Authorised Lives in Early Christian Biography

What was distinctive about Christian biography in late antiquity? In this book, Dr Williams examines a range of biographies of prominent Christians written in the fourth and fifth centuries, and suggests that they share a purpose and function which sets them apart from their non-Christian equivalents. This was an age in which the lives of saints first emerged as a literary phenomenon, and a broad perspective on this developing genre is complemented by close readings of more problematic works such as Eusebius of Caesarea\'s Life of Constantine and the Confessions of Augustine of Hippo. In including such idiosyncratic examples, the aim is to provide a definition of Christian biography which extends beyond mere hagiography, and which expresses a new understanding of the world and the place of individuals within it. It was a world in which lives might be authored by Christians, but could be authorised only by God.

• The only book-length study of Christian biography (not simply the lives of the saints) in late antiquity • Strongly interdisciplinary, touching on classical scholarship, the history of ideas, and theological issues • Offers ideas and parallels from modern literature and culture and the Puritans in pre-revolutionary America and engages with some real problems in the contemporary world


Introduction: biography and typology; 1. Constantine: the authorised life; 2. Gregory and Basil: a double life; 3. Antony and Jerome: life on the edge; 4. Augustine: the life of the mind; 5. The end of sacred history; Conclusion: authorised lives.