McGuckin, “The Ascent of Christian Law”

We’re a little late getting to it, but earlier this year Byzantinist John McGuckin (Columbia/Union Theological Seminary) wrote a new monograph as part of Emory’s Christian Jurisprudence series, The Ascent of Christian Law: Patristic and Byzantine Reformulations of Greco-Roman Attitudes in the Making of a Christian Civilization (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press 2012). The volume looks to be an important contribution to an unfortunately underwritten field: law in the Eastern Christian tradition.  Here’s the publisher’s description:

This volume aims to fill a large gap in the historical materials available to students of early Christian and Byzantine Christian studies. To that extent, it will be designed as a wide-ranging historical survey that covers the varying attitudes among the major early Christian theorists of law and governance issues as the church moved in its condition from a minority of resistance to the imperial church. The field of early studies of Christian law is dominated by scholars of Western canon law (though often microscopically treated). Eastern canon law remains massively neglected, relegated to studies by Orthodox canonists who have been concerned largely with issues of ecclesiastical precedence and protocol, rather than with large questions of the role of law in culture-making.

This book intends to consider questions such as: “What difference did Christianity make as a builder of civilization?” To what extent did the church, in presenting to late Roman society a vision of a New Order, actually begin to articulate the structures that would form the polity of such an order? How far did the Church articulate a theory of law as “new-culture building” in advance of the Constantinian reordering of society by the promotion of bishops as magistrates? To what extent did the post-Constantinian, Justinianic, and later Byzantine theory and systems of evolving Christian legislation, simply extend Roman legal, political, and cultural aspirations, or to what extent did Christian theologians and jurists consciously rebuild? The book seeks to answer these questions by looking at main protagonists who consider the issues of law and theology from the early centuries through to the medieval Byzantine period. A second part offers a series of reflective reviews on certain “points in question,” including slavery, freedom of the person, ownership, reconciliation, and governance theory.

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