Reading List for Egg-Heads
Hi blog buds,
If you don’t consider yourself an egg-head, this blog might not be your cup of tea. Tune in next post. But if you are an egg-head and are interested in things like how Hellenistic philosophy may or may not have influenced early Christianity, then maybe you’ll like it…or not.
I’ve been impressed, and honored, by the amount of interest people have expressed in my forthcoming (2011? 2012? 2025?) two volume work, The Myth of the Blueprint (IVP). I’ve had several requests over the last year or so for me to occasionally share and comment on some of material I’m coming across as I’m researching and writing this book. These folks want to sort of follow along in the academic journey (clearly egg-head types!). In this blog I’m honoring these requests.
Here’s a sampling of works I’ve read and taken notes over the last several months. I include a brief summary and (sometimes) a comment as to why the work is (or is not) significant to my research. Enjoy!
Barnes, M.R. The Power of God: Dynamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology (Washington: Catholic University of America, 2001). Barnes examines Gregory’s use of “power” (dynamis) and demonstrates the significant role Greek philosophical ideas and terminology play in his trinitarian theology. It illustrates a) how well versed Gregory was in the philosophical discussions of his day and how some of these discussions impacted his own theology and b) why we can’t hope to fully understand Gregory or any church father unless we’re well acquainted with the intellectual milieu in which they wrote.
Barr, J. “Theophany and Anthropomorphism in the Old Testament,” Congress Volume, Oxford 1959, VT Supp. Vol. 7 (Leiden: Brill, 1960), 31-38. A really intriguing essay arguing that there’s a reason why God appears in human form in various Old Testament narratives. It has something to do with the teaching that humans are made in the image of God. While Hellenistic philosophers (and Hellenized Jewish and Christian theologians) were embarrassed by human-like depictions of God (God is allegedly “above” having human-like features), Old Testament authors clearly were not. Locating the fundamental reason for this difference is a key to understanding how Hellenistic philosophy fundamentally influenced early Christians assumptions about God. (An excellent book related to this, done by leading Jewish scholar, is J. Neusner, The Incarnation of God : The Character of Divinity in Formative Judaism [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988]).
Boman, T. Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960. His basic thesis is that Greek thought was oriented around space while Hebrew thought was orientated around time. Greek thought emphasized seeing and thus focused on things while Hebrew thought emphasized hearing and thus focused on movement. I almost passed this one up since Boman is routinely trashed in the secondary literature, but I’m glad I decided not to. While I agree that Boman sometimes (often?) overstates his case and overgeneralizes his conclusions (as everybody and their grandmother points out) I nevertheless found him to be at points compelling and supportive of various theses I am myself proposing. For example, I argue that much Greek (and later, Christian) thinking went awry because it spatialized time, conceiving past, present and future as a time line upon which events could be fixed. This understanding has remained paradigmatic in western culture up to this day, as evidenced by the fact that people continue to assume the future is somehow “out there” and that we’re “coming upon” a future event the way (say) you might “come upon” a stop sign while driving. (By the way, a great book on how we often mistake our metaphors for realities, and especially on how we get screwed up in our thinking about time when we forget that spacial metaphors are metaphors, is Lakoff and Johnson’s Philosophy in the Flesh).
Bostock, G. “Origen: The Alternative to Augustine?” in The Expository Times 114/10 (July, 2003), 327-332. Bostock wishes Origen rather than Augustine had become the “father of the western church.” So do I. He does a good job of fleshing out the “dark side” of some of Augustine’s theology.
Burns, J. P. “The Atmosphere of Election: Augustinianism as Common Sense,” in Everett Ferguson, ed., Doctrinal Diversity: Varieties of Early Christianity: Recent Studies in Early Christianity, Vol. 4 (New York: Garland, 1999). 175-89. A solid exploration on the sociological and theological factors that led Augustine to abandon the traditional (and biblical) assumption that God wants all to be saved and to instead embrace a new and shocking doctrine that God unilaterally elects some and leaves the majority to be damned (including multitudes of non-elect infants). Lovely.
Carson, D. A. “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in Philo,” Novum Testamentum XXIII, 2 (1981) 148-64. A very good overview of Philo’s thought on this topic, though as in his book Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility, Carson mistakenly thinks Philo’s stress on free will comes out of his Hellenistic environment (rather than Scripture) and thus accuses him of espousing a “merit theology.” By the way, Carson and I have diametrically opposing theses (referring here to Divine Sovereignty). He thinks the deterministic strand in Intertestamental Literature (and in Philo) derives from Scripture while the motif of free will derives from Hellenism. I argue the opposite. I’m right, of course. Should be fun.
Clark, J.T./ “The Neoplatonism of Marius Victorinus The Christian,” J. J. Blumenthal, R. A. Markus, eds. Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought: Essays in Honour of A. H. Armstrong (London: Variorum, 1981), 153-57. Demonstrates how thoroughly Neoplatonic Victorinus was, which is important for my study because Victorinus was a major influence on Augustine.
Cox, R. By the Same Word: Creation and Salvation in Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity, BZNW (Berlin/ New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007). Among other things, Cox shows the different ways that the Middle Platonic concept of mediating divinity (divine realities between the Supreme God and the world) influenced Philo and other Jewish writers and possibly (and most controversially) the apostle Paul.
Davies, G. I. “The exegesis of the divine name in Exodus,” R. P. Gordon, ed. The God of Israel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 139-53. Most discussions of the famous “I Am” of Exodus 3:14 focus on etymological issues, but Davies instead argues we should observe how other biblical commentators interpret the passage. With Philo, the “I Am” of Ex. 3:14 became a bridge between the Old Testament and Hellenistic philosophy, justifying the acceptance of the Platonic view of God as “above” [I’d rather say “barred from“] all time, change and emotion while radically reinterpreting the dynamic, “anthropomorphic” God of the biblical narrative.
Dörrie, H. “Zehn Jahre Forschung zum Thema Platonismus und Kirchenvästerhe “ in H. Heinrich Dörrie, Platonica minora (München 1976) 508-23. Dörrie argues that Platonic philosophy is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. While early fathers used platonic terms and material, however, Dörrie argues they never absorbed the “substance” of Platonism. I think Dörrie’s largely right in thinking the basic worldview of Platonism is incompatible with the basic worldview of Christianity, but (I’ll try to show) largely mistaken in thinking certain early fathers remained untouched by the “substance” of Platonism. The problem, I suspect, is that Dörrie seems to think of Platonism and Christianity as two distinct, well-defined, self-contained religious schools of thought. To the contrary, I argue, “Platonism” and “Christianity” represent two loosely knit movements that were quite porous and that bled into each other.
Dillon, J. “Origen and Plotinus: The Platonic Influence on Early Christianity,” in The Relationship Between Neoplatonism and Christianity, T. Finan, V. Twomey (eds.) (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1992) 8-21. Dillon is, in my opinion, the world’s foremost expert on ancient Platonism, and it shows in this excellent article. He argues that Origen was a highly original theologian-philosopher who derived inspiration from the platonic tradition but made it subservient to [his understanding of] biblical teaching. He’s right. At the same time, however, Origen’s understanding of biblical teaching was itself very influenced by his Platonism. I thus conclude Origen was a more thorough Platonist than Dillion seems willing to grant.
Dillon, J., “Plutarch on God: Theodicy and Cosmogony in the Thought of Plutarch,” Traditions of Theology: Studies in Hellenistic Theology, Its Background and Aftermath, Dorothea Frede, Andrè Laks (eds) (Leiden/ Boston/ Köln: Brill, 2002). 223-37. A splendid overview and assessment of Plutarch’s thoughts on God and evil, though I think Dillon down-plays Plutarch’s dualism (which is too bad because, as I blogged several weeks ago, I think Plutarch is most insightful when he’s most dualistic.)
Feldman, L. “Prophets and Prophecy in Josephus,” JTS 41 (1990) 386-422. Demonstrates how Josephus strongly stressed the predictive role of biblical prophets and strongly Hellenized his accounts of them in order to make them more appealing to pagan readers. I shall argue that in the first few centuries after Christ we witness among Jews and Christians alike a Hellenistic view of prophecy that centered on divining a settled future replacing a biblical view of prophecy that centered on warning people about a possible future in order to avoid it. To this day, I argue, most people have a view of prophecy that is more Hellenistic than it is Hebraic.
Frede, D. “Theodicy and Providential Care in Stoicism,”, ed. Dorothea Frede and André Laks, Traditions of Theology: Studies in Hellenistic Theology, Its Background and Aftermath (Lein/ Boston/ Köln: Brill, 2002), 85-117. Nice overview of Stoic theodicy worked out in relation to Platonic theodicy by one of the foremost authorities on Stoicism. Among other things, Frede stresses how crucial divination and oracles were for Greek public life and how these factored into most ancient understandings of providence, including especially the Stoics. Divination, I argue, was a major influence in the production of the exhaustively settled view of the future almost universally embraced by the western philosophical and theological tradition.
Fretheim , T. “’I was only a little angry’: Divine Violence in the Prophets,” Interpretation 58 (2004), 365-75. Read this article!!! Insightful reflection on Zechariah 1:15 where “God is quite irate” (Monty Python anyone?) with the Babylonians, whom he used to punish the Israelites. Why would God be mad at people for doing what he apparently told them to do? Because they went beyond what he intended. Fretheim masterfully shows how this and similar passages reveal that God’s relationship with humans is flexible and open ended. (Note: Anything written by Fretheim is worth reading, in my judgment. Google his name and buy it).
Goldingay, J. “Does the God of the Bible Have Surprises?”(unpublished mss., 2008). This as yet unpublished article masterfully shows how much of the God of the Old Testament we have to virtually jettison once we embrace the classical view of God. If we just allow the texts to say what they clearly say, its clear the God of the Old Testament (among other things) changes his mind, regrets how things turn out sometimes, inquires in order to know things, is sometimes surprised by how things turn out, travels from place to place, etc. The article raises many theological questions that Goldingay, as an exegete, isn’t overly worried about answering. However one works out the details, this article demonstrates that the Hebrew conception of God was personal, dynamic, interactive and temporal, in sharp contrast to the dominant Hellenistic conception of God which tended to be impersonal, static, timeless, immutable and impassible.
Greer, R. “Sinned We All in Adam’s Fall?” in L. M. White, O. L. Yarbrough (eds.) The Social World of the First Christians: Essays in Honor of Wayne A. Meeks (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1995) 282-94. This essay from my former professor at Yale shows how Augustine reshaped Latin Christianity (for the worse, both Greer and I would say) by his doctrine of original sin, centered in large part on a misreading (and mistranslation) of Rom. 5:12. Augustine’s novel idea that humans are all borne guilty and deserving of hell led to his terrible conclusion that God is justified saving only some (his elect) when he could have just as easily saved all. And this, we are told, is the greatest love imaginable! (If so, we can only conclude that God be less loving if he saved all. Good luck with that one.)
Hall, C. “Nature Wild & Tame in St. John Chrysostom’s On The Providence of God,” in E. Tanner & C. Hall (eds.), Ancient & Postmodern Christianity: Paleo-Orthodoxy in the 21dst Century (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002) , 23-37. A sympathetic — almost devotional — overview of Chrysostom’s understanding of divine providence and theodicy. What amazes me is how thoroughly Stoic Chrysostom is in his reflections. All sufferings, including the destructive aspects of nature, are part of God’s grand plan.
Hankinson, R. J. Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Not for the faint of heart, but a very helpful book exhibiting a remarkable range of scholarship. Hankinson covers the concept of “cause” and how it factors into philosophical and scientific explanations among the major thinkers from Homer to Plotinus. Not likely to crack the New York Times best seller list, but important for my idiosyncratic purposes.
Hurtado, L. “Does Philo Help Explain Early Christianity?” in R. Eins, K. W. Niebuhr (eds)., Philo und das Neue Testament, Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen (Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 73-92. Solid exploration of various arguments put forth by scholars that Philo influenced sections of the New Testament and that his personification of God’s Word (Logos) might help explain the high Christology of the early church. Hurtado argues, convincingly in my estimation, that the alleged parallels between Philo and various New Testament passages can be explained by the shared intellectual and religious environment of Philo and New Testament authors. He also argues — correctly — that nothing in Philo adequately explains how early Jewish Christians came to worship a fellow human as God. (He develops this thesis fully in several books, one of which I read some time ago entitled One God, One Lord).
Kuyama, M. “Evil and Diversity in Origen’s De Principiis,” in L. Perrone, ed. Origeniana Octava: Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition, 2 Vols (Leuen: Peeters, 2003), Vol. I., 489-501. Not the best written article in the world, but it provides a solid case for viewing Origen’s very platonic (but idiosyncratic in the Christian tradition) idea that souls pre-existed and fell before they were embodied on earth as central to his over-all philosophy.
Lawson, J. The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia of the First Millennium: Toward an Understanding of Simtu (Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag, 1994). Lawson fleshes out the concept of fate in ancient Mesopotamia and relates it to the concept of fate found in other cultures. As in Greek culture, divination and astrology – predicated on divine foreknowledge — played a big role in Mesopotamian religion. The thesis interests me because of how this fatalism contrasts so strongly (in my view) with biblical religion which depicts humans as bona fide decision-makers who, together with God and gods/angels, help create the future rather than merely discover it.
Ledegang, F. “Anthropomorphites and Origenists in Egypt at the End of the Fourth Century,” in Originiana Septima, eds. W. A. Bienert and U. Kühneweg (Leuvin: Peeters, 1999), pp. 375-79. Reviews how and why many simple monks in the early church got upset at the hyper-anti-anthropomorphic (and, I’d add, largely platonic) theology of Origen. For me, this is one indication that common folk in the early church didn’t necessarily buy into the appropriation of the Hellenistic philosophical, anti-anthropomorphic conception of God as “above” (better, “barred from”) all emotions and all change.
Lössl, J. Intellectus Gratiae: Die Erkenntnistheoretische Und Hermeneutishche Dimension Der Gnadenlehre Augustins Von Hippo: Supplement to Vigiliae Chrisatianae, eds. J. Den Boeft, et. al. XXXVIII (Leiden/New York/ Köln, 1997). While most Augustinian scholars detect a rather radical change in Augustine’s thinking in the 390’s and (some further argue) around 417 A.D – both changes being in a more deterministic and pessimistic direction — Lössl argues that whatever changes Augustine underwent have been exaggerated. There’s more continuity between the early and latter Augustine than many scholars seem willing to grant. Without endorsing Lössl’s thesis en toto, I too see the seeds of Augustine’s later full-fledged determinism in his early work (e.g. On Free Will, Book I).
Mansfeld, J. “Alcinous on Fate and Providence,” Cleary, J. J. (ed.) Traditions of Platonism: Essays in Honour of John Dillon (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1999), 139-50. A solid overview of Alcinous on these topics, discussing possible sources that influenced him as well as people he may have influenced. Alcinous is important because his Didascalicus ( Handbook of Platonism) is one of the clearest windows we have into the standard doctrines of Middle Platonism.
Matt, H. “Man’s Choice and God’s Design: Reflections on Freedom, Judgment and Providence,” Judaism 21 (1972), 211-211. Interesting little reflection by a Jewish scholar who argues that the best model for understanding God’s relationship to the world in the Old Testament is that of a chess master. (Yes!) God doesn’t dictate (or, it seems in this essay, even foreknow) how we’ll choose, but he always responds to our choices in ways that best fit into his providential scheme.
McCue, J. F. “Augustine and the Strange Career of Romans 9:10-29,” in R. A. Argall, B. A. Bow, R. A. Werline (eds.) , For a Later Generation: The Transformation of Tradition in Israel, Early Judaism and Early Christianity (Harisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 2000), 169-82. Augustine was the first major figure in the Christian tradition to read Romans 9:10-29 in a thoroughly deterministic fashion. McCue shows that Augustine decided on this interpretation in the early 390’s but (with one exception) taught and wrote as though he knew nothing about it for 15 years. Indeed, in several writings during this interval he continues to espouse positions he had earlier specifically argued against. The reason for this silence – and what could be viewed as duplicity – is that Augustine knew what a scandal his new deterministic view would cause. He was right.
Meijering, E. P. “God Cosmos History: Christian and Neo-Platonic Views on Divine Revelation,” in E. P. Meijering, God Being History: Studies in Patristic Philosophy (Amsterdam/ New York: North-Holland/American Elsevier. 1975) 52-80. Meijering compares Irenaeus and Plotinus and – to my way of thinking at least – shows how Plotinus was a consistent Platonist with a consistent system of thought while Irenaeus was not, owing to conflicting allegiances to the biblical tradition, on the one hand, and certain Platonic assumptions about God (viz. that he is utterly unchangeable), on the other. Still, Irenaeus is one of my favorite early theologians, just behind Origen (who was a much more consistent platonist).
Meijering, E. P., Orthodoxy and Platonism in Athanasius: Synthesis or Antithesis? (Leiden: E. J. Brill, rpt. 1974 ). Meijering is a first rate scholar who presents a very balanced assessment of the manner in which Athanasius synthesizes his orthodoxy with Platonism. It’s a rough fit at points, especially when it comes to making sense of an utterly changeless God (from Platonism) in the context of a biblically grounded Christian framework in which God interacts and responds to people and eventually becomes incarnate. But Meijering applauds Athanasius’ efforts since, he believes, Christianity needed the philosophical framework that Platonism provided. I suspect it could have gotten along quite well without it.
Meijering, E. P. “Zehn Jahre Forshung zum Thema Platonismus und Kirchenväter,” Theologische Rundschau 36 (1971) 303-320. Simply a review of a) works written about the influence of Platonism on the early church fathers; b) works that discuss particular Christian doctrines and how they’re affected (or not) by platonic philosophy, and c) works that basically assess whether the influence of Platonism is a good thing or a bad thing for Christian theology. Unless you’re really good at German (I’m not), its probably not worth the effort to read this, especially since the report is now 38 years old.
Meijering, E. P. “What Could be the Relevance?” E. P. Meijering, God Being History: Studies in Patristic Philosophy (Amsterdam/ New York: North-Holland/American Elsevier. 1975), 147-69. Explores the relevance of historical explorations on ancient philosophy and theology for contemporary systematic theology. What I like about Meijering is that he understands that to assess the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on the early church fathers we need to not just look at how early fathers quote philosophers or what they say about them (a mistake many make): we must rather pay attention to the intellectual “air they breath” — the Zeitgeist they’re apart of — the assumptions they unconsciously absorb. What I don’t care for in this article (among other things) is the way Meijering waters down what the early fathers meant by claiming God was “unchangeable” or “timeless.” He basically says they were trying to communicate in philosophical terms that God is “faithful,” This is what the Bible certainly says and what the early fathers should have said — but it’s certainly NOT what ancient Platonists were saying or all that the early church fathers who appropriated their concepts were trying to say. (You hardly need a timeless, immutible, impassible conception of God to hold that he is faithful!)
Mortley, R. “What is Negative Theology?: The Western Origins,” Prudentia: Supp. 1981, Via Negativa Conference (University of Sydney, 1981), 5-12. Negative theology basically holds that we can’t really say what God is: we can only say what God is not. The way to discover God, then, is by negating features of the contingent world. (e.g. God is not corporeal, not divisible, not subject to passions, not containable, not changeable, etc.) Mortley here summarizes his massive (and difficult) two volume Word to Silence which traces the use of negative theology among the early church fathers back to fundamental assumptions made by pre-socratic philosophers and developed and refined over centuries. This will form an important aspect of Volume 1 of my Myth of the Blueprint.
Nickelsburg, G. “Philo among Greeks, Jews and Christians,” Philo und das Neue Testament, Wechselseitige Wahrnehmungen R. Deines, K.-W. Niebuhr (Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 53-72. Nicely situates Philo as a Jew in Alexandra and as part of a longer tradition of more or less Hellenized Jewish thinking. He explores possible ways Philo may be reflected in the New Testament and stresses the important role he played in the thought of some early Christian thinkers (especially Clement and Origen).
Is anyone still reading this? If so, you definitely qualify as an EGG-HEAD.
Osborn, E. The Beginning of Christian Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981). Despite Osborne’s irritating tendency to randomly jump around and sometimes ramble, this is a decent introduction to the way Christian thinkers developed their theologies in the first couple centuries of the church. However, Osborn at points doesn’t adequately grasp, or at least emphasize, the way Hellenistic philosophy influenced certain Christians at a presuppositional level. I’m talking about the “breathing-in the Zeitgeist” issue once again.
Phillips, J. “Platonists on the origin of evil,” H. Tarrant, D. Baltzly (eds.) Reading Plato in Antiquity (London: Duckworth, 2006), 61-72. Good discussion of Plotinus, Proclus, Iamblichus on the origin of evil. I especially appreciate how Phillips demonstrates that Plotinus was much more of a dualist than he himself seems to have realized – or at least to have acknowledged.
Plurarch, (4 works of Moralia): Isis and Osiris; The E at Delphi; The Oracles at Delphi No Longer Given In Verse; The Obsolescence of Oracles. Each of these works is extremely relevant to understanding the intellectual and religious milieu in which early Christian theology evolved. I blogged on these a month ago, so I’ll move on.
Rist, J. “The Importance of Stoic Logic in the Contra Celsum, eds. H. J. Blumenthal and R. A. Markus, Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought: Essays in Honor of A. H. Armstrong (London: Varcorum, 1981), 64-78. Demonstrates that Origen was well versed in Stoic logic and relied on it heavily in his debate with Celsus. Important for my purposes, but probably not a good discussion starter for a potential date.
Rist, J. “Monism: Plotinus and Some Predecessors,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 69 (1965) 329-44. A probing essay on Plotinus’ monism and how he attempted to explain evil in his system. Rist traces the problem of reconciling a monistic vision of reality with evil from the presocratics up to Plotinus. In my estimation, they never came close to being successful.
Rogers, K., Anselm on Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). While Anselm isn’t important to my forthcoming work, this book has a couple of sweet chapters on the historic debates over timeless, omniscience and free will that led up to Anselm’s own views on this subject.
Rogerson, J. “Can a Doctrine of Providence Be Based on the Old Testament,” in Ascribe to the Lord: Biblical & other studies in memory of Peter C. Craigie, L. Eslinger, G. Taylor, eds. JSOT, 67 (Sheffield: S.A.P. 1988), 529-43. Argues that the bulk of the Old Testament (Daniel being the exception) does not have a conception of God controlling everything. The dominant picture of God’s relationship to the world in the Old Testament is that of an Ancient Near East King reigning over a kingdom, and no Ancient Near East King would have ever dreamed of trying to meticulously control everything, though he did “rule” over everything. (And if a King did try to meticulously control everything, would we think him great — or insecure?)
Runia, D. “Platonism, Philonism, and the Beginnings of Christian Thought,” in D. Runia, Philo and the Church Fathers: A Collection of Papers: Supp. to V. C. XXXII, (Leiden/ New York/ Köln: Brill, 1995) 1-24. Cautiously wades through the many issues scholars debate regarding influences on Philo and Philo’s influence on others. Makes a strong case that the primary way Philo influenced early fathers was by showing how Scripture could be adapted to Greek thought, especially through the use of allegory. (Truth is, the Stoics were the first to do something like this with Homer’s poems. They were then followed by the Platonists, who then passed this strategy onto Philo. But Philo was among the first [not the first] to use this strategy with Scripture.)
Runia, D. “Origen and Hellenism,” in L. Perrone, ed. Origeniana Octava: Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition, 2 Vols (Leuven: Peeters, 2003), Vol. 1, 43-47. Highlights the “striking” correspondences between Origen and Philo. Not as boring as it sounds.
Sandmel, S. “Some Comments on Providence in Philo,” in The Divine Helmsman: Studies on God’s Control of Human Events, Presented to Lou H. Silberman (New YorkL KTAV, 1980), 79-85. Basic overview of Philo’s view of Providence, concluding – quite rightly – that Philo is surprisingly superficial and at times inconsistent on this topic. I shall argue that some early church fathers inherited many of these same superficialities and inconsistencies (though some of the earliest fathers (such as Athenagorus) were very insightful on providence and theodicy because they integrated their thinking on providence with a warfare worldview).
Schlimm, M. “Different perspectives on Divine Pathos: An Examination of Hermeneutics in Biblical Theology, CBQ 69 (2007), 673-94. A very helpful comparison and critique of Abraham Heschel, Terrence Fretheim and Walter Brueggeman on the pathos (passion) of God in the Old Testament. They are all very critical of the classic doctrine of God’s “impassibility,” but all handle the biblical texts describing God’s emotions – especially God’s wrath – in different ways. In my mind, Fretheim is the winner, steering a middle course between Heschel (who accepts too much of the traditional view) and Brueggeman (who accepts too little).
Schroeder, F. M. “Ammonius Saccas,” ANRW II. 36.1 (1987), 494-525. An excellent overview of issues surrounding the identity and philosophy of Ammonius Saccus and especially on the debate surrounding whether or not the Christian Origen was a student of his. The issue is more important than you might have supposed.
Schroeder, F. M. “Aseity and Connectedness in the Plotinian Philosophy of Providence,” in J. D. Turner and R. Majercik, eds. Gnosticism and Later Platonism: Themes, Figures and Texts (Atlanta: SBL, 2000), 303-17. In case you’ve worried about how the self-containedness of “the One” can be intelligibly related to the multiplicity of the world in Plotinus’ thought, this article will tell you how…sort of.
Siniossoglou, N. Plato and Theodoret: The Christian Appropriation of Platonic Philosophy and the Hellenic Intellectual Resistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Started this one yesterday and finished it this morning….a real page turner (at least for me). Packed full of important insights! Basically, Siniossoglou demonstrates that Christians (focusing on Theodoret) in late antiquity (4th and 5th centuries A.D.) intentionally and unintentionally distorted, altered and edited Hellenistic philosophical texts (esp. Plato) to suit their own apologetic purposes. This contrasts sharply with the pagan Neoplatonists (esp. Proclus, Simplicius and Olympiodorus) who Siniossoglou argues were sincerely trying to construct a coherent view of Plato in order to preserve what they regarded as sacred and saving teaching for later generations. (As Christianity rose in power they saw that the Hellenistic philosophical worldview was going to have to go underground). The fundamental divide between Neoplatonists and Christians, then, was a difference between a “philosophical hermenuetic,” on the one hand, and a “rhetorical hermenuetic,” on the other. A number of things interest me about this thesis, only a few of which have to do with The Myth of the Blueprint. For example, I’d be interested in exploring more fully the way in which Christian engagement with Hellenistic Philosophy changed after Constantine. I strongly suspect Christian theologians became much more political, Machiavellian, triumphalist and down right nasty in their treatment of pagan philosophers once they got the upper hand of political power.
Daryl McGowan Tress, “Relations and Intermediates in Plato’s Timaeus,” J. M. Van Ophuijsen, ed. Plato and Platonism: Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Vol. 33 (Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1999) 135-62. It has long been noted that Plato’s doctrine of “Intermediates” (viz. realities between pure being and becoming) is problematic. Tress puts forth the bold but not entirely convincing proposal that Plato didn’t intend these Intermediates to explain how being relates to becoming but to rather illuminate aspects of the being and becoming as a primary duality.
Westra, L. S. “Freedom and Providence in Plotinus,” in M. F. Wagner (ed.) Neoplatonism and Nature: Studies in Plotinus’ Enneads (Albany: SUNY, 2002), 125-48. A terribly written and randomly arranged article that tries to argue, somewhat incoherently, that “universal necessity” and “freedom” don’t conflict in Plotinus. I just thought I’d end this ill-advised blog-adventuring into hyper-academia with a bang. Woo Whoo!
And to all who made it this far… you get the Egg-Head of the day award. Congrats!
Vos es verum sapiens!