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BOETHIUS.

CHAPTER I.

A GLANCE AT THE CONTROVERSY ON BOETHIUS.

Authorities.—The volumes of Nitzsch and Hildebrand mentioned in this chapter have been of great assistance to me in following the course of what may be called the Boethian controversy.

He who in our day would enter on a study of Boethius is confronted at the very threshold by the question, "Was the writer of the 'De Consolatione Philosophise' a Christian?" This, the first of all questions to which the modern student requires an answer, does not seem to have troubled the readers of the old Eoman in the middle ages, on whom his

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influence was so real and so profound, much less the scholars of the Eenaissance. For although it was to him, more than to any other, that Europe was indebted for an acquaintance with the higher flights of Hellenic thought, at a time when the original vehicle of its expression seemed lost beyond hope of recovery, yet men soon forgot the great teacher and translator in their delight at the new gift of a Greek literature, free to all the world.

A series of dogmatic tracts, a close intimacy with certain prominent Christians of his time, and a tragic death almost coincident with a threatened persecution, had all helped to invest Boethius with a halo of sanctity to which he had in reality but little claim. For more than a thousand years, from the eighth to the eighteenth century, he was generally accepted as the undoubted author of the tracts above mentioned, and as a martyr for the Faith into the bargain. Alcuin (735-804) has a word of praise for the treatise 'Quomodo Trinitas, ' and there are traces of another treatise of Boethius in his book 'De Fide Trinitatis.' Paul the Deacon in the same century calls him vir catholicus,1 and this title is emphasised not long afterwards by Ado,

1 In Muratori rer. Italicar. scriptor., torn. i. p. i., Mediol., 1723, p. 103.

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archbishop of Vienne,1 who, in the 'Breviarium Chronicon,' distinctly states that Theodoric put Symmachus and Boethius to death pro catholica pictate. This tradition, whether it had its first origin in the words of Ado or only received a fresh impulse from them, would naturally bring the theological writings of the patriot-statesman into special prominence. By the thirteenth century it had taken so firm a root, that Vincent of Beauvais did not hesitate to refer their composition to an attack on his orthodoxy, which Boethius was bound to defend.2

There is a faint fore-note of the future debate to be heard in the commentary on the 'Consolation' ascribed to Bruno of Corvey (tenth century), where it is remarked that the spirit of this book is not exactly a Christian spirit,—that there are many thoughts in it that savour too much of Platonism, and are at variance with the teaching of the Church. But this early commentator, with a critical perception which allows him to join hands across the centuries with Baur and Hildebrand, was ready to admit that the writer's object was not to dispute the truths of Christianity, but only to open to the unlearned the sealed books of Greek philosophy.

1 A.d. 800-875. 2 Spec. Hist., xxi. 15 ; xvii. 56.

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