Christian Discourse and Political Identities in Early Medieval Europe

Research Focus

Scripts for Community: The Bible as a Model for Community in the Early Middle Ages

Apocalyptic Narratives and their Political and Social Significance in Late Antique and Early Medieval Europe

This project analyses how Christian intellectuals used biblical prophecies (for example the apocalyptic peoples Gog and Magog) to express and convey their ideas about temporal concepts such as crisis and social change. It discusses the importance of eschatological ideas within the historiographical concepts in the Late Roman Empire and offers several context-oriented case studies on both well-known Christian scholars such as Augustine and Jerome and on rather understudied sources such as the world chronicle of Sulpicius Severus. Within the wider parameters of Visions of Community, eschatology and the cosmological expressions of community building are being explored from a comparative, Eurasian perspective.

Researcher: Veronika Wieser


Exegesis, Ethnicity and Political Community

In the early medieval West, the vocabulary of ethnicity and peoplehood provided an important tool for Christian self-definition: Christian authors used existing group-related language to articulate their vision of a Christian community and its coherence, and to delineate its boundaries. The Bible, and in particular the Old Testament with its narratives about Israel as a chosen people, profoundly influenced early medieval notions of ethnicity and political community, endowing them with religious meaning and providential significance. An in-depth analysis of the exegetical work of Cassiodorus has revealed how a former high official at the Ostrogothic court used the biblical text as a means to rethink the place of the gentes in the Christian world. This is complemented by broader studies of the history of interpretation of key biblical passages and the shifting meanings of terminology used by exegetes writing between the late Roman empire and the Carolingian period. The analysis of language related to peoples, ethnic or political communities provides an important point of comparison with regard to the Islamic world, where the vocabulary for religious and tribal groups is quite different, while the strategies of labelling and the ideological potential are strikingly similar.

Researcher: Gerda Heydemann