Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Thomas Ferguson - Grace and kingship in De aetatibus mundi et hominis of Planciades Fulgentius

The authenticated works of P. Fulgentius (“Fulgentius the Mythographer”) includes a history of the world, based on biblical sources, as well as on Augustine and Orosius, entitled, De aetatibus mundi at hominis.  While some of the expected characters appear (Adam, Eve, Abraham and Moses), Fulgentius spends the greatest amount of time in the work dealing with the reigns of king and queens from early biblical history, extending into his own time period.
Fulgentius announces to his patron in the work’s prologue that, despite the fact that the work is in prose, there will be a “poetic device” working throughout in which each book of the history will omit one letter of the alphabet (Book 1 missing “A,” Book 2 missing “B,” etc.).  While this lipogrammatic construction leaves him with a cripplingly limited ability to properly communicate historical events, it also serves to open a door for Fulgentius to write a poetical work, albeit one in prose, which treats the theological aspects of kingship.
Whereas the pagan rulers receive the expected negative treatment, surprisingly, even David and Solomon receive severe censure.  The lurid detail with which Fulgentius treats these characters is almost tabloid in its approach, concentrating on prurient sexual details, whether provide by the narrative or not.  The works Augustine and Orosius appear dispassionate in comparison to his slant.
Having stated his poetic intentions, Fulgentius treats his subjects with poetic license, drawing out their negative aspects in order to illustrate, by employing an “Ages of Humanity” approach, life “under sin,” “under the Law,” and “under grace.”  Kingship only becomes viable and holy after the Advent of Christ.
The paper will trace Fulgentius’ historical narrative, highlighting his gradual approach to the age of grace, discussing his theology, and his thoughts on the state of kingship after the biblical period.

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