The Lusitanian Episcopate In The 4th Century: Priscilian Of Ávila and the Tensions Between Bishops

Ana Maria C. M. Jorge
15 páginas

This paper looks at Priscillian of Ávila and the tensions that existed in the 4th century between bishops at the heart of the Lusitanian episcopate, which covered part of the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. It does not attempt to offer an exhaustive analysis of the various aspects of Priscillianism; instead it takes a close look at those which it is possible to single out from what we know of his actual work. Priscillian helps us to achieve a better understanding of the Christianization process and the orthodox/heterodox debate in late antiquity. He also provides insight into the complexity of a period which precludes any arbitrary simplification and which, despite a search for unity, proves to be a time of opposition and confrontation. Against a background of the progressive “Constantinization” of the church, bishops become key figures who centralize the main forces of the day. At the same time, we become aware of the coercive measures that lay authorities introduced as Christianity spread. The confrontation between rival Christian communities – Priscillianist and Nicean Catholicism – reveals an important facet of the position adopted by Christians in their relations with civil authorities, as well as the close ties between Christianity, the top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the Empire. It also gives a clear picture of the work of the bishop of a city in antiquity, in which the emphasis was on the militant view of the kerigma.

Palavras-chave: Priscillian; episcopate, orthodoxy/heterodoxy; late antiquity; religious history