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Archive for June 8th, 2005

I have, in my previous posts, been assuming a self-understanding of early Christianity as a philosophia, a way of life similar in many respects to the ancient philosophiai of the Six Schools (Platonism, Aristotelianism, Cynicism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism). But while this makes sense in an intuitive way, it may well be helpful to provide some evidence for this assumption. That is the purpose of this present post. I will here demonstrate that the earliest understandings of ancient Christianity, dating from the second century, is that the Faith was a philosophia, indeed, the only true philosophia, containing the whole of that Truth of which the other rival philosophiai possess only parts.

It seems perhaps likely that the early Christians who spoke of the Faith as a philosophia derived their notions not only from the ancient schools of philosophy but from their Jewish predecessors, Philo of Alexandria (20 BC-AD 50) and Josephus (AD 37-100). Two texts from Philo will be illustrative for us. The following, from the Life of Moses, is perhaps clearest of all.

[F]or it was invariably the custom, as it was desirable on other days also, but especially on the seventh day, as I have already explained, to discuss matters of philosophy; the ruler of the people beginning the explanation, and teaching the multitude what they ought to do and to say, and the populace listening so as to improve in virtue, and being made better both in their moral character and in their conduct through life; in accordance with which custom, even to this day, the Jews hold philosophical discussions on the seventh day, disputing about their national philosophy, and devoting that day to the knowledge and consideration of the subjects of natural philosophy; for as for their houses of prayer in the different cities, what are they, but schools of wisdom, and courage, and temperance, and justice, and piety, and holiness, and every virtue, by which human and divine things are appreciated, and placed upon a proper footing? (Life of Moses 2, 215-216)

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