Title Thumbnail

Christological Hellenism

A Melancholy Proposal

Lewis Ayres

80 pages
Marquette University Press
Ayres examines the relationship between early Christian thought and Hellenic philosophical traditions by considering the extent to which fundamental Christian beliefs were formulated in a Hellenic context, questioning Fr Georges Florovsky's claim of “Hellenism” being “the perennial category and pattern of Christian thought and life.”

The author goes on to illustrate “the idea that Christianity underwent a “Hellenization” in its first few centuries is an idea long espoused, and equally long questioned, most astutely on the grounds that the term is used with great imprecision. We can justify use of the term, but only if we define it with some care. Here we take the term Hellenization to refer to the spread of Greek culture which began long before, but significantly accelerated after the rise of Alexander the Great's empire. This process involved the spread of language, educational and economic practices, structures of societal organization, religion, philosophy and art. We can give no clear terminus to this process, simply because it was a process that occurred in different ways in different places, reached different ends, and then intersected with a process that we might term “Romanization” which occurred through much of the near east as Roman influence came to be felt. The late Roman Empire in East and West, even in the many centuries where only the Eastern Empire survived, shows the complex interrelationship between the processes of Hellenization and Romanization. The tentative manner in which we use the term Hellenization does not mean that it is useless or can be simply ignored; but we should be both attentive to how we are using it in different contexts (temporal and geographical), and particularly attentive to the complex and confused history of the term among theologians.”
Author Bio
Lewis Ayres studied Classics at St Andrews in Scotland then completed a DPhil in theology at Oxford under the supervision of Rowan Williams. A love for Plato, Thucydides and Augustine has informed his work ever since, and encouraged him to persevere in resisting simplistic oppositions between Hellenic and Christian thought.

After teaching for three years in the UK, he moved to Ireland and taught at Trinity College Dublin. In the US, he taught first at Duke and then at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. Ayres was the inaugural Bede Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University in the UK and is now Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology at the same Institution. In the Spring of 2024, Ayres commenced a new role as McDonald Agape Distinguished Professor of Early Christian Theology at the Angelicum in Rome while teaching half the year at Durham.