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The Study of Theology, Western Schools 6th to 8th Century

The Study of Theology, Western Schools 6th to 8th Century

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Published by: glennpease on Jun 15, 2013
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THE STUDY OF THEOLOGY, WESTER SCHOOLS 6TH TO 8TH CETURYBY CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS1. The sixth century witnessed a revival of educationin the West contemporary with its decline in the East.The year 529 was distinguished by several mostimportant events : (1) in the West, the Synod of Orangedecided finally for the Western Church the Semi-Pelagiancontroversy, and how far Augustinianism was to be theofficial doctrine of the Church. (2) In the East, theschool of Athens was finally closed by the order of Justinian. (3) Justinian's code of civil law was publishedat Constantinople, to be followed in 533 by the Digestand the Institutes, summing up the legal learning of theRoman Empire and reducing it to systematic form asthe Roman Gvil Law. (4) The Benedictine monasteryof Monte Cassino was founded in Southern Italy.These are all epoch-making events in Church history,marking the final period of the Ancient Church.2. At the beginning of the sixth century Rome producedBoethius, one of the most important of the scholars of theworld, a man mediating between the ancient classic cultureand Christianity better than any one else.Boethius (480-524) was of illustrious Roman stock,' the head of the noble Anician house, which had beenfamous for six centuries.' ^ He had the highest culture1 Sandys, i. p. 251 .196 HISTORY OF THE STUDY OF THEOLOGY [pt. n.of the age, both in literature, philosophy, and law ;and was as familiar with Greek as with Latin. He under-took the important task of translating Plato andAristotle into Latin, and expounding them to the Latinworld. He held to their substantial agreement, andtherefore emphasised their agreement rather than theirdifference. To quote his cotemporary Cassiodorus :
' Through him Pythagoras the musician, Ptolemy the astro-nomer, icomachus the arithmetician, Euclid the geometer,Plato the theologian, Aristotle the logician, Archimedes themechanician, had learned to speak the Roman language.' ^As Sandys says : ' He was the last of the learnedRomans who understood the language and studied theliterature of Greece ; and he was the first to interpretto the Middle Ages the logical treatises of Aristotle.' *The most famous work of Boethius is De philosophiceconsolatione, which vied with Augustine's Confessionsas a devotional book in the Middle Ages. It was writtenin the tower of Pa via, where Boethius had been confinedon a false charge of treason. He had rendered notableservice to the state, both as consul and as magisterofficiorum, but that did not save him from a traitor'sdeath. Dante voices the judgment of the MediaevalChurch when he places Bo§thius with Thomas Aquinas,Peter Lombard and other great theologians in theheaven of the sun, and describes him as a saint come' from martjrrdom and exile to this peace,' and preparedto prove to all who will listen the deceitfulness of thisworld.^ Gibbon calls the Consolation ' a golden volume,not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully, but whichclaims incomparable merit from the barbarism of thetimes and the situation of the author.' ^ One thousandyears later Sir Thomas More, similarly placed in the1 Cassiodorus, Varice, i. 45. * Sandys, i. p. 253.8 Dante, Paradiso, x. 124-129.* Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, iv,p. 201.CH. vn.] LATER WESTER SCHOOLS 197Tower of London, turned for comfort to the Consolationof Boethius.3. Benedict founded a monastery at Monte Cassino,in 529, the first of the great Benedictine monasteries, whichspeedily spread over the West, and became the nurseries of 
education and culture.Benedict (c. 480-543) was bom at ursia, and wassent for education to Rome. But at an early age heundertook the monastic life. He gathered about himmany disciples, among whom the most distinguished wasthe young Roman noble, known as St. Maur, whosubsequently carried the order into France. Benedictand his followers at first established themselves atSubiaco, not far from Rome ; and later, in 529, at MonteCassino, fifty miles to the south, between Rome andaples. Benedict drew up rules of discipline, whichhave been used by his order ever since, and are the basisof the rules of all later orders. The three chief Bene-dictine virtues are silent reflection, humility, andobedience ; the three activities are worship, manuallabour, and lectio divina. Even at meals there was alector to read aloud to those who were eating. On thebasis of this reading grew up the mona.stic schools of the Benedictines ; for it involved the gathering of books,the copying of books, and the arrangement of books inlibraries, as well as their use in reading and study.Scholarship naturally and ever bases itself upon libraries,and cannot live without books.4. Junilius Africanus, who had been trained in grammar,rhetoric and law in Borne, and was a high public official,strove to promote the study of theology by introducing theprinciples and methods of the school of isibis into the IV est.Junilius (t 550), an African by birth, trained in theWest in law as well as in grammar and rhetoric, becamequcestor sacri palatii at Constantinople. Here he came198 HISTORY OF THE STUDY OF THEOLOGY [pt. n.under the influence of Paul of isibis (c. 543-545). Hetranslated the latter's work on Biblical study into Latinunder the title Instituta regularia divince legis ; only heput it into a catechetical form, in two books. Throughthis work the influence of the Syrian schools passed overinto the West. It held its own as an authority in theWestern Church until the Reformation. In this dialoguethe disciple asks :

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