ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf


97. Patristic Philosophy In the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. -- The Edict of Milan (313) had given practical expression to the zeal of Constantine the Great for the Christian Religion by establishing the latter throughout the Empire. The Council of Nice (325) had defined its principal dogmas. It could now convoke solemn assemblies to promulgate its teaching. The schools of Antioch, of Alexandria and of Cappadocia were the principal seats of theological learning in the East. The energy of all the ablest men of this time was engaged in the exposition and defence of Christian doctrine. According to their objects we may distinguish three chief controversies: the Trinitarian, the Christological and the Anthropological.

The Trinitarian controversies were the result of Arianism. The most formidable adversaries of Arianism were ST. ATHANASIUS, Bishop of Alexandria (fl. 373), and the "Three Lights of Cappadocia," ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA (331-394), his brother ST. BASIL THE GREAT (fl. 379) and ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN (329-390). In the West, Arianism was combated by ST. HILARY OF POITIERS (fl. 366) and ST. AMBROSE (about 340-397). The writings of St. Ambrose reveal the practical bent of their author's mind: the learned Bishop of Milan considered the man of knowledge as at the service of the man of action. Of all the writings of the Fathers, the Hexaemeron of St. Ambrose was perhaps the most widely read in the Middle Ages. The De Officiis Ministrorum, in which he recasts the De Officiis of Cicero in a Christian sense, has won him a high place amongst writers on morals.

The Christological controversies commenced with NESTORIUS (428) and Nestorianism, which found an able opponent in ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (fl. 444).

The Anthropological controversies appeared with Pelagianism, which encountered an adversary of extraordinary genius in the person of St. Augustine.

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