The Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays on Late Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R.A. Markus

By Merdinger, Jane E. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2000 | Go to article overview

The Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays on Late Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R.A. Markus


Merdinger, Jane E., The Catholic Historical Review


The Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays on Late Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R. A. Markus. Edited by William E. Klingshirn and Mark Vessey. [Recentiores: Later Latin Texts and Contexts.] (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. 1999. Pp. xxv, 348. $54.50.)

This volume is a Festschrift dedicated to Robert Markus, the distinguished British scholar whose contributions to the field of patristics over the past forty years have been significant. His work has embraced a variety of topics including Augustine's philosophy of history and theory of signs; early-Christian self-- definition; transformation in the theological and cultural underpinnings of late antiquity; Byzantine Africa; and the thought of Gregory the Great. Sixteen essays by colleagues and disciples of Markus constitute the volume.

In her article "Secundum Carnem: History and Israel in the Theology of St. Augustine," Paula Fredriksen demonstrates that Augustine's mostly positive valuation of the Jews arose from his theology of history and from his championing of the Old Testament against Manichaean detractors. Fredriksen argues convincingly that, unlike other Church Fathers, the bishop of Hippo regarded the Jews as witnesses to God's continuing prophetic revelation even in post-- biblical history. In "Ideas of Schism and Heresy in the Post-Nicene Age," Gerald Bonner notes that the distinction between heresy and schism long remained illdefined in early Christianity. With the alliance of Church and State under Constantine, however, new pressures emerged to define and control orthodoxy more precisely. Bonner's essay provides useful examples of the ways in which imperial expectations coincided with nascent heresiological impulses to produce an age of increasing political and religious conformity.

Literary theory provides the framework for Elizabeth Clark's chapter on "Constraining the Body, Expanding the Text: The Exegesis of Divorce in the Later Latin Fathers." She argues that while seeking to reconcile conflicting biblical and legal passages on divorce, leaders such as Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome reinterpreted key passages to promote an ascetic message in their commentaries. …

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