Epiphanius of Cyprus offers the first complete biography in English of Epiphanius, lead bishop of Cyprus in the late fourth century CE and author of the Panarion, a massive encyclopedia of heresies. Imagining himself a defender of orthodoxy, he became an active heresy-hunter, involving himself in the most significant theological and ecclesiastical debates of his day.
Young Richard Kim studies the bishop as a historical person and a self-constructed persona, as mediated within the pages of the Panarion. Kim’s “micro-readings” of the Panarion present a close look at autobiographical anecdotes, situated in historical contexts, that profoundly shaped both Epiphanius’ character and how he wanted his readers to perceive him. “Macro-readings” examine portions of the Panarion that reflected how Epiphanius imagined his world, characterized by an orthodoxy that had existed since Creation and was preserved through the generations. In the final chapter, Kim considers Epiphanius’ life after the publication of the Panarion and how he spent years “living” the pages of his heresiology.
Kim brings a more balanced perspective to a controversial figure, recognizing shortcomings but also understanding them in light of Epiphanius’ own world. The bishop appears not as a buffoon, but as someone who knew how to use the power of the rhetoric of orthodoxy to augment his own authority. Quintessentially late antique, he embodied the contentious transition from the classical past to the medieval and Byzantine worlds.
This book will be of broad interest to students and scholars of ancient history, classics, and religious studies.
“Instead of merely teasing out the chronology of Epiphanius’ life (an important enough task), Kim has crafted a methodologically rich and intellectually sophisticated meditation on what it means for a late ancient writer to construct a persona for himself, and then to live out that persona. What emerges most clearly and significantly from Kim’s careful study is the deliberateness with which Epiphanius crafted a self—monk, bishop, heresiologist, controversialist, theologian, and so on—out of available cultural fragments.
—Andrew Jacobs, Scripps College
Jacket illustration: Image from the Church of Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis. Photo by Y.R. Kim, with permission from His Beatitude the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II and the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus.