Friday, 8 May 2015

Jesper Blid Kullberg: New Finds from the Monastery of St. Antony

In this paper I examine various categories of finds from a recent archaeological investigation at the Monastery of St. Anthony in Egypt. These finds have yielded new insight into the life of the early monastic community, the spatial development of the Monastery, and the Monastery’s trade relations with the outside world. The paper treats issues such as chronology, self-sufficiency/local specialization, and fluctuations within the trade relations of the Monastery.

Ky Heinze: Origen's Ransom to the Devil and Porphyry's Sacrifices to Evil Daemons

In this paper, I argue that Origen's use of the Devil in his later commentaries (c.240s) was similar to Porphyry's use of evil daemons in De abstinentia (c.260s). Heidi Marx-Wolf's recent publications show that Porphyry sought to discredit traditional animal sacrifices and the ordinary priests who offered them by saying that they interacted with evil daemons rather than with the true gods. Marx-Wolf believes that Porphyry learned to use evil daemons polemically in this way from Origen and the Judeo-Christian tradition, which portrayed paganism as a religion of daemons. Marx-Wolf's claim has merit, but I argue that Porphyry's evil daemons were not simply polemical: they allowed him to reconcile traditional stories of successful propitiation and blood sacrifice with his philosophical belief that the gods never accepted such sacrifices. By saying that evil daemons desired these sacrifices, Porphyry simultaneously validated tradition and saved his philosophical gods. In light of this, Porphyry's strategy was not related to Origen's polemic against pagan religion but to his theory of Jesus' ransom to the Devil. In 1979, Frances Young observed that, because Origen believed in a philosophical God without change, anger, or vindictiveness, he could not understand why the Father would have required the death of his own Son as a sacrifice or ransom to forgive sins. According to Young, Origen solved the problem by saying that Jesus had offered himself, not to the Father, but to the Devil. Thus, both Origen and Porphyry used evil spirits to reconcile philosophy with their respective religious traditions.

Henrik Rydell Johnsén: Philosophy and Monastic Formation

Previous ideas about the early desert fathers as predominantly uneducated have to a great extent determined the scholarly discussion on the emergence of early monasticism and its relation to ancient philosophy. With a focus on crucial and typical monastic practices and virtues like anachōrēsis, hēsychía, repentance, obedience and repetitious prayer, this paper discusses the emergence of the early Egyptian and Palestinian monastic movement and its possible dependency on late antique philosophy.

Lillian Larsen: Re-reading the Material Record of Early Monastic Education

This paper examines the transition from a Graeco-Roman to Christian school curriculum in light of the material record of monastic education in Egypt. Through placing extant artifacts and inscriptional evidence in conversation with broader discussion of ancient/late-ancient pedagogical practice, it explores both the common and distinctive elements that characterize expressions of literate investment at discrete monastic sites.  Arguing that the conceptual boundaries that variously delimit, define and structure classroom environments are implicit to a broad cross-section of monastic source material, it considers the degree to which pedagogical elements can usefully inform readers’ understanding of monastic texts, and effectively elucidate the physical settings that link text and context.

Theo Kobusch: A New Way to God 'Christian Philosophy': Practical Reason

In "Christian Philosophy", which is the term by which the Christian author themselves describe their way of thinking from the 4th century onwards, we can discern a certain tendency which reached its final and massive breakthrough with the Cappadocian Fathers. This tendency consisted in circumscribing the divine essence, which according to Neoplatonism and negative theology is unknowable for theoretical reason, by increasingly making use of ethical categories. We find a first indication of this already in the circle of Gregory of Nyssa (Ps-Gregor, De creatione hominis) where the answer to the question what Christianity is has ethical implications: Homoiosis Theo. The clearest example of this tendency is then provided by Gregory of Nyssa himself who quite often calls God the aretē pantelēs. This, however, is possible only if the sense of the word aretē is uniform, i.e. the meaning of moral expressions is the same when applied to God and to man - an idea that was already formulated by Origen and Gregory Thaumatourgos in the wake of the Stoics. According to this notion, which is present in Origen and the Cappadocian Fathers, man is able to come closer to God by a practical knowledge of himself as it is mentioned in the commentaries to the Song of Songs. In this way for the Cappadocian Fathers subsequent to Origen, the way to God seems to be blocked for theoretical reason. Practical reason, however, does open a new way here.

Monica Tobon: The place of God: apophasis in Evagrius Ponticus

Evagrius' Chapters on Prayer famously characterise the highest form of prayer as beyond both images and concepts, thus situating their author within the rich tradition of Christian apophasis whose witnesses include Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the Cloud of Unknowing, John of the Cross and Thomas Merton. Yet despite the vigour of this tradition the very notion of Christian apophasis remains controversial, suspected by its critics of failing properly to grasp the significance of the Incarnation. This paper aims accordingly to clarify the significance of apophasis in Evagrius. Taking his ‘Gnostic Trilogy' as paradigmatic of his spiritual system, it will note the likely Platonic/Neoplatonic/Cappadocian influences upon Evagrius' apophaticism, explore the role of apophasis in the spiritual life, how it relates to Evagrius' anthropology and eschatology, and how, far from betraying a deficient engagement with the reality of the Incarnation, it enables Evagrius' spirituality to be profoundly incarnational.

Britt Dahlman: Collecting the Apophthegmata Patrum

The richness of Greek manuscripts containing the Apophthegmata Patrum and the complexity of the collections, compilations and redactions is well known. Previous research has mainly focused on the large alphabetic-anonymous and systematic collections, where different stages in the process of incorporation of small dossiers of various origins and dates have been identified. "Non-standard" collections, such as the so-called derived alphabetic-anonymous and systematic ones and the Sabaitic, have received less attention. However, as they often display structural and textual parallels with early collections in other languages such as Latin and Syriac, they are important for the study of how apophthegmata were transmitted, formed and re-formed.