Virtuous pagan is a concept in Christian theology that addressed the fate of the unlearned—the issue of nonbelievers who were never evangelized and consequently during their lifetime had no opportunity to recognize Christ, but nevertheless led virtuous lives, so that it seemed objectionable to consider them damned. A Christian doctrinal formulation of this concept, though not universally accepted, is known that of the "Anonymous Christian" in the theology of Karl Rahner (it is analogous to teachings of the gerim toshavim in Judaism and Hanifs in Islam).In the Bible, Paul the Apostle teaches that "that pagans may not possess the Law (of the Judaeo-Christian God) but may nevertheless have the law engraved in their hearts [their conscience], and that Jesus judges people according to what is in their hearts (Romans 2:12–16)."
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. —Romans 2:12-16
Certain Church Fathers, while encouraging evangelism of nonbelievers, are known to have taken a more broadly inclusive view as to the participation of non-Christians in divine wisdom. In Chapter 46 of his First Apology, Justin Martyr went so far as to claim all logos-inspired pagans as Christians, even those who espoused nontheistic philosophies:
We have been taught that Christ is the First-born of God, and we have suggested above that He is the logos of whom every race of men and women were partakers. And they who lived with the logos are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and people like them."
Francis A. Sullivan believes that early Christian writers "did not preclude virtuous pagans from possibly attaining salvation", but he "agrees that it is possible that the patristic Fathers, had they been asked directly, may have denied that pagans and Jews could become partakers of eternal life."
Prominent examples of virtuous pagans are Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Trajan, and Virgil. Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy , places a number of virtuous pagans in the first circle of Hell (analogous to Limbo), including Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. Intriguingly, the Muslim champion Saladin is also counted among the ranks of virtuous non-Christians due to his reputation for chivalry, despite the prevalent view among Christians that Muslims were schismatic adherents of a heretical Christology; whereas Muhammad himself was consigned to the ninth ditch of the eighth circle of hell, reserved for schismatics. Meanwhile, Dante placed the pagan emperor Trajan in Paradise and Cato the Younger, a suicide, with Statius in Purgatory, while Virgil, whose poetry was thought to prophesy the Christian epoch, he consigned to Limbo. It is clear that these portrayals reflect Dante's impressionistic assessments of each figure's true character rather than the application of doctrinal rigor to their cases.
"Virtuous paganism" became relevant to Romanticism with its interest in North European mythology or enthusiasm for the rediscovered pagan ethos of the Icelandic sagas. Tom Shippey argues that the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien is significantly based on such a concept of virtuous paganism:
Tolkien was "rather disturbed by [an Armageddon which the wrong side wins (Ragnarök)]: he saw that the ethos it represented could be used by either side, as indeed it was in the deliberate cultivation of Götterdämmerung by the Nazi leadership a few years later. Nevertheless it did provide an image of heroic virtue which could exist, and could be admired, outside the Christian framework. In some respects (as you can see in his 1936 Beowulf lecture, see Essays, 24–25) the Old Norse 'theory of courage' might even be regarded as ethically superior to the Classical if not to the Christian world-view, in that it demanded commitment to virtue without any offer of lasting reward. ... He also felt that Old Norse mythology provided a model for what one might call 'virtuous paganism,' which was heathen; conscious of its own inadequacy, and so ripe for conversion; but not yet sunk into despair and disillusionment like so much of 20th-century post-Christian literature; a mythology which was in its way light-hearted."
The Consolation of Philosophy is a philosophical work by the Roman statesman Boethius, written in 523 AD. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, as well as the last great Western work of the Classical Period.
Paganism is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism or ethnic religions other than Judaism. In the time of the Roman empire, individuals fell into the pagan class either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population, or because they were not milites Christi. Alternative terms in Christian texts were hellene, gentile, and heathen. Ritual sacrifice was an integral part of ancient Graeco-Roman religion and was regarded as an indication of whether a person was pagan or Christian. Paganism has broadly connoted the "religion of the peasantry".
Religion and mythology differ in scope but have overlapping aspects. Both terms refer to systems of concepts that are of high importance to a certain community, making statements concerning the supernatural or sacred. Generally, mythology is considered one component or aspect of religion. Religion is the broader term: besides mythological aspects, it includes aspects of ritual, morality, theology, and mystical experience. A given mythology is almost always associated with a certain religion such as Greek mythology with Ancient Greek religion. Disconnected from its religious system, a myth may lose its immediate relevance to the community and evolve—away from sacred importance—into a legend or folktale.
The Great Apostasy is a concept within Christianity, identifiable at least from the time of the Reformation, to describe a perception that the early apostolic Church has fallen away from the original faith founded by Jesus and promulgated through his twelve Apostles. Protestants used the term to describe the perceived fallen state of traditional Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, because they claim it changed the doctrines of the early church and allowed traditional Greco-Roman culture into the church on its own perception of authority. Because it made these changes using claims of tradition and not from scripture, the church – in the opinion of those adhering to this concept – has fallen into apostasy. A major thread of this perception is the suggestion that, to attract and convert people to Christianity, the church in Rome incorporated pagan beliefs and practices within the Christian religion, mostly Graeco-Roman rituals, mysteries, and festivals. For example, Easter has been described as a pagan substitute for the Jewish Passover, although neither Jesus nor his Apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival.
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is a poem of 508 lines, written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1930 and published in Welsh Review in December 1945.
"Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf. It was first published as a paper in the Proceedings of the British Academy, and has since been reprinted in many collections.
The fate of the unlearned, also known as the destiny of the unevangelized, is an eschatological question about the ultimate destiny of people who have not been exposed to a particular theology or doctrine and thus have no opportunity to embrace it. The question is whether those who never hear of requirements issued through divine revelations will be punished for failure to abide by those requirements.
Anonymous Christian is the controversial notion concerning the fate of the unlearned which was introduced by the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (1904–1984) that declares that people who have never heard the Christian Gospel might be saved through Christ. Non-Christians could have "in [their] basic orientation and fundamental decision," Rahner wrote, "accepted the salvific grace of God, through Christ, although [they] may never have heard of the Christian revelation."
J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy books on Middle-earth, especially The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, drew on a wide array of influences including language, Christianity, mythology, archaeology, ancient and modern literature, and personal experience. He was inspired primarily by his profession, philology; his work centred on the study of Old English literature, especially Beowulf, and he acknowledged its importance to his writings.
The Ainur (singular: Ainu) are the immortal spirits existing before Creation in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe. These were the first beings made of the thought of Eru Ilúvatar. They were able to sing such beautiful music that the world was created out of it.
The Valar are characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. They are "angelic powers" or "gods" subordinate to the one God. The Ainulindalë describes how those of the Ainur who chose to enter the World (Arda) to complete its material development after its form was determined by the Music of the Ainur are called the Valar, or "the Powers of the World". The Valaquenta indicates that the Elves generally reserved the term "Valar" for the mightiest of these, calling the others the Maiar. The Valar are mentioned briefly in The Lord of the Rings, but were developed earlier in material published posthumously in The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth.
The anti-paganism policies of the early Byzantine Empire ranged from 395 till 476. Anti-paganism laws were enacted by the Byzantine Emperors Arcadius, Honorius, Theodosius II, Marcian and Leo I the Thracian. They reiterated previous legal bans, especially on pagan religious rites and sacrifices and increased the penalties for their practice. The pagan religions had still many followers but they were increasingly obliged to keep under cover to formally comply with the edicts. Significant support for paganism was present among Roman nobles, senators, magistrates, imperial palace officers, and other officials.
Eclogue 4, also known as the Fourth Eclogue, is the name of a Latin poem by the Roman poet Virgil. Part of his first major work, the Eclogues, the piece was written around 40 BC, during a time of brief stability following the Treaty of Brundisium; it was later published in and around the years 39–38 BC. The work describes the birth of a boy, a supposed savior, who once of age will become divine and eventually rule over the world. During late antiquity and the Middle Ages, a desire emerged to view Virgil as a virtuous pagan, and as such, early Christians, such as Roman Emperor Constantine, early Christian theologian Lactantius, and St. Augustine—to varying degrees—reinterpreted the poem to be about the birth of Jesus Christ.
"The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" is a story within the Appendices of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It narrates the love of the mortal Man Aragorn and the immortal Elf-maiden Arwen, telling the story of their first meeting, their eventual betrothal and marriage, and the circumstances of their deaths. Tolkien called the tale "really essential to the story". In contrast to the non-narrative appendices it extends the main story of the book to cover events both before and after it, one reason it would not fit in the main text. Tolkien gave another reason for its exclusion, namely that the main text is told from the hobbits' point of view.
Christianity is a central theme in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional works about Middle-earth, but always a hidden one. This allows the book to be read at different levels, and its meaning to be applied by the reader, rather than forcing a single meaning on the reader.
J. R. R. Tolkien built a process of decline and fall in Middle-earth into both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.
The music of Middle-earth consists of the music mentioned by J. R. R. Tolkien in his Middle-earth books, the music written by other artists to accompany performances of his work, whether individual songs or adaptations of his books for theatre, film, radio, and games, and music more generally inspired by his books.
Despite J. R. R. Tolkien's assertion that The Lord of the Rings was a fundamentally Christian work, paganism appears in that book and elsewhere in his fictional world of Middle-earth in multiple ways. These include a pantheon of god-like beings, the Valar, who function like the Norse gods, the Æsir; the person of the wizard Gandalf, who Tolkien stated in a letter is an "Odinic wanderer"; Elbereth, the Elves' "Queen of the Stars", associated with Venus; animism, the way that the natural world seems to be alive; and a Beowulf-like "northern courage" which is determined to press on, no matter how bleak the outlook.
The first circle of hell is depicted in Dante Alighieri's 14th-century poem Inferno, the first part of the Divine Comedy. Inferno tells the story of Dante's imaginary journey through a vision of the Christian hell, ordered into nine circles corresponding to classifications of sin. The first circle is Limbo, the space reserved for those souls who died either before baptism or those who hail from non-Christian cultures. They live eternally in a castle set on a verdant landscape, but forever removed from heaven.
Tolkien's Art: A 'Mythology for England' is a 1979 book of Tolkien scholarship by Jane Chance, writing then as Jane Chance Nitzsche.
Rather did he hold the position stated in the Apocalypse of Sedrach: 'there are nations which have no law, yet fulfill the law; they are not baptized, but my divine Spirit enters them and they are converted to my baptism, and I receive them with my righteous ones in the bosom of Abraham. [There were rabbis who taught that righteous heathen would be saved: t. Sanh. 13.2; b. Sanh. 105a. Recall also Paul's thoughts in Rom 2.14-16: Gentiles who do the law written on their hearts may have good consciences on the last day.] The context, however, does not explicitly teach two judgements; and we are not persuaded that 'the least' are to be identified with Christians (see below). Further, we have little doubt before Matthew, the scene concerned all humanity. At the same time, 25.31-46 may very well imply that Matthew thought salvation possible for those outside the church. We are reminded of Karl Rahner's so-called 'anonymous Christian'.