The Berean Expositor
Volume 28 - Page 193 of 217
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Wisdom; Human and Divine.
Being a comparison of the groping after the truth of the ancient
philosophers with the truth as it is revealed in Scripture,
in order that the believer may the better appreciate the Word of God.
#13.  The Sophists.
"Every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
pp. 59 - 61
With the advent of the Sophists, a great change becomes apparent in the world of
thought, and a new principle appears. According to this new point of view, which may
be called the principle of subjectivity, things are as they seem to us, and universal truth
does not exist. The Sophists seized upon the idea of the "flux and change" of all things
which was taught by Heraclitus, to challenge and question all reality. They taught that
the individual himself determined what should or should not be true, just and good, and
the times in which they lived echoed their doctrine. Self-seeking and party-strife were
the characteristics of public life. The axiom of Protagoras: "Man is the measure of the
universe" led to a state of affairs comparable to the close of the Book of Judges.
"In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his
own eyes" (Judges 21: 25).
When the Sophists spoke of "man" as the "measure", they were referring to the
individual man. As each individual knows only his own sensations, what "seems" good
to him "is" good--a doctrine upon which Adam and Eve seem to have acted in the
garden of Eden, and which will again be apparent at the close of this age, when, as the
Apostle write, "man shall be lovers of their own selves . . . . . lovers of pleasures more
than lovers of God" (II Tim. 3: 2-4).
The Sophists were skeptics--an attitude partly justified by the widespread corruption
among the people which was the natural outcome of the character attributed to their gods
and goddesses and traditional heroes. The Greek Sophists were rather like the French
illuminati of the eighteenth century, such as Rousseau and Voltaire, whose teaching led
to the great Revolution. Like them, too, they were encyclopędic in range, although their
special strength lay more in formal quickness and rhetoric, than in positive knowledge.
Hippias boasted that he was always able to say something new on any matter under
discussion, and others made it a point to hold serious discourse on the most insignificant
objects imaginable. In other words, as the Apostle said of their successors, they were
characterized by "a show of wisdom", "words to no profit", and "vain janglings".
PROTOGORAS (B.C.490), the first of the Sophists, was an agnostic rather than an
atheist. He begins his book with the words: