Theses Doctoral

Just Deserts: Losing Origen and Gaining Retributive Judgment in the Hagiographical Literature of the Early Byzantine World

French, Todd Edison

The rise in production and distribution of Christian Hagiography in the Early Byzantine Empire points towards a unique moment in Christian History. The role of the saint was moved from the margins to a central and dynamic position within the church hierarchy and broader religious landscape. Meeting the pagan claims of power and prestige, hagiographers crafted a saint that was more retributive than the earlier martyrologies and histories. The ascetic took on a role that was more akin to God's agent than suffering stranger. The deserts of Syria, Palestine and Egypt become the territory of struggle against a world that had fallen out of step with God's will, but was slowly being corrected. This research looks for reasons as to why this prominent form of literature became more deliberately retributive through its progression toward the sixth century. A major focus of the argument will be the influence that Origen had on Christian theological interpretation. Beginning with a section on Origen, this research will move on through the five most prominent hagiographical compilations in late antiquity. In the end, it will show that each of these hagiographers' relationship with Origen's teaching and subsequent communities yielded a particular flavor of hagiography on a spectrum of retributive justice. Finally, it will take into account the influence that the development of a structured system of law under Justinian had on the religious outlook of various later works.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
McGuckin, John A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 6, 2014