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Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE$
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Éric Rebillard

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451423

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451423.001.0001

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Being Christian in the Age of Augustine

Being Christian in the Age of Augustine

(p.61) Chapter 3 Being Christian in the Age of Augustine
Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE

Éric Rebillard

Cornell University Press

This chapter analyzes everyday Christianity in the Theodosian period, focusing on the letters and sermons of Augustine. The richness of the evidence, especially the arguments Christians used when their bishop challenged them to justify their behavior, offers abundant insights into Christians' self-understanding. It is shown that tensions between bishop and Christians regarding the limits of religious allegiance were not due to competing hierarchies of commitments, but to the fact that most Christians practiced a situational selection of identities; that is, they did not give salience to their Christianness at all times. The chapter also reviews episodes that have usually been constructed as religious conflicts between clearly defined “pagans” and “Christians,” in an attempt to understand whether and how groupness occurred. Augustine did use these categories to cast situations in terms of religious conflict, and successfully mobilized Christians in support of his agendas. However, he also unambiguously betrays his knowledge that such mobilization was only intermittent and that most Christians deactivated their Christianness once outside the Church.

Keywords:   Christianity, Christians, Theodosian period, Christianness, pagans, religious conflict, groupness

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