Plato’s, Tertullian’s and Augustine’s Influence on Christianity
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, then he became the dominant person to spread Christianity. However, the higher class of Jewish criticized the idea of Jesus and treated him badly. After the death of Jesus, his apostles continued spreading Christianity. In conception of Christianity, Christianity was influenced by Platonic ideas of afterlife and eternal life, though the early fundamentalist perspective of Tertullian reflected the fear of heresy and life of Christians, while the open-mindedness of Saint Augustine, who embraced Greek contributions, stemmed from Christianity’s widespread dominance after the rule of Constantine.
Before Jesus died, in 427 BC, the Greek philosopher, Plato states that the division of heaven and hell, and the punishment and reward among unjust and just people. When Plato tells Socrates a story about Alcinous, he uses the experiences of this strong man who comes back from the underworld to show the existence of heaven and hell. Plato illustrates that ” there were two openings in the earth next to one another, and, again, two in the heaven, above and opposite the others. Between them sat judges who, when they passed judgment, told them just to continue their journey to the right and upward, through the heaven” (Plato, The Republic 614c). When Alcinous sees the condition of dead people and their stories, he says that “if some men were causes of the death of many, either by betraying cities or amies and they received for each of these things tenfold sufferings; and again, if they had done good deeds and had proved just and holy, in the same measure did they receive reward”(Plato, The Republic 615b). In addition to the idea of Plato, he points out the theory of forms that the physical world is not a real one, instead, the perfect world is behind people. Plato uses the cave of three men to show the theory, he states that people spent a lot of time to see the actual world. If they see it and find it, they will know the truth of right and good. This real-world is eternal and perfect that God knows its existence. Plato’s ideas about heaven and hell determine the afterlife of good people and bad people, and his ideas also reflect the perfect form of God and the perfect form of the world is heaven which contains good and right. Plato’s idea is important because his early thought is the verification of Christianity about the afterlife of Christians and the existence of God.
After Jesus died, in 155 AD, Tertullian is a philosopher and an early Christian writer comes from the Carthage of Tunisia. Tertullian hates the heresy because he believes the heresy is “the greater evil, showing that it was in view of the greater evil that he readily believed in the lesser ones”(Enduring Legacies, 214). Tertullian also against the two philosophers, Zeno and Plato. He calls the philosophers are “worldly wisdom” (Enduring Legacies, 214) that are foolish to God, and philosophers explain the interpretation of God’s nature and purpose to supply heresies. Tertullian believes that religion shouldn’t be affected by philosophies, So Christians should cut and separate from their influences. And the Bible is the central book to believe and read for ignorant Christians. He mentions the meaning of ” ‘seek, and ye shall find.’ “(Enduring Legacies, 215) is to seek Christ with reading the Bible and if people doubt the truth which they find, he says, ” to establish that Christ’ teaching is to be found with us”(Enduring Legacies, 216). Additionally, Eve is misled by the snake to eat a forbidden apple and she leads Adam to eat it, too. Her mistakes make human loss their eternal life. So Tertullian condemns women are ” The devil of the gateway; it was you who first violated the forbidden tree and broke God’s law”(Enduring Legacies, 213). He believes the human bodies are sinful when they are born in this world because of the fault of Eve. Tertullian’s ideas spread the life of Christians to read the Bible and follow the words of God. Christians should avoid to touch heresies or believe other people’s authority. Tertullian’s idea is important because his thought influences how Christians live in the world and how Christians educate themselves.
In 293 AD, the Roman king, Diocletian split the Roman Empire into the west and east to be easier to control the Empire. Then in 303 AD, Diocletian published the law to persecute Christians. He forced Christians left from the military and gave up their beliefs, he also burned their Christians’books. Until 311 AD, Constantinus published the law, “Edict of Milan” to give back the rights of Christians, and accept Christianity as a legal religion. After this year, Constantinus fought with Maxentius to form the battle called “Battle of Milvian Bridge”. This outcome of the battle became the turning point of the fate of Christians and the Roman Empire. Constantinus took control of Rome that Christians could spread and practice their religion, they also could build their Chrisitan Church and publish books.
After Christianity became the major religion, the Roman African, Saint Aurelius Augustine believes that not only studying the Bible, rather, studying the words of the philosophers. Because he says, ” We rank such thinkers above all others and acknowledge them as representing the closest approximation to our Christian position”(Enduring Legacy, 220). Philosophers study the truth about God have the same agreements with Christians. Also, Augustine mentions that people are educated by the Bible with charity and people live in a unity society. He says, “The Bible contained everything a Christian needed to know to recognize what to avoid and what to embrace: ‘scripture teaches nothing but charity, nor condemns anything except cupidity’ “(Enduring Legacy, 217). Augustine mentions that people only have own belief are not enough; instead, they need to find the truth of God. He claims that how we find the truth, “Rather, every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he may find the truth, it is his Lord’s”(Enduring Legacy, 222). Augustine believes that eternal love is God’s and learning the Bible can learn everything about God and the truth. However, he points out a Christian should seek and find the truth of God, not only having own belief. Augustine’s idea is important because his thought influences the community of Christians and how Christians close to God.
Plato’s afterlife and the form of God make the foundation of later Christianity, Tertullian and Augustine affect the basic life and rule of Christians, and Constantinus pushes Christianity into a legal and popular religion. All change Christianity from weaker religion into a stronger Christan community and move Christianity into the society of the world and affect medieval culture with the modern world.
The Involvement of Syncretism in the Formation of Christianity
Topic: Syncretism and how it was involved in the formulation of Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism
Syncretism is the practice of mixing elements from different religions. The Roman Empire made use of syncretism as a means to create unity among the empire and to pacify citizens. Syncretism often combined religions of the people with emperor worship to create a stronger sense of allegiance to the empire and to create harmony by promoting a religion that is in agreement with the beliefs of many. Early on, followers of Christianity tried their best to overcome the pressures of syncretism, but eventually, the religion was greatly influenced by syncretism. However, before one can fully comprehend the ways in which the church was impacted by this force, it is necessary to understand the origins of Christianity.
The earliest Christians were converts from Judaism—actually it is not entirely accurate to label these early members of the Way as converts, because these individuals saw their faith as consistent with their Jewish beliefs and heritage. An important tenet of Judaism is the eschatological hope in a Messiah that would eventually come and bring salvation. After the crucifixion of Jesus, many Jews came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (the Christ). These new Christians did not abandon their faith, but rather, they recognized that the hope their ancestors had looked forward to for centuries had finally been realized.
It was not until Gentiles began to embrace the faith that the first glimpses of supersessionism could be seen. The church especially began to divorce itself from its Jewish origins as apologists started to formulate the language of their faith. Apologists felt the need to defend their faith to the pagans, and individuals such as Justin Martyr found that the best way to explain Christianity to citizens of the Roman empire was to use the more familiar language of Greco-Roman philosophy. Though early Christians took pride in their Jewish background, and their Jewish sense of eschatological hope aided in their understanding of the Christian faith, they found that it was more effective to explain their faith to the pagans using language that was more familiar to the empire, rather than trying to explain Jewish customs.
For example, the Platonists believed that there existed a supreme being, and that this being possessed knowledge of the reason and ration behind nature. They believed that the “Logos”—literally “word” or “reason”—was the active agent that brings this reason of the supreme being to mankind. Early apologists explained that the Platonists were correct about this, but that they were missing a piece of the argument. From the Christian perspective, it is clear that God the Father is the supreme being, and that Christ is the Logos, the agent who actively brings God’s truth to mankind. Christians had always believed that God gave the Jewish people the Law of Moses in preparation for the realization of their eschatological hope, but eventually, apologists came to believe that God also prepared the Gentiles for the coming of the Messiah by giving them philosophy. The apologists realized that Jewish faith and Greco-Roman philosophy were not in contradiction with one another, but rather, they coincided quite nicely when considering the coming of Christ, who was the Messiah for the Jews and the Logos for the Gentiles. Thus, the expression of Christianity in the Roman Empire was at its core a syncretism of Jewish faith and Greco-Roman philosophy. So, as much as Christians would like to believe that their faith is pure, it is undeniable that syncretism played a significant role in the definition of orthodoxy.
This syncretic practice inevitably started the process of supersessionism by separating the rationale of the faith from Judaism. Take Marcion for example. He believed that, in bringing salvation through Christ to the Gentiles, God made the Old Testament and thus the Jewish faith obsolete. Tertullian spoke out against Marcion; for he believed that the Old Testament was still perfectly relevant, but in his Prescription Against the Heretics, he argued that neither pagans nor Jews have the rights to this scripture. He said that the chosen people are now the followers of Christ, and in denying Him, the Jews gave up their chosen nature, thus leaving the church as the sole proprietor of the faith. Such beliefs were more and more common amongst Christian thinkers, and eventually, Christians got to the point where they saw Judaism as heresy.
Obviously, Christians living in the Roman empire had been brought very far from their Jewish roots. The followers of the Way went from living out both their Jewish heritage and the new identity in Christ in harmony to proclaiming Jewish scriptures as evil and even condemning Judaism as heresy.
Reading Tertullian’s on the Apparel of Women in the 21st Century
Truth and opinion is sometimes blurred when engaging historical text. It is difficult to know with absolute certainty that there is a true or right interpretation of a given text. The engagement of theology requires that there is a diversity of opinion when engaging text. This allows for multiple theological interpretations to develop that reveals the diversity of human experience. It is important when engaging different opinions to also engage diverse backgrounds and experiences that inform such opinions. Practicing this creates a sensitivity and openness to divergent interpretations. Ultimately, allowing for the individual to remain open to the possible truth in diverse ideas. It is through this lens where I will analyze Tertullian of Carthage’s On the Apparel of Women and offer suggestions as to how Christian readers in the 21st century may reinterpret, restate, and rethink this text for a new medium and a new time.
It is likely for some Christians, that Turtullian’s On the Apparel of Women possesses a sanctity that modern readers feel they should not seek to question ancient text. Though texts by authors like Tertullian should be recognized for their cultural and religious importance, Christian readers should question if such writings are responsible in the 21st century. Turtullian states “women have not the same causes for appearing in public”. He also argues that women who dress luxuriously are immodest and thus, “not lawful”. This thinking takes away a woman’s individual autonomy and makes her an object. It also perpetuates dangerous precedents for sexist action toward women based off of ancient Christian texts and further fosters unequal power dynamic in Christian communities. Christian’s have a responsibility to break the cyclical and habitual relationships that are justified by historical Christian texts, which creates a hardened heart that is normalized by justifying discrimination through ancient Christian text.
To work toward this, Christians need to recognize the numerous miscellaneous phenomena that each individual person experiences in life, which culminate in the development of a unique identity, belief system, and faith structure. It is crucial for Christians to seek to understand the context behind such backgrounds and experiences, not only in our time, but also from the past. This makes it possible to see the tension that exists between past and present conceptions of what it means to be a Christian. Engaging tension head on allows for Christians to effectively represent those in need and become a voice for those who do not otherwise have one. Tension allows for one to broaden the depth and scope of their understanding of what it means to live through Jesus Christ. Ultimately, leading toward a benevolent self-awareness that pushes back against normalizing discrimination through ancient Christian test like that of Turtullian’s writings.
Self-awareness necessitates taking the individual responsibility too see the human author behind the text. For all of Turtullian’s sexist writings, he is one person articulating his conception of what it means to be a Christian. It is likely that previous Christian works; biblical texts, and biblical traditions inform Turtullian’s conception of what it means to be a Christian, just as our own experiences inform our own understanding of Christianity. Individual responsibility places the expectation on each Christian to be held responsible for their own discriminatory actions and any appeal to authority by means of writers like Turtullian is nothing but an argumentative fallacy. This is not to say that 21st century Christians should forget the bad in Turtullian’s On the Discourse of Women. Responsibility calls for the creation of a healthier relationship between the individual, community, and Christ.
To create a healthier relationship, one must rethink, reinterpret, and restate a given context in order for the past to remain relevant for the present. One option is for the individual Christian to look for the shared religious values in Turtullian’s writings that are still in practice today. For example, Turtullian’s understanding of Christian modesty states “it is not enough to be modest, but to seem so too”. This study links past and present understandings of modesty together and allows for one to trace the successive understandings of modesty up until the present. The ability to see how context informs creed is then brought to the light.
Next, the individual may begin the work of rethinking Turtullian’s understanding of modesty into one that is not discriminatory and counteracts normalizing discrimination through Turtullian’s writings. Turtullian uses his interpretation of modesty to justify the incarceration of a woman’s identity and autonomy. For Turtullian, the outward expression of finer garments or jewelry makes him question the internal fortitude of a woman. In his words, “I know not whether the leg that has rejoiced in the anklet will suffer itself to be squeezed into the shackle”. Turtullian’s understanding of modesty is one that appears to be intrusive into the sovereignty of another’s life. Christian modesty through Tertullian’s lens has the possibility to overwhelm and submit life. Tertullian’s interpretation is still one that exists in Christian society today. However, the 21st century, unlike Tertullian’s time and at least in the United States, is far more progressive and recognizes, at least to some extent, that behavior that harms life is unjust. Current societal context is less accepting of Christian values that seek to harm. Thus, an individual, who seeks to carry out such harm, in present western context, would likely have an internal fortitude that is dubious at best.
Tertullian’s work On The Apparel of Women shows how truth is synonymous with human interpretation. One issue has numerous truths. Responsibility asks Christian communities to pursue a truth that supports the growth of equity. Thus, there is never an end to the work of sympathy and the necessary expansion of the moral imagination.