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Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition Hardcover – June 9, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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"This book is highly important. Rapp emphasizes continuities between the pre- and post-Constantine periods, a healthy correction to the myopic concentration that characterizes so much previous work on the subject. The range of materials she draws on to make her case is truly impressive, her argument both original and persuasive."

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"This book is beautifully written. It is elegant in conception, lucid yet graceful in exposition, concise and accessible."—Susan Ashbrook Harvey, author of Asceticism and Society in Crisis

"This book is highly important. Rapp emphasizes continuities between the pre- and post-Constantine periods, a healthy correction to the myopic concentration that characterizes so much previous work on the subject. The range of materials she draws on to make her case is truly impressive, her argument both original and persuasive."—Hal Drake, author of Constantine and the Bishops
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520242963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520242968
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,264,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
According to author Claudia Rapp, there are three powerful and evocative figures of late antiquity - the emperor, the holy man, and the bishop. Each in his own way provided leadership, sometimes on moral grounds, sometimes on political grounds. However, these three were not as separate as our post-Enlightenment, separation of church-and-state sensibilities might have us believe. However, for the period of late antiquity (roughly 300 - 600, the decline of the Roman Empire as a single, unified force and the rise of ecclesiastical hierarchies in place of the old imperial ones, both East and West), it is the figure of the bishop that takes centre stage in scholarship and thinking about the period. Some historians (Rapp cites Peter Brown, well-known Augustinian scholar) work out the change in society on a political/economic/military frame; some look to the general social roles; others look to the prominence of particular figures (again Augustine looms large).

Rapp suggests a different role, a three-part sense of authority that comes from spiritual, ascetic and pragmatic bases. The spiritual authority indicates a source of authority that is based in God, not in the worldly institutions or the man himself. Ascetic authority comes from the personal character and habits of the bishop - character is at issue, and what the bishop does is of primary concern. Finally, pragmatic authority derives in what the bishop does for and on behalf of others - it is also an action-based authority, but one that looks outside, not within.

Rapp organises the book into two major sections. The first compares bishops and holy men (desert fathers and others); the second compares bishops and other secular and/or civic leaders.
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