"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church

If you move in academic circles, you know that "political theology," broadly conceived, has been all the rage for some time now, and shows no sign of letting up. Part of that discussion involves competing understandings of how early Christians related to the Roman Empire--was it unhelpful and unhealthy accommodation to "Constantinianism" as Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, and others allege? Was it "symphonia" as Orthodox apologists for Byzantium claim? Was it something else? A new book may shed light on these questions: Susanna Elm, Sons of Hellenism, Fathers of the Church: Emperor Julian, Gregory of Nazianzus, and the Vision of Rome (University of California Press, 2012), 558pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This groundbreaking study brings into dialogue for the first time the writings of Julian, the last non-Christian Roman Emperor, and his most outspoken critic, Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus, a central figure of Christianity. Susanna Elm compares these two men not to draw out the obvious contrast between the Church and the Emperor's neo-Paganism, but rather to find their common intellectual and social grounding. Her insightful analysis, supplemented by her magisterial command of sources, demonstrates the ways in which both men were part of the same dialectical whole. Elm recasts both Julian and Gregory as men entirely of their times, showing how the Roman Empire in fact provided Christianity with the ideological and social matrix without which its longevity and dynamism would have been inconceivable.

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