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Gilbert Márkus

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780748678983

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748678983.001.0001

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‘Happy the people whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 32:12)

‘Happy the people whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 32:12)

The Church in Early Medieval Scotland

(p.111) 3 ‘Happy the people whose God is the Lord’ (Psalm 32:12)
Conceiving a Nation

Gilbert Márkus

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the evidence for very early Christianity among British, Gaelic and Pictish societies, and the conversion of Anglo-Saxons. It explores the limited evidence for the beliefs and practices that preceded Christianity – the notion of ‘paganism’ is examined and rejected. Christianity grew in a process of both continuity and change with respect to pre-Christian practices and beliefs. The process of ‘conversion’ (or ‘conversions’) is discussed through the writings of early medieval Christians who sought to ‘save’ the pre-Christian past, or aspects of it. Some aspects of pre-Christian thought shaped early Christianity in ways that distinguished it from Christianity elsewhere. The respective roles of monastic (abbatial) and pastoral (episcopal) authority in the Church are explored, rejecting the idea that there was something unusually monastic about ‘Celtic’ Christianity. Indeed, the idea of a distinctive ‘Celtic church’ or ‘Celtic Christianity’ is also found to be an illusion. Christianity brought about changes in the understanding of space, and time itself was re-imagined, making the dispute over the date of Easter of profound significance – a dispute treated here in new ways.

Keywords:   Christians invent ‘paganism’, conversions, Columba, monasticism, episcopal authority, Easter dispute, sacred time

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