What Makes A Classic?

Classics

Qualities of Classics

Classic describes moments when the human mind peaks in its grasp of the true, the good, and the beautiful. There is no canonical agreement of what makes a classic a classic. However, there do seem to be certain qualities without which the term classic would seem a compliment misapplied:

  • Excellence
    The excellence of a classic is such that it seems to enjoy an inexhaustibility of meaning. The opposite of a classic is a period piece, fad, momentary, or provincial thing with glitzy celebrity.
  • Universality
    Classics melt borders geographically and temporally. Classics are as at home today as they were yesterday – and maybe even more so today as new developments make their insights even more relevant and more obviously true.
  • Shock
    Classics jostle how we see the world. Classics are subverse of petty and sectarian orthodoxies and ideologies. In a classic, the might be triumphs over the grip of the status quo.
  • Hope
    Hope follows like a corollary to excellence, universality, and shock. Hope has universal appeal and opens previously unexpected horizons. Hope enlarges our sense of possibility and invites participation.
  • Fruitfulness
    Classics are fruitful in two ways: they spawn other classics, and over time, more is found in them than was even suspected by the original authors. Classics are perennials that rise to new life with each new opportunity. Millennia later their insights may be vindicated as they could not have been when first created. In the presence of a classic, standards rise and thus critical thought is encouraged.

Christianity Without God
Christianity Without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative

Daniel C. Maguire

Ancient Rome’s Global Economy

Ancient Rome's Global Economy

1st Century CE

In the 1st century CE, the Roman Empire spanned an area from the Persian Gulf westward to Spain and Britain and from the Rhine frontier in Germany southward to the Sahara Desert. The Empire encompassed the entire perimeter of the Mediterranean basin, while its trade networks extended to Bactria (central Asia), India, Arabia, and Nubia (area along the Nile).

Rome 100CE
Roman Empire


Global Economy

Roman expansion began in the 3rd century BCE, but the high-water mark for imperialism was the reign of Augustus (29 BCE-14 CE). Nonetheless, the empire continued to expand throughout the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The result was a “global economy,” or at least the closest to one that can be imagined for the ancient Western world.

The Greek term often used to refer to the empire was oikoumene, often translated as “world”. From it we get the English word “economy,” but it originally carried the sense of “the managed realm.” From a Roman perspective, fit meant “the world we inhabit and control” – in other words, the Roman empire.

From Jesus to Christianity
From Jesus to Christianity

L. Michael White

Writing History – Ancient vs Modern Methods

Ancient and Modern History

Canons of History

The canons of modern history differ significantly from those of ancient history. Both modern historians and ancient historians utilized various sources in order to construct a narrative account that was faithful to the event or series of events under consideration. However, unlike modern historians, ancient historians often favored oral sources over written ones. Written sources were utilized and incorporated into histories, but information obtained directly through person-to-person communication was considered more trustworthy that that obtained from a written source.

Standards of Documentation

Even though ancient historians, like modern historians, aspired to produce truthful accounts of past events, they did not operate with the concept of “facts” the way modern historians traditionally have – what constitutes being a faithful account of past events was measured by a different standard in antiquity that it is in modernity.The reasons for the difference between that way the ancient world and modern societies report and preserve their pasts are complex and difficult to explain, but at one reason was people in antiquity had few ways to record any given moment at the point it occurred.

There were no telephones, tape recorders, cameras, or video cameras. Neither were there photocopy machines, computers, or fax machines. And, since no such thing as journalism existed yet, people in antiquity did not typically take notes at important events. Thus, the gathering, retrieval, and cross-checking of data was an entirely different matter for ancient historians than it is for modern ones. For example, reporting who said what, when, and to whom would be a difficult thing to do accurately without the benefits of modern technology.

Greco-Roman Period

Historical writings of the Greco-Roman period often contain the text of lengthy speeches given by key figures at key moments. How did ancient historians know exactly what was said if they weren’t present (or even if they were)?

From Thucydides, the 5th century BCE Greek historian who wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War, we know that historians composed speeches themselves. There was no expectation to record the words spoken on a given occasion verbatim. Rather, the author needed to convey what the figure would have plausibly said under the circumstances. From oral traditions about what sort of person he or she was, as well as oral reports about the circumstances in which they found themselves, the ancient historian composed a speech for that person on that occasion.

Paul Was Not A Christian
Paul Was Not A Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle

Pamela Eisenbaum

What Are The Cultural Sources Of Christianity?

Christianity
Ancient Israel 

The Christian cultural stream has its source in the traditions of of ancient Israel whose cultural stream eventually gave rise to three broad traditions – rabbinical Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each claimed the patriarchs and Israelite prophets as part of their own tradition.

Even the pre-Christian Jewish stream was already much more multi-cultural in origin than the Holy Scriptures tend to imply. From the 6th century BCE onwards, it was influenced by Persian Zoroastrianism and Greek Hellenism. Much of these two lives on incognito in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic streams.

Influence of Zoroastrianism

From the influence of the Zoroastrian tradition have come such ideas as:

  • the Last Judgment (preceded by a general resurrection)
  • an after-life with rewards and punishments
  • the concept of a personal Devil
  • the writing of our life story in a heavenly book of life
  • the naming of angels with specific functions

Birth of Christianity 

The influence of Jesus of Nazareth had the effect of adding such a fresh burst of vitality to the Jewish cultural stream that it caused part of it to break away and form a new stream, which we now commonly refer to as the Christian tradition. Christianity took with it the Jewish Scriptures, the monotheistic God, and the institution of the synagogue.

At the beginning of the Christian era, the Jewish tradition had no intention of giving birth to the Christian stream. The new Jewish sect known as “the Christians” was regarded as a heretical movement even though its key figure, Jesus of Nazareth, and his chief interpreter, Paul, were both solidly Jewish. In addition, a number of early Christians didn’t see their movement as the abandonment of the Jewish tradition, but as its fulfillment.

Christianity without God
Christianity without God

Lloyd Geering

What Is Historical Criticism?

Biblical Historical Criticism

Background

Historical criticism developed among European Protestant scholars, especially in Germany, and became the dominant methodology for studying the Bible by the late 19th century. By the mid-20th century, it had been embraced by many Jewish and Roman Catholic scholars, and it continues to be used by a majority of scholars alongside other interpretive strategies.

Details

Historical critics seek first of all to be critical, in the way that reviewers try to evaluate a book, film, or a concert without prejudgment. In the study of the Bible, such an approach means understanding the Bible as a collection of works in many genres written by individuals in particular times and in particular places over many centuries. To interpret the Bible as a historical critic, then, is to look at it not as inspired and inerrant, but on its own terms as the words of various named and unnamed authors.

God's Favorites
God’s Favorites: Judaism, Christianity, and the Myth of Divine Chosenness
Michael Coogan