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The word theologia is attested for the first time in Plato’s Republic II, 379a4: Hoi tupoi peri theologias. According to Werner Jaeger (The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, Oxford 1947, 4-­‐13), Plato coined the word to support the introduction of a new doctrine which resulted from a conflict between the mythical and the natural (rational) approach to the problem of God. For Jaeger, the word theologia designates what Aristotle was later to call theologikê or “first philosophy (hê protê philosophia) – whence his translation of hoi tupoi peri theologias by “outlines of theology.” Victor Goldschmidt, for his part, in an illuminating article entitled “Theologia” (in Questions Platoniciennes, Paris, 1970, 141-­‐72) will have nothing to do with such a contention. He argues that the word theologia here used by Plato means nothing more than a species of muthologia. While the principal lexicons agree with Jaeger, that is, that theologia bears the sense of “science of divine things,” the majority of contemporary translators follow Goldschmidt in taking theologia as an equivalent to muthologia or a species of it. In view of the importance of the concept of theologia in the Western tradition, I believe it merits another analysis. The aim of this paper is to show that the word theologia in this passage of the Republic can mean “science of divine things,” contrary to the claim of Goldschmidt and his followers, but not in the context of natural philosophy as Jaeger seems to imply. The most important thing is to determine whether the element logia should be translated as “science” or “speech,” that is, whether Plato is making a value judgement about theos. I argue that he does.


Gerard Naddaf presented “Plato’s Theologia Revisited” to the Society at its meeting with the Eastern Division New York in 1995. A revised version was published in Methexis 9 (1996) 5-18. That version is available on JSTOR.

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