'History' may be said to be the intellectual form in which a civilisation renders account to itself of its past. It comprises every form of historical record: that of the annalist, the writer of memoirs, the historical philosopher and the scholarly researcher. The purpose of the historian, to the very best of his ability, is to relate past events as they actually happened.
Christianity is fundamentally an historical religion rooted in time. Physical events, such as the Creation, the giving of the Ten Commandments, the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), underpin its doctrine and theology. Without these there is no Christianity.
'Philosophy' is a word used negatively in the Bible to refer to human understanding in contrast with divinely revealed knowledge. In Classical Greek, philosophy is the systematic investigation of a subject or distinct body of knowledge. By the first century, the term became more generalised to include moral philosophy and religious speculation. Many religious groups tried to convery the impression that they were imparting philosophy, as did many persons employing magic and spells. In Hellenistic Judaism, the term was used in both of its classical senses to designate the search for knowledge by reason and to designate a body of knowledge espoused by a particular group.
In 4 Maccabees 1:1, for example, philosophy designates the use of reason over emotions to counter the charge that Judaism is a "foolish philosophy" (4 Macc.5:11). The Jewish historian Josephus, on the other hand, uses the term more narrowly and refers to Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes as Jewish philosophical schools.
Therefore, the admonition of Colossians 2:8 regarding "philosophy and empty deceit" must be understood in light of these possible meanings. It is highly unlikely that classical understanding of the term as the pursuit of knowledge through reason is envisaged here. Paul is referring instead to the self-designation of a particular group claiming to hold a special knowledge of or power with relation to the "elements of the universe". This Colossian philosophy apparently involved pagan dietary restrictions (Col.2:16,21) and may have involved a syncretistic mix of Rabbinical traditions involving the sabbath and new moon festivals (Col.2:16). Based on the supremacy of Messiah demonstrated in Colossians 1:15-20, however, the letter's polemic points out that such teachings are founded upon human tradition and as a result are empty deceit. They are not a negative comment on New Covenant Torah observance nor is this an attack on philosophy per se.
The related term "philosopher" occurs in Acts 17:18, designating adherents to classical philosophical schools of Epicurianism and Stoicism who confront Paul. Messianic Evangelicals use the term 'philosophy' as the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language, the methodology of which includes questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Christian or Messianic philosophy, therefore, is that form of philosophy which arises out of the biblical wordview.
Famous modern Christian philosophers include such persons as C.S.Lewis and Ravi Zacharias.
(3 November 2017)