Christianity and Hellenistic philosophy

Christianity and Hellenistic philosophy refers to the complex interaction between Hellenistic philosophy and early Christianity during the first to the fourth centuries.

As Christianity spread throughout the Hellenic world, an increasing number of church leaders were educated in Greek philosophy. The dominant philosophical traditions of the Greco-Roman world then were Stoicism, Platonism, and Epicureanism. Stoicism and, particularly, Platonism were readily incorporated into Christian ethics and Christian theology.

Historic development

Christian assimilation of Hellenic philosophy was anticipated by Philo and other Greek-speaking Alexandrian Jews. Philo's blend of Judaism, Platonism, and Stoicism strongly influenced Christian Alexandrian writers like Origen and Clement of Alexandria, as well as, in the Latin world, Ambrose of Milan.

One early Christian writer of the 2nd and early 3rd century, Clement of Alexandria, demonstrated Greek thought in writing,

"Philosophy has been given to the Greeks as their own kind of Covenant, their foundation for the philosophy of Christ ... the philosophy of the Greeks ... contains the basic elements of that genuine and perfect knowledge which is higher than human ... even upon those spiritual objects." (Miscellanies 6. 8)

The Church historian Eusebius suggested, essentially, in his preparation for the Gospel that Greek philosophy, although in his view derivative, was concordant with Hebrew notions. Augustine of Hippo, who ultimately systematized Christian philosophy, wrote in the 4th and early 5th century,

But when I read those books of the Platonists I was taught by them to seek incorporeal truth, so I saw your 'invisible things, understood by the things that are made' (Confessions 7. 20).

John Burnet (1892) noted [1]

The Neoplatonists were quite justified in regarding themselves as the spiritual heirs of Pythagoras; and, in their hands, philosophy ceased to exist as such, and became theology. And this tendency was at work all along; hardly a single Greek philosopher was wholly uninfluenced by it. In later days, Apollonios of Tyana showed in practice what this sort of thing must ultimately lead to. The theurgy and thaumaturgy of the late Greek schools were only the fruit of the seed sown by the generation which immediately preceded the Persian War.
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srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Rano hrišćanstvo i helenizam