You are here:Home/Research/ Byzantine Studies/ Fellows and Visiting Scholars/ The Early Evolution of Christian Philanthropy in Early Byzantium

The Early Evolution of Christian Philanthropy in Early Byzantium

Daniel Caner, Indiana University, Bloomington, Fellow 2018–2019

I completed a social and cultural history I call The Rich and the Pure: Christian Philanthropy, Sacred Wealth and Religious Society in Early Byzantium. How did alms and charity differ from each other and from other Christian gifts? How did they relate to notions of philanthropy or sacred wealth? My project answers such questions and explains their relation to the rise of monasticism in the early Byzantine period. After discussing the meaning of Christian philanthropy, its roots in classical tradition, and promotion as a Christian practice, my book focuses on the particular discourses that evolved around five different religious gifts—alms, charity, blessings, first-fruits, and oblations—to clarify the relationships, rationales, resources, and concerns identified with each. I gave talks on my work, including a lecture at the Jahrestagung der Patristischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft in Plön, Germany. I also contributed a chapter to a volume on poverty in antiquity. It explains the difference between the main Greek words for poor person, πένης and πτωχός, and the ideological implications of the latter in early Byzantine discourse, based on its scriptural associations and its utility in describing people who had fallen from a prior state of health or wealth.