“Sanctify Thy Hand by the Blow”

Michael Gaddis

in There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780520241046
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930902 | DOI:
“Sanctify Thy Hand by the Blow”

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  • Greek and Roman Archaeology


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This chapter turns to the late antique bishop, a figure of Christian leadership in whom the holiness of the world-renouncing ascetic saint and the worldly power of the secular magnate met in an uneasy coexistence. It summarizes the creation of two rhetorical opposites, the hagiographic ideal of the bishop-saint and the polemical nightmare of the tyrant-bishop. It then investigates the application of these stereotypes to actual bishops in situations of political or doctrinal conflict. Inappropriate personal violence featured prominently in charges of misconduct brought against bishops. Bishop Rabbula presented himself as a champion for the interests of the poor, and steered the ample material resources of the Edessene church into the provision of charity. The Life of Rabbula offered an idealized way in which charismatic holiness and episcopal authority ought to be combined. Tyrant-bishops resorted to violence, legal or otherwise, in order to satisfy their greed and ambition.

Keywords: bishop; Rabbula; tyrant; personal violence; Edessene church; holiness; episcopal authority

Chapter.  15384 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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