By the Same Word: The Intersection of Cosmology and Soteriology in Hellenistic Judaism, Early Christianity and 'Gnosticism' in the Light of Middle Platonic Intermediary Doctrine

Doctoral Dissertation


Middle Platonism espoused an intellectual system that would explain how a transcendent supreme principle could relate to the material universe. The central aspect of this system was an intermediary, modeled after the Stoic active principle, which mediated the supreme principle’s influence to the material world while preserving its transcendence. Having similar concerns as Middle Platonism, three religious traditions from the turn of the era (Hellenistic Jewish sapientialism, early Christianity, and ‘Gnosticism') appropriated Middle Platonic intermediary doctrine as a means for understanding their relationship to the Deity, to the cosmos, and to themselves. However, each of these traditions varies in their adaptation of this doctrine as a result of their distinctive understanding of creation and humanity’s place therein. In particular Hellenistic Jewish sapientialism (Philo of Alexandria and Wisdom of Solomon) espouses a holistic ontology, combining a Platonic appreciation for noetic reality with an ultimately positive view of creation and its place in human fulfillment. Early Christians (those who speak in 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:2-3, and the Johannine prologue) provide an eschatological twist on this ontology when the intermediary figure finds its final expression in the human Jesus Christ. On the other hand, Poimandres (CH 1) and the Apocryphon of John, both associated with the traditional rubric 'gnosticism,' draw from Platonism to describe how creation is antithetical to human nature and its transcendent source.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04152005-090254

Author Ronald R Cox
Advisor Gregory E. Sterling
Contributor David Aune, Committee Member
Contributor Brian Daley, S.J., Committee Member
Contributor John P. Meier, Committee Member
Contributor Gregory E. Sterling, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Defense Date
  • 2005-03-21

Submission Date 2005-04-15
  • United States of America

  • Gnostiicism

  • Middle Platonism

  • Sethianism

  • Wisdom of Solomon

  • Philo

  • Colossians

  • John

  • Hebrews

  • 1st Corinthians

  • Corpus Hermeticum 1

  • Apocryphon of John

  • New Testament

  • Christology

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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