Spiritual Authority

Claudia Rapp

in Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780520242968
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931411 | DOI:
Spiritual Authority

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  • Religion in the Ancient World


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This chapter demonstrates the concept of spiritual authority with reference to its most eloquent post-apostolic spokesmen, Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and their remarks on bearers of the Spirit (pneumatophoroi) and bearers of Christ (christophoroi). It explores how individual holy men were appreciated by their contemporaries for their ability to work intercessory prayer. It then investigates a specific kind of intercessory prayer, namely, that for the remission of sins as it was offered by martyrs, holy men, and bishops. The Letters of Barsanuphius and John forcefully underscore the crucial importance of prayer in shaping the interaction between a holy man and his followers. The vicarious penance and the prayers performed by the holy men, whose ascetic authority enhanced and solidified their spiritual authority, had the effect of reconciling sinners with God and their neighbors. Spiritual authority conferred through ordination is what ultimately sets bishops apart from martyrs and holy men.

Keywords: spiritual authority; Clement of Alexandria; Origen; pneumatophoroi; christophoroi; holy men; martyrs; bishops; intercessory prayer

Chapter.  21031 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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