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Chapter 2 - Christian Authorities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2023

Hartmut Leppin
Affiliation:
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Am Main
Jan N. Bremmer
Affiliation:
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands
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Summary

Since late antiquity, bishops have been regarded as possessing the highest authority among Christians. But there was no linear path leading there. Rather, there were different bearers of authority among Christians: James, as the respected brother of Jesus, was a key figure at the beginning; intellectuals were able to gain importance as teachers, prophets also appeared after Jesus, among them many women; widows and virgins attained a special position; finally, the authority of ascetics increased. Basically, authority could be derived from an office within the church or from personal charisma, which was considered God given. Good bishops tried to combine both, but charismatics could always challenge them and would continue to do so throughout the history of Christianity.

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Chapter
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The Early Christians
From the Beginnings to Constantine
, pp. 116 - 222
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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