Friday, March 23, 2007

les Nouveau Obscur

Mike Aquilina has rooted this summation of Alexandria’s Christian heritage from April’s Smithsonian:

“The go-go era of the Ptolemies ended with the death, in 30 B.C., of the last Ptolemy ruler, Cleopatra … Rome turned Egypt into a colony after her death, and Alexandria became its funnel for grain. Violence between pagans and Christians, and among the many Christian sects scarred the city in the early Christian period.” New paragraph: “When Arab conquerors arrived in the seventh century A.D., they built a new capital at Cairo.”
Christianity, you see, brought violence and a seven-century Dark Ages upon the land. There’s nothing really to report from that period — except, of course, the murder of Hypatia. Get this: “Early Christians threatened Alexandria’s scholarly culture; they viewed pagan philosophers and learning with suspicion if not enmity.” Is he talking about Pantaenus? Clement? Origen? Can he be serious? Alexandria’s scholarly culture was transformed, not destroyed, by the Christian schools of Alexandria. And those guys knew and cited the pagans as well as any pagan. Here’s the author’s conclusion: “Most historians assumed that Alexandria’s learned glow dimmed as the new religion gained power.”
Most historians? Really? You can only say such things if you hold these truths to be self-evident: that Christianity is a bad thing for the intellect and for art, and that faith is opposed to reason. “Most historians” know better, because they read history. One need not be Christian to appreciate the high culture of Christian Alexandria. There are historians who are not Christians, who believe that Christianity revived an exhausted classical culture by transforming it, by giving it a new voice.


If you want to study the Dark Ages we only need to look around. There's no other way to describe a climate of academia where irrational and baseless pronouncements from Dan Brown and James Cameron are given the treatment of scholarly work, while CENTURIES OF EXTANT PRIMARY SOURCES are dismissed out of hand because their authors believed in Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

mike a. said...

I'll be your amen corner. I'm sure John Coltrane, too, is on our side.