in various forms within almost all the genres of late antique Christian literature. The genres common to both cultures included commentaries, letters, treatises, public orations, biography, historiography and poetry. The advent of Christianity gave rise to some new, hybrid forms such as homilies and flori-legia. The only distinctively Christian genres that the new dominant culture produced were popular forms, such as liturgical hymns, the pilgrim's journal, and monastic literature.

A common thread in all these literary forms was the fundamental importance of the Christian scriptures. These were made up of the Septuagint -a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, with its inclusion of Judaeo-Hellenistic apocryphal books - together with the Greek version of the New Testament. The fact that the New Testament was passed down in Greek rather than the spoken language of Jesus and the Jewish people (Aramaic) or the official language of the Roman empire (Latin) was of great import for the future shape of Christian culture and its literature.2 The twenty-seven-book canon of the New Testament was set down by Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, in his Paschal letter of 367.3 It took longer for the various Christian communities to agree upon the status of the Judaeo-Hellenistic apocrypha, with the West being initially more favourable to them than the East. Christian culture, and especially in its literary aspects, was grounded in the scriptures. They provided the richest source of allusions and quotations in Byzantine literature. This is self-evident in the case of biblical exegesis, in the form of commentaries and homilies, but the Christian scriptures also influenced other literary genres in less obvious ways, as we shall see.

Different exegetical techniques came to characterise particular schools, including the school of Alexandria - a school of Hellenic philosophy that adopted the speculative and allegorical methods of Stoic interpretation of classical and philosophical texts, and applied them to scripture4 - and its rival at Antioch, a school of rhetoric. The Antiochene approach, represented by little more than a loose group of theologically disparate figures who included Arius, Paul of Samosata, Diodore of Tarsus, Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia, was associated with what became known as the literal or 'historical' method ofexegesis, and was more interested in the text itselfthan the ideas

2 Jaroslav Pelikan, Christianity and classical culture, 3; Pelikan draws a great deal from W Jaeger's classic Paideia.

3 Athanasius, Letter 39.18 (trans. Campani, 511); for the complicated history of the New Testament canon, see Bruce Metzger, The canon of the New Testament.

4 See Frances M. Young, 'The Rhetorical Schools'. Before the Alexandrian school was taken over by Christian thinkers - notably Clement and Origen - the Jewish philosopher Philo had already applied these methods to the biblical text.

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