Who Knows Better? The Crisis of Knowing in Athanasius’ Against the Gentiles

On 1 June 2023, Associate Professor Doru Costache, AIOCS Founding Director, gave a talk for the workshop “The Many Faces of Crisis,” held at Macquarie University, Department of History and Archaeology.

Abstract: At pains to counter philosophy’s hold on knowledge, in Against the Gentiles Athanasius asserts that Christianity surpasses other ways of acquiring gnosis. He tackles several pathways to knowing, whose combined outcome is an “unerring” grasp of truth. I focus on one of these modes, the roadmap that leads from introspection to soul travel (chapters 30–34). The latter lends itself to further distinctions, including dreams and visions. None of these means of acquiring gnosis can claim originality, of course, but Athanasius introduces a number of qualifications that, at close quarters, tell a different story. It is these further qualifications—amounting to theological and ascetic prerequisites—that, he believes, prove the superiority of Christian knowledge to any classical approaches. Furthermore, the fact that the path of interiority, discussed here, is only one of Athanasius’ modes of knowing shows a deliberate plan to overthrow philosophy’s monopoly and to establish a Christian epistemology.

Audio recording

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