Dr. Thayer's lecture last evening at the College Conference was a continuation of his lecture of last week. In his previous lecture he had spoken of New Testament times, showing different phases of the life of the world in which Christianity shaped itself. He spoke last week of the Greek language and Roman rule that dominated the world, and also of the universal worship of the Roman emperor. Last evening he continued his description of the age of the New Testament, by speaking of the philosophy of the period and then going on to show the influence that the expatriated Jews had over the people among whom they lived.
By the beginning of the Christianera, the Greek philosophy had grown to be extremely practical. The school of philosophers taught self-command and discipline. Its aim was personal culture. A writer on that school, Epictetus made a great point of the effect that philosophy produced on a man. The other element of the philosophy, the religious element, was beautifully set forth in the writings of Seneca. His doctrines were that God was a friend and a loving father to all. Even the most miserable of men felt God's munificence. Man was a living sluine of God. This was a very sublime religion, and the writings of Seneca seem almost like a modern sermon.
Dr. Thayer then spoke of the influence the Jews had on the people among whom they lived. These extra-Palestinian Jews (or as they are technically called, the Dispersion), were very widely scattered all over the Western world. They appeared in Asia Minor and along the northern coast of Africa. A large portion of the cities of Alexandria and Rome were populated by Jews. These Jews clung firmly together, and established synagogues wherever they happened to be. They adapted themselves wonderfully to their surroundings, as was own by the way their Jewish ideas were mingled with the Greek Philosophy.
Their literature, too, which was very varied and extensive, was also influenced by the Greek surroundings. This literature had the effect of attracting a great number of proselytes. The influence of these Jews had great effect both in putting some spirituality into these merely ritual religions and in raising the intellectual tone of the communities in which they lived.