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Judgments differ on the interpretation of the relations between classical culture and early Christianity. For some scholars, from the moment when the Christian message was accepted by men educated in Greek philosophy, it began to undergo a process of Hellenization that would draw off its innermost meaning and finally distort it, as happened in Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Best country to visit in July Others reduce this influence to essentially external factors, maintaining that under the identity of terms and formal motifs is concealed an essentially different thought; or that, at any rate, the effort to present Christian concepts according to philosophical categories for apologetic ends and through the natural need for scientific systemization left intact the awareness of the originality of Christian content.

While it seems we must reject the thesis of a radical Hellenization of Christianity, we must take into account for each author not just his explicit declarations but also his whole attitude, without always pretending to a perfectly ascertainable consistency. Even among those who decisively denied any value whatsoever to pagan thought, some were undeniably influenced by it, e.g., Tatian for his whole metaphysical system, John Chrysostom for the Stoic-Cynic motifs present in his conception of moral life. There were particularly enlightened Fathers who took care to separate those elements of the pre-Christian or even contemporary heritage they considered acceptable from those they decisively rejected; think, e.g., of Justin, Basil, Ambrose and Augustine. Then there was a formal aspect, which, after the very earliest expressions of Christian literature, it can be said that no writer escaped; the degree of influence was measured by each one’s education, opportunities and zeal, but the models were the same for all.

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