Friday, July 3, 2015

Emergence of Christian Culture

The Emergence of Christian Culture in the West: The Classical Heritage of the Middle Ages by Henry Taylor, 358 pages

A lawyer by training, Taylor wrote The Emergence of Christian Culture in the West as a labor of love.  Although extending as early as the first century and as late as the twelfth, the focus is on the development of culture between the fourth and seventh centuries, the critical period when paganism waned and Christianity triumphed.  In the process, classical pagan models in art, philosophy, poetry, and prose were taken over and transformed - baptized - by Christian creators to serve Christian ends.

The book is somewhat marred by the author's commitment to a post-Protestant, rationalistic pure gospel.  Not only are the apostolic fathers counted as innovators if they do not conform to this, so are the other New Testament authors, particularly St Paul.  Worse, he is haphazard in his application of this principle, as when he cites the use of the brazen serpent as a prefigurement of Christ in the Epistle of Barnabus as an indication of a trend of increasingly allegorical interpretations of Scripture, only to mention in a later chapter that Christ Himself makes the identical claim in the Gospel according to St John.  There is also a certain amount of chronological snobbery, as when he excuses St Augustine for believing in demons, on the assumption that the saint is mistaken.  These shortcomings are mostly compensated for by Taylor's generally excellent aesthetic sense.

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