May 02, 2007

Athanasius contra mundum

In English: Athanasius against the world.

May 2 is the feast day of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, so I thought I would post this proverb about Athanasius. Probably everybody has felt at some point as if they stood alone against the world, contra mundum. In the Latin tradition, it is Saint Athanasius who proverbially stood against the world.

You can read more about Saint Athanasius in a post I have put up at a new blog I started recently, ReligiousReading.com. Summer is almost here, and this blog is my new summer project, in response to reading a very thought-provoking book last week: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't, by Stephen Prothero. The argument of the book, made in great detail, is that we are facing a real crisis in religious literacy in this country, with terrible consequences for our civic life. This is definitely something I am aware of in the students who enroll in my classes, so I am hoping this blog will be a chance for me to develop some new educational projects and share them with others.

Athanasius, of course, was caught up in an entirely different kind of crisis of religious literacy, since he is a figure deeply associated with the establishment of the Biblical canon as we know it today. At the website detailing the Development of the Canon of the New Testament, there is a listing of Bible books, canonical and noncanonical, showing which church authorities supported the inclusion of each book in the canon. Fascinating! You can click on the hyperlink for each book to learn more. In our Greek reading group, we spent some time on the Shepherd of Hermas this year, an absolutely lovely text, although it ultimately did not make it into the canon. Athanasius reluctantly allowed its use for new Christian recruits, but it did not get included in the canon, alas.

Meanwhile, hoping you have not been too much alone against the world today, here is today's proverb read out loud:

94. Athanasius contra mundum.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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