Challenge Of Homer

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Homer was the gateway to education, to the skills of reading and writing. These skills were necessary for the nascent Church. Knowledge of Homer's writings was a sign of Greekness, of at-home-ness in the society. Education was embedded in the mythology, immorality and idolatry of these writings. This challenged the Christians. This study presents how Christians responded to this. The opinions varied from rejection of Homer and all pagan literature, considering them works of the Devil, to critical involvement with this literature.

This study attempts to trace the discourse on Homer and education among the Christians back to the New Testament. The topic does not come to the surface, but it is argued that in Paul's letters contrasting attitudes towards the propaideutic logic and the philosophical principle of usus (making right use of) are present. He opposed a logic wherein Christian faith represented the peak of education, the culmination of liberal studies. In his instruction on how to relate to the pagan world, Paul argues in accordance with the principle of usus. The New Testament is not so dependent upon the Homeric poems, as assumed by some scholars.

The first Christians faced two hermeneutical challenges of fundamental importnce: that of interpreting the Old Testament and how to cope with the Greek legacy embedded in Homer. The latter is not explicitly raised in the New Testament. But since the art of interpreting any text, presupposes reading skills, conveyed through liberal studies, the Homeric challenge must have been of outmost importance.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Karl Olav Sandnes is Professor in New Testament Studies at MF Norwegian School of Theology (Det teologiske Menighetsfakultet), Oslo. The author of Paul - One of the Prophets? A New Family. Conversion and Ecclesiology in the Early Church with Cross-Cultural Comparisons and Belly and Body in the Pauline Epistles.

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Table of Contents

Part One: School, Homer and Encyclical Education in Antiquity

1. Introduction and Method

2. School in the Greco-Roman World

3. The Pivotal Role of Homer

4. Knowledge and Formation: The Insuffiency of Encyclical Education

5. Philo of Alexandria: A Hellenistic Jew on Greek Education

Part Two: The Christian Agôn over Encyclical Studies in the first Centuries C.E.

7. Justin Martyr, his student Tatian and Two Ps.Justins

8. The Apostolic Tradition: Prohibited Occupations

9. The Teaching of the Apostles (Didaskalia Apostolorum) and Syriac tradition: "Avoid all the Books of the Gentiles"

10. Tertullian: Learning but not Teaching Encyclical Studies

11. Clement and Origen: Christian Teachers in Alexandria

11.1 Clement of Alexandria: Propaideia Protects Faith

11.2 Origen: The Silver and Gold of the Egyptians

11.3 Origen and Celsos: Christian faith for the Unlearned?

12. Flavius Claudius Julianus - Emperor and Apostate: Christian Teachers are Immoral

13. The Cappadocian Fathers

13.1 Basil of Caesarea/Basil the Great: Ad Adolescentes

13.2 Gregory of Nazianzus' Encomium for Basil

13.3 Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses

14. Jerome: An Ascetic Addicted to Greek Learning

15. Augustine: Liberal Studies - A Window on the Relationship between Greek Culture and Christian Faith

16. Summing up part two

Common Ground

Opposition to Encyclical Studies

Encyclical Studies cannot be avoided

Advocates of Encyclical Studies

Arguments Employed in the Debate

The Critics


Acting like Bees

All or Nothing?

Part Three: Looking Back to the New Testament

17. The New Testament and Encyclical Studies

17.1 Homer in the New Testament? An Appraisal of Dennis R. MacDonald's "Mimesis Criticism"

17.2 Paul on Encyclical Studies?

18. Drawing the Findings Together

Bibliography and indices

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