Virtue was understood to be that which leads one to God, through
the interior transformation of one's being. "Without virtue," Plotinus said,
"God is only a word." The practice of asceticism and the cultivation of virtue,
as Plotinus understood it, was meant to lead to an extremely simple attitude.
The goal of the philosophical life, then, was not to remove oneself from
society, but to be so transformed inwardly that one was able to live within
society with a freedom which came from a simple regard for "the One".
If by knowledge of Greek is meant the ability correctly to
understand a Greek author theological or secular, or the Greek Bible, then
assuredly competent Hellenists of the eighth and ninth centuries can be counted
on one hand. If, on the other hand, it merely implies acquaintance with the
Greek alphabet, with a few passages from the Greek liturgy, or with a few
isolated Greek words or phrases, generally from the Old and New Testament, then
the sum of the accomplished will be somewhat greater, though still small in
proportion to the total number of literate men. It has been a radical fault of
many modern discussions of the subject that little or no distinction has been
drawn between the first and the second class that we have indicated.