Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 315
in the land where Basilides and Valentirms had laboured two
generations before. When Origen brought over his friend the
Valentinian Ambrosius to the Church, Ambrosius will have
unlearnt much and he will have adopted a new attitude towards
the world-wide fellowship of Christians, but his mind will not
have been wholly unprepared for the scheme of Origenistic
doctrine with its pre-cosmic fall and its redemption.
It now remains to mention another antecedent of the Christ-
ian Platonism of Alexandria, even more important than the
Christian Gnostics. Alexandria was the metropolis of Greek-
speaking Judaism. It is probable that from the first foundation
of the city Jews had formed an important element in the popu-
lation. According to Josephus, Alexander the Great had him-
self assigned to the Jews one of the five city-quarters as their
own possession.1 At a later date the Jews held two quarters and
overflowed into the other parts of the city as well.2 It was in
Alexandria that the great Greek Version of the Jewish Scrip-
tures was made to meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews. This
epoch-making work was carried out in stages, the oldest part
of the translation, that of the Law, dating back to the first half
of the third century before Christ. The language is for the most
part quite obviously translation Greek, but it varies consider-
ably in literary quality, the Book of Job for instance reaching a
higher standard than most of the rest. The work was carried
out by and for men who used Greek for practical purposes and
the language shows scarcely any tincture of philosophical cul-
ture. Philosophical terms, however, make their appearance in
later books composed in the Greek language such as the Book
of Wisdom and the Fourth Book of the Maccabees.
A large and influential Jewry speaking the Greek language
and possessing an authoritative version of the Bible in its adopted
tongue opened the way for further developments. Of the ut-
most importance for the later growth of Alexandrine Christian
1 Josephus, c. Apwn, n. c. iv.            2 Philo, In Flaccum, 55.