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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: December 2009

11 - Christianity as history


One of the most crucial aspects of the reception and dissemination of Christian writings in the Carolingian world was the perception of their original contexts. This perception of the original impetus for, and the time and place of, the composition of Christian theology, exegesis, moral guidance and ascetic instruction was itself shaped by a small group of seminal texts concerned with the history of the church and the Christian faith.

In the previous chapter I focused in detail on three of these texts in particular. The most influential of them was the Historia ecclesiastica of Eusebius in the Latin translation by Rufinus. It is important to stress again that this Latin version is essentially an interpretation and edition of Eusebius and not a literal translation, quite apart from the fact that Rufinus added two new books and cut most of Eusebius's Book X. Eusebius had recounted the history of the Christian church to the reign of Constantine and Rufinus extended it to the death of the Emperor Theodosius. Secondly, Eusebius inspired and provided much of the information for Jerome when the latter compiled his De viris illustribus c. 392. The work, continued by Gennadius of Marseille, c. 480, contains short accounts of a total of 234 Christian authors, in chronological order, describing where and when they lived and what they wrote. Isidore of Seville in the early seventh century added a further thirty-three authors, including some notable writers of the sixth century.

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