By Richard Finn
Richard Finn OP examines the importance of almsgiving in church buildings of the later empire for the identification and standing of the bishops, ascetics, and lay those who undertook practices which differed in type and context from the almsgiving practiced through pagans. It finds how the almsgiving the most important in developing the bishop's status was once a co-operative activity the place honor was once shared yet which uncovered the bishop to feedback and contention. Finn information how practices received which means from a discourse which recast conventional virtues of generosity and justice to render almsgiving a benefaction and resource of honor, and the way this development of idea and behavior interacted with classical styles to generate controversy. He argues that co-operation and pageant in Christian almsgiving, including the ongoing life of conventional euergetism, intended that, opposite to the perspectives of modern students, Christian alms didn't flip bishops into the very best consumers in their towns.
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Additional resources for Almsgiving in the Later Roman Empire: Christian Promotion and Practice (313-450) (Oxford Classical Monographs)
Osborn, Tertullian, First Theologian of the West (Cambridge, 1997), 68. 26 Whether the collection took the form of money, food, or both is uncertain. 27 No standard pattern may be deduced from these early authors. Such evidence as there is for the third century onwards points towards a collection in many places at the weekly synaxis. To this end there was an alms-box in the church variously named the ‘corban’ (after the Temple treasury in Jerusalem so named in Matthew 27: 6 and alluded to by Christ in Mark 7: 11), ‘gazum’, ‘gazophylacium’, and at least on one occasion the ‘chariot’ or ‘quadriga’.
Second, Uranius relates that the saint freed many captives 1 Uranius, De obitu Paulini 6, PL 53. 862C. 2 Genesis (Liber ab Hieronymo ex hebraico translatus) 41. 56 in R. Gryson, B. Fischer, J. Gribomont, H. F. D. Sparks, W. Thiele, and R. ), Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem (Stuttgart, 1994), 62. 3 Third, the bishop purchases and distributes to the poor some time before his death clothes worth forty gold solidi. Fourth, the cost of this episcopal charity is met by a donation of Wfty solidi, sent by either a bishop or that bishop’s brother.
8 Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History 7. 27, in J. Bidez and G. ), Sozomenus Kirchengeschichte, 2nd edn. (Berlin, 1995), 342. 9 Bishop and donor would share the honour associated with the donation. What was said of Epiphanius explains why almsgiving might confer an exceptional moral authority on a bishop: a good reputation attracted further alms, which, once distributed, enhanced the cleric’s reputation to win even greater funds for disbursement. The same remark, however, also betrays an anxiety that not every bishop was so honest with gifts of this kind.
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