Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
ABuddhist
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Jul 21, 2021 4:36 am

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by ABuddhist »

Secret Alias wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 8:34 am I've been wondering about this. The standard understanding is 'no' because philosophers weren't believers in Christ. But when you start going through the list of names there is something of a philosophical foundation to Christianity.

Justin Martyr = philosopher
Clement of Alexandria = philosopher
Origen = philosopher
most of the Alexandrian fathers or heads of the catechetical school = philosophers
Tatian = probably a philosopher
Marcion is repeatedly accused by Justin of stealing from Plato
Celsus accuses the evangelist(s) of stealing from Plato
the various 'heresies' were conceived as 'philosophical schools'

I know we tend to limit philosophy to a certain concept i.e. one of the many philosophical schools. But I wonder whether Clement gets it right when he envisions Christianity as 'the true philosophy' and that all the 'sects' (whether Greek or Hebrew or Christian) are corruptions of that philosophy.

I wonder whether 'primitive Christianity' was just a myth.
If I may bring in some mixture of personal anecdotes and evidence from my religion (Buddhism), I think that you may be interested.

Based upon my personal experiences and readings about fellow converts to Buddhism, many converts to Buddhism tend to be attracted to the more philosophical/abstract ideas within Buddhism rather than the devotional aspects - although this is not universal. I, for example, treasure Buddhism for its excellence in refuting claims that souls exist, that uncreated creator gods exist, and for its value in defining right conduct, yet struggle to remember to bow before all Buddha images and seldom participate in pujas. Most other converts to Buddhism are attracted to it because of its meditational techniques and promises of calmness during this life. There is often tension (which I have at times struggled with) between converts' understandings about what Buddhism is and born members' understandings, which converts often dismiss as superstition. A similar process might have been common among Christians - cf., Origen's stressing the allegorical/deeper meaning of the Christians' scriptures rather than the surface/literal.

Furthermore, scholars of Buddhism who are not familiar with the multiplicity of forms that Buddhist faith can take may find themselves surprised by the co-existence of philosophy and religion in the same person or text. Thus, the Buddhist convert and translator Edward Conze regarded the sections in the Buddhist "Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines" Sutra describing the salvific powers that Akṣobhya Buddha has as being a later interpolation of religion into a philosophical text, and the Buddhist traveller Xuanzang, in addition to studying and accepting as true Yogacara Buddhist philosophy at Nalanda's university, was greatly devoted to the Future Buddha Meitraya - to the extent that when he was in danger he meditated about the Future Buddha Meitraya rather than about Yogacara Buddhist philosophy. It is entirely possible that the Christian leaders in the list that I quote from similarly mixed philosophical and religious aspects of their Christian faith.
StephenGoranson
Posts: 607
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by StephenGoranson »

Christian intellectuals and the Roman Empire
Jared Secord, Christian intellectuals and the Roman Empire: from Justin Martyr to Origen. Inventing Christianity. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020. Pp. 232. ISBN 9780271087078 $99.95.
Review by
Jennifer Otto, University of Lethbridge. jennifer.otto@uleth.ca

Christian intellectuals in the Roman Empire joins a growing body of scholarship that treats the Greco-Roman world not as mere “background” from which early Christian thinkers departed, but as the actual world in which they thought, debated, and competed for status, and from whence their assumptions, attitudes, and concerns were drawn.[1] In this study, Jared Secord de-centers the Christianity of four prominent thinkers—Justin Martyr, Tatian, Julius Africanus, and Origen—and re-directs his readers’ attention to the ways in which each fits within the broader world of “intellectuals” in the Roman Empire. Secord defines this term broadly to include “people who presented themselves as authority figures because of what they knew or claimed to know, especially if this knowledge was based on the possession of high-level literacy” (2). Thus, not only philosophers, but physicians, sophists, jurists, and even astrologers are classified together as intellectuals. When imperial authorities and other elite figures in the Roman world encountered intellectuals who were also Christians, Secord argues, they appraised them not primarily on the basis of their being Christians but considered their ability to deal in the ‘culture and philosophy’ of the Roman empire. For their part, Secord contends, “Christian intellectuals often behaved in ways that avoided, deemphasized, or complicated the simply claim of ‘I am a Christian.’ Rather than marking themselves off from others, they depicted themselves as full participants in the intellectual culture of the Roman empire and were judged on this basis” (2). ......

{more at:}
https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2021/2021.09.24/
perseusomega9
Posts: 904
Joined: Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:19 am

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by perseusomega9 »

andrewcriddle wrote: Fri Sep 17, 2021 8:46 am
perseusomega9 wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 9:06 am Notice how they're all converts too, we don't here of any second generation christians (kids) until the 3rd century.
In the Martyrdom Polycarp claims
Eighty and six years have I served Him [Christ], and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?
This seems to imply that Polycarp came from a Christian family,

Andrew Criddle
It could also mean he was a young convert, it could be bullshit as most hagiographies are. We just don't hear of saints being born to christian parents until the 3rd century. The 2nd century writings and conversions are because of philosophy. But we do hear of Christians targeting kids in the 2nd century, as well as taking in foundlings. Which is probably tied to the issue in the reign of Marcus Aurelius about what to do with the freedom of foundlings and the cost of raising them.
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 4133
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by neilgodfrey »

StephenGoranson wrote: Mon Sep 27, 2021 5:01 am Christian intellectuals and the Roman Empire
Jared Secord, Christian intellectuals and the Roman Empire: from Justin Martyr to Origen. Inventing Christianity. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2020. Pp. 232. ISBN 9780271087078 $99.95.
{more at:}
https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2021/2021.09.24/
Thank you so much for alerting us to this new volume, Stephen. It is clearly a must-read in any investigation into the rise of Christianity. It is available in ebook form in many university libraries but unfortunately licensing restrictions do not allow for "walk-in users" to access it. I'll have to look for other ways to access a copy.

With respect to the topic being discussed in this thread, I notice that the author happily makes the distinction between popular philosophers like the Cynics who taught dogmas on the one hand and the elite philosophers who instructed in rational proofs on the other. The former would appear to be the pot from which the earliest Greek speaking Christians emerged. But if so, that still leaves us with a missing link between those popular philosopher types (Paul, Peregrinus? even Justin?) and whoever was responsible for the raw Christian-type concepts in the first place.
User avatar
Giuseppe
Posts: 9643
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Giuseppe »

Ironically, Hippolytos saw the beginning of Christian heresy in philosophy.
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 304
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Peregrinus Proteus, Church Father at Age 25-30 in 125 AD?

Post by billd89 »

Secret Alias wrote: Wed Sep 15, 2021 5:00 am Remember also the portrait of Peregrinus Proteus. Some question where or not Lucian is reporting an actual Christian because of his philosophical rooting. I tend to think it is a generally accurate portrait.
Lucian of Samosata (c.170 AD) reported the self-immolation of Cynic philosopher Peregrinus Proteus in 165 AD, in his old age (Age 70); Peregrinus was born c.95 AD in Parium Mysia. Adultery charge at Tigranocerta? Age 18? in 115 AD; corrupted youth in Phrygia (at Age 20? in 117 AD). Murdered his father (Age 22? 117 AD; Age 60?) Wandered for several years to Age 25? Went to Palestine to study with Christians: 120-2 AD? Freed by Syrian Governor 125 AD at Antioch? Returned home c.8 years later, 125 AD. Quit Christianity and Parium for Egypt 128 AD; studied w/ Agathobulus (Cynic Philosopher).


“11. "It was then {c.120 AD} that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.”

Allowing for some exaggeration, it's still noteworthy that L. of S. says P.P. interpreted Xian Gospel books in 120-25 AD although it also suggests 'the set was not complete'.
User avatar
Giuseppe
Posts: 9643
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Giuseppe »

Peregrinus Proteus is Marcion.
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 304
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Peregrinus Proteus is NOT Marcion.

Post by billd89 »

Good grief! More than one Xian committed adultery.

And Sinope is nowhere near Parium, shipping isn't farming, studying Cynical Philosophy in Alexandria isn't collecting Xian books, etc. etc.

Lucian of Samosata is abit more reliable with his facts, I think.
User avatar
Giuseppe
Posts: 9643
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Giuseppe »

Detering's greatest original research, in my view:

http://radikalkritik.de/wp-content/uplo ... ucians.pdf
User avatar
billd89
Posts: 304
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2020 6:27 pm
Location: New England, USA

Re: "X is Y!! No, really: IT IS!!!" (Isn't.)

Post by billd89 »

There were surely hundreds of itinerant Xian-type preachers roaming the Eastern Roman Empire in the 120-140 AD period.
When the facts really don't match, presume they are different people. It's foolish and wrong to insist otherwise.

Marcion was settled collector-librarian type, and probably a canny propagandist (perhaps, after the Philonic model).
Proteus is flagrantly distinct (a Peter Pan Narcissist?) otherwise. Not even close.
Giuseppe wrote: Tue Oct 12, 2021 7:57 am Detering's greatest original research, in my view:

http://radikalkritik.de/wp-content/uplo ... ucians.pdf
Let's not abuse the term "original research." Forced opinion/make-believe is deeply unethical, morally repugnant. It's often psychopathic; alarming!
Post Reply