Christian views on the classics - Wikipedia
Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac ( . clarify the difference between pagan persistence and pagan revival, and That sounds like the classical liberal settlement regarding religion. The relationship between the Christian groups and the largest society around them, the Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program University of Texas at Austin CHRISTIAN PARTICIPATION IN PAGAN CULTURE. is religious and what is not, but in most cases the difference should be clear.4 possible pagan survivals is in the elite culture of Byzantium and modern. Greece. 6Charles N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture (Oxford , repr.
What these eminent men desired was not so much the separation but the combination of the treasures of profane literature and of Christian truth. Jerome recalls the precept of Deuteronomy: For him, the Christian who seeks his knowledge in the pagan authors resembles the Israelites who despoil the Egyptians of their treasures in order to build the tabernacle of God.
As to Ambrosehe has no doubts whatever. He accepts the earlier view handed down from the Hebrew apologists to their Christian successors, viz. Pythagoras was a Jew or, at least, had read Moses. The pagan poets owe their flashes of wisdom to David and Job.
Tatianfollowing earlier Jews had learnedly confirmed this view, and it recurs, more or less developed, in the other Christian apologists. In the West Minucius Felix gathered carefully into his Octavius whatever seemed to show harmony between the new doctrine and ancient learning. This was a convenient argument and served more than one purpose. But this concession presupposed that pagan studies were subordinate to Christian truth, the "Hebraica veritas".
In the second book of his De doctrina christianaAugustine explains how pagan classics lead to a more perfect apprehension of the Scriptures, and are indeed an introduction to them. In this sense Jerome, in a letter to Magnus, professor of eloquence at Rome, recommends the use of profane authors; profane literature is a captive.
Rhetoric continued to inspire a kind of timid reverence. The panegyristsfor example, do not trouble themselves about the emperor's religion, but addressed him as pagans would a pagan and draw their literary embellishments from mythology. Theodosius himself did not dare to exclude pagan authors from the school.
A professor like Ausonius pursued the same methods as his pagan predecessors. Magnus Felix Ennodiusdeacon of Milan under Theodoric and later Bishop of Paviainveighed against the impious person who carried a statue of Minerva to a disorderly house, and himself under pretext of an "epithalamium" wrote light and trivial verses.
It is true that Christian society at the time of the barbarian invasions repudiated mythology and ancient culture, but it did not venture to completely banish them. In the meantime the public schools of antiquity were gradually closed.
Private teaching took their place but even that formed its pupils, e. Sidonius Apollinarisaccording to the traditional method. Christian asceticism, however, developed a strong feeling against secular studies. As early as the fourth century Martin of Tours finds that men have better things to do than study.
The Rule of Benedict prescribes reading, it is true, but only sacred reading. Gregory the Great condemns the study of literature so far as bishops are concerned.
Did Christianity destroy classical pagan culture? A review of Catherine Nixey
Isidore of Seville condenses all ancient culture into a few data gathered into his Origines, just enough to prevent all further study in the original sources. Cassiodorus alone shows a far wider range and makes possible a deeper and broader study of letters.
His encyclopedic grasp of human knowledge links him with the best literary tradition of pagan antiquity. He planned a close union of secular and sacred science whence ought to issue a complete and truly Christian method of teaching. Unfortunately the invasions of the barbarians followed and the Institutiones of Cassiodorus remained a mere project.
Medieval period[ edit ] About the middle of the sixth century, the first indication of classical culture were seen in Britainand, towards the close of the century, in Ireland. In his Annals, Tacitus who claimed Nero was in Antium at the time of the fire's outbreakstated that "to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians  ] by the populace" Tacit. Annals XV, see Tacitus on Jesus.
Suetonius, later to the period, does not mention any persecution after the fire, but in a previous paragraph unrelated to the fire, mentions punishments inflicted on Christians, defined as men following a new and malefic superstition. Suetonius however does not specify the reasons for the punishment, he just listed the fact together with other abuses put down by Nero. The Persecution in Lyon was preceded by mob violence, including assaults, robberies and stonings Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.
Further state persecutions were desultory until the 3rd century, though Tertullian 's Apologeticus of was ostensibly written in defense of persecuted Christians and addressed to Roman governors. There was no empire-wide persecution of Christians until the reign of Decius in the third century. Decius authorized roving commissions visiting the cities and villages to supervise the execution of the sacrifices and to deliver written certificates to all citizens who performed them.
Christians were often given opportunities to avoid further punishment by publicly offering sacrifices or burning incense to Roman gods.
Christians fled to safe havens in the countryside and some purchased their certificates, called libelli. Several councils held at Carthage debated the extent to which the community should accept these lapsed Christians. Some early Christians sought out and welcomed martyrdom. Roman authorities tried hard to avoid Christians because they "goaded, chided, belittled and insulted the crowds until they demanded their death.
Christian views on the classics
The proconsul obliged some of them and then sent the rest away, saying that if they wanted to kill themselves there was plenty of rope available or cliffs they could jump off. Both Polycarp and Cyprianbishops in Smyrna and Carthage respectively, attempted to avoid martyrdom. The Diocletianic Persecution[ edit ] Main article: The persecutions culminated with Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third and beginning of the 4th century.
Like the Jews, the Christians unless they were gnostic were opposed to syncretism.
Christianity and Paganism
With the exception of the notion of baptism as a rebirth, Christians generally and significantly avoided the characteristic vocabularies of the mystery religions. Many Christians also rejected the literary traditions of the Classical world, denouncing the immoral and unethical behaviour of the deities and heroes of ancient myth and literature. Paul could quote such pagan poets as AratusMenanderand Epimenides. Clement of Rome cited the dramatists Sophocles and Euripides.
Educated Christians shared this literary tradition with educated pagans. The defenders of Christianity against pagan attack especially St. Justin Martyr and St. Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century welcomed Classical philosophy and literature.
They wished only to reject all polytheistic myth and cult and all metaphysical and ethical doctrines irreconcilable with Christian belief e. Clement of Alexandriathe second known head of the catechetical school at Alexandriapossessed a wide erudition in the main classics and knew the works of Plato and Homer intimately.
His successor at Alexandria, Origenshowed less interest in literary and aesthetic matters but was a greater scholar and thinker; he first applied the methods of Alexandrian philology to the text of the Bible. Augustine held that although Classical literature contained superstitious imaginings, it included references to moral truths and learning that could be used in the service of God.
The great Church Father compared Classical literature to the gold of the Egyptians, which God permitted the Hebrews to use on their journey to the Promised Land even though it had once been used in pagan religious practice.
The Apologists The Christian Apologists of the 2nd century were a group of writers who sought to defend the faith against Jewish and Greco-Roman critics.
They refuted a variety of scandalous rumours, including allegations of cannibalism and promiscuity. By and large, they sought both to make Christianity intelligible to members of Greco-Roman society and to define the Christian understanding of God, the divinity of Christand the resurrection of the body.