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Reading Patristic Texts on Social Ethics

Issues and Challenges for the Twenty-First Century

Johan Leemans

Publication Year: 2012

Can writings of the church fathers related to the field of social ethics be of value to contemporary discussions on the topic? In addressing this question, the authors of this book discuss the exciting challenges that scholars of both early Christianity and contemporary Catholic social thought face regarding the interaction of historical sources and present issues.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Series: CUA studies in early Christianity

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This is the second of four publications to emerge from a research project carried out by the Centre for Catholic Social Thought of the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University of Leuven during the years 2005 to 2009. The research project investigated the potential for a dialogue between the Church Fathers and Catholic social thought, and this volume reflects an important stage in that research. ...


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

This volume investigates the potential for a dialogue between the social teachings of the Fathers and the living theology of Catholic social thought today. Although creating a dialogue between worlds of ideas separated by fifteen centuries would seem to pose some difficulties, the contributors to this volume express such wide-ranging concerns that one wonders if success is even likely. ...

Part I: Approaching Patristic Socio-Ethical Texts

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1. Texts That Create a Future: The Function of Ancient Texts for Theology Today

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pp. 3-29

The relationship of the present to the past is constitutive for Christianity and many other religions. In the religious context of the earthly Jesus, texts of the past that have come to us as Old Testament play a decisive role. They are consulted to explain the present and to anticipate the future. ...

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2. Challenges in Approaching Patristic Texts from the Perspective of Contemporary Catholic Social Teaching

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pp. 30-42

From a twenty-first century perspective, whether one reads patristic socioethical texts in the original or in translation, there are difficulties, pitfalls, and caveats. One of the most important facets to take into consideration when reading these texts is their genre. A homily delivered live in the ancient Church, for example, would be a public event, ...

Part II: Contexts for Patristic Socio-Ethical Texts

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3. Social Ethics and Moral Discourse in Late Antiquity

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pp. 45-63

The term “patristic social ethics” may convey the impression that the Church Fathers—already an immensely varied group of individuals covering at least half a millennium—shared a number of systematic views on social issues. It seems to suggest that they held a set of norms and rules, which can be reconstructed through the careful reading of their sermons, letters, and dogmatic works. ...

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4. Wealth, Poverty, and Eschatology: Pre-Constantine Christian Social Though tand the Hope for the World to Come

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pp. 64-84

Christian eschatology and otherworldliness have been used and misused throughout history. On the one hand, they were used by Christians to justify maintaining the socio-political or religious status quo resulting in either a tragic neglect of social injustice or a passivity toward social reforms in the present age.1 ...

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5. The Audience(s) for Patristic Social Teaching: A Case Study

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pp. 85-100

When we reflect on the audience of social teaching by the Fathers of the Church, it is not unnatural to look first to the most overt of patristic media for the delivery of moral instruction—the sermon. In a book titled The Media Revolution of Early Christianity, however, the author, Doron Mendels, challenges us to broaden our perspective. ...

Part III: Issues in Patristic and Catholic Social Thought

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6. Out of the Fitting Room: Rethinking Patristic Social Texts on“The Common Good”

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pp. 103-123

The Leuven Expert Seminar dialogue on “The Church Fathers and Catholic Social Thought” offered an extraordinary opportunity to explore what patristic sources might offer in the ongoing construction of modern Catholic social thought, and particularly how they might encourage religious dialogue for justice and goodness internationally. ...

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7. “That which has been wrung from tears”: Usury, the Greek Fathers, and Catholic Social Teaching

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pp. 124-160

In the sixteenth year of the reign of Emperor Trajan, a woman who is described as “aged about 66 years, with a scar in the middle of her forehead,” and who, being accompanied by her son—who also had “a scar in the middle of his forehead”—acknowledged in writing the recovery of a loan for the amount of 1,612 silver drachmae, as well as interest on the loan.1 ...

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8. The Principle of Detachment from Private Property in Basil of Caesarea’s Homily 6 and Its Context

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pp. 161-184

I have two sons. The older of my boys, now age four, enjoys building elaborate sets with his wooden train tracks. The younger of my boys, now age one, enjoys “playing” with his older brother by tearing apart the train set as it is being built. The four-year-old is understandably upset, and some sort of physical behavior is displayed to retrieve the tracks from his younger brother. ...

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9. Social Justice in Lactantius’s Divine Institutes: An Exploration

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pp. 185-206

This inquiry interprets a fourth-century Church Father’s main work in reference to social justice, a characteristic theme in Catholic social thought and Catholic social teaching.1 The overall perspective is postcritical in the sense of probing for a relation between an ancient text and a modern or postmodern context in Church and world. ...

Part IV: Reflections on the Theme

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10. The Church Fathers and Catholic Social Thought: Reflections on the Symposium

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pp. 209-221

The topic assigned to me is to say something both of what was accomplished by the articles in this volume and of what tasks have been identified by them for future research. The volume brings to the surface a deep ambivalence about the legitimacy and extent of developing Christian social teaching today by reference to patristic texts. ...

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11. The (Im)possible Dialogue between Patristics and Catholic Social Thought: Limits, Possibilities, and a Way Forward

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pp. 222-232

In his First Homily on the Love of the Poor Gregory of Nyssa exhorts his congregation to care for large groups of fugitives who had found their way into Nyssa. He vividly describes their awful fate: sleeping rough in porticoes, drinking together with animals from water springs, depending on alms for their survival. ...

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pp. 233-234

Pauline Allen is professor of Early Christian Studies at the Australian Catholic University, where she directs the Centre of Early Christian Studies. She is widely published in the field of early Christianity, including spirituality, Mariology, and social ethics. ...


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pp. 235-264


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pp. 265-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219103
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813218595

Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: CUA studies in early Christianity