The Invention of Peter: Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late Antiquity

The Invention of Peter: Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late Antiquity

The Invention of Peter: Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late Antiquity

The Invention of Peter: Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late Antiquity

Synopsis

The Invention of Peter Apostolic Discourse and Papal Authority in Late Antiquity George E. Demacopoulos ""The Invention of Peter" makes a valuable contribution to two fields that have not yet much affected each other: intellectual history of the papacy and late antique cultural studies. It encourages fresh, innovative scrutiny of a subject too important to languish."--Kevin Uhalde, Ohio University On the first anniversary of his election to the papacy, Leo the Great stood before the assembly of bishops convening in Rome and forcefully asserted his privileged position as the heir of Peter the Apostle. This declaration marked the beginning of a powerful tradition: the Bishop of Rome would henceforth leverage the cult of St. Peter, and the popular association of St. Peter with the city itself, to his advantage. In "The Invention of Peter," George E. Demacopoulos examines this Petrine discourse, revealing how the link between the historic Peter and the Roman Church strengthened, shifted, and evolved during the papacies of two of the most creative and dynamic popes of late antiquity, ultimately shaping medieval Christianity as we now know it. By emphasizing the ways in which this rhetoric of apostolic privilege was employed, extended, transformed, or resisted between the reigns of Leo the Great and Gregory the Great, Demacopoulos offers an alternate account of papal history that challenges the dominant narrative of an inevitable and unbroken rise in papal power from late antiquity through the Middle Ages. He unpacks escalating claims to ecclesiastical authority, demonstrating how this rhetoric, which almost always invokes a link to St. Peter, does not necessarily represent actual power or prestige but instead reflects moments of papal anxiety and weakness. Through its nuanced examination of an array of episcopal activity--diplomatic, pastoral, political, and administrative--"The Invention of Peter" offers a new perspective on the emergence of papal authority and illuminates the influence that Petrine discourse exerted on the survival and exceptional status of the Bishop of Rome. George E. Demacopoulos is Associate Professor of Theology and Codirector of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. He is also author of "Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church." Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion 2013 - 272 pages - 6 x 9 ISBN 978-0-8122-4517-2 - Cloth - $69.95s - 45.50 ISBN 978-0-8122-0864-1 - Ebook - $69.95s - 45.50 World Rights - Religion, History Short copy: By emphasizing the ways the Bishops of Rome first leveraged the cult of St. Peter to their advantage, George E. Demacopoulos constructs an alternate account of papal history that challenges the dominant narrative of an inevitable and unbroken rise in papal power from late antiquity through the Middle Ages."

Excerpt

On June 29, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI ratified a document prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that sought to clarify the Roman Catholic Church’s position on certain contemporary ecclesiological questions rooted in the proclamations of Vatican II. Among other things, the document defined other Christian traditions as “defective” because “communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles.” In other words, membership in the “one Church of Christ” is actualized, according to this text, by solidarity with the bishop of Rome, and this assertion is justified on the basis of the biblical Peter’s link to the ancient see.

However contentious such a declaration may be, all students of Christian history are familiar with papal claims to ecclesiastical authority. Equally familiar is the justification for this authority on the basis of the special connection between Peter the apostle and the bishops of Rome who are said to “inherit” his primatial authority. And while there is certainly no shortage of historical studies that have sought to chronicle the so-called rise of the papacy from late antiquity into the Middle Ages, there seems to be a surprising dearth of investigations into the circumstances under which this Petrine connection was initially promoted, how those proclamations evolved, and how they were perceived by other Christians at the time.

What differentiates the present study from previous histories of the papacy is that it is not so much concerned with chronicling the acts of any particular pope or ecclesiastical conflict as it is devoted to understanding the emergence of a particular kind of discourse, the Petrine discourse, which helped to make possible what we might now call a papal theory. As such, the current project is not a history of the early papacy per se so much as it is a study of how the literary and ritualistic embellishment of a link between the historic Peter and the papal see of subsequent centuries functioned within a . . .

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