Program

ACLS Fellowship Program

Project

Expectations of justice: religious authority and society between antiquity and the Middle Ages

Department

History

Expectations of justice: religious authority and society between antiquity and the Middle Ages

Program

ACLS Fellowship Program

Project

The Culture of Penance in Late Antiquity

Department

History

The Culture of Penance in Late Antiquity

Between the third and sixth centuries, Christian authors created the framework for practicing and debating the forgiveness of sins. Drawing on scripture, early Christian texts, and Roman notions of penance, they created the core of Christian penitential literature. They also wrestled with how contemporary Christians should interpret their past. This project argues that some authors offered penance as a way for ordinary people to become masters of their own consciences. At the same time, these churchmen carefully constrained that power by asserting themselves as expert moderators of penance. The diversity of late Roman ideas, which characterized the culture of penance for an age still searching for what it meant to be Christian, soon slipped from the view of those who searched for a more orderly system.