Xenophanes  

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"But if cattle and horses and lions had hands [...]" --Xenophanes

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Xenophanes of Colophon (6th-century BC) was a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and social and religious critic. Xenophanes lived a life of travel, having left Ionia at the age of 25 and continuing to travel throughout the Greek world for another 67 years. Some scholars say he lived in exile in Siciliy. Knowledge of his views comes from fragments of his poetry, surviving as quotations by later Greek writers. To judge from these, his elegiac and iambic poetry criticized and satirized a wide range of ideas, including Homer and Hesiod, the belief in the pantheon of anthropomorphic gods and the Greeks' veneration of athleticism. He is the earliest Greek poet who claims explicitly to be writing for future generations, creating "fame that will reach all of Greece, and never die while the Greek kind of songs survives."

Theology

Xenophanes' surviving writings display a skepticism that became more commonly expressed during the fourth century. He satirized traditional religious views of his time as human projections, and for this he is often regarded as the "Feuerbach of Antiquity," who did the same for Christianity. He aimed his critique at the polytheistic religious views of earlier Greek poets and of his own contemporaries: "Homer and Hesiod." One fragment states, "have attributed to the gods all sorts of things that are matters of reproach and censure among men: theft, adultery, and mutual deception." Sextus Empiricus reported that such observations were appreciated by Christian apologists. Xenophanes is quoted, memorably, in Clement of Alexandria, arguing against the conception of gods as fundamentally anthropomorphic:

But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
horses like horses and cattle like cattle
also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies
of such a sort as the form they themselves have.
...
Ethiopians say that their gods are snub–nosed [σιμούς] and black
Thracians that they are pale and red-haired.

Other passages quoted by Clement of Alexandria that argue against the traditional Greek conception of gods include:

  1. "One god, greatest among gods and humans,
    like mortals neither in form nor in thought."
  2. "But mortals think that the gods are born
    and have the mortals' own clothes and voice and form."

Regarding Xenophanes' theology five key concepts about God can be formed. God is: beyond human morality, does not resemble human form, cannot die or be born (God is divine thus eternal), no divine hierarchy exists, and God does not intervene in human affairs. While Xenophanes is rejecting Homeric theology, he is not questioning the presence of a divine entity, rather his philosophy is a critique on Ancient Greek writers and their conception of divinity There is also the concept of God being whole with the universe, essentially controlling it, while at the same time being physically unconnected.

Xenophanes espoused a belief that "God is one, supreme among gods and men, and not like mortals in body or in mind." He maintained there was one greatest God. God is one eternal being, spherical in form, comprehending all things within himself, is intelligent, and moves all things, but bears no resemblance to human nature either in body or mind. He is considered by some to be a precursor to Parmenides and Spinoza. Because of his development of the concept of a "one god greatest among gods and men" that is abstract, universal, unchanging, immobile and always present, Xenophanes is often seen as one of the first monotheists, in the Western philosophy of religion, although the quotation that seems to point to Xenophanes's monotheism also refers to multiple "gods" who the supreme God is greater than.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Xenophanes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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