The documents of Greek and Latin patristics faithfully mirror the stages through which reflection on the Christian message passed during this period, not just in its internal clarification and articulation, but also in its relationship to the society in which the Christians lived and operated, in varying numerical proportions at different times and places. Orlando Metro Map The more Christianity spread beyond Palestine, the less could its conception and presentation fail to be influenced by contacts with the Greco-Roman world, making use of whatever cultural categories seemed compatible. At first the pagan world was present to educated Christians as a religiously different and opposed reality, though as yet they took no conscious stand in comparing its ideas and life with their own ideas and program of life.
Literary form carried on the genres and style of the Bible, not without sporadic influences from Hellenism. The Greco-Roman world, to which the great majority of men who left a trace in the culture of the first centuries belonged, presented the young religion with a heritage of thought and literary form accumulated through centuries, humus in which the new civilization was destined to grow. With the Apologists, who generally came from the pagan intellectual class, Christianity confronted Roman and Hellenic culture not just as belief and moral practice but also as a vision of the world which tried to elaborate the data of revelation in a rational way. It involved a necessarily polemical position, but one which took very different attitudes in different writers, from implacable repudiation of every aspect of pagan culture to attempts to recognize, salvage, purify and develop the values of which it was the bearer.
This process would continue, profiting from a deeper knowledge of classical culture, esp. philosophy, and a refinement of method, in the writers of the 3rd, 4th and 5th c. While persisting in polemic against the philosophy and rhetoric of the pagan world on which they willingly drew, they presented themselves as perpetuators of a literary tradition that they intended to use as a vehicle for the new word; and the experience acquired by some, in long familiarity with the classics and in patient scholastic exercise, enabled them to appear as heirs of a cultural heritage which they considered, duly purified, as still valid and relevant. In the final period some Latin writers were particularly engaged in collecting and transmitting the elements of classical culture, not without comparing them with Christian values.
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