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The Lord of History, by Msgr. Eugene Kevane. ©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

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References – I. History and Philosophy in the Classical Culture

3. Cf. Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and History (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959); Herbert Kühn, “The Problem of Primitive Monotheism,” in Hastings-Nicholl (Eds.), Selection II (london: Sheed and Ward, 1954), pp. 63-86; and Wilhelm Koppers, Primitive Man and His World Picture (London: Sheed and Ward, 1952). Much careful research is needed on the part of younger, post-modern scholars (to anticipate a point to be made below) to break through the imposition of “modern” philosophical patterns upon the findings of the sciences, not least the sciences of prehistory. “Twenty years ago,” Koppers writes, “it was still possible to publish a pamphlet with the title, How God Was Created — by man, it goes without saying. Today, however, the most primitive races of the earth raise up their voices, as it were, crying in unanimous protest: “You are on a wrong track. Your mental experiments (or rather hypotheses) won’t work. The belief in a Father God, handed down by our forebears from time immemorial, cannot possibly be regarded as a final stage in human development. He must rather be the starting point, as is shown in our creation-myths. Is this not also the teaching your Bible?” p. 180. Cf. William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957) passim, and especially pp. 168-178, “The Nature and Evolution of Primitive Religion”; “There can no longer be any doubt that Fr. Schmidt has successfully disproved the simple evolutionary progression first set up by the positivist Comte, fetishism—polytheism—monotheism, or Tylor’s animism—polytheism—monotheism” (p. 171). This is an instance of the post-modern situation in empirical science, to be discussed further below. For a short but penetrating article on this question, cf. Franz Kardinal König, “Does Scientific Atheism Exist?” in L’Osservatore Romano – English Edition (April 7, 1977), pp. 8-9.

4. Chester G. Starr, The Awakening of the Greek Historical Spirit (New York: Knopf, 1968), p. 3. For the background of the emergence of historia as an intellectual discipline, cf. his Chapter I, “The World of Epic and Myth,” pp. 12-35, with its discussion of Homer and History.

5. For the early Mesopotamian annals and chronicles, cf. James B. Pritchard (Ed.). Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), esp. Part III, “Historical Texts,” pp. 227-322. For an insight into the religious character of early historical records, cf. the classic work of Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956); “The Rituals and the Annals,” pp. 167-173. “In the minds of the people,” he writes, “all that was ancient was venerable and sacred…. Thus history had for the ancients a greater importance than it has for us. It existed a long time before Herodotus and Thucydides, written or unwritten; as simple oral traditions, or in books, it was contemporary with the birth of cities…. History commenced, indeed, with the act of foundation, and recorded the sacred name of the founder. It was continued with the legend of the gods of the city, its protecting heros. It taught the date, the origin and the reason of every worship, and explained its obscure rites…. All this was written for the instruction and the piety of the descendants…. These city annals…were not a work of art, but a religious work. Later came the writers, the narrators, like Herodotus; the thinkers, like Thucydides. History then left the hands of the priests and became something quite different,” pp. 170-171. Among the Hebrews this original religious character of the official historical records was maintained without change, and stands to this day in the Bible.

6. Polybius, World History, Book 1, cc. 1-4; in Arnold J. Toynbee (ed.). Greek Historical Thought from Homer to the Age of Heraclitus (London: Dent, 1924); pp. 23-24, 26. For the origin and nature of the concept “history,” cf. Friedrich Büchsel, “Historéo, Historía,” in Kittel-Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), Vol. III, pp. 391-396. Translations of the Greek and Latin historians are available in the Loeb Classical Library.

7. Cf. William M. Green, Augustine on the Teaching of History (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1944); James Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire (New York: Macmillan, 1904, 1913) “Theory of the Medieval Empire,” pp. 89-120; and “Fall of the Empire,” pp. 408-417, Bryce dates it on August 6, 1806, when Napoleon deposed Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor of the Germanic Nation. Cf. the French historian, Henri Berr, in his Preface to a new edition of F. Lot’s classic, The End of the Ancient World and the Beginnings of the Middle Ages (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1953), p. XV: “This Roman Empire, whose prestige had fascinated the Barbarians, persists as an ideal framework, and only disappears in 1806….” This fact which the historians perceive needs to be correlated with the Hebrew Fact, the Catholic Fact, the conversion of the Fourth Empire, Christendom and the Great Apostasy of the Nations, matters to be considered below as given by history to philosophical reflection and analysis. On the idea of Rome, pagan and Christian, cf. Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952), Chap. III, “The Struggle for Representation in the Roman Empire,” pp. 76-106.

8. Cf. the “Introduction” in H. von Arnim, Leben und Werke des Dio von Prusa, Mit einer Einleitung: Spohistik, Rhetorik, Philosophie in ihrem Kampf um die Jugendbildung (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1898), pp. 1-114; for a short study from Augustine’s point of view, based on von Arnim, cf. E. Kevane, “Augustine and Isocrates,” The American Ecclesiastical Review (Nov. 1963) 301-321. The breakthrough by Philosophy to a reality higher than the cosmic order of the Archaic Culture is a basic theme of Voegelin’s work, op. cit. passim, and esp. pp. 52-75. “Through the opening of the soul the philosopher finds himself in a new relation with God; he not only discovers his own psyche as the instrument for experiencing transcendence, but at the same time discovers the divinity in its radically nonhuman transcendence,” p. 67.

9. St. Augustine listed philosophy consistently throughout his life as the seventh of the Seven Liberal Arts. Cf. Retr. I, 6, 3; P.L. 32, 591. The Documents of the Magisterium from Vatican I through Vatican II on the study of Philosophy are numerous and consistent, down to the Letter, dated Jan. 29, 1972, from the S. Congregation for Catholic Education “To the Ordinaries of the World on the Study of Philosophy in Seminaries”; this Letter is reprinted in The Program of Priestly Formation (Washington: NCCB, 1976), pp. 145-155. Cf. Battista Mondin, “Philosophy Necessary in Priestly Formation,” L’Osservatore Romano — English Edition (March 2, 1971), p. 11: “Those who are most exposed to the influence of Protestantism, or more exactly to a certain kind of Protestantism, for example that of Barth and Bonhoeffer, maintain that philosophy is useless or even harmful in priestly formation.” As Mondin points out, summarizing the position of Vatican II and of the Holy See in this Letter, the truth is exactly the opposite; theology has more need of philosophy today than ever before. But it must be the right kind of philosophy, taught in the right way: “It will not suffice to teach the history of philosophy.” Ibid. We shall return to this point below when the intervening discussion hopefully will have assisted in making this position more intelligible.

10. Concern for human happiness, variously defined, was uppermost in the philosophical schools which developed as perhaps the most distinctive mark of the Classical Culture. Cf. R. Holte, Beatitude et Sagesse: Saint Augustin et le probléme de la fin de l’homme dans la philosophie ancienne (Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes, 1962). Christian Philosophy did not disavow this concern when it broke through to its more clear and lucid concept of God, and became able to see the truth with Augustine: verus philosophus amator Die (De civitate Dei VIII, 1). One can see this perhaps best in Augustine’s De beata vita, the short gem among the Dialogues of Cassiciacum, those early works which earn for him the title of Founder of Christian Philosophy. For Augustine, Philosophy, always the culminating component of natural humane studies, is the “science of virtue and wisdom,” as he terms it in his De Magistro 14 (45); P.L. 32, 1219.

11. John Warrington (Transl.). Aristotle’s Metaphysics (London: Dent, 1956), p. 153.

12. Ibid., pp. 154-155.

13. Ibid., p. 156. Warrington notes that Aristotle’s reference is “probably…to a lost or never written” treatise on God for which the extant portions of the Metaphysics are preparatory. In any case Aristotle’s intention of openness to the Supreme Being is clear.

14. Ibid., pp. 167-168. Aristotle proceeds to study the various meanings of substance, always in the context of the visible cosmos: “Substance is most commonly recognized as belonging to bodies — animals and plants and their parts, and what is compounded of them, e.g., the physical universe and its parts (the stars, the moon, and the sun).” Ibid., p. 169.

15. On the Greek cyclical view of times, from which not even Aristotle was exempt, cf. Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Vol. IV: “The Modes of Time”; and Karl Löwith, Meaning in History: The Theological Implications of the Philosophy of History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1949); “To the Greek thinkers a philosophy of history would have been a contradiction in terms” p. 4. For Augustine’s refutation of the cyclical view, cf. De civitate Dei, XII, cc. 9-20; for his rejection of fate and defense of contingency under Providence, cf. ibid., V, cc. 2-11.

16. For the general contrast of Christian thinking with the pagan concept of time, cf. Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time: the Primitive Christian Conception of Time and History (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950), esp. pp. 51-60, “The Linear Conception of Time in the Revelatory History of the Bible as Contrasted with the Cyclical Conception of Hellenism.” Cf. note 167 below for the discussion which followed Cullmann’s study.