Philippa Byrne
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Who should be merciful?
in Justice and mercy
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This chapter examines how advice to be merciful was interpreted, and how seriously injunctions to be merciful were treated. It argues, in particular, that those demands were not seen as counsels limited or addressed merely to the perfect, but were precepts binding on all Christians and a core part of how Christian identity was constructed. Mercy was understood as a duty essential to Christian life, according to interpretations of the meaning of baptism and commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount. The chapter emphasises this point through close analysis of the language of commentaries and the language of sermons. The chapter similarly challenges historiographical assumptions that there was a sharp distinction between a punitive secular authority and a merciful spiritual authority. Both kings and bishops were expected to wrestle with the question of how to set punishment and the chapter argues that we can recognise striking parallels between royal and ecclesiastical judgment.

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Justice and mercy

Moral theology and the exercise of law in twelfth-century England


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