Henry Chadwick

in The Church in Ancient Society

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246953
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600463 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church


Show Summary Details


Debates about the theory and practice of penance in the early Church were governed by the underlying question of whether the Church was ‘a society of saints or a school for sinners’, with the latter view gradually becoming dominant. Using the gospels and Paul's letters as a basis, the distinction was developed between mortal and venial sins, but there remained difficulties over which sins fell into which category. Gradually, two ideas gained hold: first, that penance should be treated as therapeutic rather than judgemental; and second, that penants should be allowed to confess in private to a priest or bishop rather than publicly before the whole congregation.

Keywords: penance

Chapter.  2835 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.