Fw: BMCR 2004.12.15, Michel Narcy et al., Helle/nisme & christianisme
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Subject: BMCR 2004.12.15, Michel Narcy et al., Helle/nisme & christianisme
> Michel Narcy, E/ric Rebillard (edd.), Helle/nisme et christianisme.
> Collection Mythes, Imaginaires, Religions. Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses
> Universitaires du Septentrion, 2004. Pp. 198. ISBN 2-85939-804-X.
> EUR 32.00.
> Reviewed by
> P. Van Nuffelen, University of Exeter
> Word count: 1430 words
> This well-edited volume discusses in seven contributions the
> relationship between Hellenism and Christianity in late antiquity. The
> papers were presented in a seminar, organised by the section Histoire
> des doctrines de l'Antiquite/ et du Haut-Moyen-A^ge of the French CNRS
> in October 2001. With two exceptions, viz. the papers by P.F. Beatrice
> and J. Rist, which seem to use a broader definition of Hellenism, all
> the papers are concerned with the relationship between paganism and
> Christianity in the fourth century A.D. The papers are not always
> innovative but most offer a good discussion of the methodological
> issues involved in the study of the confrontation of paganism and
> In his introduction (pp. 7-14), Eric Rebillard briefly sketches the
> main goal of the seminar: to shed new light on the meeting of, or clash
> between, Christianity and Hellenism in late antiquity, and this through
> an interdisciplinary approach, associating philosophers, philologists,
> and historians of religion. He then offers useful summaries of the
> seven papers that follow.
> Pierre Chuvin (Christianisation et re/sistance des cultes
> traditionnels. Approches actuelles et enjeux historiographiques, pp.
> 15-34) discusses some general methodological issues about how to study
> the survival of pagan cults in the Christian empire. This is
> illustrated by two examples: the tenth homily of Asterius of Amasea, of
> which Chuvin criticizes the interpretation by F. Trombley (Hellenic
> Religion and Christianization, Leiden 1993-1994, Vol. 1, p. 293), and
> the Life of Porphyry of Gaza by Marc the Deacon, of which Chuvin
> accepts the general veracity. This paper ends with some rather
> confusing remarks (pp. 27-31) on the complex relationship between
> culture and religion. In general P. Chuvin stresses that Christianity
> was, up to a certain level, reconcilable with Hellenism. This paper
> offers little new, but the remarks by the author are in general
> Claire Sotinel discusses the methodological problems involved in the
> study of the disappearance of pagan temples (La disparition des lieux
> de culte paiens en Occident: enjeux et me/thodes, pp. 35-60). She
> stresses in particular the variety of cultic sites that are covered by
> the term temple (private sanctuaries, oracular shrines, temples big
> enough to host banquets, etc.). This is illustrated by the example of
> the military camp of Bu Njem in Africa. She shows that the
> archaeological sources, often used to correct the literary sources, are
> themselves dependant on modern interpretative schemes and that it is
> usually rather difficult to prove that a temple was abandoned or
> restored. The destruction of pagan temples (not so widespread a
> phenomenon as it was once believed to be) was paralleled by their
> conceptual appropriation by the Christians: the destruction of temples
> became used in Christian stories and discourses as a symbol, or a
> re-enactment on a small scale, of the victory of Christianity over
> paganism. It figured as a standardized episode in hagiography; the
> hagiographers can be said to have actually constructed the pagan
> temple. Claire Sotinel illustrates this with the Life of Saint Martin
> by Gregory of Tours, in which she sees the starting point of this
> evolution in the West. Especially her point concerning the way paganism
> was imagined by Christian authors is a welcome reminder of the
> constructed reality one encounters in late antique Christian texts,
> which, e.g., F. Trombley had a tendency to overlook in his influential
> Hellenic Religion and Christianization (1993-1994).
> In the most detailed and best-argued paper of the volume, R. Goulet
> attacks the recent hypotheses of P.F. Beatrice on the scope of the
> Contra Christianos of Porphyry (Hypothe\ses re/centes sur le traite/ de
> Porphyre Contre les chre/tiens, pp. 61-109), and does so in a very
> convincing way. Beatrice proposed to identify as authentic the Contra
> Christianos, the Philosophy of oracles, the De regressu animae, the
> Peri agalmaton and a few more treatises of this philosopher (see e.g.
> P.F. Beatrice, art. Porphyrius, in Theologische Realenzyklopa+die Vol.
> 27, 1997, pp. 54-59). The anonymous fragments found in Macarius Magnes
> cannot, according to this interpretation, be attributed to Porphyry. R.
> Goulet, the latest editor of Macarius of Magnesia (Macarios de
> Magne/sie. Le Monoge/ne\s, 2 Vol., Paris 2003) argues strongly in
> favour of the traditional interpretation, which sees the
> above-mentioned works of Porphyry as separate treatises and identifies
> the anonymous adversary of Macarius with Porphyry. He also shows that
> it is very unlikely that the anonymous anti-Christian philosopher
> mentioned by Lactantius (Div. Inst. 5.2.4-11) is actually Porphyry, as
> has also been argued by E. Digeser (Lactantius, "Porphyry and the
> debate over religious toleration", Journal of Roman Studies, 88 (1998),
> pp. 129-146, see now also "Porphyry, Julian or Hierocles? The Anonymous
> Hellen in Makarios Magnes Apokritikos", Journal of Theological Studies
> 53 (2002), pp. 446-502).
> J. Bouffartigue addresses the question whether the Emperor Julian's
> neoplatonic ideas were a cause of his anti-Christian stance
> (Philosophie et anti-christianisme chez l'empereur Julien, pp.
> 111-131), a link recently doubted by R. Smith (Julian's gods: religion
> and philosophy in the thoughts and action of Julian the Apostate,
> London, 1995). Reviewing the evidence for Julian's conversion to
> Christianity, he suggests there was a link, and he argues that it is
> incorrect to reduce Julian's ideas to a simple aggregate of those
> current in his days and to deny a speculative tendency in the emperor's
> thought. This paper, which is judicious in its arguments and judgments,
> could have profited from an inclusion of more recent literature which
> bears on this interesting question (e.g. S. Bradbury, "Julian's Pagan
> Revival and the Decline of Blood Sacrifice", in Phoenix 49 (1995), pp.
> 331-356; K. Rosen, "Kaiser Julian auf dem Weg vom Christentum zum
> Heidentum", in Jahrbuch fu+r Antike und Christentum 40 (1997), pp.
> 126-146; Suzanna Elm, "Orthodoxy and the True Philosophical Life:
> Julian and Gregory of Nazianzus", in Studia Patristica 37 (2001), pp.
> 69-85). One wonders also why Polymnia Athanassiadi, Julian and
> Hellenism (Oxford 1981) is not mentioned, as her position on this point
> seems to be close to that of J. Bouffartigue.
> P.F. Beatrice discusses the accusation of atheism brought against
> Christians (L'accusation d'athe/isme contre les chre/tiens, pp.
> 133-152). He shows that the meaning of the term atheos depends on its
> context (e.g. atheos as negation of the existence of god; atheos as the
> negation of the existence of pagan gods). He also underlines the
> Christian appropriation of this accusation that they turned against the
> pagans themselves. Although not uninteresting, this paper does not seem
> to offer more than can be found e.g. in the article Atheismus by W.
> Nestle (Reallexicon fu+r Antike und Christentum, Stuttgart 1950, pp.
> 886-870), or in M. Winiarczyk's two articles "Wer galt im Altertum als
> Atheist?" (Philologus 128 (1984), pp. 157-183 and Philologus 136
> (1992), pp. 306-310).
> Drawing on his earlier work and on his extensive knowledge of
> neoplatonic philosophy and patristic theology, J. Rist offers a general
> appreciation of the relationship between Christianism and neoplatonism
> (Christianisme et antiplatonisme: un bilan, pp. 153-170). After a
> review of the positions of Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Dionysius
> Areopagiticus, he concludes that the Christian platonists are
> platonists in the sense that they use those fundamental principles of
> platonism that are useful to defend the rational character of their
> beliefs. Christians enter the field of platonism to the extent that it
> is useful to defend the coherence of their thought or to criticize that
> of their adversaries.
> In an interesting but not very clearly structured paper, Irena Backus
> traces the image of paganism in 16th century ecclesiastical
> historiography (Images du paganisme dans les Histories eccle/siastiques
> du XVIe sie\cle, pp. 171-195). She concludes that most historians tried
> to position themselves in relation to classical pagan historiography:
> Melanchthon and his followers by seeing Herodotus and Thucydides as the
> continuators of the biblical books, Baronius by using the Roman model
> of the Annales, and the Centuriae of Magdeburg by stressing the
> superiority of inspired church history over pagan histories. They were
> almost all driven by an apologetic concerns and they saw in the ancient
> pagans a prefiguration of the modern heretics.
> This collection of essays is useful; it would have been better if all
> the papers had been as detailed and forcefully argued as Goulet's. Many
> papers give the impression of having been written just for the occasion
> and published without reworking. Some are at times very selective in
> their use of sources and modern literature. As a consequence, although
> most authors do address current issues in the research on late
> antiquity (especially P. Chuvin, Claire Sotinel, P. Goulet and J.
> Bouffartigue), the volume cannot be read as an introduction to current
> problems. It lacks coherence, and most papers actually deal with a very
> limited aspect of the relationship with Christianity and Hellenism, the
> opposition between Christianity and paganism.
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