Legacies of Greco-Roman Cosmological Wisdom

Paul M. Blowers

in Drama of the Divine Economy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199660414
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745980 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

Legacies of Greco-Roman Cosmological Wisdom

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This chapter works from the assumption that there was not any utterly uniform Greco-Roman or “Hellenic” cosmological system—any more than there was a perfectly uniform “Hebraic” cosmology—over against which early Christianity defined its doctrine of creation. With both Greco-Roman cosmology and Hellenistic-Jewish cosmology, Christianity encountered dynamic traditions still working out normative definitions. The chapter then turns to the major Greco-Roman cosmological paradigms, the “infinite world” and “closed world” models, and within the latter, the “creationist” tradition that had its purest pagan expression in Plato, whose creation myth in the Timaeus ingeniously combined myth and metaphysics. Plato’s creation myth enjoyed an extraordinary afterlife in both pagan interpretation and Christian responses, and was a catalyst for Christian criticism of the idea that matter was coeternal with the Creator. The final section of the chapter considers the doctrine of “first principles” (archai; principia) in major schools of Greco-Roman philosophical cosmology as crucial for understanding Christian engagement with those traditions.

Keywords: infinite world; closed world; nature; creationism; myth; first principles (archai); Plato; timaeus; eternity of matter

Chapter.  9454 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Christianity

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