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01:54 pm: Look! A Book Review!

Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages

Richard Rubenstein

 

 

I have for some time been interested in the interplay between classical Greek philosophy, rabbinic Judaism, and early Christian thought. Neo-platonic thought and early Christian doctrine share a lot in common, and Aristotle had a clear influence on the codification of the Talmud. So when I saw the subtitle of this book, I was excited for an overview of that area of history. I guess I should have read the back cover before I purchased this one, because the title is highly misleading. This book has almost no information about the early Christian era; it is a book about the rediscovery of classical thought in the high middle ages and Renaissance. Think Thomas Aquinas and Peter Abelard, not Rabbi Akiva and Augustine of Hippo.

 

Though this book turned out to not be at all what I was looking for, it was interesting. As a theology buff, I enjoyed the arguments regarding the nature of the trinity, the infighting between the competing monastic orders, and the turn towards Aristotelian logic in theological debate. You can look down your nose at monks arguing over the question of how many angels fit on the head of a pin, but the rigor that people like Aquinas and Abelard brought to the discussion of theological questions is the foundation for the logistical thinking which brought us the scientific revolution. And the scientific revolution brought you the iphone, so shut up.

 

Aristotle’s Children may not have been what I was looking for, but as a piece of popular religious history, it’s a good read. Recommended for the curious.

 

 - Sean

 

    



Comments

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From:heavyleg
Date:July 20th, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
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i can't remember if i told you this somewhere before, but when i was 19 i took a class about Christians and Pagans in the Early Roman Empire that dealt with a lot of thing stuff. i wish i could take it again now because it was my first exposure ever to the christian bible (i mean, New Testament) since i grew up a New York Jew. at the time my mind was pretty blown by it all -- i was busy being "Wow, this John guy is kinda poetic," and "Oh THAT'S where that metaphor comes from!" -- and all the fascinating historical bits didn't have much base knowledge to cling on to.
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From:atthesametime
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
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I find myself often using phrases from the new testament that my wife (who was raised Jewish) doesn't understand at all. I said just the other night "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar" and she looked at me like I was a freak.
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From:purejuice
Date:July 20th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
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probably the major thing i learned in college was something the professor was probably afraid to teach.

we were doing ari's poetics, tragedy, a good young hero man must die to satisfy the capricious bloodthirsty gods being an aesthetic ukaze of aristotle's. he mentioned something about the new testament and the jesus narrative and christianity stories -- nothing too specific -- and my eyebrows shot up into my hairline. where they've remained pretty much ever since.

thank you for this, hope you will post some more.
[User Picture]
From:atthesametime
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
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yeah, the interplay between these worlds can't be underestimated. strange how little it is talked about.
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From:villagecharm
Date:July 21st, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)

Team Plato

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Plotinus and Origen were pupils in the same philosophy class at Alexandria. That never ceases to make my jaw drop. Imagine those classroom discussions!
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From:atthesametime
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Team Plato

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It is incredible both that they were in the same class, and that you know that. You're a nerd, dude.
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From:angel80
Date:July 21st, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
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The title mentions Muslims?
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From:atthesametime
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:47 pm (UTC)
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It does, and there is a small part in the beginning about the role the Muslim world played in keeping Aristotle alive during the dark ages, but it isn't a very big part of the book.
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