Thursday, 5 February 2015

Eliezer Gonzalez: Elevating Conversation – Ascent in the Discourses of Origen, Anthony, and Perpetua

The lives of Origen, Anthony, and Perpetua overlapped within a century of each other on the continent of Africa. All of them focus significantly, from different perspectives, on the issue of post-mortem ascent. Indeed, the descriptions of post-mortem ascent in the visions in the Passion of Perpetua and in theLife of Anthony are the earliest in Christianity for which we can reasonably ascribe a context in terms of place and time of origin. As such, they provide a fascinating window into aspects of popular cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology in early Christianity. The perspectives of these writers are not always as clearly expressed, and indeed at times refuted, in some of the earlier works of the Church Fathers. However, the overlap in the perspectives of Origen, Anthony, and Perpetua indicate that they all participated in a significant stream within early Christianity that shared similar anthropological and eschatological understandings. This paper suggests that to understand both what they held in common, and where they differed on the question of ascent, will help us to understand the key forces at play in the development of eschatological and anthropological understandings within early Christianity.

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