Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Cyril Hovorun - Workshop title: The Church Fathers vis-à-vis the Neo-Platonists (# 0141)

The Fathers vis-à-vis the Neo-Platonists in the 3rd - 7th centuries.
Cyril HOVORUN (Ukraine), Influence of Neo-Platonism on the formation of theological categories in the 4th-7th centuries
Gabor BUZASI (Hungary), Julian's solar theology and its relation to the Christianity of his age
Victor YUDIN (Belgium), The place of Platonism in Augustine’s Resurrection theory 
Levan GIGINEISHVILI (Georgia), Eros in the Theology of I.Petritsi and Sh.Rustaveli
The Fathers vis-à-vis the Neo-Platonists in the 3rd - 7th centuries.
Proposal for the workshop
at the Oxford Patristic Conference 2011
This workshop is the result of an international co-operation between various academic institutions: UCL, ELTE, the University of Tbilisi, Theological Academy of Kiev, and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kiev. It brings  scholars together from Belgium, Ukraine, Hungary and Georgia.
The workshop is dedicated to the creative rapprochement between the Neo-Platonic philosophy and the Christian theology from the 3th through the 7th centuries. We discuss whether the Neo-Platonists had a significant impact on the church fathers, or whether in some cases the impact was the other way around. We also examine to what extent debates at the time concerning discrepancies in ideas have been constructive on both sides. We shed light on these issues in the four following presentations.
The first paper by C.Hovorun is methodological in character. It deals with the formation of the theological vocabulary of the church fathers as rooted in classical Antiquity, and later in the Neo-Platonic school. The author compares the key terminology in Neo-Platonists and the Christian theologians, considering various aspects of the usage of their terms, such as οσία, φύσις, πόστασις, διότης, νέργεια. He also traces the significance of these notions with respect to the formation of theological ideas.
The following three papers present examples of such a terminology change, each of them in its own unique fashion. First, G.Buzasi explores the importance of Julian’s solar theology in the context of debates concerning theology at a time when the positions of the two parties were uncompromising. Next, V.Yudin focuses upon one of the key elements around which the debates took place. The issue under scrutiny is the resurrection of the body, as criticized by Porphyry and later defended by Augustine. Augustine based his position on Plato, and used Plato’s achievements in order to explore the Christian resurrection theory.  Finally, L.Giginieshvili analyzes the use of the notion of eros by the 12th c. Georgian theologian Ioane Petritsi as well as by the poet Sh.Rustaveli, who both seem to have been under an influence of Proclus. This may point out that the impact of the Neo-Platonic philosophy on Christianity persisted even later, after the closure of the Athenian Academy or the Arab conquest of Alexandria.

Influence of Neo-Platonism on the formation of theological categories in the 4th-7th centuries
Proposal for the workshop on Neo-Platonism and Christianity
at the Oxford Patristic Conference 2011
by Cyril Hovorun (Kiev)

The emergence of a wide variety of interpretations of the Trinity and Incarnation, and discussions and fights over these issues, resulted in the development of a commonly accepted framework of basic categories. Thus, theological controversies encouraged their participants to adopt a system of coordinates with the categories of οσία, φύσις, πόστασις, διότης, νέργεια constituting its axes. These categories were borrowed from the classical dialectics, with significant input from its contemporary Neo-Platonism. However, the use of  philosophical categories in the Christian theology was eclectic. Traditional categories were modified, re-interpreted, and re-labelled.
The paper explores how Neo-Platonism influenced the formation of the basic categories of the Christian theology, and how Neo-Platonic dialectics were reshaped when applied to theology. It cover the period from the 4th to the 7th centuries and engage names from Porphyry to Stephan of Alexandria.

Christ and the Sun in the solar theology of Julian the Apostate
Proposal for the workshop 
on Neo-Platonism and Christianity at the Oxford Patristic Conference by
by Gabor Buzasi (Hungary)

This paper  present the results of a research on the Emperor Julian’s Neoplatonic solar theology. After a reconstruction of the metaphysical and cosmological framework of the Emperor‘s Hymn to the Sun King, I argue that this work, together with other passages of the Emperor’s oeuvre, is not only the most important testimony of Iamblichus‘ cosmological and theological ideas concerning the Sun, but also that it was influenced to a great extent by the Christological debates of the fourth century.
Eros in Theology of I.Petritsi and Sh.Rustaveli
Proposal for the workshop on Neo-Platonism and Christianity
at the Oxford Patristic Conference 2011                                                                                         
 by Levan Gigineishvili (Tbilisi)

This paper discusses the notion of eros in the Neoplatonic philosophy of Ioane Petritsi and his influence on the thought of the epic poet Shota Rustaveli, who holds a similar vision. In both Petritsi and Rustaveli eros represents an anagogic power that leads souls from their self-centeredness towards higher realities and ultimately to God; in both, eros is intimately connected to the notion of conscience (logos/intellect/understanding). Comparisons and influences will be sought in the thought of the church fathers, but most importantly, in the thought of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Since eros in thought of Petritsi and Rustaveli is a universal power that permeates all and, thus, by implication, is not restricted to any single culture or religion, those thinkers ran a risk of falling under a censure of the official church, which would deny any salvific or even anagogic activity happening outside her bosom. I argue that this explains the hostility of the church officials towards both these authors in Medieval Georgia; especially in the case of Rustaveli, this hostility even has a theoretical/theological basis. 
The place of Platonism in Augustine’s Resurrection theory 
Proposal for the workshop on Neo-Platonism and Christianity at the Oxford Patristic Conference by Victor YUDIN (Louvain-la-Neuve, Brussels)
One might assume that the Platonists, or indeed any pagan thinkers, have no place in Christian  theology. However, the case of Augustine’s Resurrection theory proves the opposite. He uses the Timaeus 41ab, which is one of the most complex texts in Plato, in order to advance some of his major claims in a purely Christian context. However, the question remains whether he  adequately understood this passage. 
Augustine’s resurrection theory is a significant theological contribution. He presented it in the course of his sermons of the Easter cycle (sermons 240-242) as well as in the last  (xii) of The City of God.  In the latter source he analyzes various aspects of the scientific knowledge of his time concerning the state of the resurrected body, answering the critique of the resurrection theory  launched by the opposition. One of his achievements is his claim that God is accessible for contemplation for the saints, but this happens only in the state of resurrection, after death.
What is surprising, however, is that this theory had not been formed in a theological dispute against other theologians. It took shape in the debate with the intellectuals of the time: the Neo-Platonists. Augustine feels challenged by Porphyry’s critique of Christianity Christians, specifically their critique of the resurrection theory, making numerous references to the Philosophy from Oracles
This paper focuses on the evaluation of Augustine’s claim that Tim 41ab contains the resurrection theory. First, we will try to evaluate Cicero’s Latin translation of the Timaeus dialogue, as it was used by Augustine in his analysis. I argue that Augustine’s translation was poor, and that therefore it was hardly possible  for him to understand Plato’s original. Secondly, I will consider whether Augustine was familiar with the Neo-Platonist exegesis of the Tim 41ab (by Porphyry, Iamblichus as later related by Proclus), and if so, to what extent, as he tries to convince the Neo-Platonists of the truth of the Christian teaching. Curiously, he rebukes them for having a poor knowledge of Plato. Finally, we will turn to the traditional use of this text by the preceding theologians (Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Hypollytus etc.), with the aim of getting to know how faithful Augustine’s interpretation was to the Patristic tradition.

No comments:

Post a Comment