The God Of Paul And The Philosophers

Richard Bauckham, in Jesus and the God of Israel, gives some background to some of the formulae used of God in Paul’s letters (e.g., in Romans 11 and 1 Corinthians 8):

It is true that there are some non-Jewish Hellenistic parallels to the formulation which relates ‘all things’ (ta panta) to God by a variety of prepositions. The best examples are in Pseudo-Aristotle, Mund. 6 (ek theo panta kai dia theou sunesteke); Marcus Aurelius, Medit. 4.3 (ek sou panta, en soi panta, eis se panta); and Asclepius 34 (omnia enim ab eo et in ipso et per ipsum). The point of such formulae is that they describe God as the cause of all things, indicating the various types of causation (as standardly recognized in ancient philosophy) which are appropriate to God’s relation to the world by means of the various prepositions: i.e. efficient causation (ek), instrumental causation (dia or en), and final causation (eis). But such formulae would very clearly be congenial to Jewish usage, since Jews were, in any case, very much in the habit of describing God as the Creator of ‘all things’. Josephus (B.J. 5.218), without the use of the prepositions, says much the same as the non-Jewish Hellenistic formulations: ‘all things are from God and for God (tou theou panta kai to theo)’. Philo explicitly takes up the standard philosophical set of types of causation, and applies to God’s relation to the world the three which can be so applied: God himself is the efficient cause (‘by whom [huph’ hou] it was made’), his Word is the instrumental cause (‘by means of which [di’ hou] it was made’), and the final cause (‘on account of which [di’ ho]’) is ‘the display of the goodness of the Creator’ (Cher. 127). In Hebrews 2:10, God is final and instrumental cause of his creation: the one ‘on account of whom (di’ hon) are all things and through whom (di’ hou) are all things’.

We can, therefore, be confident that Paul’s formulation — ‘from him and through him and to him [are] all things’ — is neither original to Paul nor borrowed directly from non-Jewish sources, but was known to him as a Jewish description precisely of God’s unique relationship to all other reality. [214-215]