What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? Greek Orthodoxy and the continuity of Hellenism

Dimitri Kepreotes



‘Hellenism’ and ‘Greek Orthodoxy’ are quantities of global civilization that are themselves difficult to define and categorize. To sufficiently describe the centuries-old interrelationship between these two phenomena in an objective and evidence-based manner is nearly impossible. This paper therefore aims to concentrate mainly on one aspect of a highly complex interrelationship, namely the historical and philosophical points at which a transition occurred from ancient Hellenism to Greek Orthodoxy in the Christian era.

Such a transition has been vehemently described as a forceful suffocation by some, and as a providential transformation by others. Diametrically opposed views in this field can be a topic of scholarly debate, just as they are of popular prejudice. And this is made more interesting by the fact that, regardless of the degree to which one entity is believed to have been subsumed by the other, the interrelationship between Hellenism and Greek Orthodoxy never remains static.

Could it then be argued that, during their long and enduring course of co-existence, Hellenism and Greek Orthodoxy have not only been mutually enriching, but in fact life-giving for each other and for those who regard them as a way of viewing and experiencing the world? On the other hand, would the Hellenists of our time regard Christian Orthodoxy as being completely foreign to the essence of Hellenism, thereby echoing Tertullian’s rhetorical flurry: ‘What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?’

This article attempts to show briefly that the distance between the capital cities of Hellenism and Christian Orthodoxy, while often difficult to navigate, need not be daunting.

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