Christianity took root and grew within a far-flung empire under complicated and widely varying sets of influences. Under these conditions, the problem of establishing doctrinal and institutional coherence and consistency was acute. In this engaging and authoritative book, Peter Kaufman tells a number of stories from the early clerical history of the church to illustrate how authority came to be shared among the institutions of church, book, and bishop.Kaufman offers vignettes drawn from the first seven centuries of Christian clerical life that reflect the struggle to devise management strategies for resolving theological, political, and social conflict. Most accounts of this period emphasize the conflict. This book tells the other side of the story: the work of reconciliation and the efforts of executives to build, repair, and maintain consensus.This is unabashedly a book about elites, for it was on them that the battle against nonconformity and anarchy was thrust. Tertullian and Augustine of Hippo have pride of place, but we also meet Cyprian, Gregory, Ambrose, and others. They were leaders of a very different age, an age that not only shaped Latin Christendom but also left in place the mechanisms for authority, reconciliation, and conflict resolution that characterize Christianity today.Church, Book, and Bishop tells an important story in a way that will appeal to a wide range of readers, including scholars, students, and general readers. It will be especially useful as a supplement to courses on the history of Western civilization, early Christianity, and the early church.
Peter Iver Kaufman is professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Redeeming Politics; Prayer, Despair, and Drama: Elizabethan Introspection; The Polytyque Churche: Religion and Early Tudor Political Culture; and Augustinian Piety and Catholic Reform as well as over 30 articles on church history.