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Ethos and Logos: A Second-Century Debate Between “Pagan” and Christian Philosophers1

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This essay analyses the most significant sources—some overlooked so far—on the debate on ethos and logos that was lively between “pagan” and Christian philosophers in the second century ce. Epictetus’s attribution of a behaviour based on ethos to the Christians should not be regarded as utterly negative, but should rather be connected with his teacher Musonius’s high appreciation of ethos, even over logos. Marcus Aurelius’s and Celsus’s negative attitude toward Christianity as an obstinate, irrational habit can be explained by the possible influence of Montanism, while the Syriac apology to Marcus ascribed to Melito reacts to anti-Christian accusations of irrationality by attaching logos to the Christians and a behaviour based on a bad ethos to “paganism”—the same as was done by Clement of Alexandria, one of the Christian intellectuals most committed to demonstrating the rationality of Christian belief. Literary problems related to the apology are tackled, and parallels are pointed out with both Justin and Bardaisan, two other Christian Platonists who attempted to construe Christianity as philosophy.Galen’s judgment about the Christians shows interesting parallels with, and differences from, that of Epictetus. For both intellectuals an engagement with Christian doctrines of creation is argued for (this is usually admitted in the case of Galen, but not in that of Epictetus). Another second-century anti-Christian accusation of the lack of logos is the charge of onolatry. Lucian’s attitude toward the Christians is showed to be less simplistic than generally believed: he allowed for the ascription of logos and a certain intellectual development to Christianity and its founder. But for Christians to claim that the Logos was on their side, they had to develop a theology of the Logos, which identified Jesus Christ with God’s Logos. This operation, anticipated by Philo and Hellenistic Judaism, started from the Prologue of John and was continued by Justin, most Valentinians, Clement, and especially Origen, and then by the Patristic philosophy which depended on Origen. Thanks to Origen, who was deeply respected by “pagan” philosophers too, Christianity could no longer be charged with being a religion for irrational people.

Affiliations: 1: Catholic University of the Sacred Heart & Graduate School of Theology, SHMS, Angelicum. Largo A. Gemelli 1, Philosophy Dept. Gregorianum III Piano20123 MilanItalyilaria.ramelli@unicatt.iti.l.e.ramelli@durham.ac.uk

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/content/journals/10.1163/15700720-12341205
2015-03-06
2018-04-21

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