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Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity

Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity
Author: Daniel Folger Caner
ISBN 13: 9780520233249
ISBN 10: 520233247
Edition: N/A
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: 2002-08-05
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 335
List Price: $73.95

"Caner draws together traditions, episodes, and groups from across the geographical expanse of the Roman Empire (the Syrian Orient, North Africa, Constantinople), to present the wandering monk as a figure around whom the ecclesiastical battle for authority fought between bishops and ascetics took on acute articulations. By focusing on religious practices rather than doctrinal teachings, Caner is able to weave together hitherto separate discussions to reveal a larger pattern of profound change in late antique Christian culture, as different models of monasticism competed for economic and political power in urban centers. This is very important work. It makes major contributions to our understanding of early Christian asceticism, the emergence of monasticism as an institution within church and society, and church-state relations in the later Roman Empire."—Susan Ashbrook Harvey, author of Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and the Lives of the Eastern Saints.

"Caner has cut through to the heart of central issues in the study of early Christian asceticism: social stability, economic self-sufficiency, and the reliability of the sources at our disposal. Those who were apparently unstable and dependent, the wanderers and beggars of his title, occupy the foreground of his account; but his chief argument is that they have to be placed in a broader social and historical context that softens the edges of their idiosyncrasy, and that we have to be careful not to take at face value the exaggerated categories of mutually belligerent parties in the church. . . . The second half of the work begins by tackling the "Messalian" movement—asking whether it is appropriate to talk of a "movement" in so distinctive a way. The supposedly typical "Messalian" inclination—an inclination to dramatic indigence in the service of continuous prayer—seems less sui generis, when placed alongside more moderate forms of ascetic dedication. We are warned, therefore, not to accept too readily the paradigms of heresy-hunters like Epiphanius. Caner's account marks an important step forward in our understanding of such patterns of ascetic behavior. Caner also ventures upon an equally fresh and welcome investigation of what lay behind the contentious attitudes of John Chrysostom and Nilus of Ancyra, and then—perhaps even more exciting—explains how the whole study transforms our understanding of the maelstrom of politics that impinged upon religious debate between the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. We are thus brought to realize how eagerly and disruptively ascetic rivals struggled to attract and retain the patronage of the Christian élite, even to the imperial level."—Philip Rousseau, author of Pachomius: The Making of a Community in Fourth-Century Egypt, and Basil of Caesarea