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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores an abstract concept, ‘asceticism’. Two obstacles immediately present themselves to an overview of the role of asceticism in shaping early Christian studies: the lack of a clear definition of asceticism and the ubiquity of the topic in both ancient sources and modern scholarship, especially in the past 35 years. Letters, hagiographies, homilies, even acts of councils all participate in the construction of an asceticism that was a central concern of Christians in late antiquity. To chart the shifts in the study of asceticism is to follow as well the major changes in the field from ‘patristics’ to ‘early Christian studies’. Asceticism is the means by which historians of early Christianity confront central methodological issues in investigating discourses, power, social relations, the body, and all the attendant current concerns of the construction of the self and society.

Keywords: Christian studies, patristics, hagiography, social relations, Christianity

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