Re: Pagan versus Secular Greek

From: Michael Phillips (
Date: Wed Apr 29 1998 - 11:15:49 EDT

At 10:16 AM 4/28/98 -0600, Edgar wrote:
>The problem with non-Christian Greek literature was not that it was pagan
>(in that derogatory sense), but TOO religious! "Secular" won't do because
>that implies, at least to me, non-religious.
>Hence I use either "non-Christian" or "non-biblical" to describe the
>literature--if a descriptive adjective is needed.

        Dear Edgar,
        At the risk of beating a Trojan horse, may I suggest that the best term to
describe any literature is the term applied to that literature by its own
cultural folk. This is to say that the term non-Christian applies only in
a limited sense to much of these Classical writings, precisely because they
were used by the early Christians to make sense of the Christian witness in
the cultural milieu of the early Church. Hence, non-Christian is only
accurate in so far as it depicts what the author's religious opinion was
(preceding Christianity) but does not necessarily or accurately depict what
the apostolic parents thought of the literature in question. For example,
the Hebrew Scriptures would be termed non-Christian in this light, wouldn't
they? Yet, the early Church found the hermeneutic necessary to read it in
a Christian sense (finding Christ everywhere and often, in retrospect). In
the same sense, the apostolic parents found Christ everywhere and often in
their (former) tutors of Greek literature.
        As to whether the text is non-biblical, this is also a question of
reference. Wouldn't a better term be non-canonical, if we insist on
describing such literature by our own lights? For, in truth, some of this
literature is "biblical" in the sense that it aligns (by application of the
apostolic parents' hermeneutic) with the biblical witness.
        Ah, well, I was certain this was degenerating into a non-b-greek
conversation, and I welcomed your posting correcting the use of some terms,
a posting I avoided myself fearing that I was wandering into theological
arenas inappropriate to b-greek. Yet, theology aside (or held carefully to
the breast as a referent, but not as an imposed paradigm), the worth of
such works should not be discounted, for ultimately, even the biblical
witness suggests that sensitive hearts should discover in the mirror of
creation, the image of its creator. Hence, a healthy dosing of respect for
such works should not be viewed as a threat, but as a challenge (to
discover / uncover God's witness in the lives of every particular folk, in
the literature of every particular folk, and in the existence of any folk
in particular.
        Thanks for bearing with my thoughts. I retire quietly now.


May God's blessing be in all your relationships.
[Adapted from Lakota]

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