Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Secret Alias
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Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Secret Alias »

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.
perseusomega9
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by perseusomega9 »

Notice how they're all converts too, we don't here of any second generation christians (kids) until the 3rd century.
Charles Wilson
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Charles Wilson »

perseusomega9 wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 9:06 amNotice how they're all converts too, we don't here of any second generation christians (kids) until the 3rd century.
This is a very important point, perseusomega9!

In a major Movement, things do not ...uhhh... change until the second generation. That which was Crystal Clear as a Motivating Factor turns out to be ancient history to the second generation. Lenin had to show that Russia had in fact gone through the Industrial Revolution in order to fit Marxist Dogma - literally from the Marx-Engels Crowd as it applied to Europe. Changed to apply to Backward Russia but that which allowed the CCCP to Rule.

The Stock Phrase given to Flavius Constantinus Heraclius was that "Heraclius had to shore up the Eastern Front..." of the Empire and he did that with "Agreements" made with various Tribes of the East. See the religious Relic letter of Heraclius supposedly supporting this "Muhammed Guy". Heraclius is gone in a decade but the Rule of Allah is now given primary focus and we still have Islam today as a result. (Only thing is that the Sunni Group and the Shia Group haven't killed off enough of each other to establish the True Faith.)

Which brings us around to the Origins of Christianity and the Plausible History of same. I personally do not consider most of these early writers to be "Philosophers" since they - as Lenin did - had to stretch Orthodoxy to cover entirely unforeseen Cultures. They knew what they were doing, however, so that these "High Verbals" piled the verbiage high to hide what they knew to be the real case.

They ended up transporting a Story from a destroyed Culture into a story of a savior/god loyal to Rome, based in Rome. Fixing this Story as a World-Wide Phenomenon allowed Rulership from Rome and this was something a wandering Preacher and a few followers prolly could not have foreseen.

All done by the second generation types from the third century, as you state.
Absolutely great point.

CW
perseusomega9
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by perseusomega9 »

perseusomega9 wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 9:06 am Notice how they're all converts too, we don't hear of any second generation christians (kids) until the 3rd century.
eta: here > hear
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GakuseiDon
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by GakuseiDon »

Christianity, like most other religions, moves with the times. When it started, it was a magical/mystery type religion, at a time when that was popular. That's how the vocabulary was taken.

Then it became a philosophical one -- in fact, it had been compatible with philosophy all along! Terms were re-interpreted with that view in mind.

Then it was neo-platonic philosophy compatible, then a natural philosophical one, and now it is a scientific religion. Apparently Christianity has been compatible with science all along!

It's only a matter of time before we find out that Christianity is compatible with quantum mechanics, and has been from the start.
Charles Wilson
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Charles Wilson »

GakuseiDon wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 3:49 pm Christianity, like most other religions, moves with the times. When it started, it was a magical/mystery type religion, at a time when that was popular. That's how the vocabulary was taken.

Then it became a philosophical one -- in fact, it had been compatible with philosophy all along! Terms were re-interpreted with that view in mind.

Then it was neo-platonic philosophy compatible, then a natural philosophical one, and now it is a scientific religion. Apparently Christianity has been compatible with science all along!

It's only a matter of time before we find out that Christianity is compatible with quantum mechanics, and has been from the start.
Well stated!
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by neilgodfrey »

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.

. . .
Indeed yes, as did Christianity begin as a philosophical school -- given that philosophy was not all that distinct from what we would think of as theology back then.

Philosophers had their hangers-on, their followers, and I sometimes think of Christianity spreading more through the influence of philosophers on their followers than through preaching from street corners.

Recall also Josephus's portrayal of "Judaism" as one of the philosophies of the Greco-Roman world, and Judaism has been defined by some modern scholars as very much a Hellenistic product.

Paul is seen very much as a philosopher by Abraham Malherbe ("Paul and the Popular Philosophers"). Acts depicts Paul as a philosopher, too -- hence his Athenian speech -- and Acts was a product of the sorts of "fathers" you listed.

And a lot of those convoluted spirit genealogies we encounter among "gnostics" are typically philosophical in character.

A few other references.....
  • Barclay, John M. G. “Paul and the Philosophers: Alain Badiou and the Event.” New Blackfriars 91, no. 1032 (2010): 171–84.
  • Caputo, John D., and Linda Martín Alcoff, eds. St. Paul among the Philosophers. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.
  • Downing, Francis Gerald. Cynics, Paul, and the Pauline Churches: Cynics and Christian Origins II. Psychology Press, 1998.
  • Engberg-Pedersen, T. “Stoicism in Early Christianity: The Apostle Paul and the Evangelist John as Stoics.” In The Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition, edited by John Sellars, 13–34. New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Engberg-Pedersen, Troels. Paul and the Stoics. Westminster: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.
  • ———. “Stoic Understanding of Pneuma in Paul,” n.d.
  • Kim, Seon Yong. “Paul and the Stoic Theory of Οἰϰείωσις: A Response to Troels Engberg-Pedersen.” Novum Testamentum 58, no. 1 (2016): 71–91.
  • Lee, Michelle V. Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ. 1 edition. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Løland, Ole Jakob. “The Modern Philosophers’ Paul: Reclaiming Pauline Introspection and Reviving Legacies of Anti-Judaism.” The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory. Accessed January 31, 2019. https://www.academia.edu/38235306/The_m ... ti-Judaism.
  • Malherbe, Abraham J. Paul and the Popular Philosophers. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, c1989. xvi, 192 p. ; 24 cm, n.d.
  • ———. Paul and the Thessalonians: The Philosophic Tradition of Pastoral Care. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011.
  • Martyn, J. Louis. “De-Apocalypticizing Paul: An Essay Focused on Paul and the Stoics by Troels Engberg-Pedersen.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 86 (2002): 61–102.
  • Wagner, Nicholas E. “Paul and Cynicism in Philippians 3.2,” n.d., 33.
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Wed Sep 15, 2021 2:17 am, edited 2 times in total.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by neilgodfrey »

Secret Alias wrote: Tue Sep 14, 2021 8:34 am I wonder whether 'primitive Christianity' was just a myth.
The idea of 'primitive Christianity' as more "religion" than "philosophy" is surely a myth. To begin with, our notions of "religion" and "philosophy" do not fit with the ancient concepts, as you well know.

If Judaism was conceptualized as a philosophy (as Josephus would say, and as Justin appears to accept in his Dialogue with Trypho) and if Christianity emerged from within Judaism then it is reasonable to think of Christianity as a philosophy more than as a "religion". The function of a Deity and humanity's relationship with Him were matters for philosophical consideration. Plato, as we know, concocted myths to teach philosophical ideas, so the idea of "religious" tales to teach philosophical concepts and codes of conduct was all very appropriate.

Ways of living, codes of conduct, -- all of this was more a matter of philosophy than "religion". Certainly "mystery religions" are of little relevance here.

And the idea of conversion to a way of life, to a new identity, --- this was a philosophical idea as Justin indicates and as Troels Engberg-Pedersen (see previous comment for some of his works) demonstrates are part and parcel of Paul's letters.

It is all easier to accept if we think of Christianity as we know it having its birth in the mid second century rather than the mid-first century.

Whatever was happening in the first century has been lost to us.
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Giuseppe
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by Giuseppe »

neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Sep 15, 2021 1:38 am It is all easier to accept if we think of Christianity as we know it having its birth in the mid second century rather than the mid-first century.
if Christianity started among philosophical schools, then what was the "missing link" to a view of Christianity as religion? The glossolalia and the unforgivable blasphemy against the holy spirit make Christianity more a religion than a philosophy.

Begging partially the question: I have always seen Paul as a Philo suffering of hallucinations. And I have considered the latter as his more intrinsic feature.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Were the Church Fathers 'Philosophers'?

Post by neilgodfrey »

Giuseppe wrote: Wed Sep 15, 2021 2:56 am
neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Sep 15, 2021 1:38 am It is all easier to accept if we think of Christianity as we know it having its birth in the mid second century rather than the mid-first century.
if Christianity started among philosophical schools, then what was the "missing link" to a view of Christianity as religion? The glossolalia and the unforgivable blasphemy against the holy spirit make Christianity more a religion than a philosophy.

Begging partially the question: I have always seen Paul as a Philo suffering of hallucinations. And I have considered the latter as his more intrinsic feature.
That question is asking how what we understand as "religion" evolved historically.
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