Live, Hellenization thesis–live!

I am not going to cite any specific article (it’s at Calvinist International), for if I do my email inbox will be filled with “why did you misrepresent us?”  What is the Hellenization Thesis?  I think it is the claim that “Greek philosophy corrupted Hebraic forms of thought.”  Well, if that’s what it is then it is wrong.  I think Harnack and later liberals claimed that.  I don’t think anyone is claiming that today.

When I read these CI articles, I get a long quote by some scholar (whom I’ve no intention of reading) and very little analysis of said scholar.

But still–we can identify “Greekness” and note how it is opposed to Hebraic thought-patterns.

  • Contrast Methodius of Olympus’s view of sex with Proverbs 5.
  • Does definition = limit?
  • Euthyphro
  • Being vs. Becoming
  • Derrida’s comments on writing
  • Priority of heaving over seeing (faith is always contrasted with sight; not knowledge.  Even the Greek words for obedience and seeing testify to this, though I don’t want to read too much into the etymology). The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  • Is there a Philonic aisthetos cosmos/noetos cosmos distnction?
  • Name one Greek church father that praised marital, messy sexual intercourse?

Some more questions:

Which culture did Paul primarily have in mind when he wrote Romans 1:18-23?  Yes, I realize it is universally applicable, but I think the answer is somewhat close to home…



5 thoughts on “Live, Hellenization thesis–live!

  1. This was refreshing. It seems like it’s an either-or when it comes to questions of Hellenizing, as if it is or it isn’t or that it’s quantifiable in percentages. I don’t know if you looked at JaysAnalysis, but he put up an article lately about how pseudo-Dionysius was not pseudo and that Greek thought was the Bible. It’s completely absurd, almost a parody of itself, and is ironfisted with its childish insults, but it’s eye-opening to how ridiculous this debate can be.

    I appreciate Leithart’s approach and how he coined (or took it from somewhere, I don’t know) “evangelizing metaphysics”. There is a sense whenever you read particular Fathers of how they use Scripture or use Greek philosophic grammar that’s not clear cut. Behr’s dissertation-turned-book showcases this in the differences between Irenaeus and Clement.

    “Name one Greek church father that praised marital, messy sexual intercourse”, I don’t think you’ll get any author from the 2nd-5th centuries in the Mediterranean that does that. Maybe Apuleius.


    • I saw his essay. I’m not convinced. I like Jay and I think Pseudo-Dionysius was more biblical than often we credit him for.

      When people say Greek thought, I say, “Do you mean Parmenides’ One or Democritus’s Many?” Being or Becoming? Of course, the dialectic itself is wrong and Biblical thought is free to reject it.

      It’s almost clear that Pseudo-Dionysius is someone else. The internal evidence is overwhelming. He actually cites Clement and Ignatius of Antioch by name! That itself put it at the early 110s, which stretches the chronology. And in some cases he appears to quote Proclus or Porphyry.


      • I like Jay as well, though his theological pieces tax the mind. The best of it is a rehash of Farrell’s work, which should always get a wider audience; the worst is reductionistic, especially when he tries to accuse Protestants (who?) of being Arian, Nestorian, and basically Satanists. It reminds me when I read Pavel Florensky arguing that Ignatius’ letter from Mary was real because, well, why wouldn’t it be? Florensky was a genius, and I appreciate the simple gesture of faith, but since Usser, it was well established as a fake. Commitment to the some sort of infallible patrology can involve mind-bending arguments, which your time at OrthoBridge has taught you far better than I’ve ever experienced.

        Lowth does a good job in showing how Pseduo-Denys heavily depends upon Proclus, though he denies other scholars’ who claim this was a kind of infiltration of NeoPlatonism into the Church in an era that saw the closing of philosophy schools and a wider condemnation of “Hellenism”. I don’t know enough to weigh in.


  2. Pingback: Intro to Ephrem’s Hymns on Paradise | Harp of the Spirit

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