You can?t read a text by either an early Christian or early modern Platonist without being hit by a barrage of claims that Plato got most of his ideas from reading the Hebrew scriptures. Says Margaret Barker, ?The similarity between much of Plato and the Hebrew tradition is too great for coincidence.? Barker attempts to prove that Plato?s ideas did come from the Jews, but does so with little evidence.
In his new book, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible, Russell Gmirkin considers ?the possibility that both the Pentateuch and the Hebrew Bible as a whole drew on the writings of Plato found at the Great Library at Alexandria.? Gmirkin bases this argument on the assertion that ?the Pentateuch?s law collections despite containing a few laws of Ancient New Eastern origin, are in large part based on Athenian law and on Plato?s Laws, and that the Hebrew Bible as a literary collection was based on instructions found in Plato?s Laws for creating a national literature.? Such an argument builds on Gmirkin?s previous work that argued that similarities to other texts suggested that the Pentateuch was written at the time the of the reported translation of the Septuagint (c. 270 BC.)
Controversial stuff, no doubt, but for my purposes I can?t help wondering about the implications of this thesis for Christianity. In his Laws, Plato says that since implementing the system described in the Republic isn?t practical (he wonders if such a system only exists in heaven), it?s best to describe the ?second-best state? (Laws 739e). That is, the Laws is the lower law, and the Christians’ attempt to implement one of the key features of the Republic shortly after Jesus?s death and resurrection (all things in common) blends well with the notion of Christianity being the higher law to the law of Moses.
Early Christian Platonist Clement of Alexandria (who had lots of Mormon-sounding ideas) said: ?Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring ?the Hellenic mind,? as the law, the Hebrews, ?to Christ.?? Perhaps the two overlapped.
 Margaret Barker, The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (London: T and T Clark, 2003,) 263.
 Barker uses a statement in Iamblichus?s Life of Pythagoras that Pythagoras conversed with Phoenicians and was initiated into mysteries in Syria. She then uses Herodotus?s statement that Syrians in Palestine practiced circumcision to argue that the Syrians that Pythagoras met were really Jews and therefore he was really initiated into the Hebrew temple. This all seems rather tenuous especially since Iamblichus wrote his work c. 300 AD, or about 900 years after Pythagoras lived. Barker, ?Temple and Timaeus? in The Great High Priest, 262-93.
 Russell E. Gmirkin, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible (New York: Routledge, 2017), 1.
 Russell E. Gmirkin, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch (London: T&T Clark, 2006). Gmirkin argues that ?The first reliable evidence for the composition of the Pentateuch is the Septuagint translation at Alexandria ca 270 BCE.? Plato and the Creation, 4.
 Clement, Stromata, 2.5.