Bishops in Action

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:
Bishops in Action

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This chapter elaborates on the problematic relation of worldly criteria and spiritual qualifications in the appointment of bishops and in their discharge of office. It presents a comparison between the episcopal careers of Synesius of Cyrene and Theodore of Sykeon. It is shown that late antique bishops had ample leeway to define their role and range of activities. Contemporary attitudes were opaque, and theologians sensed the need to defend the nature of the episcopate as work and service, not as an honor. It then addresses the common late antique misconception that the episcopate was an honor, analogous to a civic magistracy. Christian authors found it necessary to issue frequent warnings that the episcopate should not be sought. The shared language of praise for men in positions of leadership, whether civic or ecclesiastical, implies the possibility that the distinction between public roles in civic and ecclesiastical contexts was not always clearly drawn.

Keywords: bishops; Synesius; Cyrene; Theodore; Sykeon; episcopate; leadership

Chapter.  8076 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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