Early Apostolic Fathers Synthesis of Philosophies

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“In an effort to present a more palatable ideology to a generally disagreeable Mediterranean populace, the early apostolic fathers of the church attempted to synthesize new testament theology (Christianity), Judaism, and popular Greek philosophy of the time. Prime among the latter was Platonism, emerging from the famous Athenian academy with its eponymous founder. Despite their best efforts however, some primary platonic doctrine is rather contradictory to the core biblical narratives at the heart of both Christianity and Judaism. For example, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave from The Republic, as well as the renowned dialogues Phaedo and the Apology are somewhat significantly antithetical to Genesis, the first book in the bible.

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Consequently, they are only applicable to each other in the interest of examining their premises, namely that the former platonic text promote the acquisition of knowledge while the later denounces it.

The plethora of premises and observations produced from Platonic philosophy promulgate as prime notion: that incessantly striving to obtain knowledge will bring man into communion with his soul, to God, and to goodness, and is therefore the most noble pursuit in life. Plato wrote as much in his Allegory of the Cave, the fictional account of a man freeing himself from a state of perpetual ignorance and into that of enlightenment. He writes, “It is the task of the enlightened…to ascend to learning and to see the good” (Plato 278). Furthermore, the Phaedo, which recounts the final lessons Socrates teaches his students before imbibing a fatal dose of hemlock, encourages the same ideals but in a more metaphysical manner. Socrates distinguishes the human Soul to be of God, (and being that God is the source of all the worlds perfection according to both ideologies) and therefore is good. He writes that all men should desire to release their souls of their constricting and encumbering bodies, saying “Then when the soul does attain truth… when she takes leave of the body and has nothing to do with it… And he attains the purest of knowledge of them who goes to each with the mind alone” (Plat 228). Finally, Socrates enthusiastically meets his Death in adherence to this spiritual concept in Plato’s Apology.

The Judeo-Christian creation story considerably differs from Plato in its opinion of knowledge. After creating the first man, Adam, God forbids him to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. Then, God creates the first woman, Eve. The beginning of Genesis three says the following: “The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame” (Genesis 1.3) After eve is corrupted by the snake to eat from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve gain the knowledge that they are naked, and they feel ashamed. They are then banned from the Garden of Eden by God for their innocent indiscretion. This initial ignorance in the Garden of Eden, followed by the knowledge the two gain from eating forbidden fruit, is similar to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” In this story, the humans in the cave, do not know that they are sheltered and ignorant only seeing shadows of an imitated reality, but upon leaving the cave and seeing “light,” they are burdened with the knowledge that they have lived in a false world. Adam and Eve are sheltered by their paradise, the Garden of Eden, and then are burdened with the shame of knowing they are naked and feeble upon eating the forbidden fruit (like exiting the cave

In conclusion, it would appear that the above text contradict each other as far as they consider the beneficial qualities of knowledge, whether or not it be of metaphysical or physical, corporal or incorporeal knowledge. As stated above, these texts are really only applicable to each other as far as they can be contrasted. It is interesting to see this parallel in human thinking, many centuries apart. It draws into question the themes of ignorance and bliss, truth and burden. It is also necessary to be stated that of course any prominent Catholic theologian throughout history did not reject the pursuit of knowledge (it would be quite hypocritical of these very learned men to do so) and that it is simply logical to conclude that based upon the observation of the text in consideration, that they are simply not compatible with each other.

Works Cited

  1. Plato (Great Books of the Western World, #7) by Plato.” Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Jan. 1970
  2. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Oxford University Press, 2010.”
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Early Apostolic Fathers Synthesis of Philosophies. (2021, Jun 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/early-apostolic-fathers-synthesis-of-philosophies/