The Roots of Christian Philanthropy

Day 4
Session 9
12:05 PM

From classical understandings of philanthropy as civic service to the theological transformation of "philanthropia" in the late 4th century, this lecture will examine the rich ideological and practical concept of Christian philanthropy, and will discuss its multiple manifestations in a literary work about an illustrious 4th-century family, namely St. Gregory of Nyssa's "Life of St. Macrina."


Recommended Readings

Primary source

  • Petersen, Joan M. Ed. and trans. Handmaids of the Lord: Holy Women in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1996. Chapter 2, pp. 41-86; Chapter 4, pp. 283-361.

Secondary Source

  • Laing, Stefana Dan. Retrieving History: Memory and Identity Formation in the Early Church. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017. Chapter 4 for background; chapter 5 for lecture.

Optional Readings:

  • Chrysostom, St. John and Catherine P. Roth, ed. and trans. On Wealth and Poverty. Popular Patristics Series 9. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1981.
  • McGuckin, John A. “Embodying the New Society: The Byzantine Christian Instinct of Philanthropy.” In Philanthropy and Social Compassion in Eastern Orthodox Tradition: Papers of the Sophia Institute Academic Conference, New York, Dec. 2009. (2010), 50–71. Accessed at:
  • Sulek, Marty. “On the Classical Meaning of Philanthropia.” Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 39, No. 3 (2010): 385-408. Accessed at: (click on “Download Full-text PDF”).

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