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Gender

(7,046 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Paul in Gal 3:28 declared that there is no gender difference “in Christ,” a statement that was subject to a variety of interpretations in early Christianity and oftentimes was forgotten. Besides the New Testament and the Genesis accounts of the creation of humanity, Philo of Alexandria, a major figure in Hellenistic Judaism, exerted an enormous influence on early Christian thinkers such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and others, also with respect to anthropology and the exegesis of the Genesis anthropogony.Philo read Scripture, including the account of th…
Date: 2020-09-21

Aeon

(1,611 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
An aeon (αἰών; aevum) in patristic authors is a long period, an age, or this world or the world to come, according to the biblical usage. Only in reference to God does αἰών mean “eternity.” Aeon is divine life or a divine being or emanation only in “gnostic” writings.Origen, Didymus the Blind, the Cappadocians, the Antiochenes, and Pseudo-Dionysius are the patristic thinkers who most reflected on the meaning of αἰών and its cognate adjective, αἰώνιος. Origen provided the Christian definition of αἰών: “The time coextensive with the constituti…
Date: 2020-09-21

Diodore of Tarsus

(3,200 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Diodore (d. c. 393 CE) was a Christian exegete and theologian who served as bishop of Tarsus in Cilicia from 378 CE until his death. He received an excellent education in Athens, then embraced the monastic life. In Antioch, he led the ascetic school (ἀσκητήριον) for many years before his episcopate. Among his disciples, Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom are prominent. He was a supporter of the Nicene orthodoxy and a strong opponent of Emperor Julian’s anti-Christian politics. Due to his…
Date: 2020-09-21

Aphrahat

(2,504 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Aphrahat (c. 270–c. 345 CE), “the Persian sage,” was a Christian ascetic and author who lived in Adiabene (northern Mesopotamia), within the Persian Empire. His very name, Aphrahat, seems to be the Syriacized version of a Persian name, but when he entered the Christian, or the monastic, life, he took on the Jewish-Christian name Jacob. He wrote in Syriac, likely between 337 and 344 CE, 23 Demonstrations, or Expositions, for his fellow ascetics, the “children [i.e. members] of the covenant.” Aphr.  Dem. 1, for instance, is on faith, Dem. 2 on charity, Dem. 3 on fasting, Dem. 4 on prayer, Dem. 8…
Date: 2020-09-21

Galen

(1,863 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Claudius Galen (129–199/216 CE) was an exceptionally prolific Greek polymath, philosopher and physician, an expert in physiology, anatomy, and neurology, and the physician of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus. He also was well-versed in Greek literature (Lacy, 1966; Rosen, 2013), and from the philosophical viewpoint concentrated on the soul and the soul-body relation issue (Hankinson, 1991; Tieleman, 1996; Dillon, forthcoming). He reports Marcus’ laudatory words about him as both a physician and a philosopher in Gal. Praen. 14.658 (ed. Kühn). The title of…
Date: 2020-09-21

De recta in Deum fide

(1,818 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The dialogue De recta in Deum fide or On the Orthodox Faith in God is also known as Dialogue of Adamantius from the name of its protagonist, Adamantius, who bears the Christian byname of Origen of Alexandria. This is a mysterious and severely understudied document, which features Adamantius as a champion of the orthodox faith engaged in a discussion with “heretics” such as Marcionites, “Valentinians,” and Bardaisanites. As demonstrated by I. Ramelli (2012; 2013; forthcoming a), contrary to what has been claimed, wh…
Date: 2020-09-21

Allegory

(6,500 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Allegory: in Greek Ἀλληγορία signifies “saying” (ἀγορεύειν) some things but meaning others (ἄλλα: but).This definition of allegory was given in the early imperial age by Heraclitus the grammarian, or rhetor, in his Homeric Allegories (5), an allegorical interpretation of the Homeric poems. This definition covers mainly the first of the two principal meanings of allegory: 1.  as a compositional method – writing an allegorical text, in which the literal level differs from its symbolic meaning(s) – and 2.  as the allegorical interpretation of a text. The latter is also called allegores…
Date: 2020-09-21

Gnosis/Knowledge

(6,502 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The notion of  gnosis (γνῶσις) is that of knowledge, often regarded as secret or reserved to some “perfect” people, from γιγνώσκω, “I know.” This concept of “gnosis” was central not only to the thought of the “gnostics,” belonging to the various trends of the so-called Gnosticism in imperial and late antiquity (on which see e.g. Marjanen, 2008), but also to that of Christian philosophers-theologians such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, and Evagrius Ponticus, as will be indicated bel…
Date: 2020-09-21

Constantinople, 03: Second Council of (Fifth Ecumenical Council; 553 CE)

(1,587 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 CE was the fifth ecumenical council. The council, indeed, was wanted by Justinian rather than by the bishop of Rome or other bishops. Pope Vigilius had been brought by force from Rome to Constantinople, by the emperor’s order, already in 546 CE. Justinian wanted him to ratify the condemnation of the “Three Chapters” (besides that of Origen, on which see below): Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa, accused of Nestorianism. J…
Date: 2020-09-21

Evil

(6,476 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The notion of evil (Gk κακόν, κακία; Lat. malum; lit. “evilness”), along with its opposite, the idea of good (ἀγαθόν; καλόν), is in the focus of early Christian philosophical and theological reflection, largely based both on Greek philosophy and on Scripture. From the philosophical side, for Socrates, at an ethical-gnoseological level, evil was vice and ignorance, as opposed to the good, which was virtue and science. Plato elaborated a metaphysical doctrine of the good, as opposite to evil, which is mer…
Date: 2020-09-21

Calcidius

(1,694 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Nothing is known about Calcidius’ life (4th cent. CE); no ancient author mentions his name. Since he supports the divine inspiration of Moses and Genesis, alludes to Jesus’ birth, and speaks of the end of human life in apparently Christian terms, it is probable that he was a Christian. However, this did not significantly influence the philosophical outlook of his work, which is broadly Middle Platonist. He cites Origen, which supplies a terminus post quem, hence the general tendency to dating Ca…
Date: 2020-09-21

Apatheia

(3,510 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Ἀπάθεια, sometimes translated “impassivity” or “impassibility,” means the absence of passions or bad emotions, πάθη, as opposed to good emotions or εὐπάθειαι . Thus, it is not the absence of emotions tout court (see Graver, 2007; Ramelli, 2008), as it is sometimes misrepresented . Apatheia was a core ethical ideal in Stoicism and in most of Platonism, including Middle and Neoplatonism. Porphyry of Tyre, for example, stated that the soul is joined to the body when it converts to the passions that originate from the body, but apatheia frees the soul (Porph. Sent. 7). The ideal of apathei…
Date: 2020-09-21

China

(3,166 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The origins of Christianity in China seem to go back to the first centuries CE, but it is very difficult to establish an exact date or even a period, since much depends on the interpretation of the relatively few sources (literary, archaeological, iconographic) at our disposal. A rather Ramelli, I., ed., Bardaisan on Free Will, Fate, and Human Nature, Tübingen, forthcoming. safe indication seems to be offered by Arnobius of Sicca, who around 300 CE states that the Christian message had been prea…
Date: 2020-09-21

Creation (Double)

(5,956 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The notion of “double creation” refers to a creation in two stages, normally axiologically degrading, the first creation being superior to the second. In “Gnosticism,” the creation of the human being is often represented as double: the intellect, soul, or spirit comes from the divine realm, while the body is molded by the Demiurge or the evil archons. Plato in his Timaeus offered a source of inspiration for such double anthropogonies: the intellect (νοῦς), the superior part of the soul, is created by the Demiurge, in other words God the creator, whereas th…
Date: 2020-09-21

Christology, 02: Third Century CE

(2,272 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
From the historical viewpoint, the 3rd century CE was crucial to the development of thoughts about Christ both in his relation to the two other persons of the Trinity and in his composition of humanity and divinity.In the early 3rd century CE, Bardaisan of Edessa, a Christian philosopher and theologian influenced by Middle Platonism and Stoicism and well versed in Greek and Syriac, developed a remarkable logos Christology that revolved around the notion of the cosmic Christ (Ramelli, 2009a; 2013b). He elaborated a Middle Platonic concept of Christ- logos as the seat of the id…
Date: 2020-09-21

Addai

(3,078 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Addai was a Christian apostle who, according to tradition, in the 1st century CE evangelized the city of Edessa and the region of Osrhoene in northern Mesopotamia. His name seems to be the Syriac form of Greek Θαδδαῖος and Latin Thaddaeus. His legend is related to that of the purported conversion of King Abgar Ukkama (“the Black”) of Edessa to Christianity. I. Ramelli (2015) investigates how the superimposition of different religious discourses and agendas over the centuries shaped the complex development of the Addai narrative throug…
Date: 2020-09-21

Cappadocians

(6,540 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The Cappadocian Fathers were prominent 4th-century CE Christian theologians and bishops, profoundly influenced by Origen: Basil of Caesarea (b. 329/c. 330, d. end 378 CE), Gregory of Nazianzus (Nazianzen, b. 329/c. 330, d. 389/390 CE in Arianzus), Gregory of Nyssa (Nyssen), younger than Basil by some years (on Gregory’s life, see Ramelli, 2007; Silvas, 2007) – and the Cappadocian mother Macrina the Younger, the eldest sister of Basil and Nyssen and founder and leader of a double house-monastery,…
Date: 2020-09-21

Bardaisan

(1,958 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Bardaisan (154–222 CE) was a Christian philosopher and theologian. His interests embraced astronomy, archery, ethnography, geography, music, history, literature (including Christian “apocrypha”), poetry, and allegoresis. He was a friend of Abgar the Great (king of Edessa; Abgarids), with whom he had been educated in the Greco-Roman paideia, and a dignitary at his court. According to Eusebius of Caesarea ( Hist. eccl. 4.30), Bardaisan’s work Against Fate was dedicated to a Roman emperor, “Antoninus.” Julius Africanus, the Christian chronographer who correspond…
Date: 2020-09-21

Ammonius Saccas

(3,411 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
Ammonius Saccas (2nd–3rd cent. CE) was a philosopher, commonly regarded as the founder of Neoplatonism. He was the teacher of both the “pagan” philosopher Plotinus and the Christian philosopher and theologian Origen . His life is very scarcely documented, and his precise philosophical ideas are not much better known. His byname Saccas is malignantly etymologized by Theodoret of Cyrrhus of as a reference to the “sacks” that he purportedly carried in Alexandria’s harbor (Thdt. Affect. 6.60–73). Theodoret also sets Ammonius historically under Commodus and presents both O…
Date: 2020-09-21

Abgarids

(3,069 words)

Author(s): Ramelli, Ilaria L.E.
The Abgarids were a Nabatean dynasty who reigned between 134 and 242 CE over the city of Edessa and the northern Mesopotamian region of Osrhoene, first a buffer state between Rome and the Parthians and later a vassal state of Rome (Ramelli, 1999). Recent research (see Ramelli, 2004) has demonstrated that the Abgarid monarchy endured in Edessa still for some decades after Caracalla, contrary to what was assumed earlier on the basis of the Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Maḥre or Chronicle of Zuqnîn. This fixed the end of the Abgarids’ reign to 220/221 CE, because Pseudo-…
Date: 2020-09-21
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