Bibliography #8:

  Antony & Early Monasticism

 - New Testament
 - Early Christianity
 - Medieval Christianity
 - The Reformation
 - Spirituality & Mysticism
 - Sacraments
 - 20th-Century Theology






#1: Surveys, Intros
#2: Ignatius of Antioch
#3: Origen
#4: Athanasius
#5: Cyril of Alexandria
#6: Jerome & Ambrose
#7: Augustine of Hippo
#8: Antony
#9: Cyril of Jerusalem
#10: Melania the Elder

 compiled by William Harmless, S.J.

Creighton University


      1. Early Christian Monasticism & Spirituality: Surveys

      2. Athanasius & the Life of Antony (Vita Antonii)

      3. Apophthegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

      4. Pachomius

      5. Evagrius Ponticus

      6. John Cassian

      7. Early Egyptian Monasticism: Other Sources & Studies

      8. Early Monasticism in Cappadocia, Palestine & Syria

      9. Benedict & the Latin West





William Harmless, Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).  4th-century Christians moved in droves to the deserts of Egypt and, in the famous words of Saint Athanasius, made the desert a city.  In so doing, they captured the imagination of the ancient world.  They forged techniques of prayer and asceticism, of discipleship and spiritual direction, that have remained central to Christianity ever since.  Seeking to map the soul’s long journey to God and plot out the subtle vagaries of the human heart, they created and inspired texts that became classics of Western spirituality.  These Desert Christians were also brilliant storytellers, some of Christianity’s finest.  This book introduces the key texts of early monasticism: Athanasius’ Life of Antony, the Lives of Pachomius, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, the writings of Evagrius, Palladius, and John Cassian.  Along the way, readers are introduced to path-breaking discoveries—to new texts and recent archeological finds—that have revolutionized contemporary scholarship on monastic origins.  Included are fascinating snippets from papyri and from little-known Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic texts.  Interspersed in each chapter are illustrations, maps, and diagrams that help readers sort through the key texts and the richly-textured world of early monasticism.


David Brakke, Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

Peter Brown, Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).  See the classic essay, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity.”

Peter Brown, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, 1971-1997,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6 (1998) 353-376.  A follow-up to & re-assessment of his classic.

Daniel Caner, Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity, Transformation of the Classical Heritage 33 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

Derwas Chitty, The Desert A City (1966; reprint: Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997).  The classic survey.

George E. Demacopoulos, Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).

Vincent Desprez, Le Monachisme Primitif: Des origines jusqu’au concile d'Éphèse, Spiritualité orientale 72 (Bégrolles-en-Mauges: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1998).

Maribel Dietz, Wandering Monks, Virgins, and Pilgrims: Ascetic Travel in the Mediterranean World, A.D. 300-800 (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2005).

Marilyn Dunn, The Emergence of Monasticism: From the Desert Fathers to the Early Middle Ages (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).

H. Evelyn-White, The Monasteries of Wadi ‘n Natrûn, Part Two: The History of the Monasteries of Nitria and of Scetis (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 1932) Dated, but the brilliant starting point for all major studies in this century.

James E. Goehring, Ascetics, Society, and the Desert: Studies in Early Egyptian Monasticism (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999).

James E. Goehring and Janet Timbie, eds., The World of Early Egyptian Christianity: Language, Literature, and Social Context, CUA Studies in Early Christianity (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2007).

Antoine Guillaumont, Aux origenes du monachisme chrétien: Pour une phénoménologie du monachisme, Spiritualité orientale 30 (Bégrolles-en-Mauges: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1979).

Antoine Guillaumont, Études sur la spiritualité de l’Orient chrétien, Spiritualité orientale 66 (Bégrolles-en-Mauges, France: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1996).

William Harmless, “Monasticism,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, ed. David G. Hunter & Susan Ashbrook Harvey (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) 493-517.  A brief overview of trends in contemporary scholarship.

William W. Johnston, ed, Encyclopedia of Monasticism, 2 vol. (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000)  An up-to-date reference work.

Juan Laboa, ed., The Historical Atlas of Eastern and Western Monasticism (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004).  Magnificent photos, undependable text.

Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Harriet A. Luckman & Linda Kulzer, eds., Purity of Heart in Early Ascetic and Monastic Literature (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1999).

Patricia Cox Miller, The Corporeal Imagination: Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity, Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).

Tomas Spidlik, The Spirituality of the Christian East: A Systematic Handbook, Cistercian Studies 79 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1986).

Tomas Spidlik, Prayer: The Spirituality of the Christian East, Vol. 2 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2005).

Columba Stewart, “Monasticism,” in Philip E. Esler, The Early Christian World (New York: Routledge, 2000) 1:344-366.

Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis, ed., Asceticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

Vincent L. Wimbush, ed., Ascetic Behavior in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990). Translations of valuable, but hard-to-find sources.





The Life of Antony (Vita Antonii) was one of the great religious best-sellers of ancient world and was responsible for popularizing the desert ideal throughout the ancient world.  This work would shape all later lives of the saints.


Texts & Translations: For a critical edition of the Greek text (with a facing French translation), see G.J.M. Bartelink, ed., Athanasius: Vie d’Antoine, Sources chrétiennes 400 (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1994).  This also includes a valuable introduction and notes.  For an English translation, see Robert C. Gregg ed. and trans., Athanasius: The Life of Anthony and the Letter to Marcellinus, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1980).



David Brakke, Athanasius and Asceticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1998).  A reprint
of Brakke’s Athanasius & the Politics of Asceticism, Oxford Early Christian Studies
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).  Athanasius is better known as a defender
of Nicene orthodoxy.  This is a valuable in-depth study of Athanasius’ commitment to
the ascetic movement.  Its final chapter on the Life of Antony is excellent, but he also looks at women’s asceticism in Alexandria and translates little-known Athanasian texts preserved in Syriac and Coptic.

David Brakke, “The Greek and Syriac Versions of the Life of Antony,” Le Muséon 107 (1994):29-53.

Samuel Rubenson, The Letters of St. Antony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint, Studies
in Antiquity and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995). A revisionist view.

Columba Stewart, “Anthony of the Desert,” in Philip F. Esler, ed. The Early Christian World
(New York: Routledge, 2000) 2:1088-1101.





Texts & Translations: The so-called Apophthegmata Patrum (“Sayings of the Fathers”) has fascinating anecdotes about and one-liners from the simple, unlearned, and often eccentric leaders of the early desert movement.  The Apophthegmata has come down to us in three basic forms: the Alphabetical Collection, the Anonymous Collection, and the Systematic Collection (in Greek and Latin versions).

(1) Alphabetical Collection: The Greek text of the Alphabetical Collection was published by Jean-Baptiste Cotelier in 1647 from a twelfth-century manuscript, and is reprinted in Patrologia Graeca, vol. 65:71-440.  The Cotelier edition has 948 sayings.  Jean-Claude Guy has supplemented this with 53 more sayings from other Greek manuscripts; see Recherches sur la tradition grecque des Apophthegmata Patrum, SH 36 (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1962)pp. 236-238.  For an English translation, see Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection, CS 59 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984).  The Alphabetical gathers the various stories and sayings under the names of prominent monks and arranges these according to the Greek alphabet.  It contains some 1,000 sayings or brief narratives, grouped under the names of over 130 “abbas.”

(2) Anonymous Collection: Many of the sayings of the Desert Fathers were passed down without clear attribution.  These anonymous sayings were eventually gathered into a large collection.  F. Nau published only the first 396 sayings from the Anonymous Collection in “Histoires des solitaires égyptiens,” Revue d’orient chrétien 12-14 (1907-1909) and 17-18 (1912-1913). The additional 370 or so sayings are listed in Jean-Claude Guy, Recherches sur la tradition grecque des Apophthegmata Patrum, SH 36 (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1962) 63-74.  At long last, we now have complete English translation, and this new edition includes the parallel Greek text: John Wortley, ed. and trans., The Anonymous Sayings of the Desert Fathers: A Select Edition and Complete English Translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) hardcover, $145.  NEW.

(3) Greek Systematic Collection: In addition, there is also the Systematic Collection.  It contains many of the same sayings and stories as the other two collections, but gathers them under 21 different headings or themes: for instance, “quiet” (hesychia), “compunction,” “discernment,” “unceasing prayer,” “hospitality,” “humility,” etc.  For the Greek text, with a French translation, see Jean-Claude Guy, Les Apophtegmes des Pères, Collection systématique, SC 387 (Books I-IX), 474 (Books X-XVI), and 498 (Books XVII-XXI) (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1993, 2003, 2005).  For an excellent (and long-needed) complete English translation, see John Wortley, The Book of Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Systematic Collection, Cistercian Studies, vol. 240 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press / Cistercian Publications, 2012).

(4) Latin Systematic Collection (Verba Seniorum of Pelagius & John): In the mid-6th century, a version of this Systematic Collection was translated from Greek into Latin by two Roman clerics, the deacon Pelagius and the subdeacon John (who perhaps became the later Popes Pelagius and John).  This would deeply touch the spirituality of Western monasticism.  The Latin text of Pelagius and John was edited by Heribert Rosweyde at Antwerp in 1615, and is reprinted in Migne, PL 73:855-1022.  For a translation, see The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, trans. Benedicta Ward, Penguin Classics (London: Penguin Books, 2003).  See also Owen Chadwick, ed., Western Asceticism, LCC (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), 37-189.  For a translation in French, see J. Dion and G. Oury, Les Sentences des Pères du Désert: recueil de Pélage et Jean (Solesmes: Abbaye Saint-Pierre, 1966).



Douglas Burton-Christie, The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism (New York: Oxford, 1993).  A detailed study of the biblical spirituality that shaped Egyptian monasticism.  It provides a good treatment of matters
far beyond its specific focus: asceticism, work, abbas and disciples, etc.

Graham E. Gould, The Desert Fathers on Monastic Community, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Antoine Guillaumont, “L’enseignement spirituel des moines d’Égypte: La formation d’une tradition,” reprinted in Études sur la spiritualité de l’Orient chrétien, Spiritualité
orientale 66 (Bégrolles-en-Mauges, France: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1996) 81-92.

Antoine Guillaumont, “Le Problème des deux Macaires dans les Apophthegmata Patrum,”
48 (1975) 41-59.  Few essays illustrate better the technical problems of recovering the history behind the Apophthegmata.

Antoine Guillaumont, “Les visions mystiques dans le monachisme oriental chrétien,” in
Aux origenes du monachisme chrétien
, 136-147.

William Harmless, “Remembering Poemen Remembering: The Desert Fathers & the Spirituality
of Memory,” Church History 69 (2000) 483-518.  An exploration of Abba Poemen, the leading story-teller whose memory helped shaped the Apophthegmata.

Irénée Hausherr, Penthos: the Doctrine of Compunction in the Christian East, trans. Anselm Hufstader, Cistercian Studies 53 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1982).

Irénée Hausherr, Spiritual Direction in the Early Christian East, Cistercian Studies, vol. 116, trans. Anthony P. Gythiel (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1990; original French edition, 1955).

Lucien Regnault, “Aux origines des collections d’Apophtegmes,” Studia Patristica 18.2 (1989)

Lucien Regnault, The Day-To-Day Life of the Desert Fathers in Fourth-Century Egypt (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s, 1999).

Columba Stewart, “Radical Honesty about the Self: Practice of the Desert Fathers,” Sobornost
12 (1990) 25-39.

Benedicta Ward, “Traditions of Spiritual Guidance: Spiritual Direction in the Desert Fathers,” Signs and Wonders: Saints, Miracles, and Prayers from the 4th Century to the 14th (London: Variorum Reprints, 1992).






Armand Veilleux, ed., Pachomian Koinonia: the Lives, Rules, and Other Writings of Saint Pachomius, Cistercian Studies 45-47 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1980-
1982).  Pachomius has often been described as the “inventor” of the monastery.  This brilliant edition includes translations of both the Greek and Coptic Life of Pachomius,
as well as documents from Pachomius himself and his early successors, Theodore and Horsiesius.  This collection, translating sources from Greek, Sahidic Coptic, Bohairic
Coptic, Latin, is a staggering scholarly achievement.



Henry Chadwick, “Pachomios and the Idea of Sanctity,” reprinted in History and Thought of
the Early Church
(London: Variorum Reprints, 1982).

Vincent Desprez, “Pachomian Cenobitism,” American Benedictine Review 43 (1992) 233-249
& 358-394.

James E. Goehring, The Letter of Ammon and Pachomian Monasticism, Patristische Texte und Studien 27 (Berlin, 1986).

James E. Goehring, Ascetics, Society, and the Desert: Studies in Early Egyptian Monasticism (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999).  See especially: “New Frontiers in Pachomian Studies” and “Withdrawing from the Desert: Pachomius and the Development
of Village Monasticism.”

Philip Rousseau, Pachomius: The Making of a Community in Fourth Century Egypt, Transformation of the Classical Heritage 6 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

Armand Veilleux, “Monasticism and Gnosis in Egypt,” in Birger A. Pearson and James E. Goehring, eds., The Roots of Egyptian Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1986) 271-306.





Texts & Translations:

Antoine Guillaumont & Claire Guillaumont, eds., Évagre le Pontique, Traité Pratique ou le Moine, Sources chrétiennes 170-171 (Paris: Édiions du Cerf, 1971).  Evagrius was a
friend of the Cappadocians Fathers and would become the first great theoretician of
the spiritual life.  He stressed the centrality of wordless, imageless prayer, and his writings display a fondness for brief, oracular sayings.  Within a year of his death,
his friends and disciples—Palladius, Cassian, Rufinus—would be persecuted as
“Origenists” and run out of Egypt.  Evagrius was condemned 150 years later, and his
works circulated anonymously.  This has a critical edition of his most famous work,
the Praktikos, together with a French translation and opens with a superb 100-page overview of Evagrius’ life and teaching.


Robert E. Sinkewicz, Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). This edition offers the first attempt by a single translator to make the bulk of Evagrius’ writings available to the English-speaking public.  This includes fresh translation of Evagrius’ best-known works (such as the Praktikos and the Chapters on Prayer) and the first translation of other important works, such as To Eulogius and On the Eight Thoughts.  Sinkewicz does not venture into the sizeable (and difficult-to-translate) portion of Evagrius’ work only available in Syriac.


David Brakke, trans., Evagrius of Pontus: Talking Back (Antirhêtikos): A Monastic Handbook
for Combating Demons
, Cistercian Studies 229 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications / Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009).  David Brakke has produced the very first English translation of Evagrius' remarkable treatise on the 8 "thoughts," a list of 498 temptations.  Evagrius' contemporaries, such as his biographer Palladius, considered it his important work. The work, though written originally in Greek, has been preserved only in ancient Syriac translation.  This new edition provides helpful insight into the inner lives of the Desert Fathers and the emerging traditions of ancient spiritual direction.


John Eudes Bamberger, Evagrius Ponticus: Praktikos and Chapters on Prayer, Cistercian Studies 4 (Kalamazoo, WI: Cistercian Publications, 1981).

Augustine Casiday, ed. and trans. Evagrius Ponticus, Early Church Fathers (New York: Routledge, 2006). This has a number of helpful translations, including Evagrius' On the Faith and his controversial Great Letter (better known as the Letter to Melania).

Jeremy Driscoll, ed. and trans. Evagrius Ponticus: The Ad Monachos: Translation and Commentary, Ancient Christian Writers 59 (New York: Paulist Press, 2003).

Antoine Guillaumont, ed., Évagre Le Pontique: Le Gnostique ou a celui qui est devenu digne de la science, Sources Chrétiennes 356 (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1989).

Martin Parmentier, “Evagrius of Pontus and the ‘Letter to Melania’” Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie 46 (1985) 2-38; reprinted in Everett Ferguson, Forms of Devotion: Conversion, Worship, Spirituality, and Asceticism (New York: Garland, 1999) 272-309.



Gabriel Bunge, Geistliche Vatershaft. Christliche Gnosis bei Evagrios Pontikos, Studia Patristica et Liturgica 23 (Regensburg, 1988).  Also available in French: Paternité Spirituelle: La gnose chrétienne chez Évagre le Pontique, Spiritualité orientale 61 (Bégrolles-en-Mauge: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1994).

Gabriel Bunge, Despondency: The Spiritual Teaching of Evagrius of Pontus (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2012). A translation of Bunge's classic study, Akedia.

Gabriel Bunge, Dragon’s Wine and Angel’s Bread: The Teaching of Evagrius Ponticus on Anger, trans. Anthony P. Gythiel (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2010).

Augustine Casiday, Reconstructing the Theology of Evagrius Ponticus: Beyond Heresy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) hardcover, $99. NEW.

Kevin Corrigan, Evagrius and Gregory, Ashgate Studies in Philosophy & Theology in Late Antiquity (Ashgate, 2009).

Jeremy Driscoll, Steps to Spiritual Perfection: Studies on Spiritual Progress in Evagrius Ponticus (New York: Paulist Press, 2005).

Luke Dysinger, Psalmody and Prayer in the Writings of Evagrius Ponticus, Oxford Theological Monographs (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Antoine Guillaumont, Les <<kephalaia gnostica>> d’Evagre le Pontique et l’histoire de l’origénisme chez les grecs et chez les syriens, Patristica Sorbonensia 5 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1962).

William Harmless, “‘Salt for the Impure, Light for the Pure’: Reflections on the Pedagogy of Evagrius Ponticus,” Studia Patristica 37 (2001) 514-526.

William Harmless & Raymond R. Fitzgerald, “The Sapphire Light of the Mind: The Skemmata of Evagrius Ponticus,” Theological Studies 62.3 (September, 2001) 493-529.  A translation of and commentary on one of Evagrius’ most important mystical works.

Irénée Hausherr, Les Leçons d’un Contemplative: Le Traité de l’Oraison d’Evagre le Pontique (Paris: Beauchesne, 1960).  A brilliant commentary on Evagrius’ On Prayer.

Julia Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus: The Making of a Gnostic, Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology, and Biblical Studies (Aldersgate: Ashgate, 2008).

Columba Stewart, “Imageless Prayer and the Theological Vision of Evagrius Ponticus,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001) 173-204.

Robin Darling Young, “Evagrius the Iconographer: Monastic Pedagogy in the Gnostikos,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001) 53-72.





John Cassian (d. ca. 435) probably did more than anyone else to translate the desert experience for the Latin West.  Following his teacher, Evagrius Ponticus, he stressed wordless prayer and the mystical journey of the soul.  St. Benedict, in his Rule, would make Cassian’s memoirs required reading in all his monasteries.  Cassian's two major works are The Institutes and The Conferences


Texts & Translations:

De institutis (The Institutes): For a critical edition of the Latin text, see M. Petschenig, ed., Johannis Cassiani De institvtis coenobior vm et de octo principalivm vitior vm remediis libri XII Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiastiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 17 (Vienna: 1888), pp. 3-231. For the Latin text (with a facing French translation), see Jean-Claude Guy, ed., Jean Cassien: Institutions Cénobitiques, Sources chrétiennes 109 (Paris: Édition du Cerf, 1965).  For an English translation, see Boniface Ramsey, ed. and trans., John Cassian: The Institutes, Ancient Christian Writers 58 (New York: Paulist Press, 2000).  This offers Cassian’s summary of the guiding principles of Eastern (and mostly Egyptian) monasticism.  This includes a long section on what would become the “Seven Deadly Sins”—an analysis Cassian derives from Evagrius.


Conlationes (The Conferences): For a critical edition of the Latin text, see M. Petschenig, ed.
Johannis Cassiani Conlationes XXIIII, vol. 2 of J. Cassiani Opera, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiastoricorum Latinorum, vol. 13 (Vienna: 1886).  For the Latin text (with a facing French translation, see E. Pichery, ed., Jean Cassien: Confèrences, 3 vol., Sources chrétiennes 42, 54, 64 (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1955, 1958, 1959). For a complete English translation, see Boniface Ramsey, ed. and trans., John Cassian: The Conferences, Ancient Christian Writers 57 (New
York: Paulist Press, 1997).  These are Cassian’s reminiscences of his interviews with the Desert Fathers—written some 20 years after leaving Egypt for southern France.  The first complete translation in a century.  Another good translation is by Colm Luibheid, Cassian: Conferences, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1985).



Columba Stewart, Cassian the Monk, Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). A superb in-depth of Cassian’s spirituality.  The place to start.


A.M.C. Casiday, Tradition and Theology in St. John Cassian, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Owen Chadwick, John Cassian, 2nd ed. (1950: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Richard J. Goodrich, Contextualizing Cassian: Aristocrats, Asceticism, and Reformation in Fifth-Century Gaul, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Richard J. Goodrich, "Underpinning the Text: Self-Justification in John Cassian's Ascetic Practices," Journal of Early Christian Studies 13 (2005): 411-436.

Petre Guran, "Le culte de Jean Cassien dans l'Eglise d'Orient," in Jean Cassien entre L'Orient et l'Occident, ed. Cristian Badilita and Attila Jakab (Paris: Beauchesne, 2003), 239-255.

Thomas L. Humphries, Ascetic Pneumatology from John Cassian to Gregory the Great, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) hardcover, $85. NEW.

Christopher J. Kelly, Cassian’s Conferences: Scriptural Interpretation and the Monastic Ideal, New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology, and Biblical Studies (Ashgate, 2012).

Mark Sheridan, "John Cassian and the Formation of Authoritative Tradition," in Foundations of Power and Conflicts of Authority in Late-Antique Monasticism, ed. Alberto Complani and Giovanni Filoramo (Leuven: Peeters, 2007), 157-173.

Columba Stewart, “The Monastic Journey According to John Cassian,” Word and Spirit 19 (1993) 29-40; reprinted in Everett Ferguson, Forms of Devotion: Conversion, Worship, Spirituality, and Asceticism (New York: Garland, 1999) 311-322.

Columba Stewart, "John Cassian's Schema of Eight Principal Faults and His Debt to Origen and Evagrius," in Jean Cassien entre l'Orient et l'Occident, ed. Cristian Badilita and Attila Jakab (Paris: Beauchesne, 2003), 205-219.

Marie-Anne Vannier, "Jean Cassien, historiographe du monachisme Egyptien?" in Historiographie de l'Eglise des Premier Siecles (Paris: Beauchesne, 2001): 149-158.Adalbert de Vogüé, “Understanding Cassian: A Survey of the Conferences,” Cistercian Studies Quarterly 19 (1984) 101-121.

Rebecca Harden Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy, Patristic Monograph Series 15 (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1996).





Texts & Translations:

Lives of the Desert Fathers [Historia Monachorum in Aegypto], trans. Norman Russell, Cistercian Studies 34 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1981).  In 394, seven Palestinian monks journeyed to Egypt to visit the great figures there.  This is a vivid (and sometimes fanciful) account of what they heard and saw.  This edition has a good 40-page introduction by Benedicta Ward.

Robert T. Meyer, ed., Palladius: The Lausiac History, Ancient Christian Writers 34 (New York: Paulist Press, 1965).

Tim Vivian, ed., St. Macarius the Spiritbearer: Coptic Texts Relating to Saint Macarius the Great, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004).

Tim Vivian, ed., Four Desert Fathers: Pambo, Evagrius, Macarius of Egypt & Macarius of Alexandria, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2004).  The first English translation of the Coptic Palladiana.

Adalbert de Vogüé and Gabriel Bunge, Quatre Érmites Égyptiens: D’après les fragments coptes de l’Histoire Lausiaque, Spiritualité orientale 60 (Begrolles-en-Mauges: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1994).



Demetrios S. Katos, Palladius of Helenopolis: The Origenist Advocate, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). The first book-length study in English of one of the great storytellers of Egyptian monasticism.  Palladius, a Galatian by background, was a disciple of Evagrius Ponticus and eventually the biographer of St. John Chrysostom, but he is best known for his Lausiac History, a collection of anecdotes about the holy men and women of Egypt and Palestine.


Stephen Emmel, Shenoute’s Literary Corpus, 2 vol., CSCO 599-600 (Peeters Publishers, 2004).  Highly technical, but a major reconstruction and study of one of the most important and least known of the great monks of Egypt.

Georgia Frank, The Memory of the Eyes: Pilgrims to the Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity, Transformation of the Classical Heritage 30 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000)

Rebecca Krawiec, Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery: Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Ariel G. Lopez, Shenoute of Atripe and the Uses of Poverty: Rural Patronage, Religious Conflict, and Monasticism in Late Antique Egypt, Transformation of the Classical Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013) hardcover, $75. NEW.

Caroline T. Schroeder, Monastic Bodies: Discipline and Salvation in Shenoute of Atripe (University of Pennsylvani Press, 2007).

Caroline T. Schroeder, " 'A Suitable Abode for Christ': The Church Building as Symbol for Ascetic Renunciation in Early Monasticism," Church History 73 (2004) 472-521.

Benedicta Ward, “Signs and Wonders: Miracles in the Desert Tradition,” Studia Patristica 17, ed. Elizabeth A. Livingstone (Leuven, 1989) 539-542; reprint in Signs and Wonders (London: Variorum Reprints, 1992).





Texts & Translations:

Barsanuphius and John, Letters, 2 vol., Fathers of the Church 113-114, trans. John Chryssavgis (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006-2007).  This is the first complete English translation of a sprawling correspondence, nearly 850 letters, of two sixth-century leaders of Palestinian monasticism, Barsanuphius and John of Gaza.  The two—referred to as “the Great Old Man” and “the Other Old Man”—lived as enclosed hermits in Gaza and, from their dark cells, directed a monastic community.  The two hermits met the wider world via an intermediary, Abba Seridos, who passed on brief
notes written in response to questions of inquirers.  The back-and-forth of question-and-answer is so detailed that one can literally chart the spiritual ups-and-downs of ancient directees and glimpse how ancient masters practiced the art of spiritual direction.


Cyril of Scythopolis, The Lives of the Monks of Palestine, trans. R.M. Price, Cistercian Studies
114 (Kalamazoo, WI: Cistercian Publications, 1991).

Dorotheus of Gaza, Discourses and Sayings, trans., Eric P. Wheeler, Cistercian Studies 33 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1987).

Isaac of Nineveh, On the Ascetical Life, trans. Mary Hansbury (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1987).

Isaiah of Scetis, Ascetic Discourses, Cistercian Studies 150, trans. John Chryssavgis and Pachomios Penkett (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2002).

Mark the Monk, Counsels on the Spiritual Life, trans. Tim Vivian and Augustine Casiday, Popular Patristic series (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009).

John Mochus, The Spiritual Meadow, trans. John Wortley, Cistercian Studies (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1992).

Pseudo-Macarius, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter, trans. George A. Maloney, Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1992).

Theodoret of Cyrrhus, A History of the Monks of Syria, trans. R.M. Price, Cistercian Studies 88 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1985).

Robert Doran, ed., The Lives of Symeon Stylites, Cistercian Studies 112 (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1992).

John Chryssavgis, trans., Letters from the Desert: A Selection of Questions and Responses, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003).  A
selection of the letters of Barsanuphius and John of Gaza. 

Cornelia Horn, trans., John Rufus: The Lives of Peter the Iberian, Theodosius of Jerusalem,
and the Monk Romanus,
Writings from the Greco-Roman World (Society of Biblical Literature, 2008).

Anna Silvas, The Asketikon of St. Basil the Great, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).



Jennifer L. Hevelone-Harper, Disciples of the Desert: Monks, Laity, and Spiritual Authority in Sixth-Century Gaza (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).  The first book-length study in English of the remarkable letters written by Barsanuphius and John of Gaza. The 800+ surviving letters allow us to see how two ancient masters practiced the fine art of spiritual direction.


Augustine Holmes, A Life Pleasing to God: The Spirituality of the Rules of St. Basil, Cistercian Studies 189 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2000).  A valuable commentary on Basil’s monastic rules, prefaced with a 50-page introductory survey of Basil’s career and spirituality.


Hilarion Alfeyev, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, Cistercian Studies 175 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2001).

John Binns, Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: the Monasteries of Palestine, 314-631, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).

Sebastian Brock, Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, Cistercian Studies 101 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1987).

Sebastian Brock, The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual Vision of Ephrem the Syrian, Cistercian
Studies 124 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publication, 1992).

Pierre Canivet, Le monachisme syrien selon Théodoret de Cyr, Théologie historique 42 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1977).

Paul Jonathan Fedwick, ed., Basil of Caesarea: Christian, Humanist, Ascetic, 2 volumes, (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1981).

Jean Gribomont, Saint Basile: évangile et église, Spiritualité orientale 36-37 (Bégrolles-en-Mauges: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1984).

Sidney H. Griffith, “Asceticism in the Church of Syria: the Hermeneutics of Early Syrian Monasticism,” in Vincent Wimbush & Richard Valantasis, Asceticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 220-245.

Sidney H. Griffith, “Julian Saba, ‘Father of the Monks’ of Syria,” Journal of Early Christian
2 (1994) 185-216.

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and the Lives of
the Eastern Saints
, Transformation of the Classical Heritage 18 (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1990).

Susan Ashbrook Harvey, “The Stylite’s Liturgy: Ritual and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity,”  Journal of Early Christian Studies 6 (1998):523-539.

Yizhar Hirschfeld, The Judean Monasteries in the Byzantine Period (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).  A superb study of Palestinian monasticism

Cornelia B. Horn, Asceticism and Christological Controversy in Fifth-Century Palestine:
The Career of Peter the Iberian
, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

John McGuckin, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography (Crestwood, NY:
St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001).

Joseph Patrich, Sabas, Leader of Palestinian Monasticism: A Comparative Study in Eastern Monasticism, Fourth to Seventh Centuries (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1995).

Marcus Plested, The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christan Tradition, Oxford Theological Monographs (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Columba Stewart, ‘Working the Earth of the Heart’: The Messalian Controversy in History,
Texts, and Language to AD 431
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).

Arthur Voobus, A History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, 3 volumes, CSCO 184, 197, &
500 (Louvain: 1958, 1988).  A classic, but dated.  Some views have been challenged.

Kallistos Ware, “The Origins of the Jesus Prayer: Diadochus, Gaza, Sinai,” in C. Jones, G. Wainwright, E. Yarnold, eds., The Study of Spirituality (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1986), 175-184.

Robin Darling Young and Monica Blanchard, eds., To Train His Soul in Books: Syriac Asceticism in Early Christianity, CUA Studies in Early Christianity (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2011).





Texts & Translations:

RB 1980: the Rule of Benedict (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1980).  Benedict’s Rule has served as the basis for Western monasticism for 1500 years.  A work of spiritual and practical genius, notable for its humanity and its moderation (obvious when compared
with its sources).  This is the best translation and has the Latin text on facing pages.


Carolinne White, trans., Early Christian Lives, Penguin Classics (New York: Penguin Books, 1998.  Contains a translation of the Latin version of the Life of Antony as well as fresh translations of Sulpicius Severus’ Life of Martin of Tours and the various lives by Jerome.



David G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy, Oxford Early Christian Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).  Excellent examination of the context of Western asceticism.  It highlights well the controversies that gave rise to the view that continence was the superior form of
Christian living.


Terrence G. Kardong, Benedict’s Rule: A Translation and Commentary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998).

George Lawless, Augustine of Hippo and His Monastic Rule (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1987).

Conrad Leyser, Authority and Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great, Oxford Historical Monographs (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Conrad Leyser, “‘This Sainted Isle’: Panegyric, Nostalgia, and the Invention of Lerinian Monasticism,” in William E. Klingshirn and Mark Vessey,eds., The Limits of Ancient Christianity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 188-206.

Aldabert de Vogüé, Histoire littéraire du mouvement monastique dans l’antiquité (Paris:
Éditions du Cerf, 1991-1998) 5 vol. to date.  Despite the title the focus is on Latin literature.

Adalbert de Vogüé, The Rule of Saint Benedict: A Doctrinal and Spiritual Commentary, Cistercian Studies 54, trans. John Baptist Hasbrouck (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1983).



Revised: July 15, 2014

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