The Greek word phi·lo·so·phiʹa means, literally, “love of wisdom.” In modern usage the term relates to human endeavors to understand and interpret through reason and speculation the whole of human experience, including the underlying causes and principles of reality.
The Greek words for “philosophy” and “philosopher” each occur only once in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Col 2:8; Ac 17:18) Evidently when Paul wrote to the congregation at Colossae in Asia Minor, some there were in danger of being affected by “the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men.” Greek philosophies were then quite prominent. But the context of Colossians 2:8 shows that of special concern to Paul were Judaizers who were trying to bring Christians back to observing the Mosaic Law with its required circumcision, festival days, and abstinence from eating certain foods. (Col 2:11, 16, 17) Paul was not opposed to knowledge, for he prayed that Christians be filled with it. But, as he showed, one must appreciate the role of Jesus Christ in the outworking of God’s purpose in order to obtain true wisdom and accurate knowledge. (Col 1:9, 10; 2:2, 3) The Colossians were to look out lest perhaps someone with persuasive arguments carry them off as prey through a human way of thinking or outlook. Such a philosophy would be part of “the elementary things [stoi·kheiʹa] of the world,” that is, the principles or basic components and motivating factors of the world, “and not according to Christ.”—Col 2:4, 8.
When in Athens Paul had an encounter with “the Epicurean and the Stoic philosophers.” (Ac 17:18) They termed the apostle a “chatterer,” using the Greek word sper·mo·loʹgos, which literally applies to a bird that picks up seeds. The word also carries the thought of one who picks up scraps of knowledge and repeats such without order or method. Those philosophers disdained Paul and his message. Basically the Epicurean philosophy was that the obtaining of pleasure, particularly mental pleasure, was the chief good in life (1Co 15:32); though it acknowledged gods, it explained these as being beyond human experience and concern. The philosophy of the Stoics stressed fate or natural destiny; one should be of high virtue but strive for indifference to pain or pleasure. Neither Epicureans nor Stoics believed in the resurrection. In his speech before such men, Paul highlighted the relationship and accountability of the individual to the Creator and connected therewith Christ’s resurrection and the “guarantee” this provided men. To Greeks asking for “wisdom” the message about Christ was “foolishness” (1Co 1:22, 23), and when Paul mentioned the resurrection, many of his hearers began to mock, although some became believers.—Ac 17:22-34.
In his inspired letters Paul emphasized a number of times that the wisdom and falsely called knowledge of the world is foolishness with God and is to be avoided by Christians.—1Co 1:18-31; 2:6-8, 13; 3:18-20; 1Ti 6:20.