Thursday, 30 April 2015

Nicholas Mataya: Charity Before Division: The Strange Case of Severinus of Noricum and the Pseudo-Evangelisation of the Rugians

Severinus of Noricum (c. 410 – 482)’s strategy to facilitate the spread of Christianity in the Late Roman Balkans is atypical among Late Antique holy men.  Despite being given such titles as “the Apostle of Noricum” by later authors, the Severinus offered to us in the Vita Sancti Severini elicits very few, if any, doctrinal conversions.  Instead, the Vita Sancti Severini presents a mode of evangelisation that dramatically deemphasises doctrine and emphasises Christian unity and charity.  This can be seen most clearly in Severinus’ interactions with the Arian Rugians.  Unlike earlier holy men, many of whom preached the shunning of heretics, Severinus disregards doctrinal differences in favour of a strategy that employs miracles to illustrate that Christ could help all people.
This study will begin by examining a number of attempts to evangelise peoples within and without the Roman Empire during the Late Roman period, including Paul of Tarsus’ efforts in Greece and Ambrose of Milan’s efforts in Northern Italy.  Then, the context of the Late Roman Balkans, particularly in Noricum and its surroundings, will be examined.  Subsequently, the Vita Sancti Severini and the career of Severinus will be discussed.  Finally, the mode of evangelization proffered by Severinus will be scrutinised, particularly its use and results among the Rugians.  It will be shown that Severinus’ pseudo-evangelisation of the Rugians, which stressed charity before division, was atypical among Late Antique holy men, and that this pseudo-evangelisation met with minimal success.

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