English II: Western Literature to 1492 was an enlightening course filled with early Christian mysticism, intriguing dialogues and a valuable insight into the lives and culture of the ancient and early Christian world. As a completion for this course, I was asked to write a term paper on this topic: “Are Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales closer in outlook to Greek and Roman literature than they are to Hebrew, Christian and medieval literature?”
Boccaccio’s Decameron was the story of the Black Death, a plague that swept through Europe multiple times, destroying over two-thirds of the population. In this book, Boccaccio constantly pointed fingers at the clergy and the Church. He demeaned the friars and the priests, accusing them of immoral practices. He didn’t focus at all on the glory of God and man’s inability to accomplish anything without him.
This was completely contrary to the view that was portrayed in medieval literature, which focused on God far more that any Renaissance work ever did.
As far as it goes compared to Hebrew and Christian literature, it’s night and day. Boccaccio expressed a view of Man vs. the Church, something completely contrary to the Christian and Hebrew texts. And instead of a focus on the intense, immovable piety of man through the Church, it focused on individualism and the nit-picking of everyday life. Continue reading
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. Continue reading