Friday, 8 May 2015

Matthieu Pignot: The catechumenate in pseudo-epigraphic sermons from late antique Africa

In late Antiquity, individuals wanting to become Christian went through a progressive integration called the catechumenate by modern scholars. In ancient sources from the Latin West, this involved a two-stage membership: converts would first become members of the community as catechumeni (hearers), while full belonging was acquired by petitioning for the status of fidelis (faithful) and receiving baptism after intense preparation. This organisation still remains widely unknown because of the lack of sources providing clear accounts of how it was organised and lived. In Africa, Augustine of Hippo and Quodvultdeus of Carthage, and particularly their sermons, provide the most visible and studied evidence, in the form of occasional and dispersed references. After the 450s, sources become scarce with very few sermons preserved with an authorship.
The objective of this paper is to extend the study of the catechumenate in Africa in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries by exploring the less-known and little studied pseudo-epigraphic sermons preserved from the period. The pseudo-Augustinus, pseudo-Chrysostomus, pseudo-Maximus and pseudo-Fulgentius collections have much to offer on rites of initiation and catechesis implemented during the catechumenate. While many of the texts found amongst these collections have been ascribed to new authors, a large amount still remains anonymous. Isolating, in this corpus, the texts ascribed to late antique Africa, I shall provide a brief account of their potential contribution to our understanding of the catechumenate in late Antiquity, and reflect on their impact on the broader history of initiation as told by better-known patristic sources.

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