G. Ferngren, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor
This paper addresses Galen’s reputation and influence amongst Christians of his own day. Specifically, it examines the view that contemporary Christians mistrusted Galen because of his critical remarks about them. It required several centuries before his reputation among Christians began to grow. I shall argue that Galen’s estimation of Christianity was a mixed one. On the one hand, he was the first important pagan writer to treat Christianity as a philosophy and not a superstitious sect, comparing it with such philosophical schools as Stoicism and Epicureanism. On the other hand, he criticized Christians’ failure to base their doctrines on reason (logismos) rather than solely on faith (pistis). For Galen, the proper method for the acquisition of knowledge was scientific demonstration rather than claims to divine authority. His critique of Christian fideism was taken seriously by some Christians, whom it encouraged to engage in the kind of philosophical speculation that would attract Galen’s approval. The followers of Theodotus of Byzantium attempted to meet the deficiencies that Galen had identified by employing a philosophical garb with which they framed their unorthodox adoptionism. They began to engage in the kind of philosophical speculation that they believed would attract Galen’s approval. In doing so they demonstrated that they could learn from their critics. From being universally regarded by many educated Romans in the second century as a mere superstition, Christianity came, as the result of the Apologists, to be recognized by the third century as a school of philosophy.
Keywords: Galen, Adoptionism, Theodotus of Byzantium, Pope Victor, early Christian apologetics