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05 June 2007

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Hermes

Ha ha ha Father Stavros......In your desperation to try and convince people that Christianity is right your use references that simply legitimise your position rather than conducting more pure research. A true researcher will attempt to either find divergent sources or independent ones. But you simply use Apologists.

IF THAT IS NOT RELATIVISM I DO NOT KNOW WHAT Is?

Demetrios Constantelos is not a credible Academic by any stretch.

Rodney Stark is a Mormon fanatic. Check some of his prevous writings and speeches.

Embarrasing research methods my friend.

But then again it was the Christians that kept us in the dark about the shape of the Earth for 1000 years!

Hermes

Stavros, more seriously and soberly, to further and strengthen your research into this crucial period of European history please seek out the following mostly English language scholars (some of whom I have spoken too personally) who are neither identifiable as Christian or pagan or whatever else but individuals interested in truth and history. Please note they are not aiming to defend a religion. They are scholars partaking in critical inquiry which in my opinion is a quintessentially Greek pursuit as opposed to simply using whatever tools possible to defend a creed.

Ramsay MacMullen
Anthony Kaldellis
HA Drake
Gilbert Murray
GW Bowersock
Pierre Chuvin
Peter Brown

Happy reading.

Peter

Religion , which we may define as a belief in the existence of supernatual beings, is a phenomenom limited to several human species, since it depends on rudimentary power of reason and relatively developed powers of imagination. I always loved that which Xenophanes held as a postulate premise, that if oxen or horses or lions conceived of gods, each species, would like men, create its gods in its own image. Another interesting and puzzling analogy is what Anatole France tosses up; Anatole having identified dogs as religious animals had a basic reasoning - and imagination- for doing so. A dog does venerate his owner, someone it conceives him/her with immensely superior powers to his own. A dog tries to appease his owner's anger, as men do, by humility and fawning and he will fight for his god ( owner), even at the risk of his own life. Unlike human beings, the dog's god is a living being, who normally feeds his canine worshipper, punishes him physically if the need arises, and if the dog yelps repeatedely showing signs worthy of devotion, pets him affectionately. No dog ever worshipped a being that he could not see, hear ,smell and touch.

It is very hard to maintain the dogma that all human beings were the progeny of Adam and his spare rib, to point to a single query amongst the many similarities that abound. Francis Bacon remarked that there is a high mortality rate amongst the immortals. It is mentioned that when the Northern peoples were being solicited by christian missionaries, the Norse's reply was that since Odin had done nothing for them, they would try the new god. Some students of Norse mythology hold to the credo that in an earlier date Odin had supplanted an "aged and pensioned off" Tyr for the very same reason.

A powerless god should be construed as a contradiction in terms, is it not so ?.
When the christian sects headed by the "church fathers" acquired influence and dominion over the decadent Roman despots, christian mobs were mobilized to begin a series of plunder and ransacking the homes of wealthy citizens. Follow that with the wrecking and destruction of pagan shrines, pagan altars and pagan effigies that adorned the Roman countryside and cities.
The hapless "pagans", as the fathers of the church would label them, naturally reasoned that if their Gods were unable to protect the stately and beautiful temples that had been built in their honor, those gods must be less powerful than the god of the religion that was so steadily taking over the government of the state. During the XVI century there was a schism that fractured forever the unity of Christendom, opinions were divided as to whether the Devil had inspired Luther, the result was the long series of Wars of Religion. Following two centuries of intermittent butchery , sacking of cities and exiling of entire "god fearing christian groupings", having laid swathes of wastelands, where former rich provinces held sway, ad maiorem gloriam Dei. Tired of the godly slaughter, each side had to concede that God had been unable to aid them in finishing off the other -Lucifer inspired- side.

I love reading the anecdote of the Icelandic chieftain, a staunch devotee of Freyr, to whom he built a temple and consecrated the prized stud stallion that, "by the god's power was engendering a superior breed of horses. When his enemies fell upon him, destroying his temple and cast the poor stallion into the sea, the chieftain concluded that there were no gods and religion was only a grand hoax.

There is an anglo saxon proverb "Christ is powerful, but more powerful is destiny".
I am still trying to figure out its meaning.

Destiny is simply the Greek heimarmeme, the nexus of cause and effect that unalterably governs the physical world.

Aristotle remarked in his Metaphysics that since society depended on a moral order, religion was necessary to "convince the masses". The individual is in earnest need of psyche rewards and assuage. Christianity provides that palliative, assuaging somnolence of a suprareality- imaginary and visionary- from our earhtly shackles.

When enough christians feel that the mother religion is not matching their expectations, their masses will long for something new and stronger. However, I don't believe we have reached that stage and neither do I know whether or not we happen to be on that road . In the meanwhile we stick to what we have got, and fight for its glory. God save our church.


Hermes

What a strange, hypocritical and contradictory post over at Ellopos by the increasingly Taliban-like George. But if time must be wasted on systemtically refuting poorly researched arguments and possibly undoing seemingly deeply embedded cognitive biases (where information is used to confirm prior held beliefs rather than pursue truth and knowledge) then here goes :

Regular readers of MGO may recall the recent debate about Greek Christianity. Getting caught in the middle of an emotional debate over a controversial post makes me prone to frequent periods of deep reflection during which I have a bad habit of tuning the world around me out while I think. Luckily, my wife Anna is there to snap me back to reality when the need arises. I have to confess that I find thinking about these issues intellectually stimulating yet exhausting because they really make me want to delve deeper, read some more and treat the subject more thoroughly. Needless to say that takes time, an increasingly scarce asset these days in my life. The debate is a result of the "tension" between the Greek legacy of the Ancients and that of the Byzantines

[incorrect: the debate is about the tension between Christianity and Hellenism or philosophy. Byzantines is a term used to signify the people of Romania which in some cases draw on both Hellenic and Christian traditions. This occured particularly amongst the educated classes and during certain periods of its history].

It is not a new debate nor is it one that has any intention of expiring any time soon. At the crux of the debate is simply this: Are the two compatible and reconcilable? Just as important, the underlying question is how does either one affect man's eternal search for truth?
Greeks and Westerners in general, are faced with a choice

[we are faced with many choices],

very much like that facing people in the first centuries of the early Christian era

[incorrect: many Greeks did not have a choice during the "early years of the Christian era" between Christianity and Hellenism. Bureaucratic rules, laws and eventually physical threats of violence were used to make the choice for them. There is enormous histiographical evidence supporting this so it is difficult to deny. Was this the fault of Christians? Yes. Were all these Christians really Christian or opportunistic Christians seeking advancement within a new hierarchy? Probably the latter. Was this the fault of Christianity? Yes and no. Christianity originally comes from Judaism, and like Judaism and the later Islam, claims there is only one god and therefore one truth and so on. From this belief system sprung a highly intolerant creed that in many ways contradicted the teachings of its supposed founder].

That choice is between Christianity with its difficult message of the "gift of self"

[many so called Hellenic schools of thought and religion also had a selfless central element such as certain strains of Stoicism and Orphism. Also, the texts of Appolonius of Tyana show an acute selfless sensibility]

and a despairing, narcissistic, hedonistic paganism in all its variations

[Stavros, this does not sound like dispassionate analysis. These words are highly loaded. Again, there were many strains of Hellenism that advocated sexual abstinence and in some cases celibacy. Even ordinary Greek morals were quite conservative by today's standards. The idea that "paganism" was hedonistic, narcisstic etc came from early Christian Apologetic literature where they tried to slander Greek culture in order to replace it with Christianity), the modern forms of which are worship of progress, nature and modern science (worship of progress, nature and modern science? Sounds quite civilised and humane too me].
Hermes once informed me that I was old enough to be his father, which is quite true. Therefore I will take up the burden of at least attempting to answer some of the questions he poses in this debate in a fatherly way. Knowing of course that young men rarely pay much attention to their fathers since they are too busy putting everything under the microscope only to find us all wanting. I make no claim that I have any particular expertise in this realm. I am neither a theologian nor philosopher, just someone who is willing to stick his head out and give you my take on the subject.

Young people today are a product of a Postmodernist Western world

[this is a very broad generalist statement which is not entirely true. Can we also claim older people are the product of a Communist or Fascist or Monarchist world?]

Postmodernists have a mission and that mission is to deconstruct the foundations of traditional Christian beliefs

[most Postmodernists do not have Christianity as their target, they have everything as their target. Also, there is a growing stream of Postmodern Christian theologians. I suggest you try and read more widely].

Beliefs that they say are backward, dogmatic and utterly useless in the "modern" world.

[it is more likely Enlightenment and Modernist thinkers would think like this. Post modernists could conceivably say that "backward, dogmatic beliefs have as much value as reasoned and progressive ideas". This is the essence of Postmodernism i.e. a lack of hierarchical order]

Beliefs that I hold dear. They claim they are always looking for the truth, unfortunately they can never seem to find it unless it comes in the form of dubious scientific theories

[again, many Post Modernists hold highly antogonistic views of the scientific method, science and philosophy. You should read more widely].

This particular malady points towards relativism - a doctrine instructing that truth and morality are relative and not absolute. Relativism asserts that what is accepted as truth is relative to a person's situation or standpoint, and denies that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others. If truth is relative, then absolute right and absolute wrong become doubtful and obscure. And if truth is relative, then only subjective and indefinite answers exist for the purpose and meaning of life. It's all good and anything goes, as they say these days.

[to come to the defence of the Post Modernists this is not what they say],

So is there any absolute or real truth in this complex and uncertain world? Our mutual friend, Socrates, was sentenced to death by his fellow Athenians for corrupting the youth and impiety. What his followers learned from him above all else, was to scrutinize, and to be skeptical. They learned not to take on authority or on faith what others told them about virtue, justice, or piety; they were seeking, as was Socrates himself, the truth of the matter—and the reasons for accepting it to be the truth of the matter. The most tragic part of the whole affair is that Socrates was put to death for what turns out to be the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom. Scrutiny and skepticism precede any growth in knowledge whatever, and they are its necessary prerequisites. A person who does not scrutinize will not separate truth from falsity, fact from fiction, reality from myth. And a person who is not skeptical will never even begin to scrutinize. This applies to both sides of an argument. Nowadays, this ability to think critically is a disappearing commodity. The education system, irregardless of where one lives, has abandoned the difficult task of inculcating the requisite skills needed by a critical thinker.

[I agree entirely but just for one minute turn those princples onto Christianity. You will not dare because it will be found wanting. If you want to apply critical thinking skills they must be applied consistently, not just to what suits our prior held beliefs].


Here's the crux of the problem. No matter how well we scrutinize things and how skeptical we may be, truth is elusive. Reason can deal effectively only with certain categories of truth. True wisdom must necessarily refuse to allow reason to overcome its limitations; and where experience or common sense plainly proves that the intellect has reasoned wrongly, then sometimes we must rely on faith alone. Faith and reason are both sources of authority upon which beliefs can rest. Reason is generally based on the principles for a methodological inquiry. Once demonstrated, a proposition or claim is ordinarily understood to be justified as true or authoritative. Faith, on the other hand, involves taking a stance toward some claim that we may not be able to prove to everyone's satisfaction. It involves a commitment on the part of the believer. Religious faith involves a belief that is understood to come from the authority of revelation. If one can't accept revelation and true Christianity gives everyone a choice in the matter

[Hellenism also facilitates the search for truth via revelation and reason. When Plotinus intiutively experienced the Divine several times in his life he was not a Christian? When Orphics experienced revelation were they Christian? This begs the question: does Christianity have a stranglehold on revelation? Does Judaism and Islam only have access to revelation as a truth bearing mechanism? What about Hindu revelation? What about the revelations of Asklepios?]

then one has to keep looking. For some, the never-ending search for the truth and the worship of logic/science could not possibly come to terms with accepting the existence of God

[which god are we talking about here, Yahweh? Or are we talking about the Absolute, Silence, the One, Light?]

or anything for that matter that cannot be measured, examined or proven scientifically. Modern man has developed a penchant for explaining everything and he now suffers from a complete lack of humility

[actually many of the world's greatest scientistcs had incredible humility in the face of the extraordinary world of nature. Again it seems you are reading to narrowly from Christian sources] when it comes to having an explanation for everything.

Demetrios Constantelos writes in an essay on Paidea and the Church Fathers:

"The question concerning the relations between the Christian faith and Greek thought preoccupied the Christian community for nearly three and a half centuries but it was resolved as a result of the intellectual efforts of people like the Three Hierarchs, (Sts Basil, Gregory and John Chrysostom).
What do they have to teach us today? First that our struggles and frustrations, our defeats and disappointments are not unique; that as we carry humanity’s perpetual quest for truth, for wisdom, for inner freedom, for happiness, we must think historically and let our forefathers, either of the very distant antiquity or of later ages, provide us with their experience and their wisdom. Of course, we must build our research on their discoveries and add upon the structure of human experience our own experience. The primary requirement which many of the best thinkers of the Hellenic-Christian heritage advocated – from Solon, Sophocles, Euripides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch to Basil, Gregory, Chrysostom, Photios, Palamas – was a realization of man’s limitations, the need for self-knowledge and humility, for a sincere search beyond the limited views of the natural senses, and an invitation to an endless intellectual adventure. In brief, the educational ideal of the Greek and Christian heritage is the development of the human being into a cultivated person possessing faith in a core of values and a persistent effort to apply them in every day life until the ikon of the god-man Christ, the theanthropos

[these were also the views of Hellenes as you rightly point out. The limitations of our ability to know fascinated the Greeks for centuries. Again, Christianity did nothing new here]

The Greek Church arrived at the conclusion that the study of Hellenic wisdom was both useful and desirable, provided that the Christian rejected the evil and retained all that was good and true

[exactly right. Does this attitude sound like a search for Truth?].

Christianity was baptized in the Greek stream of language and thought, in the Greek cultural milieu and Hellenistic historical setting

[Actually many things were baptised in the Greek stream of language and thought. It was the predominant language and systems of thought in the ancient world. The fact that Christianity grew up in this milleu really means nothing]. As a whole, however, the Fathers of the Greek Church did not seek to borrow essence and content from ancient Greek thought, for these they possessed in their sacred Scriptures.

[when one searches for Truth they hold no prior suppositions or assumptions. By holding the Scriptures as Truth the Greek Fathers gave the game away and ventured into Dogma] They intended to borrow methodologies, technical means, terminology, and logical or grammatical structures in order to build up the Christian edifice of theology, of doctrine and thought. Nevertheless, in this effort Christian revelation did not escape infiltration by Greek thought, and Greek cultural and intellectual influences became interwoven with Christian faith. A harmonious convergence was achieved between Greek thought and Christian faith, and a balance has prevailed in the Eastern Church to the present day.

Tο be sure, attempts were made to upset the balance. For example, the Emperor Julian (360-363) made serious efforts to restore not only classica1 learning but also the Olympian deities. John Italos in the eleventh century and George Plethon Gemistos in the fifteenth maintained that the classical religious and intellectual tradition offered everything, if not more, that man needs to know and to possess than Christianity. Other ecclesiastics, such as Epiphanios of Cyprus and Anastasios of Sinai, believed that Christianity was self sufficient and that it could not be reconciled with the classical tradition. But neither the enemies of Christianity nor the adversaries of the classics prevailed. Apollinarios the Younger established the equilibrium when he stated that "the good wherever it is found is a property of the truth." The Church recognized in this principle the legacy of the Greek classics and united them with the Christian tradition. Thus we observe in the Byzantine era the continuity of the Greek past, the Hellenistic heritage united with the new element of the Christian faith."

[Yes, we also observe the continuity of some Greek classics in the Arab Muslim world where in some respects a similer unification or synthesis occured. Does that mean the Arabs are the True Heirs to Hellenism as well as the Byzantines? Like some of the Byzantines the Arabs chose what suited their faith and discarded what they did not need]

Christianity, emerged from Judaism, introducing a set of revealed truths and practices to its adherents. Many of these beliefs and practices differed significantly from what the Greek religions and Judaism had held. In The Rise of Christianity (Princeton University Press, 1996) by Rodney Stark, professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington, gives us a new perspective on the formative years of Christianity.

[again, check out Mr Stark's history. He is hardly a serious academic and credible independent third party]

I mention Stark"s study because he is a scholar without an ax to grind against Christians and his research approaches the subject without any preconceptions. In one of the more startling conclusions from his research, Stark says that contrary to the current wisdom, the mission to the Jews of the early Christians was largely successful and continued right up to the year 300. According to Stark, the some four or five million Jews of the Diaspora had "adjusted to life in the Diaspora in ways that made them very marginal vis-a-vis the Jews of Jerusalem, hence the need as early as the third century for the Torah to be translated into Greek for the Jews outside of Israel (the Septuagint)." For Jews who lived in the Hellenic world, "Christianity offered to retain much of the religious content of both cultures and to resolve the contradictions between them."

It should be noted that most of the new converts to Christianity came from the Hellenized peoples of the East especially the Greeks
[incorrect: Many were Greek speakers but not ethnically Greek]

rather than from Judaism, because Christianity had much more in common with the freedom imposed by the Greek mind than the legality of Judaism. Christianity preached the possibility of a worthwhile and even happy existence for slaves, the weak, the poor, the ugly, even barbarians

[Actually Stoicism offered a happy existence for these people. Epictetus, one of its founders, was a former slave. Also, Neoplatonism offered a happy existence. Ammonios Saccas, the teacher of Plotinus, was a poor dock worker]

people Aristotle and Plato would not have regarded as capable of a happy life

[if you are a slave, weak, ugly and a barbarian then it is difficult to live life happily]

and people the Jews would not have regarded as those like themselves chosen by God. During the major upheavals of the fourth century Christianity emerged as the dominant movement. The new faith engaged in both dialogue and conflict with Greco-Roman culture. Christians found themselves in conflict with pagan society and even with themselves. Change, heresy, reformations, compromises, violence, persecutions were characteristics of the fourth century but they did not stop there.


Now was the spread of Christianity a "miracle" or just coincidental based on a combinations of existing facts? Believers like me will lean toward the miraculous. Hermes on the other hand, wouldn't accept such an explanation, so again, I will let Stark offer the conclusions formed by his research

[again Stark is not credible. I will not even bother with the below. Please read the sources give yesterday].

I stress here that historians, even those who can offer us the benefit of their research studies, can't be sure that they have all the right answers. They are making an educated guess. Stark points out that in 165, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, an epidemic struck that carried away during the course of fifteen years up to a third of the total population of the empire, including Marcus Aurelius himself. In 251 a similar epidemic, most likely of measles, struck again with similar results. Historians generally acknowledge that these epidemics produced a depopulation which led in part to the decline of the Roman empire, more than the normally attributed cause of "moral degeneration." Stark points out that these epidemics favored the rapid rise of Christianity for three reasons. One, that Christianity offered a more satisfactory account of "why bad things happen to good people," based on the centrality of the suffering and Cross of Christ than any form of classical paganism. Second, "Christian values of love and charity, from the beginning, had been translated into norms of social service and community solidarity. When disasters struck, the Christians were better able to cope, and this resulted in substantially higher rates of survival. This meant that in the aftermath of each epidemic, Christians made up a larger and larger percentage of the population even without new converts." Last, these epidemics left large numbers of people without the interpersonal bonds that would have prevented them from becoming Christians, thus encouraging conversion. He says, "in a sense paganism did indeed 'topple over dead' or at least acquired its fatal illness during these epidemics, falling victim to its relative inability to confront these crises socially or spiritually, an inability suddenly revealed by the example of its upstart challenger." His words not mine.

Stark introduces a number of other elements in Christianity's rise to prominence. It was an urban phenomenon based in the teeming cities of the Roman Empire especially in the East

[so were many other religions of that time].

Stark underlines the fact that Christianity brought a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable: "To cities filled with homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services." Contrary to popular belief, despite Christianity's drawing power for the poor and slaves, it also attracted the upper and middle classes in appreciable numbers.

"Christianity was unusually appealing to pagan women" because "within the Christian subculture women enjoyed far higher status than did women in the Greco-Roman world at large."

[this is a laughable claim]

He shows that Christianity recognized women as equal to men, children of God with the same supernatural destiny. Moreover the Christian moral code of prohibition against polygamy, divorce, birth control, abortion, and infanticide contributed to the well-being of women, changing their status from powerless serfs in bondage to men, to women with dignity and rights in both the Church and the State. Go to any Church service on any given day and you will understand the importance of women within the body of the Church

[are women allowed to become priests? They were in many forms of Hellenic religion].

Stark establishes four conclusions based on his study. One, Christianity rapidly produced a substantial surplus of females as a result of Christian prohibitions against infanticide (normally directed against girl infants), abortion (often producing the death of the mother), and the high rate of conversion to Christianity among women. Second, as already pointed out, Christian women enjoyed substantially higher status within Christian society than women did in the world at large, which made Christianity highly attractive to them. Third, the surplus of Christian women and of pagan men produced many marriages that led to the secondary conversions of pagan men to the Faith, a phenomenon that continues today. Finally, the abundance of Christian women resulted in higher birthrates; superior fertility contributed to the rise of Christianity.

Why did Christianity grow then? According to Stark, "It grew because Christians constituted an intense community, able to generate the 'invincible obstinacy' that so offended the younger Pliny but yielded immense religious rewards. And the primary means of its growth was through the united and motivated efforts of the growing numbers of Christian believers, who invited their friends, relatives, and neighbors to share the 'good news'." At the heart of this willingness to share one's faith was the revealed word of God, as taught by the Church. Acceptance of Christian doctrine was based on an article of faith. "Central doctrines of Christianity prompted and sustained attractive, liberating, and effective social relations and organization." The chief doctrine, of course, which was radically new to a pagan world groaning under a host of miseries was that "because God loves humanity, Christians may not please God unless they love one another."

George over at Ellopos Blog has his own take on the subject with a blog post entitled: "The Transition of Hellenism from Antiquity to Christianity". It is well worth reading. I would also recommend reading a book called Christian Hellenism by Demetrios J. Constantelos. [Mr Constantelos is a Priest. Hardly an independent third party] You can read a chapter entitled "The Formation of the Hellenic Christian Mind" here.

Are we going to change any minds? Not likely.

There we go. Is Mullah George happy now?

Stavros

For those readers who have not read what George's post at Ellopos had to say, here is the link:

http://www.ellopos.net/blog/?p=221

Hermes,

First, let me say that I did not intend to give both sides of the issue at hand in this post, merely to answer in part some of the questions you have posed with my personal take on the matter.

I realize that each of us has strongly held beliefs that are not going to change based on an exchange on the Internet. A funny thing about debates on controversial subjects, sometimes it is not what you say but how you say it that makes the difference to those listening.

I am particularly fond of history. One of the things I have learned in my study of the subject is that it changes based on who is writing it and what their perspective happens to be. Even the earliest historians like Thucydides and Herodotus were not without their biases. There have been many scholars who have studied the history of Early Christianity, I would not discount enitrely what any of them has to say. At the same time I would keep in mind that the historical record is incomplete and subject to interpretation especially when we are discussing events that took place two thousand years ago. Many historians can't even agree on what took place fifty years ago.

I find it interesting that you denigrate the well documented research conducted by a serious sociologist such as Stark and expect me to accept the scholars you cite as authoritative because they happen to agree with you. To accept that Stark has a hidden agenda and they do not.

Paganism and Christianity were in a life and death struggle during the first four centuries. Lets agree that Paganism lost for a variety of reasons, not just the one's you espouse.

At the risk of quoting an Anglo-Saxon, Gilbert Chesterston once said: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried." Unfortunately, people described as Christians have a mixed record of accomplishments throughout history. Some lived up to Christ's standard and some fell far short.

If Christianity is so bankrupt and Christians now to be labeled as "Taliban," why are non-Christians, whether they happen to call themselves Pagans, Secularists, or Communists, so anxious to undermine the foundations of our Faith. Look around you. There is a concerted effort to disprove everything Christians believe in. It's not about a search for truth.

Interestingly, despite the real persecutions of Christians in places like Darfur, China, and the Middle East, Christianity is still growing, especially in the Third World. As Peter mentioned, Christianity is not ready to die. There are too many people attracted to its uplifting message.

Hermes

The Taliban reference was regarding George's calls to ban people and his name calling (the silly infantile "urchin" comment).

Sylvain Rey

Although I am not Greek myself, I would like to have my word to say on the matter, because it transcends Greek identity (Christian or not). I refer extensively to hermes' quotes on this page and the one found here: http://greekodyssey.typepad.com/my_greek_odyssey/2007/05/national_surviv.html

Hermes,

I have read the comments you left on this particular topic as well as that on Stavros' other post on Greek Christian Identity. Allow me to say this, but your method really is NOT an appropriate method for one who pretends to search for truth or historical accuracy. A historian argues a point using examples and quotations, none of which you do, contenting yourself with words such as "This is a laughable claim" without supporting anything, in the particular case that Christianity meant lesser freedom for women. You will not convince me like this, unless you use precise references to primary sources.

A great number of your posts are filled with expressions such as "rather than conducting more research," "embarrassing research method my friend," "poorly researched arguments," "got it?" or the often quoted "you should read more widely." Such words are not words of someone conducting real objective research, but rather of someone who has fallen victim to pride, by pretending to know more than others, particularily scholars who wrote extensively on the issue of Christianity in Late Antiquity (scholars whom I will quote in another post).

If you accuse anyone here to behave in contradiction to Christian teachings, should we understand that you, however, behave according to the teachings of your religion or philosophy? Does your religion tell you to be arrogant when other people do not think what you do? By slendering at Christianity and condescendingly telling people that they know less than you do, are you setting a model of virtue? Respect and proper argumentation were George's main points.

This being said, I want to point at something perhaps even more significant. Analyzing your comments on Christianity and Ancient Hellenism, a theme often recurs: that of Greekness vs. non-Greekness. You say that "critical inquiry is a quintessential Greek pursuit," that "[Greek] tradition is the search for truth." It is not those views that are wrong (indeed you are quite right). But first of all, does that mean that other peoples are not concerned by truth? Can't you search truth by other means, other traditions? I became almost appaled by reading what you came to write, namely the accusation that Christianity "lays out everyone as equals before God regardless of their talent or ethnicity," and that it is a "universalist religion which places Jews and their silly revelation above Greeks and their wisdom." Those words of yours make me really uncomfortable, because they stop short of gloryfying a certain idea of racial/ethnic superiority. If not all peoples are equal, are there any that are superior, others inferior? If only Greeks are wise, are others barbarians? Are you angry at Christianity simply because it chokes and strangles "greek wisdom" and superiority? Your insistence that "Semitic sensibility [...] should be ignored" (again I am quoting you) and that "Jews are not Hellens but Semites," only seems to confirm this view, unfortunately. The opposition between greeks and Jews and other non-Greeks is a leitmotiv: "Why do Greeks worship a God who gives clear preferences to another people," "why does the Christian religion place Jewish revelation above Greek wisdom", or "why are greeks beholden to jewish mental models," your insistence that Cavafy is greek, not a Jew, or making the spread of Christianity as if it were a genocide (ethnical or cultural) committed by non Greeks against Greeks ("massacres of Greeks by Christians made up of Latins, Egyptians, Dacians, Thracians and opportunist Greeks"). Is this the only motivation that you have against Christianity? And supposing that you really were after truth, are rejection and anger a valid basis for the search of truth? I have seen such words ("Jesus is a Jew")repeated by other Greeks in other debates, so this phenomenon is not isolated.

You, and all other Greek readers here, understand--I hope--what I mean when Hermes keeps opposing Greeks vs. Jews. I am not accusing you of holding racially motivated ideas, because nothing says so. The crux of the problem lies elsewhere, I believe. I am aware that there is in Greece, just like in other countries, I believe, tensions over identity, over what it means to be Greek, or French, or European. Russian Church historian Fr. Vladimir Moss once said that modern Greeks, in the face of globalization and the Western influences created by the European Union, Greeks sought their identity in their Ancient past. I do not know if Fr. Moss' hypothesis is founded or not, but this is no excuse for slendering at Christianity and advocating a Greek thought "purified" from non-Greek elements, if one may state it so. Greek thought has influenced countless cultures, Latin, Jewish, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, all the way to China and japan, and above all Western culture. Why would Greek thought not be influenced in its turn? I am personnally fascinated by what the Greeks accomplished, and Christianity is one of these things. In no case this must be an excuse for ethnic superiority. If you want, I will give extensive quotations by some "third-party" researchers, and let you judge.

Hermes

Hello Sylvain Rey, how are you?

I have provided seven names of historians which back up my claims. I will provide them again:

Ramsay MacMullen
Anthony Kaldellis
HA Drake
Gilbert Murray
GW Bowersock
Pierre Chuvin
Peter Brown

I forgot to provide the excellent Gilbert Murray.

As for your specific query regarding women and Hellenism (or similar) or women and Christianity please go to any sourcebook on Delphi, Eleusian mystery religions, Cybele, Isis, Roman religion (vestal virgins) and so on to find evidence of female participation in "pagan" priesthood and in "pagan" religious festivities or orgia. In fact many of these religious traditions had women as their Divine figure. On the issue of freedom it is difficult to ascertain whether women had more freedom in the Hellenic or Christian world. Certainly, women in Classical Greece were not very visible but they were allowed to attend theatre and partake in democracy. They also had their own Olympics, Herean Games - there were even female boxing coaches. If you want reference simply type ancient female Olympians into Google. Later during Hellenistic time women were afforded more freedom and we see them becoming more visible i.e. women were part of Epicurus garden (again just look it up on Google). Later during the Roman/Byzantine period we had such great women as Hypatia (I dare you to search who murdered her!!). Generally, there was not much in pagan religious and philosophical systems to discourage female participation in life. The isolation of women was due mainly to cultural reasons. Early Christianity appears to have been forgiving to women but gradaully as the Christian clergy became more organised they began to exclude women where fanatics like St John Chrystotom spouted forth all sorts of ridiculous homilies against women. You can find most of them here: http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/chrysos.asp. or you can read about Tertullian here http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/tertul.asp. or here http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/womenfathers.html Were these gentlemen motivated by the New and Old Testament or was it cultural? I would say the latter judging by what the Bible says about women. In contrast, there were Christian priests who were more forgiving to women. Nevertheless, women were expected to be subserviant to men. There is no doubt about that. Therefore, to claim that Christianity gave women more freedom is a "laughable claim" because there is little evidence to support this.

George demanded that I be removed (also he wrote that childish post on his site which sullies most of the good work he has done). I have never asked for anyone to be removed. Who has more respect for argument?

Other people can search for Truth? But when they are they are usually using tools developed by the Greeks.

Judaism is the religion that places Jews above others in the form of ethnic/racial superiority. However, I do believe some ethnic groups have been more superior than others - I based the superiory in real achievements not haullicinations from the desert. For example, a Maori cannot point me to a great work of Maori literature. However, I can point to several hundred Greek ones. Of course that does not make me superior to him but it means that my ethnic group has achieved more so far. Please note the "so far". History has not ended and it is conceivable, but very unlikely judging by my Maori friends lifestyle, that they may one day produce a body of literature equalling the Hellenes.

"Are you angry at Christianity that it chokes Greek Wisdom?" Thank you. If only I had you arguing for me then I think I could save myself a lot of time. Yes, Christianity did choke Greek wisdom where it almost died completely. For example, to be a Christian you must adhere to the Nicene Creed. It starts off like this:

"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."

Now, a Hellene would ask how do you know this God made heaven and earth to base such a belief? Why did he make heaven and earth? And so on. Inevitably, when a Christian is asked these difficult questions they concede ground to the "divine paradox" and "mystery" which is really just another way of saying "we have no idea so we are just going to talk mystical dribble to make people think what we are saying it important". Christianity, like most monotheistic faiths, have conceded ground for millenia where they push their God further and further away. At first they understood the Bible literally, then allegorically, then negatively and so on until you essentially end up at theism. It is only a small step then to Neoplatonism. A far better philosophical-religious system which does not have desperate Jews running around Palestine talking about miracles and other haullicinations and placing their God above the Greeks. Try and read the Enneads, it is an exceedingly beautiful text. Anyway, Nietszche did not kill God. The Christians did.

Apart from the fact that when the solvent of Hellenic thinking is applied to Christianity it quickly collapses (hence why this issue irritates Stavros and Taliban George so much) there are many modern arguments against Christianity i.e. if God (Yahweh) is so powerful then why does he not make us believe in him? I could go on all night.

Am I angry? No. But I do believe Christianity is essentially useless or unimportant spiritually apart from providing cultural value via rituals and customs which are important to give shape to one's life.

I do not hold Jews as being an important people through history so I do not believe in placing their revelations on the same level as Greek wisdom because they qualitatively no where as close to being equal. I like some Roman, German and even Indian knowledge but Judaism is not important. Essentially, it is very close in sensibility and practice to Islam. Have you read Jewish texts? The Talmud? Try it out one day. You will be pleasantly surprised by its similarities to the Koran for the levels of bloodthirstyness, cruelty, bitternes and stupidity. Is it important that Jesus was a Jew? Yes, because why as a Greek would I kneel to a poor Jew who spoke in Aramaic when there are so many excellent Greek texts around? There is also a psychological neuroses in placing yourself at a God who is not your ethnic kin. It is almost like sitting on the lap of another father when you are five years old. I like my father. And I like my ethnic group.

Christianity was influenced by Hellenism. Hellenism was also influenced by other modes of thinking. There is even some claims that Plotinus may have taken some conceptual ideas from Christians but no one has really been able to prove this. Would it bother me that Christianity influenced Proclus or Simplicius? Not really. Would it bother me that this Creed specifically denigrated parts of Hellenic heritage, yes.

Can I slander Christianity? Why not. What is stopping me? Yahweh? Nah, not too worried about him. Sorry, but it is you who have trapped yourself in the wily dreamteachings of this wizard, not me.

Sylvain Rey

Hermes,


The first two links you provide do not work, so I cannot judge, perhaps it is a servor problem. If you give them again, I would be gald to look at them. About the third one, I would like to point that it is named "A Skeptic's Guide to Christianity," therefore it is hardly a valid source; rather, it aims at proving a particular point, and much information is partial and overlooked. It is merely anti-Christian bashing. Concerning the authors you provide, a Google search yields no real results, only bibliographies, so once again I cannot tell what these people (some are scholars if I am not mistaken) wrote or said. As far as your not kneeling to a Jew because you are Greek, I must say this, but you are advancing a theory of racial superiority, and I am sorry for you. It proves that you are not after truth, but after power.

First, I would like to raise the topic of women. A civilization, whether we speak of Ancient Antiquity, Western or Chinese civilizations, cannot, and should not be judged upon what we want them to be, we should not look at them with our contemporary archetypes. This is what you do when you judge women in Antiquity. Our contemporary conception of the role of women in society has been heavily influenced by the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s. You cannot therefore judge past or foreign cultures according to this conception, because feminism did not exist in Late Antiquity. Most (if not all with a few localized exceptions) societies in human history have been, and still remain to a more or less great extent depending on where you live, patriarcal, or male-dominated. This was true of Ancient Greece as well as of Christian society. If we want to speak of women--or any other aspects of society--we must bear that in mind, and not judge them on what we want today.
Also, we must keep in mind that no civilization, no culture is perfect. Great achievements in particular fields (art, science, theology, etc) do not mean that everything was perfect in that society; similarily, it is not because we see negative things occuring (negative to our eyes, not necessatily to that society’s standards) that everything was negative and evil. Ancient Greece, Athens in particular, was not all bright, and Byzantium had its faults as well. If we rightly praise Athens for her achievements in the arts and philosophy, we must not overlook slavery (which was taken for granted at the time) and the diminished and seclusive role of women. Similarily, we rightly admire Byzantium for her achivements in theology and and the religious arts, but we must not overlook that economic injustice was unfortunately commonplace (the quasi-enslavement of poorer peasants by rich landlords). Each civilization achieved great things in her own domain, and this does not mean that one is superior to the other it did not, for exampe, give women greater rights.

As far as the role of women in Ancient Antiquity is concerned, I am not sure that it was better than under Christian rule, as you pretend. As I said above, Ancient greek societies were patriarcal. This is true of Sparta as well as Athens. It is true that women were priestesses, and that they had their own festivals. Yet, does that mean that the average woman, the housewife, had greater “rights”? Priestesses performed a particular function in society, and their role and importance is not necessarily that of the average women. The goal of Christianity is not to become priest or priestess, but to salvation of oneself. Whether women can become priestesses or not is not even a scondary issue; if you go to church, you will be surprized to see more women than men attending. Are these women enslaving themselves to a mysoginic institution?

Spartan women indeed were more emancipated than other of their counter parts in the Greek world. But, as Sparta’s specialist Paul Cartleridge writes, it is “not that Sparta was any kind of feminist utopia. Much of the physical training, for example, was severely eugenic in aim.” Women had a utilitarian role, even if Sparta. Athens was different. As you probably know, women were kept apart from public life. I do not know what made you say that they could participate to civic life, because no women in Ancient Greece was ever allowed to speak at the Assembly, even in Sparta. In Athens, women attending theater was a tolarated exception, and only if accompanied, rather than the rule. Will Durant said about Athenian women, that “from Simonides of Amorgos to Lucian, Greek literature is offensively repetitious about faults of women; and toward the close of it even the kindly Plutarch repeats Thucydides: ‘the name of a decent woman, like her person, should be shut up in the house.’” He continues: “All in all, in matter of sex relations, Athenian custom and law are thouroughly man-made, and represents an Oriental retrogression from the societies of Egypt, Crete, and the Homeric age.” Tell me, then, were Plutarch, Thucydides, Simonides or Lucian Christians to speak such words? Durant concludes: “the Greek, then, marries not for love, nor because he enjoys matrimonybut to continue himself and the State through a wife suitably dowered, and children who will ward off the evil fate of an unintended soul.” In Rome, divorce and sexual license were taken for granted, and fathers had the theoretical right to kill any one of their family members, including their wives.

Christianity bases its attitude towards women on Ephesian 5: 22-33. It was a revolutionary message in the sense that for the first time in the Ancient world, husbands were not only expected to love their wives, they had the duty to do it. The Apostle Paul writes more extensively of men’s duty precisely because it was new. The relationship between Christ and the Church is not one of submission, but rather of completion, contrary to opposite claims by those who seek to slender Christianity, thus proving that they do not understand its message. Of course there were men who loved their wives before Christianity, and there were women who enjoyed prosperity. But it wasn’t a duty of men to love their wives as they loved themselves, and women now became considered for their proper role, and not only for their utilitarian function of procreation. Christian ideology raised the status of women almost to that of men. An unfortunately relatively unknown Father, Asterius of Amasea, best expresses the new Christian status of women: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/asterius_05_sermon5.htm. Such text would have been unthinkable before.

I want to come briefly to Hypathia? For lack of space, though I would love to do it, I cannot expand too much on this. I will be quoting Maurice Sartre, Professor of the Classics at the University of Toulouse, France, therefore he neither aims at defending nor attacking Christianity. I will either quote him or paraphrase him. Your view of the murder, I suppose, is that that sees in her a "pagan martyr" of Christian fanaticism. This, to paraphrase Sartre, is the view held by Enlightenment thinkers, who despised Catholic dogmas. It is neither true not fair, he says.

First, he notices that we have few details on her murder, which gave ground to much fantasies and speculations. Hypathia had a close circle of friends, amongst whom were Synesios of Cyrene, a Christian who would become bishop of Ptolemais, and Kyrios of panapolis, who would also become bishop in Phrygia. All of her friends, Christians and pagans alike, held important positions in the imperial bureaucracy or in the Church. "And many, if not most, were indeed Christians," adds Sartre. Hypathia was therefore not a fanatical pagan, and was rather indifferent to the cults. Her group mixed group of friends was bound not only by a common culture, for "all [pagan as well as Christians] were readers of Homer, Hesiod, Plato and Aristotle," but also by a common "social class," their social prosperity. Her murder is consequently not the result of a struggle between Christians and pagans. It is, Sartre argues, the consequence of a struggle within the Church herself. Patriarch Cyril opposed Orest, prefect of Egypt (therefore a Christian because he held an important position at a time when only christians could do so) and friend of Hypathia. While Cyril sought to expand the power of the Church over society, Orest opposed it. This is a struggle between the temporal and spiritual power of the Church. Sartre blames a particular group, but not Christians in general, for the murder, the 'parabalanai' who looked after the sick and the poor in the city, who certainly acted on their own, since no sources ever mentions the name of Cyril in the murder. If the parabalanai were fanatics, it is a small, limited group, as we have everywhere, rather than Christians in general. "Hypathia paid the price of her fame and reputation," concludes Sartre. Her being a friend of Orest, opponent of Cyril, ended up as we know.

Once again, this is a very brief summary of Sartre's chapter on Hypathia, but it clearly states that even if fanaticism is not to be excluded, it was rather the last drop that broke the camel's back in a struggle that had nothing to do with Christianity against paganism, as Sartre concludes.

To finish with the topic on women, I will add one more thing: of course the lot of women was not always happy either in the Chrisitan world. But, as I explained earlier, this is a cultural phenomenon, not a religious one. Christian ideology raised the status of women from being mere procreator to being "one flesh with the husband." But sometimes society proved stronger than faith, but that does not invalidate Christianity's teachings. Society is to blame, not the Church.

There are so many things to say about the other topics, the difference between god and YHWH, and the role of Greek philosophy in shaping Christianity, but I will do it in another post.

Hermes

Oh gees Sylvain, try and be resourceful and creative because this is tedious. Here goes again:

http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/chrysos.asp
http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/tertul.asp

You should have no problem with these links. Please note this site is constructed by Catholics but it does not matter as they simply provide excerpts of Patristics.

As for the next site:

http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/womenfathers.html

It again provides excerpts of Patristics. It is the writing of the Fathers themselves so what does it matter whether it is a site of Orthodox theologians or worshippers of the Devil. If you have a problem then go here:

http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

As for the authors listed you are expected to go out and buy the books and read them!

Some references on female athletic participation
http://www.museum.upenn.edu/new/Olympics/olympicsexism.shtml


I agree on your paragraph on women and feminism. I was simply stating some facts about the ancient and Christian worlds. I was not really making any judgements. However, you seem to have veered off the topic. The question was whether women were given more freedom in the Christian or Ancient world. Please stick to the argument. If you want to talk about the methods and techniques of history writing (i.e. reading modern trends and ideas back into history) then that is another topic.

Next paragraph. Again, you are veering off some crazy tangent removed from the original argument but here goes. The Byzantines had slaves as well (i.e. Anglo-Saxons slaves!). Also, we can judge whether one civilisation is better than other. Why not? Must they all be forced into being equal. You sound like a dreaded Post Modernist! (see above).

Next paragraph. This is getting tedious. Please read here http://www.stoa.org/projects/demos/article_women_and_family?page=1&greekEncoding=
What is the big deal about women attending Christian services as opposed to men? Women also attended pagan services and sought salvation as well in Orphic, Eleusian mysteries etc. Very often they sought salvation from female dieties which represented quintessentially female archetypal forms.

Next paragraph. Like I said in the previous post "Early Christianity appears to have been forgiving to women" but in later in practise the institution of the Church and Patritistic writings appeared to have reverted to excluding women from most religious and civic life. I never said anything about submission. You are becoming hysterial and incoherent. Read the links given above.

As for Hypatia. An overwhelming amount of histiographical evidence points to Christians murdering her - you should read more widely and not texts which confirm prior held beliefs. But I do not think this is that important. She has been raised as a symbol of Christian oppression but we cannot be sure if it was systematically orchestrated by Church bureaucracy or whether it was some fanatics. However, it is the broad oppression by the Christians of dissenting views without and within the Chruch which is critical. Obviously, as a Christian you will conveniantly ignore this just as Taliban George and Stavros do. Nevertheless, here are some other references:

Socrates Scholasticus described her death thus in his Ecclesiastical History:

Yet even she fell a victim to the political jealousy which at that time prevailed. For as she had frequent interviews with Orestes, it was calumniously reported among the Christian populace, that it was she who prevented Orestes from being reconciled to the bishop. Some of them therefore, hurried away by a fierce and bigoted zeal, whose ringleader was a reader named Peter, waylaid her returning home, and dragging her from her carriage, they took her to the church called Caesareum, where they completely stripped her, and then murdered her with tiles. After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burnt them. This affair brought not the least opprobrium, not only upon Cyril, but also upon the whole Alexandrian church. And surely nothing can be farther from the spirit of Christianity than the allowance of massacres, fights, and transactions of that sort. This happened in the month of March during Lent, in the fourth year of Cyril's episcopate, under the tenth consulate of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius [AD 415].

John, Bishop of Nikiû, a 7th century author, described her death as follows, obviously drawing on Socrates but coming to rather different conclusions and portraying Hypatia as a witch:[4]

And in those days there appeared in Alexandria a female philosopher, a pagan named Hypatia, and she was devoted at all times to magic, astrolabes and instruments of music, and she beguiled many people through (her) Satanic wiles. And the governor of the city honored her exceedingly; for she had beguiled him through her magic. And he ceased attending church as had been his custom....A multitude of believers in God arose under the guidance of Peter the magistrate – now this Peter was a perfect believer in all respects in Jesus Christ – and they proceeded to seek for the pagan woman who had beguiled the people of the city and the prefect through her enchantments. And when they learnt the place where she was, they proceeded to her and found her seated on a (lofty) chair; and having made her descend they dragged her along till they brought her to the great church, named Caesarion. Now this was in the days of the fast. And they tore off her clothing and dragged her [till they brought her] through the streets of the city till she died. And they carried her to a place named Cinaron, and they burned her body with fire. And all the people surrounded the patriarch Cyril and named him 'the new Theophilus'; for he had destroyed the last remains of idolatry in the city.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:[6]

In one of these riots, in 422, the prefect Callistus was killed, and in another was committed the murder of a female philosopher Hypatia, a highly-respected teacher of neo-Platonism, of advanced age and (it is said) many virtues. She was a friend of Orestes, and many believed that she prevented a reconciliation between the prefect and patriarch. A mob led by a lector, named Peter, dragged her to a church and tore her flesh with potshards till she died. This brought great disgrace, says Socrates, on the Church of Alexandria and on its bishop; but a lector at Alexandria was not a cleric (Scr., V, xxii), and Socrates does not suggest that Cyril himself was to blame. Damascius, indeed, accuses him, but he is a late authority and a hater of Christians.

Or go here: http://www.polyamory.org/~howard/Hypatia/primary-sources.html

These are the words of Christians themselves. However, it is hard to trust Christians because there were rarely impartial.

I wait with utter excitement for your next instalment of Apologetics.

demonax

SR
You miss the point when you complain of slavery and the repression of women in ancient Greek societies. No one is arguing these societies were perfect. The point is that ancient Greek societies, imbued with the spirit of freedom of inquiry and the pursuit of rational thought and observable knowledge, were willing to subject their laws – which were not handed down via messiahs and prophets (charlatans and schizophrenics) in deserts on tablets of stone or by way of voices from some supernatural being, and therefore immutable, but were man-made and mutable – and challenge all their political, social and cultural institutions, including those relating to slavery and the repression of women. Athenian tragedy and comedy show how interested Greek culture was in sexual and class politics and how willing Greek society was to interrogate itself and not put limits on what could be discussed or revealed. Claims to the natural superiority of men over women or of one race over another were not based on appeals to religion – as in Judeo-Christian societies – but on the mutable rules of philosophy and politics. Indeed, slavery and the repression of women continued for centuries under Christianity, despite its avowed egalitarian ideology, and it’s not until the Enlightenment – in which Greek culture and Greek ways of thinking are reasserted – that human progress once again becomes possible.

As for Hypatia, it is possible that you are right and she was a victim of Alexandrian politics rather than a victim of a general anti-Greek pogrom by Christians. Nevertheless, even if she was killed for mixing in circles opposed to Cyril and not specifically for being a free-thinking Greek philosopher and mathematician, it remains the case that it was fanatical Christian monks that killed her; religious fanaticism being something early Christians were prone to, though fanaticism and dogmaticism are antithetical to Greek religion, revealing a radical and retrograde break between Christian and Greek religious practice.
The book I’ve read on Hypatia – Maria Dzielska’s Hypatia of Alexandria – makes the point that Neo-Platonic/Greek philosophy probably existed alongside Christianity in Alexandria for 300 years after Hypatia’s murder and that it wasn’t Christians who swept away Greek culture in the city. This crime is better attributed to the Arab invaders in the 7th century; the Arabs, of course, being less sophisticated – or perhaps purer – interpreters and exponents of Judaism than the Christians, indicating that whether you think it is the Christians or the Arabs/Muslims who are the greatest opponents of Hellenism, the root of the problem is Judaism.

Hermes

Sylvain, you can tell me about the difference between Yahweh and God and the role of Greek philosophy in shaping Christianity (remember Greek philosophy has shaped many things so Christianity is not really privileged here) but it will hardly make a smidgeon of difference because I can almost assure you I have heard these tiresome arguments before that are not really relevant to the original question.

The fundamental question remains is Hellenism (a way of life and mode of thinking represented by Art, critical enquiry, eloquence, respect for tradition, self government, athletics, search for divinity, family, free consiousness, politics, philosophy etc) compatible with Christianity?

Again, let me repeat a very simple point. To be a Christian you must accept the belief that Jesus is the Son of God as exemplified by the Nicene Creed (see above). Although within this there is some freedom to think outside of this mental boundary, you cannot believe or think anything else outside of it otherwise you would cease to be a Christian. It is a closed system of thought. Some of the answers are already assumed before questions are asked. Simple. Even following some of the Lutheran innovations, where the individual was expected to play a part in intepreting their relationship to God, it remained a closed system of thought.

However, the "Hellene" (a being living and thinking in the spirit of the ancient Greeks) would have, and does today, find this thought system unsatisfactory because it is closed. There is freedom but only as long as one stays within the boundaries set by the Nicene Creed. It is antithetical to some of the fundamental aspects of Hellenism. A Greek can conceivably think and live outside of this system. He has the freedom to choose from a myriad of Gods, creeds, philosophies or nothing at all.

This point has not been tackled by you, Stavros, George or anyone else.

Finally, on another point and this does not concern you as you are not Greek. But as Greeks what do we want to be? Do we want to be just part of the mass of humanity or do we want to be the unique and special? The protagonists? And if we want to be this can it be achieved when one thinks and lives within a relatively closed system?

Sylvain Rey

Arguing with you really is impossible, so I won’t carry this pseudo-discussion any further. After all, why should I argue with somebody who cannot even consider the fact that scholars may have views that diverge from what that person believes? Questionning oneself and changing one’s mind leads to truth, as you said yourself; so far you have shown none of it.
You have at least conceded that your motives lie not in “truth,” but elsewhere: as if discarding Christianity will magically reassert “the glory of ancient hellenism” in the world, and make ancient hellenism supreme. Antiquity is dead, and you cannot revive it. You might as well try to reawaken a dead body. This is not only a childish dream, this is craziness. You hate christianity; hate is not a good ground to search for truth. Hate and freedom are antigonistic. You have proven it well enough. If you want to throw off 2000 years of your history just because you have a problem with Christianity, then you are acting no better than the Talibans who dynamited buddhist statues because they did not fit in their fanatical pursuits. Period.

Jenni

This was written three years ago, so my response is unlikely to even be read! I am doing a bachelor degree in Creative Writing and consequently have to do Ancient History. It's way over my head. In two weeks I have to present a tute on Hellenism and its influence on the spread of Christianity. Books I have sought are too academic at this stage - I just couldn't grasp the new language of strange countries, politics...blah, blah! The whole thing terrifies me. I just want to thank you for giving me some insight into history that was enjoyable to read and helpful towards my study. It has given me 'food for thought' as to areas I need to investigate and has taken away a little of the terror I feel towards the complexities of history. Many thanks

Stavros

Jen,

Your very welcome. Don't let history scare you. There is much to be learned from it and it is actually very interesting. Don't be put off by those historians who are unable to write well. A knowledge of history will make you a better writer in the long run. Good luck.

George

Stavros,
I am a fan like you of Constantelos. I knew him and took a course with him years ago.

But in reading the comments of "Sylvain Rey" I find them unstudied.
When Hermes mentions Greeks vs Jews, it sounds jarring in today's world, but it was the choice in the ancient world especially between 300 BC to 300 AD.

And that question, and strife, did not originate from Greeks, or within actual Greek - Jewish relations, but in inter Jewish relations as Jewish communities thrived in Hellenistic city states that were organically religiously tolerant, (and tolerant specifically because they were polytheist and not monotheist) but which therefore created new challenges to traditional Judaism. We know now for example that several of the citations used in revisionist timetables of the development of antisemitism, the Alexandria Riots between Jews and "Greeks," as well as the real fighting around Hanukkah, were not in fact between Greeks as we think of them, and Jews, but various groupings of Jews, for whom the "Orthodox" Jews, and even later writers like Josephus, used "Greek" as an epithet for fellow Jews.

By the way, as a something of a counterpoint to Constantelos, I would recommend reading "The Closing of the Western Mind" by Charles Freeman, author of the excellent "The Greek Achievement."

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  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy

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