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Early Christian extreme asceticism

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  • Early Christian extreme asceticism

    Following on [in a way] from exchanges on Nixey's book The Darkening Age one wonders why certain individuals within some early Christian communities were so averse to any form of physical pleasure.

    Why did some people feel the need to live in squalor amongst their own dirt on pillars, in barrels suspended between poles, or in caves?

    Why did Antony feel it necessary to live in a hole in the ground for some years?

    What was so wrong about being clean, having a reasonable amount of food [I am not referring to gourmands and gluttony] of living in a proper dwelling, or of being [if one wished] in a stable and monogamous relationship?

    Why did these people think their God wanted them to be permanently tormented, ill-fed, filthy, and ill-kempt?

    What ultimate purpose did these individuals think it all served?

    "It ain't necessarily so
    The things that you're liable
    To read in the Bible
    It ain't necessarily so
    ."

    Sportin' Life
    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

  • #2
    There were Jewish ascetics too. Maybe it was a carryover? Or it might have been a result of Gnosticism, a Christian heresy.


    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
      Following on [in a way] from exchanges on Nixey's book The Darkening Age one wonders why certain individuals within some early Christian communities were so averse to any form of physical pleasure.

      Why did some people feel the need to live in squalor amongst their own dirt on pillars, in barrels suspended between poles, or in caves?

      Why did Antony feel it necessary to live in a hole in the ground for some years?

      What was so wrong about being clean, having a reasonable amount of food [I am not referring to gourmands and gluttony] of living in a proper dwelling, or of being [if one wished] in a stable and monogamous relationship?

      Why did these people think their God wanted them to be permanently tormented, ill-fed, filthy, and ill-kempt?

      What ultimate purpose did these individuals think it all served?
      From the gleanings that I have been able to find, it seems largely to have begun as a protest. Church leadership had abandoned the idea of demonstrating the basic identification of a Christian through lifestyle, and had been attacking anyone who gave a call for repentance. Ascetics withdrew from the church body and retreated to the wilds. That produced its own problems for adherence to Christian observance, and also resulted in the laity turning to ascetics for spiritual guidance rather than to the bishops and other administrators.

      Leadership had adopted the idea that a proper theology was critical to Christianity, rather than such things as probity and self control etc.
      1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
      Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
      .
      "It is not divine truth that makes the man seem more innocent in what is equally sinful, but human wrong-headedness." AUGUSTINE: re adultery

      "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Sparko View Post
        There were Jewish ascetics too. Maybe it was a carryover? Or it might have been a result of Gnosticism, a Christian heresy.
        There was a good deal of gnostic thought infiltrating the early Church which basically held that anything physical was bad (these were the folks who insisted Jesus didn't rise bodily).

        I'm always still in trouble again

        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
        "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          There was a good deal of gnostic thought infiltrating the early Church which basically held that anything physical was bad (these were the folks who insisted Jesus didn't rise bodily).
          Some ascetics were gnostic, but most weren't.
          1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
          Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
          .
          "It is not divine truth that makes the man seem more innocent in what is equally sinful, but human wrong-headedness." AUGUSTINE: re adultery

          "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Sparko View Post
            There were Jewish ascetics too. Maybe it was a carryover?
            Jewish asceticism did not go to those extreme lengths.
            "It ain't necessarily so
            The things that you're liable
            To read in the Bible
            It ain't necessarily so
            ."

            Sportin' Life
            Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by tabibito View Post

              Some ascetics were gnostic, but most weren't.
              Which specific gnostic ascetics are you considering?
              "It ain't necessarily so
              The things that you're liable
              To read in the Bible
              It ain't necessarily so
              ."

              Sportin' Life
              Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                There was a good deal of gnostic thought infiltrating the early Church which basically held that anything physical was bad
                Some of Paul's writing read as decidedly "proto-gnostic".

                However, your remark concerning anything physical is a somewhat overgeneralised comment regarding gnostic beliefs.
                "It ain't necessarily so
                The things that you're liable
                To read in the Bible
                It ain't necessarily so
                ."

                Sportin' Life
                Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                  Some of Paul's writing read as decidedly "proto-gnostic".
                  I'm sure Paul would be surprised to hear that.

                  However, your remark concerning anything physical is a somewhat overgeneralised comment regarding gnostic beliefs.
                  No. There were gnostics who believed that story. Rogue also used "basically" as a qualifier, which denotes that there is more to the story.
                  Last edited by tabibito; 05-03-2022, 09:47 AM.
                  1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
                  Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                  .
                  "It is not divine truth that makes the man seem more innocent in what is equally sinful, but human wrong-headedness." AUGUSTINE: re adultery

                  "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                    I'm sure Paul would be surprised to hear that.
                    On the other hand he might not, although he would not have recognised that term. However such ideas did form part of the contemporary religious vocabulary of his time.

                    Originally posted by tabibito View Post
                    No. There were gnostics who believed that story.
                    What "story"?

                    Originally posted by tabibito View Post
                    Rogue also used "basically" as a qualifier, which denotes that there is more to the story.
                    I would not consider its use in that sentence to be acting as a qualifier.

                    Now, what about answering my question to you rather than coming to the aid of your comrade-in-arms.

                    Which specific gnostic ascetics are you considering?
                    "It ain't necessarily so
                    The things that you're liable
                    To read in the Bible
                    It ain't necessarily so
                    ."

                    Sportin' Life
                    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                      On the other hand he might not, although he would not have recognised that term. However such ideas did form part of the contemporary religious vocabulary of his time.
                      Some of Paul's writing can be interpreted to support gnosticism, admittedly - provided context is not considered significant.

                      What "story"?
                      The story that the creator was a demiurge and that all material creation was evil.


                      Which specific gnostic ascetics are you considering?
                      Gnosticism was not a particular sect, as you should know. It isn't even restricted to Judeo/Christianity.
                      1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
                      Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                      .
                      "It is not divine truth that makes the man seem more innocent in what is equally sinful, but human wrong-headedness." AUGUSTINE: re adultery

                      "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                        Some of Paul's writing read as decidedly "proto-gnostic".
                        Particularly Gnostics.

                        Other Christians... Not so much.

                        In fact it appears that the only real reason that anyone today even considers the possibility is because of gnostic writings from Nag Hammadi and the so-called Gospel of Paul. I'm not sure if there is any NT scholars today who promote the idea that Paul was gnostic. The closest would likely be Elaine Pagels, who wrote The Gnostic Paul, but never answered that question, preferring instead to concentrate on how his letters were interpreted by later Gnostics.

                        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                        However, your remark concerning anything physical is a somewhat overgeneralised comment regarding gnostic beliefs.
                        It was mostly focused on sexual and dietary considerations.

                        I'm always still in trouble again

                        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                        "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                          Some of Paul's writing can be interpreted to support gnosticism, admittedly - provided context is not considered significant.
                          Is that the case, or did they both simply utilize the same Greek cosmological lexicon when explaining concepts to people steeped in it?

                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            Particularly Gnostics.

                            Other Christians... Not so much.

                            In fact it appears that the only real reason that anyone today even considers the possibility is because of gnostic writings from Nag Hammadi and the so-called Gospel of Paul. I'm not sure if there is any NT scholars today who promote the idea that Paul was gnostic. The closest would likely be Elaine Pagels, who wrote The Gnostic Paul, but never answered that question, preferring instead to concentrate on how his letters were interpreted by later Gnostics.


                            It was mostly focused on sexual and dietary considerations.
                            I did not use the term "gnostic" I employed the phrase "proto-gnostic" and while Paul would not have recognised that term, as I also remarked such ideas did form part of the contemporary religious vocabulary of his time.
                            "It ain't necessarily so
                            The things that you're liable
                            To read in the Bible
                            It ain't necessarily so
                            ."

                            Sportin' Life
                            Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                              Is that the case, or did they both simply utilize the same Greek cosmological lexicon when explaining concepts to people steeped in it?
                              1 Corinthians could easily be wrested to make it appear that it lends support to gnosticism: e.g.
                              1Cor 8:7; 1Cor 13:2



                              note that the Koine Greek word for "knowledge" is gnosis + Paul speaks of knowledge that is held only by some = secret knowledge. If someone notices that the context doesn't support the idea that Paul is referring to a secret knowledge that is known only to a select few, simply claim that Paul is encoding the message so that only the select few will understand it. That is standard procedure for any number of cults - regardless of the stamp or time. We've seen it done on TWeb often enough.
                              Last edited by tabibito; 05-03-2022, 05:35 PM.
                              1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
                              Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                              .
                              "It is not divine truth that makes the man seem more innocent in what is equally sinful, but human wrong-headedness." AUGUSTINE: re adultery

                              "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

                              Comment

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