The Early Christian Church and Greek Culture

Early Christian figures like Minucius Felix, contrary to popular thought, did not reject the idea of incorporating Greek classics into Christianity. Their view was that these Greeks were making their way towards the ultimate goal: the teachings of Jesus. These early leaders of the Church viewed Christianity as the culmination of the early Greek writings and philosophers.

Some Christians advocated for the removal of all Greek writings from the “modern” scope. They, ironically, were the most prone to heresies. While they did contribute substantially to early Christian theology and make-up, they did not embrace the idea of incorporating the Greek philosophy and writings into the Christian Church.

Most early Christian Apologists thought that the Greeks were, in fact, hinting at what Jesus had taught. Plato, for instance, had stated clearly in his Orations that there was another absolute world and that there were absolute values that we had to abide by. Although his teachings did had errors and misconceptions, they shared a lot in common with the sacred Christian texts.

Greek thought and word was adopted by the majority of early Christians, despite efforts of some influential figures to reverse the growing tide of respect and admiration for Homer, Socrates and Pythagoras. Christians like St. Basil the Great not only accepted Greek thought as part of their religion and culture, but thoroughly recommended it, suggesting that it would help to understand the Bible.

Nowadays we tend to think of Christianity as a religion that broke from all ancient traditions and cultures. On the contrary, Christianity simply evolved the ancient cultures and ways of thinking to match their new worldview.

However, that is not to say that Christians did not discard ancient traditions and customs. While keeping the ‘useful’ parts of the ancient cultures, they rapidly discarded aspects which they no longer needed. Some of these breaks, obviously, included what the gods of the ancient world represented and the certain impacts they had on the life of everyday Greeks and Romans.

Another break was that Christians had a non-disputable set of moral rules, something which was long disputed in Greece by Socrates and the Sophists. In Rome, too, we see a moral leniency, a fact which, along with many other issues, caused friction between Christians and Roman polytheists.

It must be said that breaking and holding to the ancient cultures and works had equal importance in the solidification of the early Church. Parts of the ancient cultures became part of the new culture, while other pieces were discarded. Many early Christians looked to the future with hope and promise, armed with the tools of Greek thought and understanding and also with the new teaching. Others broke forward in spurts and bounds, soon falling, however, into the wayside heresies, for they had neglected to prepare themselves for the future by learning from the past.

Indisputably, Greek culture played a key role in the make-up of the Church. Whether through Plato, Pericles or Homer, some of the Greek knowledge, culture and teaching was accepted and embraced into Christianity—the light of the new era.

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2 thoughts on “The Early Christian Church and Greek Culture

  1. Siempre me sorprende lo bien que escribes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Abolutamente un magnífico ensayo!
    Y me da información que no tenía clara. Gracias.

    Like

    1. Translation: You always surprise: you write so well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Absolutely a magnificent essay!
      And you inform me of topics I wasn’t clear about before.
      Thanks.
      Answer: You are most welcome!!! I am very happy you liked it!

      Ashley

      Like

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