ALEXANDRIA IN THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CENTURIES
WE MUST REMEMBER WE HAVE ALREADY ENTERED THE WORLD OF POPULAR CHRISTIANITY - THE CHURCH OF ROME - Keith Hunt
Without question, the greatest city of the ancient Mediterranean world was the Egyptian city of Alexandria, founded in 332 b.c. by Alexander the Great and ruled by the Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies from the time of Alexander's death in 323 b.c. to the death of the last Ptolemy, Cleopatra VII, in 30 b.c., when Egypt was absorbed into the Roman empire. For many centuries, it was the principal home of Hellenistic science and scholarship, a city where Pagan, Jewish and Christian intellectual culture flourished, and where ideas from India, Persia, Africa and Europe ceaselessly intermingled. It was also the most violent city of its age.
It would be difficult to overstate how great a division existed between the educated and uneducated classes of Alexandria, or how profound a gulf separated the Pagans, Jews and Christians in one class from their co-religionists in the other. At the lowest level of society, religion was often little more than a tribal allegiance. Riots were frequent and murderous, and no community was safe from another. A perfect example of Alexandrian 'interfaith relations' is the anti-Jewish campaign of 38, when pagan gangs erected idols of the 'divine' emperor Caligula in the city's synagogues, Jewish homes were destroyed, and Jews were stripped of municipal citizenship, forced to retreat into ghettos and murdered or beaten if they ventured out. And, by Alexandrian standards, this was little more than a minor commotion; the street battles that occasionally erupted between pagans and Christians in the fourth century a.d. were so violent that they verged on civil war.
(YES YOU READ IT CORRECTLY..."CHRISTIANS" IN A TYPE OF CIVIL WAR; WE HAVE INDEED BEEN IN POPULAR CHRISTIANITY OF ROME FOR A FEW HUNDRED YEARS ALREADY - Keith Hunt)
A City of Scholars
However, almost from its inception, Alexandria was also an unrivalled seat of learning and high culture. In the royal quarter of the city - the Brucheium - the first two Ptolemaic kings had established the grand 'Museum' (dedicated to the study of all the arts, humane and scientific) and the Great Library, a vast repository of texts from every land and culture known to Hellenistic civilization. The Library disappeared before the Christian period, despite a modern legend to the contrary, but the tradition of scholarship it inaugurated survived into the early seventh century AD. For many centuries, the greatest scholars in every tradition were often to be found in Alexandria; and at the higher levels of Alexandrian society, pagans, Jews and Christians associated freely. They pursued their studies in philosophy, literature, the sciences and rhetoric, frequently at one another's feet, while remaining aloof from the rabble of the lower city who spilled one another's blood with such enthusiasm and such frequency.
It was in Alexandria, also, that the first Christian institution of higher learning in the empire was established, midway through the second century, by the philosopher Pantaenus (d. before 200), a convert to Christianity from Stoicism. After Pantaenus, this 'Catechetical School of Alexandria' was led first by Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.213) and then by the great Origen Adamantius (c.185— c.254), two men of immense erudition, who made free use in their teaching of Greek philosophy and Greek methods of textual interpretation. Origen, in fact, required his students to regard no path of wisdom as forbidden to them, and to apply themselves to the study not only of subjects such as geometry and astronomy, but of all the religious and philosophical texts of pagan culture.
(AND ORIGEN WAS ONE OF THE FIRST WAY OFF THE WALL, OUT IN LEFT FIELD, WITH HIS CRAZY UNDERSTANDINGS OF BIBLE SCRIPTURE - Keith Hunt)
Origen, the Father of the Fathers
Origen's importance in the history of theology can scarcely be exaggerated. He pioneered the practice of allegorical exegesis that would allow ancient and Medieval Christians to read the Old Testament as Christian scripture. At the same time, he was the first to undertake a scientific study of Hebrew scripture: in his Hexapla, he juxtaposed the Hebrew text with several Greek translations, in order to help scholars understand the precise meaning of the original. He was a tireless apologist, expositor of scripture, speculative theologian, philosopher and catechist, and furnished later theology with much of its conceptual grammar and terminology.
The Church, though, never granted Origen the title of 'Saint'. In large part this was because, long after his death, certain of his speculations were declared heretical. For instance, he believed that human souls existed before their lives in the body, and had turned away from God in eternity, and that God had created this world as a sort of moral academy by which to restore them to innocence. He also taught universal salvation, meaning the ultimate rescue not only of all human beings, but of the devil and his angels. He also, it is said, had himself emasculated by a surgeon, which was a thing not unheard of among men of 'philosophical' or 'spiritual' temper in Alexandria in the third century, but which most Christians even in his time regarded as a violation of a body created by God. That said, Origen was also a martyr of the Church. During the Decian persecution of 250, when he was living in Asia Minor, he was severely tortured, despite his advanced years; he never fully recovered, and died only a few years later.
(YEP HE WAS A MIXED-UP TWISTED MIND OF SO-CALLED "SCHOLARSHIP" - WHICH WAS SO FAR AWAY FROM THE CORRECT READING AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE BIBLE, LIKE AS DAY IS FROM NIGHT. AS PAUL SAID ABOUT THE JEWS, "THEY HAVE A ZEAL FOR GOD, BUT WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE" - SO IT WAS WITH ORIGEN - Keith Hunt)
THE MYTH OF THE GREAT LIBRARY'S DESTRUCTION
An oft-repeated tale recounts that a Christian mob destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria in 391 and burnt its books in the street. According to some versions, the repository in question was the original library in the Brucheium, while others state that it was a 'daughter' library located in the Serapeum. This tale has entered so deeply into the popular imagination that it even sometimes appears in otherwise respectable books of history. It is, however, a myth, originated in the late 18th century, when the great historian Edward Gibbon read an unwarranted meaning into a single sentence from the Christian chronicler Paul Orosius.
The subtext of the legend is that the Christians of the fourth century were intensely hostile to the science, literature, and scholarship of classical culture, and that such matters were the special preserve of the pagans of Alexandria. This too is an 18th-century myth. The city's scholarly and scientific class comprised Christians as well as pagans, and Christian scholars, rhetoricians, philosophers and scientists were active in Alexandria right up until the city fell to Arab Muslim invaders in 642.
Regarding the library in the Brucheium - whose size, again, is impossible to determine - many ancient historians believed that it (or a large part of its collection) had already gone up in flames following Julius Caesar's assault on the city in 48 or 47 b.c., during his wars with Pompey. Some historians now also claim that, if any part of the original library remained, it vanished in 272, during the emperor Aurelian's campaigns to reunite the empire. Whether either story is true, the Great Library of the Ptolemies no longer existed by the late fourth century.
As for the 'daughter' library, it may have been situated within the enclosure of the Serapeum; there were, at any rate, library stacks in the temple. However, the Pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c.330-95) indicates that whatever library had once been there was long gone before the Serapeum's demolition in 391. More importantly, none of the original accounts of the temple's destruction mentions a library, not even the account written by the devout pagan Eunapius of Sardis (c.345-c.420), who despised Christians and who, as an erudite man, would have been enraged by the burning of precious texts.
Later Medieval legend claimed that the actual final destruction of the 'Library' or libraries of Alexandria was the work of the Arab conquerors of the seventh century a.d. Of this, however, no account exists that was written before the 12th century.
Whatever the case, the scurrilous story of the Great Library's destruction by Christians is untrue. It may tell us something about modern misconceptions regarding the past, but tells us nothing about Christian or pagan antiquity.
The Razing of the Temple of Serapis
Perhaps the most infamous episode of inter-religious violence in Alexandria occurred in 391, around the time when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire. The emperor Theodosius I (347—95) had recently imposed a ban on all pagan sacrifices, and many temples had already fallen into disuse. The patriarch of Alexandria, Bishop Theophilus, decided to renovate one of them as a church. When, however, workmen discovered hidden caverns beneath the temple and exhumed a number of human skulls, local pagans saw this as a desecration of a holy site and began attacking Christians throughout the city. Christian crowds retaliated and open warfare soon broke out in the streets. As the tide of battle turned against them, a number of pagans took refuge in the fortified enclosure of the Serapeum, the enormous temple compound dedicated to Serapis (a god invented by the early Ptolemies, as a fusion of Greek and Egyptian deities); as the pagans retreated into the compound, they seized a number of Christians as hostages, whom they subsequently tortured and murdered.
(YES LIKE THE KILLINGS BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS OF IRELAND, YOU HAVE CHRISTIANS WAGING WAR ON PAGANS AND VISA-VERSA - Keith Hunt)
When word of this reached Theodosius, he pardoned the pagan rioters; he considered the Christians who had died in the Serapeum martyrs and did not wish the glory of their deaths to be overshadowed by acts of vengeance. At the same time he ordered that the Serapeum itself be demolished. A military detachment, supported by Christian civilians, accomplished the task in a single day. One particularly fearless soldier volunteered to be the first to strike a blow against the massive idol of Serapis (which supposedly had the power to bring an end to the world if touched by impious hands) by taking an axe to its face. Not only did the world remain intact, but — as other blows were struck — it is said that thousands of rats poured out of the idol's rotten interior, prompting several pagan witnesses to change sides and become Christians.
The riots of 391 did not abate all at once; many persons died, while many others - especially among the pagan community - fled the city. After peace was restored, a number of other heathen temples were razed and, at the emperor's command, their idols were melted down and made into vessels to be distributed to the poor. Alexandria remained a great centre of scholarship and science for more than two centuries, though now it was primarily a Christian city. It was rarely, however, a city ruled by charity.
AND CHARITY WAS THE FOUNDATION OF CHRIST'S MINISTRY; AS PAUL SAID, THERE REMAINS NOW, FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY [LOVE], BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE [1 COR. 13:13].
WE SEE BY THIS TIME POPULAR ROMAN CHRISTIANITY WAS QUITE WILLING TO LITERALLY FIGHT AND KILL......AND SO WE SEE IT IN HISTORY FOR MANY CENTURIES TO COME - Keith Hunt