Patrology – Fr Tadros Malaty | Part 8 – Fathers of the School of Alexandria
School of Alexandria – Origins
According to St Jerome, St Mark established the Christian School of Alexandria and at this time, there were 3 groups – the Greeks, the Jews, and the Egyptians. However, St Mark found it difficult to preach among these 3 groups.
As a result, St Mark established the School of Alexandria and in its initiation, it was not concerned with theology alone, but was rather encyclopedic in nature. Because of this school, many leaders emerged with one of the Deans of the school becoming the second Pope of Alexandria – in fact, many of the Deans later became Bishops and Popes of Egypt.
The School of Alexandria was very influential and revolutionary in transforming the way in which theology and philosophy were interpreted, and these effects were not bound to Egypt alone, but spread and influenced many other countries and schools of thought across the world.
One of the most influential Fathers that emerged is Athenagoras of Athens, who was of a Greek background. Initially, Athenagoras wanted to attack the Bible and devoted immense time reading the Old and New Testament to ultimately write against Christianity. However, in the time he was involved criticising the Christian religion, the Holy Spirit illuminated him to the truth. By the grace of God, Athenagoras converted to Christianity and in fact, became Dean of the School of Alexandria in his later years.
Moreover, Fr Tadros explains that in the time of Athenagoras, the Greeks and the Jews struggled to accept the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a result, in his wisdom, Athenagoras wrote the ‘Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead’. Fr Tadros explains, out of the 25 chapters of this piece, Athenagoras never referred to any verses from the Old or the New Testament of the Bible.
The reason for this was, Athenagoras’ audience were philosophers concerned with logic, and so he applied this and showed proofs for the Resurrection using merely logic rather than Biblical references.
Ultimately, Fr Tadros comments that when we interact with people, to appeal to them, we must use their language. When you talk to children, we speak to them using basic language. When you speak to Jews, you speak using their language… you would refer to the Law of Moses, the Torah, and to the Old Testament etc.
By understanding this idea, we can understand the strength and uniqueness of the Church in that each figure, such as Athenagoras, appeals to their audience by understanding their culture and communicating to them in a way that is tailored and fitting for them.
Keep watch, we will be posting more segments from this Orthodox sermon series!