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Religions 2018, 9(8), 229; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9080229

Clemency, A Neglected Aspect of Early Christian Philanthropy

Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
Received: 30 May 2018 / Revised: 14 June 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 26 July 2018
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Abstract

In classical and early Christian usage the concept of philanthropia (philanthropy) rarely just meant “love for one’s fellow human beings” or generosity towards people whom one did not personally know. Classicists have pointed out that in both of these ancient traditions it was most synonymous with the Latin term clementia. As such, it had a concessive facet and a universalizing force: showing kindness to humans, even if doing so went against one’s natural or justified reluctance; being merciful, despite the fact that beneficiaries might not seem worthy of it. These observations have not informed prior scholarship on early Christian philanthropy. Based on a comprehensive survey of how the word philanthropia is used in church histories, hagiographies, monastic literature and church sermons written in the Greek language from the fourth to seventh centuries, this paper argues that the classical notion of philanthropy as clemency prevailed among Christian authors throughout late antiquity, and was fundamentally important in the early Christian promotion of universal almsgiving. View Full-Text
Keywords: philanthropy; almsgiving; mercy; clemency; early Christianity philanthropy; almsgiving; mercy; clemency; early Christianity
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Caner, D.F. Clemency, A Neglected Aspect of Early Christian Philanthropy. Religions 2018, 9, 229.

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