Christianity in Alexandria (Part Four)

After the Roman conquest of Egypt, several literary activities transferred to the capital, while analysis remained in Alexandria. This enabled the city to change with the evolving trends of theoretical and spiritual thought, for scholars continued to engage in intellectual pursuits beyond convention. The result was an Alexandrian school of philosophy, one in which Eastern and Western ideas were analyzed, blended, and ultimately interpreted through a Hellenistic worldview. What fostered this process the most was the heterogeneous nature of its population, one comprised of inhabitants from Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the midst of this culture was a Jewish colony that continued to increase in number, since it occupied two-fifths of the city and some of its members attained high political office. They converged on an intersection between Jewish theology and Greek speculation and developed a unique system of belief. Out of this amalgam of religious theories arose new notions concerning divine authority and principles of conduct that attracted Greek scholars, many of whom found little stimulation in the intellectualism of their day.

Jews in Alexandria, at that time, challenged established tradition in order to reflect their Hellenistic culture, but few wanted to abandon their ancient heritage. They therefore sought new ways to apply their faith through integration rather than exclusivity that formerly separated them from society. While remaining distinct from pagan practices and customs, Jewish scholars transformed the Hellenistic concept of personal disclosure into a theological approach based on revelation that was bestowed to a unique people. Since their religious thought was not systematic and was often open to interpretation, Hellenistic philosophy added structure to it, sometimes at the expense of the original meaning of scripture. Rather than a deity perceived as beyond human comprehension, using Alexandrian metaphysical theory and employing an allegorical method of interpretation, the Lord was explained without limiting his essence. Also addressed were issues concerning the nature of the human soul, the problem of good and evil, the meaning of immortality, and the eternality of logos.

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