Friday, 1 May 2015

Jacquelyn Winston: Popular Christianity in Roman Britain: Developing the Continuity Thesis

Since the publication of Charles Thomas' Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500, scholars have debated whether Christianity ceased with the fall of the Roman British imperial structures until the missionary project of Augustine of Canterbury, or if it continued in a minimal fashion as a paganized adulterated faith until the revival of imperial Christianity in Britain at the direction of Pope Gregory the Great.  Despite archaeological evidence which suggests that Christianity was culturally embedded and widespread throughout Roman Britain, the study of Roman British Christianity has suffered from scholarly bias which has expected it to resemble Roman imperial Christianity.  This paper posits the view that imperial Christianity did not exist in Roman Britain until the late 6th century.  Instead, early Roman British Christianity was hybrid in character due to its mixture of indigenous Britons, Roman soldiers and their families, provincial elites, emigrés, as well as a small number of imperial elites for whom Britain was the setting for a stage in their social advancement.  This diverse constituency formed a Roman British church which was more congregational in character, rather than the hierarchical, episcopally-driven Roman imperial church. Rather than being dependent on regional, politically powerful bishops, it emphasized personal devotion which was practically incorporated in everyday life, a quality which allowed Christians to continue their faith beyond the fall of imperial Roman Britain. The Christianity which survived the fall of Roman Britain was not paganized threadbare superstition - it was the personal, practical faith which gave rise to Irish Christianity.

No comments:

Post a Comment