Neoplatonism and Christianity

Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West notably due to (1) St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, and (2) the works of the Christian writer Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius.

Contents

Late Antiquity

Central tenets of Neoplatonism, such as the absence of good being the source of evil ('privatio boni'), and that this absence of good comes from human sin, served as a philosophical interim for the Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo on his journey from dualistic Manichaeism to Christianity. Perhaps more importantly, the emphasis on mystical contemplation as a means to directly encounter God or the One, found in the writings of Plotinus and Porphyry, deeply affected Augustine. He reports at least two mystical experiences in his Confessions which clearly follow the Neoplatonic model. According to his own account of his important discovery of 'the books of the Platonists' in Confessions Book 7, Augustine owes his conception of both God and the human soul as incorporeal substance to Neoplatonism.

When writing his treatise 'On True Religion' several years after his 387 baptism, Augustine's Christianity was still tempered by Neoplatonism, but he eventually decided to abandon Neoplatonism altogether in favor of a Christianity based on his own reading of Scripture.

Many other Christians were influenced by Neoplatonism, especially in their identifying the Neoplatonic One, or God, with Yahweh. The most influential of these would be Origen, who potentially took classes from Ammonius Saccas (but this is not certain because there may have been a different philosopher, now called Origen the pagan, at the same time), and the late 5th century author known as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

Neoplatonism also had links with Gnosticism, which Plotinus rebuked in his ninth tractate of the second Enneads: "Against Those That Affirm The Creator of The Kosmos and The Kosmos Itself to Be Evil" (generally known as "Against The Gnostics").

Due to their belief being grounded in Platonic thought, the Neoplatonists rejected Gnosticism's vilification of Plato's demiurge, the creator of the material world or cosmos discussed in the Timaeus. Although Neoplatonism has been referred to as orthodox Platonic philosophy by scholars like Professor John D. Turner, this reference may be due in part to Plotinus' attempt to refute certain interpretations of Platonic philosophy, through his Enneads. Plotinus believed the followers of gnosticism had corrupted the original teachings of Plato.

Despite the influence this philosophy had on Christianity, Justinian I would hurt later Neoplatonism by ordering the closure of the refounded Academy of Athens in 529.[1] The closing of the academy was followed by the opening of the secular University of Constantinople. Which was not officially called a University before this and was actually found as the University of the palace hall of Magnaura in 425 AD. The school at Constantinople had been an academic institution for many years before it was called a university; the original institution was founded by the emperor Theodosius II.[2]

Middle Ages

Pseudo-Dionysius proved significant for both the Byzantine and Roman branches of Christianity. His works were translated into Latin by John Scotus Eriugena in the 9th century.

In the Middle Ages, Neoplatonist ideas influenced Jewish thinkers, such as the Kabbalist Isaac the Blind, and the Jewish Neoplatonic philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol, who modified it in the light of their own monotheism. Neoplatonist ideas also influenced Islamic and Sufi thinkers such as al Farabi and Avicenna.

Neoplatonism survived in the Eastern Christian Church as an independent tradition and was reintroduced to the west by Plethon.

Through the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, Neoplatonist ideas became a major influence on all Christian mysticism and apophatic theology.

The cathedral school of Chartres was important in propagating Platonist and Neoplatonist ideas in the Middle Ages.

Renaissance

Marsilio Ficino, who translated Plotinus, Proclus, as well as Plato's complete works into Latin, was the central figure of a major Neoplatonist revival in the Renaissance. His friend, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola was also a major figure in this movement. Renewed interest in Plotinian philosophy contributed to the rational theology and philosophy of the "Cambridge Platonist" circle (B. Whichcote, R. Cudworth, J. Smith, H. More, etc.). Renaissance Neoplatonism also overlapped with or graded into various forms of Christian esotericism.

Christoplatonism

Christoplatonism is a term used to refer to a dualism opined by Plato, which influenced the Church, which holds spirit is good but matter is evil.[3] According to the Methodist Church, Christoplatonism directly "contradicts the Biblical record of God calling everything He created good."[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ See Rainer Thiel, Simplikios und das Ende der neuplatonischen Schule in Athen, and a review by Gerald Bechtle, University of Berne, Switzerland, in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.04.19. Online version retrieved June 15, 2007.
  2. ^ The Formation of the Hellenic Christian Mind by Demetrios Constantelos ISBN 0-89241-588-6 [1] . The fifth century marked a definite turning point in Byzantine higher education. Theodosios ΙΙ founded in 425 a major university with 31 chairs for law, philosophy, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric and other subjects. Fifteen chairs were assigned to Latin and 16 to Greek. The university was reorganized by Michael ΙII (842–867) and flourished down to the fourteenth century
  3. ^ a b Robin Russell (06 April 2009). "Heavenly minded: It’s time to get our eschatology right, say scholars, authors". UM Portal. http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=5101. Retrieved 10 March 2011. "Greek philosophers—who believed that spirit is good but matter is evil—also influenced the church, says Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven (Tyndale, 2004). He coined the term “Christoplatonism” to describe that kind of dualism, which directly contradicts the biblical record of God calling everything he created “good.”" 

Literature

  • Gerard O'Daly, Platonism Pagan and Christian: Studies in Plotinus and Augustine, Variorum Collected Studies Series 719 (2001), ISBN 978-0860788577.

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Neoplatonism and Gnosticism — Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

  • Hellenistic philosophy and Christianity — Hellenic philosophy and Christianity refers to the complex interaction between Hellenistic philosophy and early Christianity during first four centuries A.D.Christianity originated in Judah, an Aramaic culture with traditional philosophies and… …   Wikipedia

  • Neoplatonism — Part of a series on Neoplatonism …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity and Paganism — Part of seventh century casket, depicting the pan Germanic legend of Weyland Smith, which was apparently also a part of Anglo Saxon pagan mythology. This article provides an overview of the relations between Christianity and its adherents vs… …   Wikipedia

  • Neoplatonism —    A school of philosophical thought founded by Plotinus in the sixth century. Inspired by the writings of Plato, Plotinus concluded that it is from the One, Intelligence, and the Soul that all existence emanates. For him, it is through… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • NEOPLATONISM — NEOPLATONISM, the system elaborated by Plotinus and his pupil Porphyry on the basis of antecedent Middle Platonic and neo Pythagorean developments. The system was modified by their successors, the main post Plotinian currents and schools of late… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Christianity — /kris chee an i tee/, n., pl. Christianities. 1. the Christian religion, including the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches. 2. Christian beliefs or practices; Christian quality or character: Christianity mixed with pagan elements; …   Universalium

  • Christianity in the Middle East — Middle Eastern Christians Total population 10–12 million (2011)[1] Regions with significant populations …   Wikipedia

  • neoplatonism — /nioʊˈpleɪtənɪzəm/ (say neeoh playtuhnizuhm) noun a philosophical system, originating in the 3rd century AD, founded on platonic doctrine and influenced by elements of mysticism and of Judaism and Christianity. Also, Neo Platonism. –neoplatonic… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Neoplatonism —    Philosophical system (or group of systems) derived from the ancient Athenian philosopher Plato (428 348 B.C.); it is called Neoplatonism rather than Platonism because it tends to vary consider ably from the actual teachings of Plato and his… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”