Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.599092
Title: Polemic and episcopal authority in fourth-century Christianity
Author: Flower, Richard Andrew
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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Abstract:
This thesis explores the employment of polemical literature by mid-fourth-century Christian authors as a means of promoting themselves as authoritative and orthodox figures during a period of doctrinal uncertainty. It focuses on the writings of four bishops (Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Cagliari and Epiphanius of Salamis), who are noted for their fierce opposition to heresy, and, in the case of the first three, their vehement attacks on the emperor Constantius II (337-361). These authors chose to draw upon recognisable literary elements and characters - most notably biblical figures and martyrs - in order to present themselves and their enemies as re-enacting canonical struggles from Christian history. These accounts combined the techniques of classical rhetoric and the deployment of paideia in agonistic disputation with an explicitly Christian canon of reference material and system of values. Th.is thesis therefore considers the representation of the authors' political and theological opponents, in order to show that when these men attacked 'heresy', they often did so in order to defend themselves from the same charge, rather than writing from a secure position of power. When doing so, they also sought to create for themselves positions as authoritative commentators on theology and practice. The first chapter discusses the literary antecedents, both classical and Christian, for the attacks directed against Constantius II, together with the social role of ceremonial, panegyric and invective in the Roman empire; the second chapter examines the Christian construction of an image of the emperor Constantius II as the archetypal tyrant and persecutor; the third argues that these writers laid claim to charismatic authority by presenting themselves as the heirs of the martyrs; the fourth continues the theme of scriptural re-enactment by examining its wider use in the literary construction of theological disputes as replaying biblical events or fulfilling prophecies; the fifth continues the theme of heretical genealogies by exploring the emergence of quasi-scientific classification systems for heterodox belief, particularly in the encyclopaedic Panarion of Epiphanius. This final chapter therefore also examines tl1e growth of heresiology and argues that this author sought to protect himself and his theological ideas by anathematising his opponents and promoting 11in1self as an expert on discovering and destroying heresy. By bringing together this group of distinct, but linked, claims to authority, this thesis contributes to the growing sense of the fourth century as a time of both uncertainty and innovation within Christianity, during which a series of doctrinal and institutional challenges resulted in a wide range of new forms of literary response.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.599092  DOI:
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