Review: Rubenstein’s Aristotle’s Children

Aristotle’s Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages

Richard Rubenstein

I have for some time been interested in the interplay between classical Greek philosophy, rabbinic Judaism, and early Christian thought. Neo-platonic thought and early Christian doctrine share a lot in common, and Aristotle had a clear influence on the codification of the Talmud. So when I saw the subtitle of this book, I was excited for an overview of that area of history. I guess I should have read the back cover before I purchased this one, because the title is highly misleading. This book has almost no information about the early Christian era; it is a book about the rediscovery of classical thought in the high middle ages and Renaissance. Think Thomas Aquinas and Peter Abelard, not Rabbi Akiva and Augustine of Hippo.

Though this book turned out to not be at all what I was looking for, it was interesting. As a theology buff, I enjoyed the arguments regarding the nature of the trinity, the infighting between the competing monastic orders, and the turn towards Aristotelian logic in theological debate. You can look down your nose at monks arguing over the question of how many angels fit on the head of a pin, but the rigor that people like Aquinas and Abelard brought to the discussion of theological questions is the foundation for the logistical thinking which brought us the scientific revolution. And the scientific revolution brought you the iphone, so shut up.

Aristotle’s Children may not have been what I was looking for, but as a piece of popular religious history, it’s a good read. Recommended for the curious.

 

 

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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