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THE EDUCATION OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
Christianity accomplished much in the reform of the degraded Roman society. The earliest education of the Christians came through their 'otherworldly' life, but actual schools, called 'catechumenal,' before long furnished a moral and religious training.
After the amalgamation of Christianity with Græco-Roman philosophy, 'catechetical' schools furnished a higher training. When higher education came to be utilized by the bishops for training their clergy, institutions known as 'episcopal' or 'cathedral' schools were founded.
Later, although opposition grew up among the Christians to the culture of Greece and Rome, its impress was found to have been left upon the doctrines and organization of Christianity.
Roman and other ideals.
The Ideals of Early Christianity.-The actual social conditions amid which the religion of Christ was born, and which it was destined to reform, were most degraded. Impotence of The Roman world had become sunk in vice and corruption. The Roman virtues of patriotism, bravery, and service to the state had largely disappeared with the development of the empire, and were impotent in checking the widespread depravity. Nor could the lofty Greek thought accomplish much, since it was too intellectual and philosophic to touch the masses. The debased Eastern religions, which Rome had admitted in her easy-going skepticism, were still less productive of good. While the more philosophic forms of Judaism and
the Roman development of Stoicism tended to raise the tone of morals and pave the way for Christianity, not even these forces could have accomplished a successful reform in Roman society, without the stimulus and wide appeal of the Christian teachings. Christianity was the Universal ethical and universal religion needed as a leaven. Its Christianity. truths were based on faith rather than understanding, and its appeal was to the instinctive promptings and emotions rather than to the intellect. This made it democratic and enabled it to reach the masses, for everybody can feel and have faith, even where he cannot understand.
Early Christian Life as an Education. Thus it came about that, while the earliest Christians were without schools of their own and were largely illiterate, their religion itself served as an education. They were practically deprived of intellectual development, but they received moral training of a very high order. The very dishonor and unpopularity of the Christian religion, and the segregation of their Church membership, gave the Segregation. Christian life itself all the effect of a species of schooling. The early Christians showed an extreme reaction to the vicious morals of the time, and endeavored to cultivate the higher ideals inculcated by the teachings of Christ. They had gathered from the statements of the Master that he would soon return and this world would come to an end. They, therefore, concerned themselves entirely with a preparation for 'Jerusalem the golden' and 'Otherworld'the life everlasting,' and the ideal of this most primitive Christian training may be described as 'otherworldly.'
Catechumenal Schools.-Early in the second cen
tury, however, when the Church began to extend itself rapidly, it seemed necessary to insist upon some sort of formal instruction as preliminary to Church membership. It was also deemed wise to fix a period of probation after the profession of one's faith in Christ, in order that informers might not be admitted to the services, or the Church disgraced by apostasy or the lapses of those who Cause of their had not well considered the step. These demands were
met by the gradual institution of popular instruction in Christian principles for the Jewish and pagan proselytes, who were known as catechumens. While some effort was made to lift the pupils of these 'catechumenal' schools from the bondage of ignorance, they were primarily trained in the things needful for their souls' salvation, and the ideal of Christian education remained prevailingly 'otherworldly.' The instruction was carried on in the portico or other special portion of the church; and consisted in moral and religious teachings, reading and memorizing the Scriptures, together with some training in early psalmody. The course usually lasted three years, and while some distinction was made between the general division of catechumens and those almost ready for baptism, there is little ground for supposing that the schools were divided into actual classes. The meetings in the church were held several times a week, or even every day.
Amalgamation of Christianity with Græco-Roman Philosophy. But while the Christian ideals and training were developing and crystallizing, the Greek philosophy in its Roman form was being continued and exGræco-Roman panded. This movement has been seen to be very different from early Christianity in its general purpose.
training a worldly one.
It concerned itself chiefly with life in this world. The problem it attempted to solve was how one should live so as to get the most satisfaction out of life. The Hellenized Roman schools may, therefore, be accounted as 'worldly' as the Christian schools were 'otherworldly' in their aim. A general feeling of this marked difference in purpose and organization between Christianity and the contemporaneous Græco-Roman culture was destined to cause an opposition to pagan learning to spring up among the Christians. But for two or three centuries Union of the worldly and this is scarcely noticeable, especially in the Eastern other empire, where it was felt that philosophy was, like Christianity, a search after truth; and, as far as it went, confirmed the Bible. There was even a tendency to unite the two movements. As the new religion spread throughout the Roman world, and was compelled to defend itself against charges of immorality, atheism, and treason, the educated converts attempted to set forth the Christian teachings in terms of Greek thought, and to solve speculative problems that had never been considered by Jesus and his disciples. The first Hellenizing Christians are known as Apologists, since their efforts were Apologists directed toward reconciling Christianity with the GræcoRoman philosophy. In general, they mingled Stoicism with the teachings of Jesus. Later, other Hellenistic philosophers unified Christian doctrine with the principles of Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle. Perhaps the most extreme of these philosophic positions within Christianity was a combination with Platonism known as Gnosticism, which was intended to be a sort of esoteric and Gnostics. knowledge and to show the relation of Christianity to
other religions and to the universe.
Pupils in the
Catechetical and Episcopal or Cathedral Schools.In this way, during the second and third centuries, all the Christians at Alexandria, which had become the great seat of Hellenistic philosophy, had their theology tinctured with Greek thought. Before long, a sort of theological, or 'catechetical' school, was gradually organized at this center, to counteract the heathen schools there and to afford higher instruction for Christian teachers and leaders. This school had no building of Alexandria al- its own, and the students met at the teacher's house, lowed to study all Greek but they were able to take advantage of the facilities subjects. at the University of Alexandria. In addition to a thorough training in the Bible, the pupils were allowed to study all types of Greek philosophy, except Epicureanism, the whole range of sciences, classical Greek literature, grammar, rhetoric, and other higher subjects of the pagan schools, but from a different point of view. Thus the Græco-Roman and the Christian movements had formed an alliance in education, and in this catechetical school we find an attempted union of the ‘otherworldly' ideal with the 'worldly.'
The best known heads of this school at Alexandria were Clement (150-215) and Origen (185-253). They were among the most noted of the Eastern Fathers in the philosophic interpretation of Christianity, and their work contributed not a little to heretical doctrine. Origen may even have been expelled for heresy. At any rate, he opened a new school of the same sort at Cæsarea, where he was kindly received. Other catechetical Other catechet- schools sprang up rapidly at Antioch, Edessa, Nisibis,
and elsewhere throughout the East. Later the accession of the followers of Nestorius, whose Hellenized