Chapter 2 Summary_The Patristic Era_Part 6_GREEK APOLOGISTS OF THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES [pp.51-59]


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The founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus (AD 205-270) and his disciple Porphyry (AD 234-301) were in part inspired by the example of Christian theologians, erected a systematic theology for pagans that was intellectually respectable.  Porphyry’s treatise Against the Christians, attacked through philosophical argumentation: the Historicity of the Bible, Doctrines of creation, Evil as illusory, the Resurrection, Miracles and Jesus’ Genealogy.

Eusebius of Caesarea, (263-339) was the Christian apologist who most effectively answered Porphyry.  Known greatly for being a Church historian, Eusebius is considered by some authorities as the greatest apologist of the ancient Church.  Eusebius has been accused of lacking originality, because he quotes a string of different authors to make a case whenever possible.  Nonetheless, his sheer volumes of excerpts possess a genuine unity of design and argument.  In His books, some of the following are what is covered: [pp.51-54]

In Preparation, he answers the principal objections of pagans as Porphyry who claim Christians are unfaithful to the Greek religious heritage.  In Proof, he absolves Christians from their Jewish accusers that say they have abandoned the religion of the Hebrew Scriptures.  In Proof of the Gospel, he argues from the NT for the surpassing moral stature of Jesus Christ, who in Greek philosophy has no equal.  Eusebius used the signs of the times greatly in his apologetic for the Christian faith.  Among the early apologists, concerning the aforementioned, he surpasses them all.

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 295-373) educated at the famous catechetical school, he grew up during the last and greatest persecution which ended in Egypt (AD 311).  His writings include: [pp.54-55]

Treatise Against the Pagans, where he reiterates the standard arguments against idolatry and polytheism.  He seems to be especially indebted to Clement and Athanagoras.  In The Incarnation of The Word still one of the most widely read pieces of patristic theology, he writes vibrantly and focuses on the positive and doctrinal aspects of the Word.  Unlike the vitriolic writing of Tertullian, his manner of writing is winsome and attractive.  Moreover, his writing is swift with prose, not bogged down with erudition, contra Origen and Eusebius.

In Cur Deus Homo; he deals with the problem of the incarnation.  Much like Anselm would approach the subject, Athanasius contends that it was necessary for God to satisfy his mercy and justice.  Moreover, in this work he points to fulfilled messianic prophecies to demonstrate Christ’s authenticity; he then refutes Hellenistic objections to the incarnation and finally he considers the meaning and effects of the Resurrection.  

Chrysostom [pp.56-57] was not a keen Jewish apologist. His manner is vitriolic and invective as seen in his:  Demonstration to Jews and Greeks that Christ is God (381-87) he demonstrates to the Greeks that Christ did what no mere man can do.  To the Jews he shows that Christ is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies.  Dulles holds that his Homilies against the Jews (AD 387) is an embarrassment to Christian apologetics seen through his unsympathetic accusations of the Jews as stubborn and blind, and demands their renunciation of their errors.

Cyril of Alexandria [p.57] wrote a treatise For the Holy Religion of the Christians against the Impious Julian (AD 435-440) adopts the position that no books apart from the Bible are necessary for a perfect formation in piety and letters.

Apollinaris of Laodicea [p.57] (AD 310-390) wrote a treatise On Truth where he argues against Porphyry.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus [pp.57-59]  (AD 393-485) was a great Antiochene theologian who composed The Cure of Pagan Maladies; or The Truth of the Gospels from Greek Philosophy.  He advances among other things the need to refute the notions that: Christians refuse reason and opt for blind faith; that the Biblical writers were ignorant and unpolished; that the Cult of martyrs is a senseless superstition; moreover, he uses quotes from pagan philosophers as a well as sacred ones in his argumentation and his apologetic work tends to depict the strengths and weaknesses of Greek apologetics in the patristic age.

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