If you haven’t read Charles Cochrane’s Christianity and Classical Culture, then you should, and if you have, you know how hard it is to get through. I read a lot of intellectual literature, but for some reason I’ve always found Cochrane daunting. Alan Jacobs at The New Atlantis has performed a valuable service by giving a synopsis of the book complete with page numbers to allow for further reading at his blog TextPatterns.
Cochrane’s book is one of the best on what happened when Christianity confronted paganism in late antiquity. It avoids the easy answers—Tertullian’s claim that Athens and Jerusalem really have little in common on the one side, and Constantine’s wholesale wedding of Christian politics with Roman government on the other.
It is in the thought of St. Augustine that we find what eventually became the framework in which later Christians were able to understand the true relation between pagan culture and Christian culture, a framework which might well be the best ever produced.
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