Early Christian Political Philosophy

Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Early Christian Political Philosophy

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy


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Early Christian political philosophy is not a unified, theoretical, and coherent system, but is embedded in a range of Christian works of apology, theology, and exegesis. Literate (and therefore elite) Christians from the apologists to Augustine were subject to a range of political and social pressures, and their political thinking was often contingent and incidental. What is the ultimate goal of political life for Christians? What is the good life for Christians? Between Constantine's reign and that of Theodosius at the close of the fourth century, emperors veered from the pious to the “heretical,” with a single pagan interruption. It was a common rhetorical conceit for Christians to redefine philosophy as Christianity, and one that became more urgent during Julian's reign. He attempted to wrest Greek philosophy and culture from the Christians for his revived paganism, dubbed “Hellenism,” and even barred Christians from teaching in his school edict of 362. This article focuses on early Christian political philosophy as well as ecclesiology, eschatology, and asceticism.

Keywords: Christianity; political philosophy; ecclesiology; eschatology; asceticism; theology; paganism; emperors; Augustine; Constantine

Article.  6436 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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