JulianUgaritica 141015 ss.pdf


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the heart of the Christian Church, whose doctrines, and then dogma, were woven around
a series of formalized philosophical symbols called creeds.3 This intellectual or doctrinal
evolution, which focused on all the diverse philosophical ramifications of the res Christi,
and which culminated ideologically in the Trinitarian pronouncements of the Council of
Nicaea in 325 CE, was largely reactive, in that it arose in response to highly charged
philosophical challenges that poured forth from the profoundly Hellenised intellectual
environment of the Mediterranean basin. The initial creedal responses articulated by the
Christian Church, moved, it was claimed, by the Holy Spirit of God and accompanied by
declarations of heterodoxy and condemnation to dissenting voices, were largely effective
in stemming the tide of the philosophical challenges to the res Christi.
After the lull of a ‘Dark Age’, however, further philosophical challenges to the
Christian système de pensée would flourish as a result of the clustering concatenation of
new ideas and visions that would spring out of the rich intellectual and artistic earth of
Renaissance Italy. In many respects these ‘new-fangled’4 ideas corresponded to an older
Hellenised vision from the pre-Christian world, which had been resurrected in the West
as a consequence of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453; but in all
respects these in-flooding ideas sparked a groundswell of resistance—aesthetic,
theological and spiritual, as well as epistemological or scientific—against the
systematized, theocratic worldview that had been erected and transmitted, generation
upon generation, by the Institution of the Christian Church. This new vision of the world
inspired an aesthetic challenge to the older vision, which became manifest in the art and
architecture of Italy (Renaissance); this new vision would gain added intellectual impetus
as a result of a direct theological challenge to the historical authority and orthodoxy of
the Catholic tradition in Northern Europe (Reformation); and finally this vision would
transform itself into specific empirical disciplines during the seventeenth and eighteenth
century span of scientific revolution and discovery, which would codify as a fundamental
philosophical challenge to the Christian Weltbild in the nineteenth century scientific work
of Charles Darwin (1859, Origin of the Species, and 1870, The Descent of Man). Perhaps
the most eloquent philosophical translator of this scientific worldview in the nineteenth
century would be Friedrich Nietzsche, who bitterly reproved the Christian Church for its
insistence on other-worldly (überirdische) teachings, which were nothing less than an
unconscionable denial of the obvious this-worldly relevance of the human animal.
In addition to philosophical challenges, however, there was a second type of
challenge to the fides Christiana, which seems to have been all but ignored in the
religious-historical literature, but which is hermeneutical in nature. This hermeneutical
challenge to the Christian interpretative transformation of the Jewish Scriptures was
launched perhaps most significantly in the fourth century by Julian (CE 331-363), the socalled apostate emperor of the Roman Empire.5 In a fragmentary treatise entitled, Contra
Galilaeos, Julian takes the LXX in hand, just as might any modern Protestant exegete in
defence of the Faith, but instead of seeking to affirm Christian interpretation of the
3

Cf. Lazarus-Yafeh, 1992, 3.
To borrow Aristotle’s phrasing in regard to the notoriously “modern” ideas of Anaxagoras. Metaphysic
989b6 (Loeb numbering). ΔAnaxago/ran ... kainoprepeste÷rwß le÷gwn.
5 According to Renan (1873, 491), we should not be surprised to discover Roman authorities, such as
Julian, who display an active interest in things Jewish. The tradition seems to have begun already with the
Roman generals Titus and Vespasian in the first century.
4

Contra Galilaios
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