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the grounds that the gods were well disposed to the righteous, not to sinners.39 Beyond this, and most fundamentally, intellectual pagans rejected Christian faith in the incarnation and resurrection upon the basis of their incompatibility with late antique Platonism. For, according to the morphology ofPlatonic thought, value was to be equated with ontological proximity to the Supreme Principle. Therefore matter, as that which was understood as being furthest removed in existence from the Supreme Principle, was the least valuable mode of being. As a result, it made no sense within this frame of thought for the supreme divinity - already possessed of all that is valuable - to join itself to worthless matter in incarnation,40 nor for the immaterial souls of the blessed, when freed from the body by death, to be re-united with those bodies for eternity in corporeal resurrection.4'

Ontological conservatism

In general, however, the political triumph of Christianity meant that - excepting the brief rule of Julian the Apostate - the period of the fourth to seventh centuries was not one in which pagans were free to compose polemical refutations of Christianity. Rather, during this period, pagan intellectual interaction with Christianity was primarily indirect, taking place through the conservative maintenance and articulation of pagan Platonic ontological interpretations of religion. The visible upholding of such understandings in a Christian empire, understandings which were fundamentally incompatible with Christianity, constituted a quiet but firm intellectual rejection of Christianity. This was the principal means by which pagan intellectuals during this period engaged Christianity intellectually.

Anti-ritualism in third-century philosophy

But the primary form which this anti-Christian philosophy took was determined not by specifically anti-Christian argumentation, but by the rejection of particular monistic and anti-ritualistic trends in the third-century Platonic philosophies of Plotinus and his disciple Porphyry. These trends did not deny the existence of pagan gods and daemons, but considered their invocation and supplication irrelevant for the attainment of human fulfilment,42 this being attainable only through the philosophical life.

39 Origen, Contr. Cels. 3.59; Cf. Julian, Caes. 336B.

40 Cf.Origen, Contr. Cels. 4.i4; Porphyry, Contr. Chr. fr. 77.

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