The Rich and the Pure cited as ‘a major influence on future studies’
Hamilton Lugar School (HLS) Professor of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures Daniel Caner’s book, The Rich and the Pure: Philanthropy and the Making of Christian Society in Early Byzantium (University of California, 2021), has been awarded the 2022 Philip Schaff Prize by the American Society of Church History (ASCH).
The Philip Schaff Prize is named after the founder of ASCH and recognizes the best book in the history of Christianity by a North American scholar published in the prior calendar year. The organization will present the prize to Caner at their annual meeting held during the American Historical Association conference in Philadelphia in January 2023. ASCH noted that the prize is highly competitive, and books which are nominated undergo a most rigorous review.
The Rich and the Pure examines how Christians defined and practiced gift giving, including alms, charity, blessings, fruitbearings, and liturgical offerings in Early Byzantium. The ASCH gave high praise to the work, saying, “Caner analyzed the effect of history’s first truly affluent, multifaceted Christian society, that arose in Byzantium. The study’s brilliant, multilayered analysis of the passage of philanthropy from the classical world to the world of urban Christian and desert ascetics holds riches for scholars in a variety of subfields – from Christian history, to sociological analysts, to political and cultural scholars.”
Caner earned an AB at Princeton University, then moved to Greece for a few years to teach high school at Athens College. He says it was during this time that he first became interested in a topic that would eventually lead him to write an award-winning book. He explains, “I just became really interested in history for the first time – particularly the change from classical world which I knew to the medieval byzantine world that I did not know.”
Part of Caner’s interest in the byzantine era came from the people he met while exploring Greece. “I met some people who were interested in monasticism, which I had never known anything about, it seemed totally new to me. I met so many interesting people who encouraged me to be curious about things. I had the delight and excitement of discovering things on my own.”
This newly discovered curiosity about the byzantine era would lead Caner to the University of California where he would earn his MS and PhD in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology. Once he completed his doctorate, Caner then joined the University of Connecticut where he was an assistant, then associate professor of History and Classics. In 2016, Caner came to Indiana University where he is now a full professor of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, and an adjunct professor in the departments of History, Classics, and Religious Studies at IU.
Caner now specializes in the social and cultural history of late antiquity, Greek, the transition from classical to medieval worlds, and Great Traditions. He says, “During my time in Greece, I developed a deep connection to the country. But in more recent years, my scholarship has largely gravitated toward the later Roman/early Christian worlds in the areas between Turkey and Egypt.”
After decades of research, publications, presentations, and teaching, Caner has established himself as an expert in his field. In just the past year, he was an invited lecturer at the Johannes Gutenberg Universitat, Mainz, Germany and at St. Andrews Centre for Antiquities Studies at St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Scotland.
In awarding the Philip Schaff Prize for his latest work, the ASCH said, “The book will be a major influence on future studies. The volume depends on a foundation of linguistic facility, deep research, and as one reader suggested, is a book that will be read for generations to come.”
Caner says that, in his opinion, the book is important because it explains, for the first time, what concepts like “philanthropy” and “charity” originally meant in both theory and practice during this early era of Christian culture. The book shows that these concepts had distinct meanings that were different from those associated with them today.
Students who are interested in studying the cultures of ancient giving and the ideologies behind them with a leading expert in the field are encouraged to consider enrolling in Caner’s History graduate seminar in spring 2023, Wealth, Benefactions and Philanthropy in Antiquity.