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Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity

The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition

Claudia Rapp (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 520 pages
ISBN: 9780520280175
August 2013
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
Between 300 and 600, Christianity experienced a momentous change from persecuted cult to state religion. One of the consequences of this shift was the evolution of the role of the bishop—as the highest Church official in his city—from model Christian to model citizen. Claudia Rapp's exceptionally learned, innovative, and groundbreaking work traces this transition with a twofold aim: to deemphasize the reign of the emperor Constantine, which has traditionally been regarded as a watershed in the development of the Church as an institution, and to bring to the fore the continued importance of the religious underpinnings of the bishop's role as civic leader.

Rapp rejects Max Weber’s categories of “charismatic” versus “institutional” authority that have traditionally been used to distinguish the nature of episcopal authority from that of the ascetic and holy man. Instead she proposes a model of spiritual authority, ascetic authority and pragmatic authority, in which a bishop’s visible asceticism is taken as evidence of his spiritual powers and at the same time provides the justification for his public role. In clear and graceful prose, Rapp provides a wholly fresh analysis of the changing dynamics of social mobility as played out in episcopal appointments.

1. The Nature of Leadership in Late Antiquity
2. Pragmatic Authority
3. Spiritual Authority
4. Ascetic Authority

5. Bishops in Action
6. Social Contexts
7. Cities
8. Empire
9. The Bishop as a New Urban Functionary

Primary Sources
Secondary Literature
Claudia Rapp is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the coeditor of Elites in Late Antiquity (2000) and Bosphorus: Essays in Honour of Cyril Mango (1995).
“Rapp’s work will likely set the agenda for future discussion of the early Christian bishop and his authority. Her book represents a major step forward in this area of late ancient history.”—David Brakke American Historical Review
"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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