Chris is an ancient historian who specialises in the New Testament and the cultural and intellectual context of early Christianity, in particular the churches of St Paul. He also teaches Greek and Roman history of ideas, and the history of the Hellenistic period (330 BC–30 BC).
Description: For most of the last 150 years, scholars have described the rise of philosophy in Greece as ‘the Greek Enlightenment’, ‘the Greek miracle’, or ‘the beginnings of Western scientific thinking’. It became common to speak of the development of Western thinking ‘from myth to reason’, or ‘from religion to science’, on parallel with claims from the 16th-17th century European ‘Enlightenment’. It is only in the last 25 years that this paradigm has begun to be challenged. The paper will show that this historiographical paradigm fundamentally misunderstands the early Greek philosophers. They are indeed the beginnings of Western philosophy, but characterising them as ‘secular humanists’ forces them into a mould most of them would not have understood, nor agreed with if they did.