performed in a specific place at a specific time. Greeks revered their gods in great coliseums, with music and dance, which often included nudity and homosexual acts. Stoics failed to find the “proper state of mind” in these “writhing pleasures” of the flesh but since Greeks saw their flesh as irrelevant, the practice thrived.
Hillsong’s Sleazy Silent Night
Today, Christians gather on Sunday in megachurches where praise teams lead their audience in upbeat, fast-tempo praise music until it is time to slow down for the worship phase. And although our contemporary (Greek-influenced) Churches have not reached the decadence of the Greeks, I fear it might be on the way based on a video I saw on Facebook, titled “Hillsong’s Sleazy Silent Night.” The written information that accompanied the video clip said, “Hillsong leads the way when it comes to churches featuring worldly, gigantic, and expensive spectacles to attract large audiences.”
In contrast, while Hebrew worship certainly includes playing instruments, clapping, shouting, singing, and dancing before the LORD (Yahweh), it is NOT limited to a specific act of reverence once or twice a week. Hebraic worship is every hour of every day. Unlike Greek thought, the Hebraic mind does not separate one’s worship from one’s service.
Brad Scott writes, “In Hebrew culture the word avodah is understood as service, worship, or servitude. The temple service was called avodah. False worship was known as avodah zerah. A servant of God was a worshiper of God, and worship is a continuous act.” Scott points out that Hebrews observed the LORD’s (Yahweh’s) set-times, His Shabbats, Feast Days, and New Moon (Rosh Chodesh), but for the Hebrews worship never ended. Worship was a continuous act of living. Everything you did—whether farming, going to war, making bread, taking care of a husband, wife, or child, and especially the study of God’s word—was worship. The Hebrew mindset does not separate ordinary, daily activity from religious duties. Scott writes, “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 are holy and sacred, and are to be observed as such.”
Greek Spirituality Versus Hebrew Spirituality
Greeks saw spirituality as other-worldly. Their gods lived outside of this world, so Greeks did not concern themselves with how they lived only with what they believed. Whereas, in the Hebrew mindset, spirituality consisted of thinking and obeying Scripture.
For Gnostics, denying oneself was very spiritual. The physical was thought to be evil. Gnostics shunned marriage and abstained from eating meats. Paul denounced Gnostic philosophy as heresy when he wrote 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 of hypocrisy, being seared in their own conscience, forbidding to marry, saying to abstain from foods which God created for partaking with thanksgiving by the 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 (God’s Word tells us what is and is not food) and supplication, it (food) is sanctified (set apart).”
The Hellenistic view of the Gnostics infected the early Christian church and launched the monastic system. At the bottom of page 69, Scott writes, “Early initiates would live together, away from people for a time, in order to focus on their thinking. When they returned, they were spiritual people who could communicate with the logos. This led to the great gulf between clergy and laity. Yeshua more than likely referred to this type of thinking when He condemned the Nicolaitans.” Many Gnostics took vows of lifelong celibacy, seeing themselves as the only true bride of Christ. Far from this Greek theology, in Hebrew thought ‘being spiritual’ was to celebrate every aspect of life according to God’s Word, fully focused on the LORD (Yahweh) and His commandments in all that we think and do.
Greek Versus Hebrew Salvation
In his book, Brad Scott writes: “In Gnostic thought, the concept of keys is mentioned quite liberally. Scriptural terms such as believe, confess, and faith are all tied in with esoteric knowledge given by the gods.” To the Greeks salvation had to do with the eternal status of their soul, and it was “creedal” in nature. For a soul to be destined for heaven one must believe and confess propositions about the logos, which was the collective mind or nous of the gods.
Scott points out that during the first two centuries, no Christian creeds were established because, for the first two hundred years, the Christian church remained very Hebraic. The creeds came much later after the church became dominated by Gentiles. Persecution chased Jewish believers away from both Judaism and Christianity.
In stark contrast to the Greek view of salvation, salvation in the Hebrew mindset is not limited to one’s soul. Salvation deals with the whole person: spirit, soul, and body. And it is not based on one’s creed or right confessions, but on one’s relationship with the Father. It begins with trusting God’s Word which leads to right action.
Salvation is not leaving this world. It includes involving oneself 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 thought salvation means rescue from ways that are contrary to God’s ways. Living in God’s Kingdom is our reward, not our goal.
For Greeks communication with the gods was not an everyday routine. Only when things went wrong would an individual make a spontaneous request for help. Otherwise, prayers were reserved for celebrations held in great arenas. There, participants called on their gods to ask them for success in the events.
In Hebrew thinking, prayer is both ritual and spontaneous. It always blessed God and it is said for the entire nation of Israel. According to Scott, “Hebrew prayer is short, extremely frequent, and observed at the same times each day.” Brad also points out that this type of routine prayer ensured that Israel was praying in unity, for 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 Jesus (Yeshua) instructed His disciples to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven,” not “My Father.” Finally, Hebrew prayer is always said in an attitude of thanksgiving. “Acknowledging what God has done builds strength and trust for what He will do.” 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 times of need. God is our Father, and like earthly fathers, His heart hurts when His children speak to Him only when they are in trouble.
Greek Linear Thought Versus Cyclical Hebrew Thought
Scott writes: “Another important difference between these two thinking processes is the difference between linear thinking and cyclical thinking.” In our Greek-influenced Western thought, all historical events unfold on a timeline. “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 who progresses to the right and ends up carrying a briefcase.
In his book, Brad Scott makes a most astute observation that links the theory of evolution to the theory of dispensationalism, which postulates that God deals with His people differently in various dispensations. (It is interesting to note that both the theory of evolution and dispensational doctrine arose about the same time.)
Now, most Bible-believing Christians reject the theory of evolution in which lightning strikes the primordial soup creating life in the form of a single cell. Over time, this single cell evolves into a creature with gill slits, fins, and a tail. Eventually the slits, fins, and tail fall off. The creature grows wings, legs, and arms, and begins to grunt. Then, after even more time passes, this evolving creature stands erect, puts on a suit, and picks up his briefcase.
It is no surprise that most Christians reject this fantasy. What is surprising is that they believe Dispensationalism, which claims that God (who Scripture tells us is no respecter of persons and never changes) deals with His people in different ways in different dispensations. Scott brilliantly (and hilariously) points out that when laid side by side, Dispensationalist thinking bears a striking resemblance to Evolutionary thinking, which goes something like this:
In the beginning, primitive patriarchs floated in a worldwide flood. But they soon came to Mt. Sinai where lightning bolts struck them. This energized them with dietary laws, the Sabbaths, and Feast Days. But over time, their dietary laws fell off, their Sabbaths faded away, and their Feast Days got transformed. Soon they had new laws, a new Sabbath, and new feast days to celebrate, for now they had become modern Christians. (My paraphrase.)
Psalms 23:3 teaches us that God restores our soul and guides us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. The word translated as paths in the KJV is the Hebrew word “agol.” It means a well-traveled cycle. The weekly Sabbaths, the monthly New Moon (Rosh Chodesh), and God’s Feasts Days are God’s well-traveled cycles of righteousness.