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This book offers an innovative examination of the question: why did early Christians begin calling their ministerial leaders priests (using the terms hiereus/sacerdos)? Scholarly consensus has typically suggested that a Christian priesthood emerged either from an imitation of pagan priesthood or in connection with seeing the Eucharist as a sacrifice over which a priest must preside. This work challenges these claims by exploring texts of the third and fourth century where Christian bishops and ministers are first designated priests : Tertullian and Cyprian of Carthage, Origen of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the church orders Apostolic Tradition and Didascalia Apostolorum. Such an examination demonstrates that the rise of a Christian ministerial priesthood grew more broadly out of a developing religio-political ecclesiology . As early Christians began to understand themselves culturally as a unique polis in their own right in the Greco-Roman world, they also saw themselves theologically and historically connected with ancient biblical Israel. This religio-political ecclesiology, sharpened by an emerging Christian material culture and a growing sense of Christian sacred space , influenced the way Christians interpreted the Jewish Scriptures typologically. In seeing the nation of Israel as a divine nation corresponding to themselves, Christians began appropriating the Levitical priesthood as a figure or type of the Christian ministerial office. Such a study helpfully broadens our understanding of the emergence of a Christian priesthood beyond pagan imitation or narrow focus on the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, and instead offers a more comprehensive explanation in connection with early Christian ecclesiology.
A religious reformation occurred in the Roman Empire of the fourth and fifth centuries which scholars often call Christianization. Examining evidence relevant to Roman Africa of this period, this book sharpens understanding of this religious revolution. Focusing on the activities of Augustine and his colleagues from Augustine's ordination as a priest in 391, to the fall of the Emperor Honorius' master of soldiers, Stilicho, in 408, it proposes Catholicization as a term to more precisely characterize the process of change observed. Augustine and Catholic Christianization argues that at the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century Augustine emerged as the key manager in the campaign to Catholicize Roman Africa by virtue of a comprehensive strategy to persuade or suppress rivals, which notably included Donatists, Arians, Manichees, and various kinds of polytheism. Select sermons from 403 and 404 reveal that Augustine's rhetoric was multivalent. It addressed the populus and the elite, Christians and non-Christians, Catholics, and Donatists. Key sources examined are selected laws of the Theodosian Code, the Canons of the African Council of Catholic Bishops, Augustine's Dolbeau sermons (discovered in 1990), Contra Cresconium, as well as other sermons, letters, and treatises of Augustine. This book clarifies our perception of Augustine and Christianity in the socio-religious landscape of Late Roman Africa in at least three ways. First, it combines theological investigation of the sources and development of Augustine's ecclesiology with sociohistorical tracing of the process of Catholicization. Second, an account of the evolution of Augustine's self-understanding as a bishop is given along with the development of his strategy for Catholicization. Third, Augustine is identified as resembling modern political spin-doctors in that he was a brilliant spokesperson, but he did not work alone; he was a team player. In brief, Augustine influenced and was influenced by his fellow bishops within Catholic circles.
The nature and development of Augustine's understanding of the church between his conversion (386) and his forced entry into the clergy (391) provides an essential lens to understanding this seminal period of transition and the foundations of his future ecclesial contributions. Even so, most studies of Augustine's ecclesiology bypass this period, starting with the clerical Augustine (post 391). In fact, research on the `young' Augustine and the Confessions too often stalls over debates between his neo-Platonic or Christian orientation, focusing on dichotomies in Augustine or an individualistic Augustine too rigidly labeled. This book helps fill these gaps and provides a case study supporting arguments for continuity between the `young' and the clerical Augustine. A careful chronological textual approach to Augustine's early Christian years demonstrates how his ecclesiological thought began during this period and comprised a core component of his first theological synthesis. The emergence of his ecclesiological ideas was intimately intertwined with his overall personal, religious, philosophic, and theological development. As such it is crucial to our biographical and theological understanding of the great North African and will be of interest to specialists and students alike of Augustine's development, Confessions, mature ecclesiology, and the late antique world.