During the early part of the present period, the Christians of Syria developed considerable interest in Greek philosophy and science and made translations of the works of Aristotle, Theophrastus, Themistius, Alexander of Aphrodisias, etc.  These Syriac versions were translated into Arabic by Mohammedan scholars.  A number of the writings of Plato and the Neo-Platonists were also rendered from the Syriac into the Arabic during the early Middle Ages.  On the basis of Greek philosophy and science, considerably modified by this process of translation and re-translation, there grew up, in the East, in North Africa, and in Spain, a remarkable Saracenic culture.  “The whole philosophy of the Arabians was only a form of Aristotelianism, tempered, more or less, with Neo-Platonic conceptions” (Ueberweg).

The most important of the Arabic philosophers, as regards their influence on medieval Christian thought, were Avempace (died in 1138), Aububacer (died in 1185), and Averroes (died in 1198).

This vigorous Neo-Platonized Aristotelianism was made available to Christian thinkers, in part, directly through the sojourn of Christian students among the Arabs and, in part, indirectly through Jewish philosophers, who mastered Arabic learning and developed a Jewish speculative philosophy, of which the Kabbala is one of the most remarkable products, and of which Avicebron (died in 1080) and Moses Maimonides were the most illustrious representatives.

To the Arabs and the Jews, medieval Christian theologians were indebted for a remarkable scientific impulse and for a better knowledge of Aristotle, Plato, and the Neo-Platonic writers.  For further details, reference must be made to the works on the history of philosophy and to monographs on the individual writers and doctrines concerned.

From: A Manual of Church History by Albert Henry Newman; 2 volumes (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1931-1933), pp. 479-480.  Volume 1, from which this quotation was taken, was first published in 1899.

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