The system of education in the faith that the early Christians created through a combination of the Biblical revelation and the cultural patterns suggested by Hellenistic literature and philosophy. It had as its objective the
achieving of the wisdom of God, through a spiritual formation under the divine Pedagogue, the Logos, or the Word of God. The paideia looked to the formation of character and appreciation of values as much as it did to imparting knowledge or information. Its final aim was the true gnosis, or Christian philosophy, whose end was the imitation of Christ.
Development to Clement of Alexandria. The early Church provided detailed instruction for catechumens and clergy but did not think of creating a separate educational system for children. In the secular schools the Christian child pursued the enkyklios paideia, the allround culture of Hellenism that the Romans called humanitas and studied in the trivium and quadrivium. Religious development was provided, outside this classical training, mainly in the family circle and in the Church.
The expression Christian paideia was first used in the Epistle of clement i of Rome (1 Cor. 21.6, 8; cf. 16.5;35.8; 56.2, 16). Like St. Paul, the author stressed that the young should be subject to parental formation and discipline. polycarp bade husbands teach their wives "to train their children in the knowledge and fear of God" (Ad Phil. 4.2). The Shepherd of hermas also insisted on family sanctification through discipline and training (Vis. 1.3.1–2; 2.3.1).
Since Homer and pagan mythology formed the basis of secular paideia, it presented dangers to the faith of Christians. But to shun the schools was impossible, as even tertullian admitted: "How can we reject profane studies, without which religious studies are impossible?" (De idol. 10.4). But he banned Christians from teaching in the schools, and his basic opposition to Hellenism was expressed in his frequently quoted: "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem; the Academy with the Church?" (Praescrip. 7). tatian, the Syrian, was even more uncompromising in regard to pagan learning. For him the grammarians were idle prattlers (Orat. 26), and he turned his back on Greek paideia to become a professor of the philosophy of the barbarians. He found the Scriptures unpretentious in their language but too old and divine to be compared with the erroneous opinions of the Greeks (Orat. 29). Tatian had been a pupil of the more liberal jus tin martyr at the latter's school in Rome, where Christianity was offered as the true philosophy.
By the end of the 2nd century the catechumenal schools seem to have taken final form. Here the bishop or his delegate gave elaborate instructions preceding baptism; examples of these courses of instruction survive in the Great Catechism of gregory of nyssa, the Catecheses of cyril of jerusalem and of theodore of mopsuestia, and in the De catechizandis rudibus of St. augustine. These schools contributed to the intellectual formation of candidates for Baptism, but their main function was to impart doctrinal, ascetical, and liturgical training, with the Scriptures as the basic text.
The catechetical schools offered more advanced instruction in the Christian way of life; provided protection against the immorality and persecutional attacks of pagan adversaries; and deepened the knowledge of the faith for the neophytes. The most famous of these was the school of Alexandria. While Pantaenus and Clement of Alexandria evidently lectured on the Christian doctrines, it is only with Origen that the school acquired its official, ecclesiastical standing. Its pupils were adults in the process of conversion; and under Origen's direction the elementary catechesis came to be delegated to Heraclas, and Origen devoted himself to advanced philosophy and exegesis.
The Major Roles of Clement and Origen. For clement of alexandria (c. 200), paideia was the most excellent and perfect possession in life, a useful propaedeutic for the appreciation of the word of the Lord (Paid. 1.5.16; Strom. 1.5). His indebtedness to Greek classical authors, poets, and philosophers is obvious on every page. He had a decided predilection for Plato but was actually eclectic, regarding all of Greek philosophy as a guide to Christ, the best of educators (Strom. 2.2). His Paidagogos is the first complete educational treatise that combines pagan learning and cultural patterns with Christian theological thought and the sacramental way of life. It gives a minute description of the Christian's day, beginning with the main meal in the evening, and discusses every phase of his life.
Origen urged gregory thaumaturgus "to extract from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and even from geometry and astronomy what would serve to explain the Sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the sons of philosophy are wont to say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, as fellow helpers of philosophy, may be said about philosophy itself in relation to Christianity." Thus he regarded all secular subjects as "ladders to reach the sky"; and his students were expected to be familiar with every aspect of Hellenic knowledge as a preparation for their study of Scripture. Origen taught at Alexandria from 212 to 231 and thereafter at Caesarea until his death. During the 4th century the Church Fathers in the various areas where the Church was well established used their secular education as a background for developing the Church's understanding of divine revelation.
The Golden Age of Christian Paideia in the East. The Cappadocian Fathers made important contributions. gregory of nazianzus, in his Panegyric on Basil, spoke for both of them when he said: "As we have compounded healthful drugs from reptiles, so from secular literature we have received principles of inquiry and speculation, while we have rejected their idolatry, terror, and pit of destruction." basil of Caesarea, a friend of the pagan orator Libanius and an impeccable Greek stylist, elaborated on the utility of Greek literature properly used for the educated Christian in his To Young Men, on How They Might Profit from Pagan Literature. His Monastic Rules also was important in shaping an erudite monasticism. Gregory of Nazianzus in his Invective Orations against Julian [the Apostate] severely castigated that Emperor for his efforts to exclude Christians from higher education. In virtue of a decree of Julian on June 17, 362 (Cod Theod 13.3.5), Christian teachers had either to abandon Christianity and return to belief in the pagan gods or cease to teach. marius victorinus had to quit his professorship of rhetoric at Rome, and many grammarians, rhetors, and even professors of medicine were affected; but the decree was rescinded by Julian's successor (364).
john chrysostom is the outstanding writer on pedagogy among the Fathers. Of especial importance is his De inani gloria et de educandis liberis, which deplores the lack of religious and moral training in an age that devoted so much energy to training in the arts, in literature, and in rhetoric. He reminded parents that they were bringing up "a philosopher, and a champion, and a citizen of Heaven."
Christian Paideia in the West. In the West the study of Greek declined in the 4th century; but the great Christian writers, such as lactantius, hilary of poitiers, ambrose, jerome, and Augustine, were masters of the rhetorical culture of their time. They derived their knowledge of Greek philosophy mainly from Latin sources, especially Cicero. Ausonius, however, spoke of "Greek grammarians" in his native Bordeaux, who used Homer as the first text (5.46) in their instruction.
Jerome studied under the famed grammaticus Donatus, and he himself expounded Vergil, the comedians, lyric poets, and historians during his sojourn in Bethlehem. Two of his letters (Epist. 107, 128) deal with the education of girls dedicated to God's service. Letter 22 gives an account of his famous dream in which he heard the Judge's condemnation, Ciceronianus es, non Christianus, and he asked rhetorically, Quid facit cum psalterio Horatius? Cum evangeliis Maro? Cum apostolo Cicero? But it is clear from his subsequent writings that his studies of the sacred writers did not exclude a continued interest in the classical.
According to St. Augustine, the Christian writer should despoil pagan literature as the Jews despoiled the Egyptians when they were leaving Egypt; the gold and silver in the writings of pagans are not their own but are dug out of the mines of God's providence and more properly belong to the follower of Christ when he has abandoned paganism. The arts in secular learning are a help in understanding the Scriptures (Doct. Christ. 2.16.28). His De beata vita ushered in the birth of Western Christian philosophy and a renewal of paideia under Christian auspices. Among later writers, Boethius, with his Consolation of Philosophy, integrated a wealth of classical learning and pagan philosophy with an apparently orthodox Christianity; Cassiodorus's Institutes was devoted to an encyclopedic treatment of sacred and profane knowledge; gregory i the Great scorned literary niceties and endorsed monastic education and a new, specifically Christian education that rejected the classical and emphasized home training and moral formation; Martianus Capella and isidore of seville handed on the tradition of paideia to the Middle Ages.
Bibliography: h. fuchs, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, ed. t. klauser (Stuttgart 1970) 2:350–362, with bibliog. f. x. portmann, Die göttliche Paidagogia bei Gregor von Nazianz (St. Ottilien 1954). p. petit, Les Étudiants de Libanius (Paris 1956). h. hagendahl, Latin Fathers and the Classics (Göteborg 1958). m. l. w. laistner, Christianity and Pagan Culture in the Later Roman Empire (Ithaca, N.Y. 1951). m. testard, Saint Augustin et Cicéron, 2 v. (Paris 1958). a. j. festugiÈre, Antioch païenne et chrétienne (Paris 1959). j. fontaine, Isidore de Séville et la culture classique dans l'Espagne wisigothique, 2 v. (Paris 1959). e. l. for tin, Christianisme et culture philosophique au V (e) siècle (Paris 1959). h. i. marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity, tr. g. lamb from 3d Fr. ed. (New York 1956); ed. and tr., Clément d'Alexandrie: Le Pédagogue, v.1 (Sources Chrétiennes 70; 1960). w. barclay, Educational Ideals in the Ancient World (London 1959). w. w. jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (Cambridge, Mass. 1961). p. richÉ, Éducation et culture dans l'Occident barbare, VI (e)–VIII (e) siècles (Paris 1962). e. kevane, Augustine the Educator (Westminster, Md. 1964).
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"Paideia, Christian." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/paideia-christian
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