Ancient Christianity

These episodes examine the attitude of ancient Christians towards philosophy, and how they contributed new philosophical ideas in the context of articulating and defending the new faith. Major figures include Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Boethius. Interviews with George Boys-Stones, Charles Brittain and John Marenbon.

Peter would like to thank Marc Delcogliano for his help with the episodes in this part of the podcast!

The book version of these podcasts is available from Oxford University Press.

Further Reading

• A. Bowman, A. Cameron and P. Garnsey (eds), Cambridge Ancient History vol. 12: The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337(Cambridge: 2005).

• P. Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom (Oxford: 1966).

• V. Burrus (ed.), Late Ancient Christianity (Minneapolis: 2005).

• M. Edwards, Christians, Gnostics and Philosophers in Late Antiquity (Farnham: 2012).

• W. Jaeger, Early Christianity and the Greek Paideia (London: 1969).

• G. Karamanolis, The Philosophy of Early Christianity (Durham: 2013).

• W.A. Löhr, “Christianity as Philosophy,” Vigiliae Christianae 64 (2010), 160-88.

• E. Osborne, The Beginning of Christian Philosophy (Cambridge: 1981).

• P.G. Pavlos et al (eds), Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity (London: 2019).

• C. Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity (Cambridge: 1994).

• S. Xenophontos and A. Marmodoro (eds), The Reception of Greek Ethics in Late Antiquity and Byzantium (Cambridge: 2021).

• F. Young, L. Aures, and A. Louth (eds), Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge: 2004).

• J. Zachhuber, The Rise of Christian Theology and the End of Ancient Metaphysics: Patristic Philosophy from the Cappadocian Fathers to John of Damascus (Oxford: 2020).

Episodes 101 - 119: Ancient Christianity

101 - Father Figures: Introduction to Ancient Christian Philosophy

Posted on 4 November 2012

Peter surveys Christian philosophy in the Roman empire, looking ahead to major figures like Origen and Augustine.

102 - Please Accept Our Apologies: the Greek Church Fathers

Posted on 11 November 2012

Irenaeus, Clement, and Justin Martyr struggle to define Christian orthodoxy and claim philosophy back from the Greeks.

103 - Fall and Rise: Origen

Posted on 18 November 2012

Origen, greatest of the Greek Church Fathers, sets out a stunning theory of human redemption as he marries philosophical rigor to theological speculation.

104 - Let's Talk Turkey: the Cappadocians

Posted on 25 November 2012

Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus use philosophy to help the poor and to defeat their theological opponents.

105 - Naming the Nameless: the Pseudo-Dionysius

Posted on 2 December 2012

Neoplatonism is fused with Christianity by the pseudonymus author known as Dionysius. Peter looks at his Divine Names, a monument to God’s transcendence.

106 - Double or Nothing: Maximus the Confessor

Posted on 9 December 2012

Maximus the Confessor brings us to the brink of the medieval Byzantine period with his philosophical defense of Christ’s full divinity and full humanity.

107 - Practice Makes Perfect: Christian Asceticism

Posted on 16 December 2012

Christian ascetics like Antony, Macrina and Evagrius create a new ethical ideal by pushing the human capacity for self-control to its limits.

108 - George Boys-Stones on the Greek Church Fathers

Posted on 23 December 2012

George Boys-Stones joins Peter to discuss philosophy in the Bible and the Greek Church Fathers.

109 - Spreading the Word: the Latin Church Fathers

Posted on 30 December 2012

The Latin church fathers Tertullian, Lactantius, Jerome, and Ambrose discuss soul, ethics, and the dangers of Hellenic philosophy.

110 - Life and Time: Augustine's Confessions

Posted on 6 January 2013

Augustine’s life story is related in the Confessions, a work that combines autobiography, theology, and metaphysical discussions of the nature of time.

111 - Papa Don't Teach: Augustine on Language

Posted on 13 January 2013

In On the Teacher and On Christian Doctrine, Augustine argues that language cannot produce knowledge and explains how to interpret Scriptural language.

112 - Help Wanted: Augustine on Freedom

Posted on 20 January 2013

Augustine attempts to reconcile human freedom with God’s foreknowledge and his own claim that we need divine grace to avoid sin.

113 - Heaven and Earth: Augustine’s City of God

Posted on 27 January 2013

In his City of God Augustine traces the histories and philosophical underpinnings of two “cities,” one devoted to worldly glory, the other to heavenly bliss.

114 - Sarah Byers on Augustine's Ethics

Posted on 3 February 2013

Peter speaks with Sarah Byers about the Stoic influence on Augustine's ethics and theory of action.

115 - Me, Myself and I: Augustine on Mind and Memory

Posted on 10 February 2013

Augustine explores the nature of the human mind in order to establish its similarity to, and dissimilarity from, the divine Trinity.

116 - Charles Brittain on Augustine's "On the Trinity"

Posted on 17 February 2013

In a final episode on Augustine, Charles Brittain joins Peter to discuss the theory of mind presented in "On the Trinity".

117 - Born Again: Latin Platonism

Posted on 24 February 2013

Apuleius, Victorinus, Martianus Capella, Macrobius and Calcidius present and interpret Platonic teachings for readers of Latin.

118 - Fate, Hope and Clarity: Boethius

Posted on 3 March 2013

Boethius ushers in the medieval age with expert works on Aristotle, subtle treatises on theology, and the Consolation of Philosophy, written while he awaited execution.

119 - John Marenbon on Boethius

Posted on 10 March 2013

John Marenbon joins Peter to discuss Boethius' solution to the problem of divine foreknowledge.