Late Antiquity and The Early Middle Ages

The Fall of Rome

The Rise of Christianity

  1. Persecution of Christians under Nero and Trajan
  2. Edict of Milan (313 AD) under Constantine ensures toleration.
  3. Council of Nicaea (325 AD) under Constantine separates doctrine and heresy.
  4. Edict of Thessalonica (380 AD) under eastern and western emperors makes (Nicene) Christianity the state religion of Roman Empire.

The Rise of Islam

Muhammad, 622-632; Rashidun Caliphs 632-661; Umayyahd Caliphs, 661-750.

750-1258: Abbasid Calphiate.

Philosophical Challenges for Medieval Philosophy

Faith and Reason

What is the relationship between philosophical investigation of the divine and the "revealed truth" given in doctrine?


Whence spring those "fables and endless genealogies," and "unprofitable questions," and "words which spread like a cancer? " From all these, when the apostle would restrain us, he expressly names philosophy as that which he would have us be on our guard against.... Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief.

Clement of Alexandria

Hellenistic philosophy ... rendering powerless the assault of sophistry against [the truth] is said to be the proper "fence and wall of the vineyard". And the truth which is according to faith is as necessary for life as bread... The thief possess really, what he has possessed himself of dishonestly... The ideas, then, which they have stolen, and which are partially true, they know by conjecture and necessary logical deduction: on becoming disciples, therefore, they will know them with intelligent apprehension.

The Nature of God

God is supposed to be perfect. Greek Philosophers, long ago, argued that this implied:

  1. Immutability
  2. Impassibility
  3. Perfect Benevolence
  4. Omnipotence
  5. Omniscience

How can the biblical God have these traits?

The Problem of Evil

And are these traits even coherent?

Christian writers contended that Epicurus had argued they were not:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

Divine Foreknowledge and Free Will

  1. If God believed yesterday that you'd be sitting here today, then this morning if you were to not come to class, God would have had a false belief
  2. God did believe this yesterday (omniscience)
  3. It is impossible for God to have a false belief.
  4. If something implies something impossible, it is impossible

Therefore, it was impossible for you to not come to class this morning.

Conceptions of the Soul and Immortality

Platonic Dualism

Immortality of the soul, separate from the body

[the philosopher's soul] has escaped from the influence of pleasures and pains, which are like nails fastening her to the body. To that prison-house she will not return... she knows that only when calm and free from the dominion of the body can she behold the light of truth.

Christian Doctrine

Immortality of the body, after the general resurrection.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic and apostolic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Next Time

Early Christian Philosophers on Faith, Reason, and the Nature of God.