Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Philosophy

Zanchi’s Aristotle (6): Solomon the Philosopher

In this installment, Zanchi continues his exposition of the spread of philosophy after its initial revelation to Adam. Philosophy, according to Zanchi, comes to the Hebrews eventually, but not directly. It rather goes from Adam’s direct descendants to Noah and his sons after the Flood, and proceeds to various people groups before finally arriving in Israel via the Chaldeans.

It will not come as a surprise that among the Hebrews Zanchi singles out Solomon as their greatest “philosopher,” and particularly as their greatest natural philosopher due to his interest in flora and fauna. If we had his “philosophy books,” Zanchi strikingly avers, we would have no need of Aristotle, who was for Zanchi the greatest of the philosophers of the Greeks, a people that had received their wisdom tradition from the Hebrews. For Zanchi, then, what we have in Aristotle is a reflection of Solomonic wisdom.

And thus one must believe that this wisdom came from the sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of Adam to Noah and his sons, and from there to the Chaldeans, Armenians, Babylonians, Assyrians, [and] Phoenicians, and from the Chaldeans to the Hebrews. And among the Hebrews Solomon was certainly the greatest philosopher, and he best maintained this wisdom concerning nature, as is evident from 1 Kings 4. For in that passage we read the following words about Solomon: he discoursed concerning trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on walls; he discoursed also of quadrupeds, of birds, of snakes, and of fish; and those who had heard the report of his wisdom were coming together from all the nations of all the realms of the world in order to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And yet it belongs to natural philosophy to discourse of all those things: who, then, cannot see that this philosophy existed among the Hebrews before the Greeks, and that it spread from the Hebrews to the Greeks? And would that we had those natural philosophy books of Solomon! We would have absolutely no need of reading Aristotle.1

  1. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.