Greek Paideia and the Bible

From Werner Jaeger’s Early Christianity and Greek Paideia

As the Greek paideia consisted of the entire corpus of Greek literature, so the Christian paideia is the Bible. Literature is paideia, in so far as it contains the highest norms of human life, which in it have taken on their lasting and most impressive form. It is the ideal picture of man, the great paradigm.



2 Responses

  1. The Bible emerged from people leading a certain kind of life. So too, much literature in the European/American world emerged from people leading Christian lives. For example, Peter Ackroyd, a biographer of Charles Dickens, has pointed out that Dickens’ novels helped to shape the conscience of the middle-class in England during an age when rapid industrialization created living/working situations that were unprecedented and which people had not had training to respond to. For instance, how should a good person respond to slums? to children left alone because both mother and father were working 16 hour shifts in the new factories?

    Novels, in particular, provide examples of lives described in terms of emotions felt, attitudes developed and changed over time, personality traits that turn out to be functional or dysfunctional. From these descriptions readers learn how to label and understand emotions, sentiments, attitudes they have that might otherwise go unnoticed and unremarked. This education of our human sentiments seems to me to be very important in helping people to shape themselves.

    I find much of the “realistic” literature written today, especially for children, quite deficient in presenting life-situations properly. Rather than teaching children how to reflect upon bad situations so as to avoid them or rise above them, there seems to be an indulgence in the murk and ugliness of the situation itself.

    • Gloria,

      Great example with Dickens and the use of novels. We need wise writers and wise publishers, but I so often feel the market and our appetites are at war with wisdom.

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