"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Bishop of Rome in Antiquity

As I mentioned earlier this month, in drawing attention to George Demacopoulos's forthcoming book on Gregory the Great, scholarship for the last decade and more, especially scholarship committed to overcoming the East-West divide, has been looking at various popes and leaders of the first millennium to see what we may need to re-learn from them today. In the various recent studies I have read, including Susan Wessell's splendid Leo the Great and the Spiritual Rebuilding of a Universal Rome, both East and West have been discovering surprising things not only about the papacy and each other, but also about their own particular traditions in this process. A book released at the end of May promises to continue that process: Geoffrey D. Dunn, ed., The Bishop of Rome in Late Antiquity (Ashgate, 2015), 270pp.

About this book (which contains an essay from the aforementioned Demacopoulos), the publisher tells us:
At various times over the past millennium bishops of Rome have claimed a universal primacy of jurisdiction over all Christians and a superiority over civil authority. Reactions to these claims have shaped the modern world profoundly. Did the Roman bishop make such claims in the millennium prior to that? The essays in this volume from international experts in the field examine the bishop of Rome in late antiquity from the time of Constantine at the start of the fourth century to the death of Gregory the Great at the beginning of the seventh. These were important centuries as Christianity underwent enormous transformation in a time of change. The essays concentrate on how the holders of the office perceived and exercised their episcopal responsibilities and prerogatives within the city or in relation to both civic administration and other churches in other areas, particularly as revealed through the surviving correspondence. With several of the contributors examining the same evidence from different perspectives, this volume canvasses a wide range of opinions about the nature of papal power in the world of late antiquity.

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