The following was posted to the B-Greek forum by Stephen Hughes. The context was what should we be reading in addition to our Greek New Testaments (Xenophon’s Anabasis and plays by Euripides had been mentioned)?
Reading those texts that I mentioned is following the Byzantine educational system. The great fathers; Basil, Gregory, Gregory, John Chrysostom and Julian the apostate would have all started with those texts, then moved on to Lysias and Sophocles and then eventually on to Demosthenes. Later students would progress to John Chrysostom after Demosthenes on the Crown. Classical education is demonstrably the legitimate successor to the Byzantine educational heritage. Then (as now) education for the Christianised Romans used secular (even pagan) sources to learn the language in which they delivered the Christian message. The educated of Byzantium were not an enclave of Athinite monks slavishly reciting the NT and other ecclesiastical texts, they were the vibrant successors of a Christianised Classical heritage. Following the fall of Constantinople we in the West (How is Australia west when it is in the far south-east?) were given the privilage of carrying the torch of both the classical Greek and Roman heritage. An earnest study of the classics was expected of those who wanted to read not only our Classical past but also our ever-renewed present in Christ. The classics are not an invitation to return to the errors of paganism and pre-Christian humanism and democracy as some of the Italian city-states did during the Renaissance, but a call to accept all that is good and beautiful in both God and man’s creation and to sanctify whatever can be found for the glory of God.
A classical education is THE key to the fathers, it is the broader context in which to understand the New Testament linguistically, it is a tangible continuation of the Ancient world – the world which gave us our Greek New Testament – into our present day.