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The selection of various biblical tropes adopted in early Christian hagiography depended greatly upon its subjects, whether bishops, monks, nuns, martyrs, or confessors. In reading the lives of these model Christians, early Christian hagiography reflected the mind and values of its society. What mattered most to Late Antique hagiographers was how the personal sanctity of their subjects reflected their continuity with biblical times, in a correspondence of type and antitype. From Moses to Elijah to Christ or John the Baptist, from Antony to Augustine to Maximus the Confessor, hagiographical narratives—deeply rooted in Scripture—made both their subjects and their devotees part of a seamless continuum of holiness. To this end, hagiographers interwove themes and topoi from a range of texts calculated to edify, from the lives of Hellenistic philosophers to the Hebrew Scriptures; from classical narratives of exile and loss to the letters of the Apostle Paul, celebrating suffering and persecution for the sake of the Gospel; from the canonical Gospels to the apocrypha. This multi-layering produced a rich vibration beneath the surface of the text, giving off a complex series of signals to which every early Christian was alert.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of early Christian Biblical interpretation
EditorsPaul M. Blowers, Peter W. Martens
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780198718390
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks
PublisherOxford University Press


  • Egyptian monasticism
  • martyrs
  • holiness;
  • saints’ lives
  • Hebrew Scriptures
  • Augustine of Hippo
  • Apostle Paul
  • Antony of Egypt
  • Moses
  • Elijah


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