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Authority and Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great$
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Conrad Leyser

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198208686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198208686.001.0001

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A Language of Power

A Language of Power

(p.160) 7 A Language of Power
Authority and Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great

Conrad Leyser

Oxford University Press

Gregory the Great made his own the insight sketched by Julianus Pomerius in his handbook for bishops and developed by Benedict of Nursia in a monastic context: that the speech of the ruler, when properly applied, can bind up all divisions within the body of the faithful. Gregory pursued a language of authority that would carry all before it with a degree of concentration undreamt of by earlier writers. Augustine of Hippo had denied that the quantification of the ways of power was possible; his subsequent readers had tentatively moved to reverse his verdict, but only with Gregory does one find a writer prepared to stake all on the performance of the moral ruler, and to enumerate in detail how this might be possible. Gregory was prepared to take the risk of claiming to be morally qualified to lead, to shoulder all the burdens of the faithful, to act as the servant of the servants of God.

Keywords:   Gregory the Great, Julianus Pomerius, bishops, Benedict of Nursia, language of authority, Augustine of Hippo, moral ruler

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