Monday, September 29, 2014

Hebrew and Greek: Friendly or unfriendly rivals?

My new article, "Is Hebrew Better than Greek?" at Memoria Press:

One of the most common criticisms of classical education in the Christian education world is that it imports into Christian education ideas that conflict with the Biblical world view. According to this criticism, classical education tries to incorporate both Biblical/Hebraic thought and Greek thought, and in doing so unwittingly corrupts the process of Christian education and leads Christian students astray. This argument is based on the idea that there is an irreconcilable dichotomy between Biblical/Hebraic and Greek thought.

Hebrew thought, in many of these criticisms, is represented as manifestly good and Greek thought as irrevocably bad. This criticism has a long pedigree, and there are versions of it going back at least to Tertullian, an early Church father, who asked the question, "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?"

While there are important distinctions to be made between the thinking of the Greeks and the Hebrews, this criticism not only oversimplifies the issue of competing world views, it fundamentally misunderstands many of these differences and draws mistaken conclusions from them. But before we draw any inferences from the differences between Greek and Hebrew thought, we should be very clear on what these differences are. And the first thing to acknowledge is that there are differences. In his book Culture and Anarchy, the great Victorian thinker Matthew Arnold talked of two rival forces, "rivals dividing the empire of the world between them":
And to give these forces names from the two races of men who have supplied the most splendid manifestations of them, we may call them respectively the forces of Hebraism and Hellenism. Hebraism and Hellenism―between these two points of influence moves our world ...
Read the rest here.

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