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Renouncing the World yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity
by Andrea Sterk
Harvard University Press, 2004
eISBN: 978-0-674-04401-2 | Cloth: 978-0-674-01189-2
Library of Congress Classification BR195.L42S74 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 262.1209015


Although an ascetic ideal of leadership had both classical and biblical roots, it found particularly fertile soil in the monastic fervor of the fourth through sixth centuries. Church officials were increasingly recruited from monastic communities, and the monk-bishop became the dominant model of ecclesiastical leadership in the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium. In an interesting paradox, Andrea Sterk explains that "from the world-rejecting monasteries and desert hermitages of the east came many of the most powerful leaders in the church and civil society as a whole."

Sterk explores the social, political, intellectual, and theological grounding for this development. Focusing on four foundational figures--Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom--she traces the emergence of a new ideal of ecclesiastical leadership: the merging of ascetic and episcopal authority embodied in the monk-bishop. She also studies church histories, legislation, and popular ascetic and hagiographical literature to show how the ideal spread and why it eventually triumphed. The image of a monastic bishop became the convention in the Christian east.

Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church brings new understanding of asceticism, leadership, and the church in late antiquity.

Table of Contents:


I. Basil of Caesarea and the Emergence of an Ideal 1. Monks and Bishops in the Christian East from 325 to 375
2. Asceticism and Leadership in the Thought of Basil of Caesarea
3. Reframing and Reforming the Episcopate: Basil's Direct Influence

II The Development of an Ideal 4. Gregory of Nyssa: On Basil, Moses, and Episcopal Office
5. Gregory of Nazianzus: Ascetic Life and Episcopal Office in Tension
6. John Chrysostom: The Model Monk-Bishop in Spite of Himself

III The Triumph of an Ideal 7. From Nuisances to Episcopal Ideals: Civil and Ecclesiastical Legislation
8. Normalizing the Model: The Fifth-Century Church Histories
9. The Broadening Appeal: Monastic and Hagiographical Literature

Epilogue: The Legacy of the Monk-Bishop in the Byzantine World

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