Ecclesiastics and Ascetics: Finding Spiritual Authority in Fifth and Sixth Century Palestine
HEVELONE-HARPER, JENNIFER L. (GORDON COLLEGE)
Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, Vol. 9.1, 37-55 (2006)
During the fifth and sixth centuries, the church in Palestine experienced considerable turmoil over christological divisions. In the midst of this controversy monks sometimes came into conflict with the established hierarchy of the church. As a source of spiritual authority distinct from ecclesiastical power circles, ascetics could support or undermine the work of a bishop. Drawing upon the works of John Rufus, Zachariah Scholasticus, and Barsanuphius and John of Gaza, this article explores the various models used to reconcile ecclesiastic and ascetic sources of spiritual authority. It examines these authors’ perceptions of interactions between monks and bishops as they established and maintained their spiritual authority.
In the fifth and sixth centuries, Christians in Palestine faced considerable concern about the proper locus of spiritual authority in the context of ongoing christological controversy. Inhabitants of the province were divided over the christological settlement of the Council of Chalcedon (451 CE). Supporters had confidence in the compromise between Alexandrian and Antiochene christologies articulated by the council’s definition, that Christ had two natures, one human and one divine, united in one person.