Episcopal Elections 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity

Episcopal Elections 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity

Episcopal Elections 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity

Episcopal Elections 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity

Synopsis

"Episcopal Elections 250-600 examines the way in which bishops were chosen and appointed in the late Roman empire. The bishop and his importance in the late empire have been the subject of much scholarly attention in recent years, and this is the first comprehensive treatment of the manner of their choice and appointment. Contrary to the conventional view, Peter Norton argues that the local community continued to be an important factor in the choice of bishops throughout the empire post-Constantine."

Excerpt

The church had presumably always been concerned with the mechanics and conduct of elections, but this concern intensified after the expansion of Christianity in the third century, so much so that it found it necessary to legislate on the matter. What had been a collection of closely-knit communities, where it was possible for most members to know each other, and where the auctoritas of the bishop was easier to exercise, was rapidly becoming an institution on a much bigger scale, not just locally, but across the empire. Moreover, after Constantine's embrace of the religion, many of the new members attracted into the Christian church might possibly be best described as opportunistic Christians. Thus while the early legislation was largely a response to specific issues, it is no coincidence that it dates from the beginning of the fourth century. Also worthy of examination is what might be termed the 'theory' of episcopal elections, for which we have a variety of sources, such as the decisions of the Roman popes, or comments on a particular election from one of the ecclesiastical historians.

Some caveats are necessary. in examining the canons of church councils, it is worth remembering that we are dealing with pieces of legislation designed to meet specific needs or to answer particular problems: councils did not, as it were, legislate in a vacuum, and their agendas were dictated by the circumstances of the time. Thus

On the formation of canon law in the East, E. Schwartz, 'Die Kanonessammlung
der alten Reichskirche', in Gesammelte Schriften, Band 5, (Berlin, 1960), 159–275.
Also, J. Gaudemet, 'Droit romain et droit canonique en Occident aux iv et V siècles',
in Actes du Congrès de droit canonique (Paris, 1950), 254–67. More recently, H. Hess . . .

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