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The Professionalization of the Clergy in Late Antiquity


This dissertation investigates the role that the prior occupational experiences of Christian clerics played in molding the institutional development of the Christian Church in the later Roman Empire, roughly between 200 and 600 CE. It first demonstrates how socio-legal, economic, and demographic constraints limited the ordination of clerics to literate populations among the artisan, mercantile, and professional classes. The argument then proceeds to demonstrate how the organizational structures and payment practices of occupational units among these classes such as professional collegia served as models for the nascent discipline of the Christian clergy. The third chapter explores how the ordination of everyday physicians and the positive estimation of secular medicine among bishops drove the formation of ecclesiastical hospitals and the propagation of medical knowledge. The final chapter traces the development of two peculiar ecclesiastical offices, namely the ordained notary and a class of ordained lawyers called defensores ecclesiae, both of which mandated the ordination of technically trained legal practitioners. As with ordained physicians, evidence suggests that by the end of antiquity both ecclesiastical notaries and defensores were receiving their technical education within ecclesiastical communities. This evolution, in which professionals could solely acquire their skills within the Church, signaled the gradual usurpation of ecclesiastical functionaries over their lay analogs.

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