“They Would Never Approach an Assembly of Wise Men”: Sophists, Anti-Sophists, and Early Christianity
“They Would Never Approach an Assembly of Wise Men”: Sophists, Anti-Sophists, and Early Christianity
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The use of the term “sophist” in the works of pagan authors who wrote about early Christianity does not necessarily have an exclusively negative meaning, dating back to the opponents of Socrates and Plato. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries this word was used in relation to an outstanding speaker and sometimes as a self-designation. Individual Christian intellectuals who had received a rhetorical education could claim the title of sophists by borrowing the forms of sophists’ works and some of their ideas, and pagans noticed this similarity. They considered these claims ridiculous and noting some typological similarity portrayed Christian teachers as “anti-sophists” who violated accepted norms. Nevertheless the very fact that this similarity was recognized meant that pagans were ready to consider Christianity a part of the cultural and religious life of antiquity. Also this proved that the believers themselves did not evade ancient models and they strove to speak a language understandable to contemporaries and use images known to them.

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Aleksey Panteleev
Associate Professor of the Saint Petersburg State University

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