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date: 21 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The selection of various biblical tropes adopted in early Christian hagiography depended greatly upon its subjects, whether bishops, monks, nuns, martyrs, or confessors. In reading the lives of these model Christians, early Christian hagiography reflected the mind and values of its society. What mattered most to Late Antique hagiographers was how the personal sanctity of their subjects reflected their continuity with biblical times, in a correspondence of type and antitype. From Moses to Elijah to Christ or John the Baptist, from Antony to Augustine to Maximus the Confessor, hagiographical narratives—deeply rooted in Scripture—made both their subjects and their devotees part of a seamless continuum of holiness. To this end, hagiographers interwove themes and topoi from a range of texts calculated to edify, from the lives of Hellenistic philosophers to the Hebrew Scriptures; from classical narratives of exile and loss to the letters of the Apostle Paul, celebrating suffering and persecution for the sake of the Gospel; from the canonical Gospels to the apocrypha. This multi-layering produced a rich vibration beneath the surface of the text, giving off a complex series of signals to which every early Christian was alert.

Keywords: holiness, saints’ lives, Egyptian monasticism, Hebrew Scriptures, Apostle Paul, Moses, Elijah, Antony of Egypt, Augustine of Hippo, martyrs

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