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Are there any metaphysical concepts that are elucidated in the Bible? I am attempting to address a philosophical point raised by a friend; he worries there are no metaphysical perspectives offered in the Bible.

Perhaps a good working definition of metaphysics could be "the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space." (Oxford Languages)

Does the Bible contain any insights into metaphysical concepts? If so, what are some examples? If not, how can this be demonstrated?

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    This thoughtful post shouldn't have gotten closed. The post pertains to the adequacy of certain hermeneutical approach to the Bible. In fact, both of the answers posted so far showcase the metaphysics (or, to some extent, the alleged lack thereof) palpable in some specific passages of the Bible. An OP's failure to preemptively spell out how his post is on topic does not change the fact that it is on topic. Should I bring this up on Hermeneutics Meta? Commented Dec 30, 2023 at 15:38

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Given the definition as stated, probably the most metaphysical statement in the scriptures is the name of God as given to Moses; in the Hebrew אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה "I am that I am" -- or in the Septuagint, Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν, "I am the one who is". Both of these are ontological propositions: the first, that God is unique and cannot be defined with reference to anything or anyone else; the second that God is unique in that He alone depends on nothing or no one else for His existence.

Right up there with it is a statement by Paul in Colossians: he says of Christ, ὅς ἐστιν . . . πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, "He is the Firstborn of all Creation". The word πρωτότοκος, "Firstborn", was used by philosophers as a term carrying the meaning of "opener of the/a way", referring to something that passed through some kind of barrier, the passage of which left its shape imprinted on the opening it forged through the barrier, so that anything else that comes through the opening takes on the shape of the way-opener. So when Paul calls Jesus the "Firstborn", he has this concept in mind, where the "barrier" was the separation between divine existence (or heaven) and material existence. He is saying that Jesus "opened the way" for material things to be made, and that every individual or collective thing that exists was shaped by Jesus, so that everything we ever encounter has in some sense Jesus' "shape" and thus has a lesson for us about Jesus. We know that Paul had this use of the word in mind because the next two verses are just expositions of the term, and the two after that apply this status to Christ and the church. Something interesting about that passage -- Colossians 1:15-20 -- is that it is considered to have been a hymn in the early church which Paul adapted for his use, knowing that it would be recognized and differences noted. It's referred to as "The Hymn to the Firstborn".

A third is found in the opening of John's Gospel: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος, rendered rather literally as "In the beginning the Logos was being, and the Logos was being faced to God, and God is what the Logos was being". It's a phrase the early church recognized as indicating the Trinity: since the Logos was "faced to God", i.e. personally present with God, then we have two entities known as God, God and the Logos.
Skipping the Greek, John goes on, "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made". That ties right to Paul's point about Christ as the Firstborn (yes, Paul and John shared theology). But it adds to Paul's point by informing us that anything that was made was made through Christ -- not just the universe at the start, but everything, ever and anywhere. This matches, but says more than, Paul's statement that "in Him all things hold together": it tells us that every new thing everywhere was made by Christ, from a snowflake assembled in the upper reaches of a nimbostratus cloud to a newborn baby, from oil being pumped from the ground to an atom of radium formed from a thorium atom.

That's just three; there are more.

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First, the Bible is essentially a Hebrew book and Hebrew has almost no concept of anything abstract. Rather, it is a "doing" and "going" language as is the thought process from which it was born.

The closest we get a world views and identity is the very first verse in Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This stands in stark contrast to the numerous theories about existence and origins. The rest of the Bible makes it very clear that man is not God, and that God is quite distinct from His creation. If one wants to examine psychological ideas, there are plenty - here is a sample in the appendix.

The big difference between Greek philosophy and its propositional truth and Bible teaching is that Bible teaching asserts two things:

  • God is (and God is good)
  • Truth is not a proposition but is a person - the person of Jesus Christ when He said

John 14:6

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 1:4, 14

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. ... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Appendix - Psychological ideas in the Bible.

The modern term, “Psychology” is the study of human behavior. Much of it is unashamedly Platonic in nature and so, unbiblical. While I am not a fan of “Theology by Psychology” methods, the Bible makes undeniable psychological statements. Here is a sample of the numerous nuggets in Scripture.

  • “The love of Christ compels us”. 2 Corinthians 5:14
  • “We love because he first loved us”. 1 John 4:19
  • “We …beholding …the glory of Lord are being transformed into the same image”. 2 Corinthians 3:18. See also Philippians 2:4, 5, Hebrews 12:2, 3, 1 Corinthians 2:16, Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 13:14, John 17:17, Matthew 6:19-33, 12:33-35, Romans 8:12-14. See also “Imitation of Christ”.
  • “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless”. 2 Kings 17:15. See also Psalm 115:4-8, 135:15-18, Proverbs 10:24, 24:8, 9, etc.
  • “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
  • “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1
  • “be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2
  • “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” Romans 12:3. (This is an explicit warning against narcissism – an ancient problem but now becoming rampant.)
  • “He who ignores discipline despises himself”. Proverbs 15:32
  • “A lying tongue hates those it hurts”. Proverbs 26:28
  • “What the wicked dreads will overtake him”. Proverbs 10:24
  • “Bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt”. Proverbs 27:11
  • “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you.” Psalm 51:12, 13.

There are many more.

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  • Would you say the Bible has anything to say on the subject of epistemology? Is eternity metaphysical, or purely physical, or something else?
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:12
  • The Bible is a book about theology = knowledge/study of God and little else. Jeremiah and Hebrews sums this up well - "No longer will each one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest."
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:21
  • One verse that comes to mind is, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32. Another is "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him" James 1:5. Is not the knowledge and study of God inclusive of all other worthwhile topics?
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:23
  • @pygosceles - again, these are primarily theological statements about know the truth about God and Jesus. That is the great difference between Biblical theology and Greek philosophy which depends on propositional truth as opposed to theological truth.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:34
  • Does the Bible not deal in propositional truth? Does theological truth not overlap with propositional truth?
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 4:43

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