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Gregory of Nyssa and the Grasp of FaithUnion, Knowledge, and Divine Presence$

Martin Laird

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199267996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2004

DOI: 10.1093/0199267995.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Gregory of Nyssa and the Grasp of Faith
Author(s):

Martin Laird (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199267995.003.0001

Abstract and Keywords

Sketches early Christian initiatives to present faith as a privileged means of contact with God. Discusses the fourth-century religious climate of late Neoplatonism and suggests a much less hostile attitude to faith and revelation. In both Christian and non-Christian Neoplatonic circles, the exaltation of faith was part of the spirit of the age.

Keywords:   faith, Iamblichus, Julian, Porphyry, Proclus, revelation

Faith the Christian Foundation

‘But the Law has found its fulfilment in Christ, so that all who have faith will be justified.’ So proclaimed Paul to the Christians at Rome.1 ‘If you declare with your mouth’, he continues, ‘that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.’2 That faith, and not obedience to the Law, could open the doors of justification and salvation, Paul insisted, was nothing new, and he looks to Abraham as one who embodied this faith: ‘Abraham put his faith in God and this was reckoned to him as uprightness.’3 Indeed the Letter to the Hebrews provides a salvation history that focuses on acts of faith from Abel and Enoch through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets.4 What is true of Abraham is true of all believers: ‘it is people of faith who receive the same blessing as Abraham, the man of faith’.5

Faith as a doorway to God is foundational for Christianity from the beginning, but as Christianity began to move out and engage the Hellenistic culture in which it was immersed, this emphasis on faith as somehow providing access to God seemed to generate more heat than light. It was not that pistis meant nothing to a philosophical culture permeated by the spirit of Plato. It did indeed mean something, and Plato's Allegory of the Line is often taken as the locus classicus in this regard:6 caught up in sense impression, faith was associated with a very low and unreliable form of knowledge. As E.R. Dodds observed long ago in his Wiles Lectures: ‘Had any cultivated pagan of the second century been asked to put in a few words the difference between his own view of life and the Christian one, he might reply that it was the difference between logismos and pistis, between reasoned conviction and blind faith. To anyone brought up on classical Greek philosophy, pistis meant the lowest (p.2) grade of cognition.’7 It was clearly not the case that Greek philosophy did not value the divine; Neoplatonism was especially concerned with divine union. What was required for this, however, was not faith but the non‐discursive reaches of the intelligence. This is in many ways a suitable place to situate the subject of the present study of Gregory of Nyssa.

While Gregory of Nyssa spoke of faith in a variety of senses, this study will focus on a particular, indeed technical, use of the term pistis. We shall see that Gregory of Nyssa ascribes to faith qualities which Neoplatonism would reserve to the crest of the wave of nous. Indeed, for Gregory of Nyssa, faith becomes a faculty of union with God, who is beyond all comprehension, beyond the reach of concept, image, word. To speak of union with God beyond noetic activity is something with which Neoplatonism is very familiar, though it would not until Proclus see that faith had a role in this apophatic union. But Gregory does see the role of faith in union with God, and to develop his views on this matter he grounds himself not in Plotinus or Porphyry but in certain biblical figures who embody faith, especially Abraham, Moses, the bride of the Song of Songs, and Paul.8

Philo, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen had done much in their own Middle‐Platonic context to show that biblical faith could be taken with epistemological seriousness. For Philo faith was the ‘queen of virtues’9 and he could ascribe to faith the capacity to unite with God: ‘What then is the cementing substance? Do you ask, what? Piety, surely, and faith: for these virtues adjust and unite (ϵ̔νου̂σιν) the intent of the heart to the incorruptible Being: as Abraham when he believed is said to “come near to God” (Gen. 18: 23).’10 Clement of Alexandria attempted to give a thorough explanation of faith to assuage the objections of both Greek philosophy and the Gnostics, who considered their gnosis higher than simple faith. For Clement faith became the acceptance of the first principles of knowledge that cannot be proved, but without which there (p.3) could be no gnosis.11 In his Contra Celsum Origen is keen to refute Celsus' accusation that Chrisitans accept things on faith without the support of reason.12 Origen concedes that faith is ‘useful for the multitude, and that we admittedly teach those who cannot abandon everything and pursue a study of rational argument to believe without thinking out their reasons’.13 He insists, however, that this is not the ideal and that faith with the support of reason is better than faith alone: ‘it is in harmony with scripture to say that it is far better to accept doctrines with reason and wisdom than with mere faith’.14 But Origen is not always on the defensive about faith. Commenting on Luke 8. 48, ‘My daughter your faith has saved you,’ Origen likens philosophers to physicians who attempt but fail to heal humanity. ‘But upon touching the fringe of Jesus' garment, who alone is the physician of souls and bodies, [humanity] is healed on the spot by the fire and warmth of faith. If we look to our faith in Jesus Christ and consider how great is the son of God and touch something of him, we will see that in comparison to the fringes in him we have touched but a fringe. But all the same the fringe heals us and enables us to hear Jesus say: “Daughter, your faith has saved you”.’15 As much as Origen values the reasoned argument of philosophy, he can speak of faith as providing something that philosophy alone cannot provide. Faith mediates real contact with Jesus and brings healing.16

These brief glimpses of Philo, Clement, and Origen represent the early Christian concern to integrate the epistemological concerns of their philosophical‐cultural milieux into a viable understanding of how Christian faith could lead to an experience of God. While Gregory of (p.4) Nyssa is very much heir to this Alexandrian tradition, he writes in a Neoplatonic‐cultural context which is much less hostile towards faith. Curiously, late Neoplatonism begins to look very much like a religion, not least in the way in which it came to value faith and revelation. Dodds remarks, ‘pagan philosophy tended increasingly to replace reason by authority—and not only the authority of Plato, but the authority of Orphic poetry, of Hermetic theosophy, of obscure revelations like the Chaldaean Oracles’.17 It is worth considering this rise of faith in late Neoplatonism, not to suggest that this was a direct influence on what Gregory claimed of faith as a faculty of union, but rather to show that the theological culture of late antiquity, for both Christianity and late Neoplatonism, saw immense, religious possibility in faith. The exaltation of faith was part of the spirit of the age.

Faith in Late Neoplatonism: Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus

One of the defining features of late Neoplatonism was its increasing religiosity and the manner in which it too came to extol faith. This is not without a certain irony; philosophical Hellenism in general had previously derided faith as among the lowest forms of cognition: ‘it was the state of mind of the uneducated, who believe things on hearsay without being able to give reasons for their belief’.18 But after Plotinus especially, Neoplatonism ‘became less a philosophy than a religion, whose followers were occupied like their Christian counterparts in expounding and reconciling sacred texts. For them too pistis became a basic requirement.’19 A propos of late antiquity as a whole, Dodds remarks: ‘The entire culture, pagan as well as Christian, was moving into a phase in which religion was to be co‐extensive with life, and the quest for God was to cast its shadow over all other human activities.’20 Dodds has suggested that this was in large part a parallel response from both Christians and pagans to the anxiety that marked the age, an age ‘so filled with fear and hatred as the world of the third century, any path that promised escape must have attracted serious minds. Many besides Plotinus must have given a new meaning to the words of Agamemnon in Homer, “Let us flee to our own country” ’.21

An approach altogether different from Dodds's reduction of religious aspiration and expression to anxiety‐response is taken more recently by (p.5) Jay Bregman. Bregman sees in later Hellensim the interaction of three distinct dynamics. First, is ‘the Classical tradition of Greek customs, language, institutions and literature, an element of which nevertheless involved acknowledgment of the gods and religious practice’.22 Second, the Greek philosophical tradition, in the light of which the entire cultural heritage was to be interpreted, ‘as in the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Porphyry, in which the highest activities are contemplation, unio mystica and amor intellectus dei’.23 Third, Bregman says, is ‘the theurgic Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, Julian's guru, and Proclus, where rites and religious practice are basic and essential…’.24 This is not to suggest that genuinely devout religious practice did not exist among non‐Christian Hellenists until the late Neoplatonism of the fourth and fifth centuries; for certainly it did, as H.‐D. Saffrey has sensitively demonstrated.25 What Bregman usefully highlights, however, is a cultural trend in late Neoplatonism which witnesses the coming together of the classical philosophical patrimony and religious piety, indeed faith, what Gregory Shaw has aptly termed, ‘the platonizing of popular religion’.26 This can be sufficiently demonstrated by surveying some of the key moments in late Neoplatonism's change in attitude towards religious practice in general and towards the role of faith in particular; for ‘no religion can dispense with pistis’.27

Plotinus would seem to have had precious little time for faith. Its epistemological possibilities were advanced but little beyond that accorded it by Plato's Allegory of the Line.28 While not disparaging it outright, for Plotinus, faith would have negligible relevance to the ascent to the One, the flight of the alone to the alone. As Rist has put it: faith for Plotinus is ‘conviction derived from the experience of the senses’.29 With his disciple Porphyry, however, things begin to change.

A committed critic of Christianity, Porphyry was quick to deride the irrational faith of Christians.30 This allegedly irrational faith, however, is (p.6) not Porphyry's final word on the possibilities of faith. In his later years Porphyry writes a letter to his wife Marcella that reveals both a respect for traditional religious practice and an acknowledged role for faith in a relationship with God.31 Writing to console his wife during an extended absence, Porphyry encourages Marcella to ‘disregard the irrational confusion caused by passion and consider it no small thing to remember the divine doctrine by which you were initiated into philosophy “for deeds provide the positive demonstrations of each person's beliefs” and “whoever has acquired certainty must live in such a way that he himself can be a certain witness to the beliefs which he speaks about to his disciples” ’.32 At first glance one might take the language of philosophical initiation to refer only to the type of philosophical life to which Porphyry would have been exposed by Plotinus, but Porphyry goes on to speak of traditional religious practice and honouring God in a manner that gives greater credence to traditional religion than Plotinus would have accorded it. ‘For this is the principal fruit of piety: to honour the divine in the traditional ways, not because He needs it but because He summons us by his venerable and blessed dignity to worship him. God's altars, if they are consecrated, do not harm us; if they are neglected, they do not help us.’33 Moreover, not only does Porphyry's philosophical piety include traditional Hellenic religious practice according to ancestral custom, but Porphyry can also speak quite positively of the role of faith in a relationship with God. ‘Let four principles in particular be firmly held with regard to God: faith, truth, love, hope. For it is necessary to have faith that conversion toward God is the only salvation.’34 This text has been much commented upon. Rist claims that the triad ‘faith, truth, and love’ marks a clear influence of the Chaldaean Oracles and constitutes, moreover, the first sign of direct influence of the Chaldaean Oracles to date.35 Citing A.H. Armstrong, Rist says that faith in Ad Marcellam is ‘ “Platonic firm rational confidence” ’.36 Dodds was less (p.7) certain that this triad came from the Chaldaean Oracles, but does think it a good deal more likely than Harnack's suggestion of the influence of 1 Cor. 13: 13 on Porphyry.37 For our purpose, however, of indicating late Neoplatonism's gradual exaltation of faith, it is worth pointing out at least three things. First, Porphyry places faith in the context of a relationship with God. Second, while Porphyry does not suggest that union with God is mediated by faith (something which Plotinus would never have advocated, but which Proclus will indeed claim), it is nevertheless necessary, ‘the first condition of the soul's approach to God’.38 Third, what Porphyry has to say about both faith and the ‘ancestral custom’ of religious practice, provides a good place to take a sort of cultural pulse. For we see here an example of the cultural tendencies announced earlier by Bregan: the tendency in later Hellenism to interpret religious practice in the light of philosophy. In Ad Marcellam Porphyry is not simply advocating ancient religious practice; the letter is an instruction in the life of philosophy. What is noteworthy about Porphyry's positive views on faith and religious practice expressed here is that he sees them as ideal preparation for the life of philosophy. ‘Porphyry remains the philosopher as he integrates the search for personal salvation into the metaphysical structure of Neoplatonism’.39 This adds some precision and a slight corrective to Dodds's general observation that after Plotinus Neoplatonism became less a philosophy than a religion. Religious rites and practices did not replace Neoplatonism, but were integrated into Neoplatonism's description of the philosophical life for late antiquity. Porphyry, at least in Ad Marcellam, provides a clear pulse in this Platonizing of popular religion, but Iamblichus and Proclus provide a yet stronger pulse.

There is a certain urgency in Iamblichus' defence of theurgy.40 Porphyry was not always so tolerant of theurgic rites, and in many ways the views of religious practices expressed to his wife represent a softening of the rather more critical and suspicious views expressed in the Letter to Anebo or in De abstinentia. Following Plotinus, Porphyry held that divine (p.8) union was achieved through νου̂ϛ. ‘The philosopher…is detached from exterior things…and has no need of diviners or the entrails of animals.…Alone and through himself, as we have said, the philosopher will approach the god…’.41 Theurgic rituals, according to Porphyry, did not lead to divine union but served only to purify the lower soul.42 This was cause for concern on the part of Iamblichus, his former pupil.43 As Peter Brown has put it: ‘The austere philosophical transcendentalism of Porphyry threatened to deny that the gods were available on earth and hence to deny that heaven was accessible to men through the traditional rituals.’44 ‘This doctrine’, says Iamblichus, ‘spells the ruin of all holy ritual and all communion between gods and men achieved by our rites, by placing the physical presence of the superior beings outside this earth.’45 By exalting the role of theurgic rituals, however, Iamblichus was not abandoning the Platonism in which he was schooled, but adapting it in such a way that the ancient religious customs served a vital function in the life of the philosopher.

Gregory Shaw claims that Iamblichus' De mysteriis, written in response to Porphyry's Letter to Anebo, is late antiquity's best example of the changes that were coming about in traditional pagan worship. ‘Iamblichus thoroughly revised and defended pagan divinational practices by placing them within the theoretical framework of Platonic and Pythagorean teachings…’.46 This, combined with the growing authority of the Chaldaean Oracles,47 resulted in the theurgic rites that gave further shape to the religious complexion of Neoplatonism in the fourth century (and beyond). But why did Iamblichus see a philosophical need for theurgy and how did theurgy fulfil that need?

Iamblichus had taken a different view from both Plotinus and Porphyry regarding the structure of the soul. For Plotinus and Porphyry, the (p.9) essence of the soul was undescended in body and, hence, never lost its divine status. Porphyry was not being flippant when he stated in De abstinentia, ‘the philosopher will approach the god’.48 The statement reveals his understanding of the nature of the soul, whose essence, undescended in the body, remains eternal and well placed ‘to approach the god’ without mediation by theurgy. Not so for Iamblichus; the essence of the soul is descended in the body, with the result that, of the soul's two functions—animating the body and uniting with the divine—the soul can only perform the former. It is the precise role of theurgy to make up for what soul cannot do, by allowing the gods to come to soul and use it as their instrument.49 Ancient rituals such as divination became for Iamblichus theurgic rites, divine works that did far more than merely cleanse the lower soul (something which Porphyry admitted).50 Theurgic rituals ‘bridged the gap between the soul's ousia and energeia: it allowed the divinity of the soul to be experienced immediately as divine but at the cost of its singular self‐consciousness’.51

Because of Iamblichus' understanding of the structure of soul, we can see more clearly how vital a role something like divination can now be seen to play. Iamblichus says, ‘only divination, therefore, in uniting us with the gods, truly enables us to share in the life of the gods, and since it participates in the foreknowledge and thought of the Divine, we ourselves may truly attain to divinity by means of it; and divination is the authentic guarantee of our good, since the blessed Intellect of the gods is replete with good of every kind’.52 With Iamblichus the old rites, with their entrails and oracles and sacrifices, can no longer be said to be mere superstition; they are the means of uniting with the divine. Iamblichus has given them an anthropological grounding in the structure of the soul itself, which makes them crucial for the life of the philosopher.53

Amongst those inspired by Iamblichus, Julian the Emperor must be reckoned the most famous in the fourth century. A convert to Iamblican Neoplatonism through Maximus of Ephesus, Julian ‘was the most (p.10) enthusiastic fourth‐century religious Hellene’,54 and theurgy, according to Rowland Smith, ‘is the most strikingly fourth‐century feature in the devotional and intellectual make‐up of the man’.55 Some scholars see Julian establishing an Hellenic church ‘with its own orthodoxy and priestly hierarchy under his direction’ very much driven by Iamblican theurgy.56 Rowland Smith, however, while acknowledging Julian's personal debt to theurgic Neoplatonism, nevertheless cautions strongly against exaggerating its influence on his public religious programme.57 To whatever degree, great or little, theurgic Neoplatonism affected the Empire during his brief reign, Julian remains an important example of how the Iamblican reforms of Neoplatonism were still very much alive. As Philip Rousseau has recently put it: ‘Especially among the followers of Iamblichus, [Julian] harnessed the energies of a generation that had already steeled itself in the face of Constantine's tolerance and conversion…’58

If the Iamblican theurgic reforms of the fourth century were in a large measure responsible for late Neoplatonism's sustained religious complexion, we might well expect to see the role of faith also come to the fore. While we have seen Porphyry speak of faith sympathetically, it is really Proclus we must turn to in order to see the positive regard in which late Neoplatonism came to hold faith.

If indeed Porphyry was the first Neoplatonist to give evidence of the growing influence of the Chaldaean Oracles, he was clearly not the last.59 Iamblichus ‘turned them into the ultimate theological authority’,60 and Proclus on several occasions refers to the famous Chaldaean triad of faith, truth, and love. Saffrey maintains that the entrance of the Chaldaean (p.11) Oracles into Neoplatonism had two important consequences. First, it gave rise to what Iamblichus developed as theurgy.61 Second, the Chaldaean Oracles became a theological authority that gave Neoplatonists a new way of reading Plato. Appearing probably in second‐century Syria, the Chaldaean Oracles were thought to be the transmissions of a medium in communication with Plato.62 ‘Since the Oracles were Platonic, Plato himself became a god capable of proffering oracles; his writings thus became the revelation of a sublime doctrine, a truly “holy scripture”.’63 One can see how Iamblichus' theory of the descended soul accommodates within Neoplatonism this new need for revelation: because the soul is fully descended, it cannot save itself; the philosopher stands in need of divine assistance. These Platonic oracles supplied such guidance, which Iamblichus worked into his theurgic rites. While Proclus certainly continued to see a role for theurgy within fifth‐century Neoplatonism, he is particularly useful for seeing the role which faith comes to play in the soul's search for divine union in the context of theurgy.64

Proclus ascribes to faith qualities which Plotinus and Porphyry would never have done. More than conviction derived from either the senses or intellect, faith becomes for Proclus a faculty of divine union beyond the level of intellect. His clearest statement of this is to be found in the Platonic Theology. With the Chaldaean triad of love, truth, and faith in the background, Proclus discusses how each is a means of contact with the divine. Love establishes contact with Beauty and truth with Wisdom, but, ‘What’, he asks, ‘will unite us with the Good? What will still all activity and movement?…In a word, it is the Faith of the gods which, by means beyond description, brings all the ranks of gods and daemons, and the blessed among souls, into union with the Good. For the Good must be sought not by knowledge and its imperfection, but only by surrender to the divine radiance.’65 As the means of union with the Good, this faith has a certain pride of place: ‘Neither Beauty nor Wisdom nor any other property of Being is for all things so worthy of Faith, so secure, so indubitable, so incomprehensible to the sequential (p.12) movement of thought, as is the Good.’66 It is clear that Proclus is not using faith in the sense that Plato and Plotinus used it.67 Faith is not, as Siorvanes has put it, ‘the absence of demonstrable argument or truth’.68 Because the Good is beyond discursive knowing, the means of contact must be non‐discursive. This is what Proclus sees in faith. For Proclus faith is an unknowing that is higher than knowing that unites with the Good, that is beyond the grasp of all noetic activity. What makes possible this union with the Good is precisely the role of theurgy: ‘theurgy leads to a supra‐intellectual faith which reaches God’.69

With Proclus, then, we see most clearly the religious possibilities that late Neoplatonism came to see in faith. Clearly this is not the inferior knowledge described by Plato in the Allegory of the Line; nor is it just the rational faith that Porphyry came to see as ‘a fundamental requirement of the philosopher’.70 Proclus asks: ‘What is the cause of this initiation except that faith? For on the whole the initiation does not happen through intellection and judgement, but through silence which is unifying and is superior to every cognitive activity. Faith imparts this…’71

Since at least Plato, the approach to the divine has been through love and truth. Why has Proclus seen in faith a third possibility for the philosopher, a possibility on a par with, if not nobler than, love and truth? Three reasons suggest themselves for consideration. One important reason is that the Chaldaean Oracles has upgraded faith by incorporating it into the triad along with love and truth. Thanks to the Chaldaean Oracles, which is considered Platonic revelation, faith has become a category whose importance is guaranteed by such revelation. Given this, the exalted understanding of faith, tied to higher theurgy, should be understood as a development within Platonism.72 Second, this exalted role of faith corresponds to the changes regarding the soul wrought by Iamblichus. A fully descended soul stands in need of assistance to realize (p.13) its divine nature; ‘it has to be “lifted up” by divinity itself’.73 The revealed text of the Chaldaean Oracles, along with its theurgy that led to faith,74 was this divine assistance that lifted the soul to salvation. Finally, for Neoplatonism generally, and certainly for Proclus, the One is beyond all noetic activity. Because of faith's ties to theurgy, plus the fact that faith itself does not require the grasp of comprehension, faith seems an obvious virtue to develop when speaking of the approach to and union with the One.

While Christianity has espoused the way of faith from the beginning, late Neoplatonism eventually came to do something similar, as Dodds has observed. As to why, Dodds points to the anxiety of the age and ultimately prefers to see it ‘as an illustration of the old and true saying that “we grow like what we hate” ’.75 I have suggested that changes within Neoplatonism regarding the fallen nature of the soul, ushered in most notably by Iamblichus, are a significant factor in explaining the religious character that late Neoplatonism took on. Pierre Hadot has recently observed: ‘For Neoplatonism and Christianity, the two spiritual movements which dominated the end of antiquity and opposed each other, man cannot save himself by his own strength but must wait for the divine to take the initiative.’76 For both traditions, the fallen state of the human requires that the divine take the initiative, what Christians would call grace and revelation. Hadot, moreover likens, late Neoplatonist reliance on ‘the material and sensible rites’ of theurgy to the Christian need for ‘the mediation of the incarnate Logos and the sensible signs of the sacraments in order to enter into contact with God’.77 Interesting as these and other parallels are, in the course of this study of what Gregory of Nyssa had to say about Christian faith as a means of union with God we shall see striking differences.

The exaltation of faith by both Christians and late Neoplatonists was part of the theological climate of late antiquity generally, but despite some interesting parallels between Gregory and Neoplatonism regarding how faculties of union work, there is important divergence regarding faith. Commenting on the difference between Christian faith and Proclan faith, Rist says: ‘Πίστιϛ then in Proclus is not very like the Christian's faith, for there is no real parallel between the Christian's faith in (p.14) Christ and the Neoplatonist's reliance on the Chaldaean Oracles.’78 Rist does not elaborate on Christian faith, but as for Gregory of Nyssa's special account of it, we shall see emphases that will ultimately distinguish it sharply from the late Neoplatonist account of it. Gregory will emphasize, among other things, the sacramental origins of faith and highlight, whether boldly or with characteristic subtlety, the developmental character of faith and the transformation of soul as a result of the union mediated by faith. But most of all Gregory presumes in faith a real relationship with the Incarnate Word, immanent in creation, in sacred scripture and in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. To this faith of Abraham, Moses, the bride, and Paul let us now turn.

Notes:

(1) Rom. 10: 4 (The New Jerusalem Bible).

(2) Rom. 10: 9.

(3) Rom. 4: 3; cf. Gal. 3: 7 and Gen. 15: 6.

(4) Heb. 11.

(5) al. 3: 9.

(6) Republic 511e.

(7) E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (Cambridge, 1965), 120–1.

(8) More on Gregory's relationship to aspects of Neoplatonism in Chapter 4.

(9) Philo, Abr. 46. 270 (LCL, Philo vol. vi, trans. F. Colson). See H. Wolfson, Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, vol. ii (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 215–18. For a philological study of faith in Philo, see D. Lindsay, Josephus and Faith: Πίστιϛ and Πιστεύιν as Faith Terminology in the Writings of Flavius Josephus and in the New Testament (Leiden, 1993), 53–73.

(10) Philo, Mig. 24. 132 (LCL, Philo vol. iv, trans. F. Colson and G. Whitaker).

(11) See esp. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis II, trans. J. Ferguson, FC 85 (Washington, DC, 1991). On faith and knowledge in Clement see E. Osborn, The Philosophy of Clement of Alexandria (Cambridge, 1957), 127–45 and S. Lilla, Clement of Alexandria: A Study of Christian Platonism and Gnosticism (Oxford, 1971), 118–42; see also J. Moingt, ‘La Gnose de Clément d'Alexandrie dans ses rapports avec la Philosophie’, Recherches de Science Religieuse 37 (1950), 398–421; 37 (1950), 537–64; 38 (1951), 82–118; R. Mortley, Connaissance religieuse et herméneutique chez Clément d'Alexandrie (Leiden, 1973), 109–25; R. Berchman, From Philo to Origen: Middle Platonism in Transition (Chico, Calif., 1985), 176–9.

(12) For a broad survey of Middle‐Platonic pagan criticism of Christianity see S. Benko, ‘Pagan Criticism of Christianity during the First Two Centuries AD’, in ANRW II. 23/2, 1055–1117; see also R. Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (New Haven, 1984).

(13) Origen, Contra Celsum 1. 10, trans. H. Chadwick (Cambridge, 1965), 13.

(14) Ibid. 1. 13 (Chadwick, 16).

(15) Origen, In Lucam fragmenta (M. Rauer (ed.), 240. 25–35); trans. R. Daly in H. von Balthasar, Origen, Spirit and Fire: A Thematic Anthology of His Writings (Washington, DC, 1984), 94.

(16) See F. Bertrand, Mystique de Jésus chez Origène (Paris, 1951), 121–40, esp. 130–2.

(17) Dodds, Pagan and Christian, 122.

(18) Ibid., 121.

(19) Ibid., 122.

(20) Ibid., 101.

(21) Ibid., 100–1.

(22) J. Bregman, ‘Elements of the Emperor Julian's Theology’, in J. Cleary (ed.), Traditions of Platonism: Essays in Honor of John Dillon (Aldershot, 1999), 339.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Ibid.

(25) H. Saffrey, ‘The Piety and Prayers of Ordinary Men and Women in Late Antiquity’, in A. Armstrong (ed.), Classical Mediterranean Spirituality (New York, 1986), 195–213.

(26) G. Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus (University Park, Pa., 1995), 231.

(27) Dodds, Pagan and Christian, 123.

(28) Republic 511e.

(29) J. Rist, Plotinus: The Road to Reality (Cambridge, 1967), 234; for some nuanced meanings of faith in Plotinus see also 235–9.

(30) See A. Meredith, ‘Porphyry and Julian against the Christians’, ANRW II. 23/2, 1120–49, esp. 1125–37; see also Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them.

(31) The attitude towards religion is so devout as to prompt some to suggest the unlikely case that Porphyry had been positively influenced by Christians; for a review of this opinion see Porphyry the Philosopher: To Marcella, trans. K. Wicker (Atlanta,1987), 4.

(32) Ad Marcellam 8. 137–50; critical text and translation by K. Wicker, Porphyry the Philosopher, 52–3.

(33) Ad Marcellam 18. 294–9 (Wicker, 60), translation by Wicker, 61.

(34) Ad Marcellam 24. 376–9 (Wicker, 66), translation by Wicker, 67; Porphyry goes on to speak likewise on truth, love, and hope.

(35) Rist, Plotinus, 239. Rist bases himself on H. Lewy, Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy: Mysticism, Magic and Platonism in the Later Roman Empire (Cairo, 1956, new edition by M. Tardieu, Paris, 1978), 144–5.

(36) Ibid.; see A. Armstrong, ‘Platonic Eros and Christian Agape’, Downside Review 79 (1961), 105–21, at 116 n. 5.

(37) Dodds, Pagan and Christian, 123 n. 2; Dodds emphasizes that, in contrast to the Chaldaean Oracles, ‘Porphyry's pistis is a state of mind, not a cosmological principle’ (ibid.). For a succinct overview of those who argue a Christian influence on Porphyry see Porphyry the Philosopher, trans. Wicker, 28–9, n. 23.

(38) Dodds, Pagan and Christian, 122.

(39) Porphyry the Philosopher, trans. Wicker, 13. Wicker concurs with A. Smith, Porphyry's Place in the Platonic Tradition (The Hague, 1974), 145.

(40) P. Hadot reminds us that the term ‘theurgy’ was coined by the author (or authors) of the Chaldaean Oracles; see P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, trans. M. Chase (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), 170.

(41) Porphyry, De abstinentia II. 52. 2–4, in Porphyre: De l'abstinence, ed. J. Bouffartigue and M. Patillon (Paris, 1977), quoted in G. Shaw, ‘Divination in the Neoplatonism of Iamblichus’ in R. Berchman (ed.), Mediators of the Divine: Horizons of Prophecy, Divination, Dreams and Theurgy in Mediterranean Antiquity (Atlanta, 1998), 240.

(42) Shaw, ‘Divination’, 240.

(43) See ibid., 230–1 for a concise summary of Iamblichus' fundamental disagreement with Porphyry.

(44) P. Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 100–1.

(45) Iamblichus, De mysteriis I. 8 (28. 6), ed. E. des Places (Paris, 1966), 55, quoted in Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity, 101.

(46) Shaw, ‘Divination’, 228.

(47) J. Dillon, ‘Iamblichus of Chalcis’, ANRW II. 36/2, 868–9, at 878; more on the Chaldaean Oracles in Chapter 4.

(48) De abstinentia II. 52. 2–4; cf. Plotinus, Ennead II. 9. 2.

(49) See Shaw, ‘Divination’, 240–8; Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, 171; see also L. Siorvanes, Proclus: Neo‐Platonic Philosophy and Science (Edinburgh, 1996), 191.

(50) See R. T. Wallis, Neoplatonism, 2nd edn. (London, 1975), 107–10.

(51) Ibid., 245.

(52) Iamblichus, De mysteriis X. 4 in Les Mystères d'Egypte, ed. E. des Places (Paris, 1966), quoted in J. Gregory, The Neoplatonists: A Reader, 2nd edn. (London, 1999), 152.

(53) See Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul, 231: ‘Iamblichus provided a theoretical justification for well‐known religious practices of the Greco‐Roman world.’

(54) Bregman, ‘Elements of Julian's Theology’, 337.

(55) R. Smith, Julian's Gods: Religion and Philosophy in the Thought and Action of Julian the Apostate (London, 1995), 112.

(56) Bregman, ‘Elements of Julian's Theology’, 337; for similar views see also J. Bidez, La Vie de l'Empereur Julien (Paris, 1930); G. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 1990); P. Athanassiadi‐Fowden, Julian and Hellenism (Oxford, 1981).

(57) Smith, Julian's Gods, 110–13: ‘Iamblican theurgy impinged on him deeply, to be sure; but it was a part of his personal credo, not the whole of it. It belonged principally to the philosophic piety of the private man…’ (113); see also 220–4. Bregman, ‘Elements of Julian's Theology’, 348 n. 30, would seem to take exception to Smith but does not attempt to counter all of Smith's claims.

(58) P. Rousseau, The Early Christian Centuries (London, 2002), 197.

(59) Rist, Plotinus, 239.

(60) H. Saffrey, ‘Neoplatonist Spirituality II: From Iamblichus to Proclus and Damascius’ in A. H. Armstrong (ed.), Classical Mediterranean Spirituality (New York, 1986), 253.

(61) Ibid.

(62) Ibid. For a more in‐depth treatment see H. Saffrey, ‘Les néoplatoniciens et les Oracles Chaldaïques’, Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes 27 (1981), 209–25.

(63) Saffrey, ‘Neoplatonist Spirituality’, 254.

(64) For a helpful examination of differences between Iamblichan and Proclan theurgy, see A. Sheppard, ‘Proclus' Attitude to Theurgy’, Classical Quarterly 32 (1982), 212–24.

(65) Proclus, Platonic Theology I. 25, ed. H. Saffrey and L. Westerink, Théologie Platonicienne (Paris, 1968), 110, 1–10; translation by Gregory, The Neoplatonists: A Reader, 170.

(66) Proclus, Platonic Theology I. 25, ed. H. Saffrey and L. Westerink, Théologie Platonicienne (Paris, 1968), 110, 1–10; translation by Gregory, The Neoplatonists: A Reader, 170.

(67) Indeed Proclus distances himself from just this understanding at I. 25 (Saffrey and Westrink, 110, 17–22).

(68) Siorvanes, Proclus, 191–2.

(69) Ibid., 192; see 192–9 for an account of Proclus' range of views on theurgy; see also Sheppard, ‘Proclus' Attitude to Theurgy’, 219, and Rist, Plotinus, 244.

(70) Rist, Plotinus, 238; Porphyry thought the Christians exemplified irrational faith, which ‘does not find God’ (Rist, Plotinus, 238).

(71) Proclus, Platonic Theology, IV. 31 quoted in Siorvanes, Proclus, 193.

(72) L. Rosán, The Philosophy of Proclus (New York, 1949), 215 n. 152, suggested that Proclus' emphasis on faith might reflect a Christian influence.

(73) Siorvanes, Proclus, 191.

(74) For a good discussion of higher and lower theurgy in Proclus see Sheppard, ‘Proclus' Attitude to Theurgy’.

(75) Dodds, Pagan and Christian, 123.

(76) Hadot, What is Ancient Philosphy?, 171.

(77) Ibid.

(78) Rist, Plotinus, 245.