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Early Christian extreme asceticism

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  • #16
    Originally posted by tabibito View Post

    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.
    This is pretty much wholly wrong. Ascetics withdrew to the wilderness to do battle with the demons, who were understood to be living in such places. They in no way withdrew from the church body; they merely intensified its practices. So far from rejecting ascetics, prominent theological leaders embraced them and held them up as examples (Athanasius the Great wrote the Life of St. Anthony; Basil the Great lived as an ascetic himself for a time, and held up his sister Macrina (who founded a monastic community) as a positive example; John Chrysostom was such a devoted ascetic that he severely damaged his digestive system through extreme fasting). Ascetics were popular candidates for the priesthood and bishoprics, and were sometimes ordained against their will.

    Why did the ascetics go to such extreme lengths? They would be tempted by thoughts of sex, or gourmet foods, or luxury, and deliberately rejected such thoughts by going to the other extreme.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
    sigpic
    I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
      This is pretty much wholly wrong. Ascetics withdrew to the wilderness to do battle with the demons, who were understood to be living in such places. They in no way withdrew from the church body; they merely intensified its practices. So far from rejecting ascetics, prominent theological leaders embraced them and held them up as examples (Athanasius the Great wrote the Life of St. Anthony; Basil the Great lived as an ascetic himself for a time, and held up his sister Macrina (who founded a monastic community) as a positive example; John Chrysostom was such a devoted ascetic that he severely damaged his digestive system through extreme fasting). Ascetics were popular candidates for the priesthood and bishoprics, and were sometimes ordained against their will.

      Why did the ascetics go to such extreme lengths? They would be tempted by thoughts of sex, or gourmet foods, or luxury, and deliberately rejected such thoughts by going to the other extreme.
      Accepted
      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.
      .
      "when the church no longer teaches its people why they believe what they believe, the world will often step in and fill in the gaps." Ryan Danker

      "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


      • #18
        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

        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.
        Proto-gnostic is a nebulous term that allows anyone to make of it what they want. Moreover your observation that the terminology was "part of the contemporary religious vocabulary of his time" appears to support my contention that it is more due to that "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


        • #19
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          Proto-gnostic is a nebulous term that allows anyone to make of it what they want. Moreover your observation that the terminology was "part of the contemporary religious vocabulary of his time" appears to support my contention that it is more due to that "both simply utilize the same Greek cosmological lexicon when explaining concepts to people steeped in it."
          Do you detect any similarities?

          that there is a supreme God who is the Creator; that an evil power exists which is opposed to him, and not under his control; that he has emanated many lesser divinities to help combat this power; that he has created this world for a purpose, and that in its present state it will have an end; that this end will be heralded by the coming of a cosmic Saviour, who will help to bring it about; that meantime heaven and hell exist, with an individual judgment to decide the fate of each soul at death; that at the end of time there will be a resurrection of the dead and a Last Judgment, with annihilation of the wicked; and that thereafter the kingdom of God will come upon earth, and the righteous will enter into it as into a garden (a Persian word for which is 'paradise'), and be happy there in the presence of God for ever, immortal themselves in body as well as soul.

          "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


          • #20
            Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
            Why did the ascetics go to such extreme lengths? They would be tempted by thoughts of sex, or gourmet foods, or luxury, and deliberately rejected such thoughts by going to the other extreme.
            Such beliefs and behaviours strike me as morbidly sado-masochistic.

            "Antony of Egypt, Dr Freud will see you now"!

            "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


            • #21
              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
              Such beliefs and behaviours strike me as morbidly sado-masochistic.

              "Antony of Egypt, Dr Freud will see you now"!
              Denying oneself "luxuries" doesn't exactly seem sadomasochistic especially when compared to the practices of such groups as the flagellants.

              Moreover, their reasoning wasn't based on some sort of fulfillment of some sexual desire, but rather the exact opposite -- a suppression of sexual and other physical urges.

              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


              • #22
                Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                Denying oneself "luxuries" doesn't exactly seem sadomasochistic especially when compared to the practices of such groups as the flagellants.
                Living in your own filth? Denying yourself sleep and food? Mortifying the flesh by various means such as flagellation and other bizarre acts such as deliberately cutting their flesh, actions which we today define as extreme self harm? If that does not have distinct overtones of pathological sado-masochism one is left to wonder what does.

                Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                Moreover, their reasoning wasn't based on some sort of fulfillment of some sexual desire, but rather the exact opposite -- a suppression of sexual and other physical urges.
                Why?

                According to Genesis God [having blessed Adam and Eve] told them to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth".

                Where did this repression of sexuality and the need to inflict deliberate and extreme suffering upon their own bodies originate? It certainly did not come from Judaism.
                "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


                • #23
                  Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                  Living in your own filth? Denying yourself sleep and food? Mortifying the flesh by various means such as flagellation and other bizarre acts such as deliberately cutting their flesh, actions which we today define as extreme self harm? If that does not have distinct overtones of pathological sado-masochism one is left to wonder what does.
                  Does that describe the typical ascetic, or some of those who took the lifestyle to the extreme.

                  Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                  Why?

                  According to Genesis God [having blessed Adam and Eve] told them to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth".

                  Where did this repression of sexuality and the need to inflict deliberate and extreme suffering upon their own bodies originate? It certainly did not come from Judaism.
                  The Talmud (Bava Batra 60b) notes that after the destruction of the Second Temple, "there was an increase in the number of ascetics among the Jews, whose practice was to not eat meat and to not drink wine."

                  In the Bible you have Nazarites (Number 6:1-21), who abstained from wine and cutting their hair as well as avoided graveyards and the dead in order to remain pure. At least two major OT figures were Nazarites, Samson (Judges 13:5) and Samuel (I Samuel 1:11).

                  And in the NT, before Jesus, you had John the Baptist living a pretty ascetic lifestyle.

                  So there definitely was an ascetic strain in early Judaism ("proto-asceticism" ).

                  One possible source for the rise is that the Bible does indeed prohibit priests from engaging in certain activities prior to performing various functions (Exodus 19:15; Leviticus 10:9), and that included sex as seen in the first citation.

                  Wanting to achieve a state of ritual purity by avoiding sexual contact can also be seen expressed in I Samuel 21:5.

                  And then there are the Essenes, whose priesthood, at least, was celibate, and according to others, such as Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and Pliny the Elder, the general membership as well.

                  Now, the actual flagellants, as a movement and not an act by some individuals, arose after the outbreak of the Black Death in the 14th cent. People were understandably desperate in their search for anything that might work.



                  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


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                    Such beliefs and behaviours strike me as morbidly sado-masochistic.

                    "Antony of Egypt, Dr Freud will see you now"!
                    I find it telling that practitioners of Dr. Freud's methods tend to need therapy themselves.
                    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

                    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
                    sigpic
                    I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                      Does that describe the typical ascetic, or some of those who took the lifestyle to the extreme.
                      From what I have found, it would seem that those activities were well outside the norm.
                      This piece from Wikipedia proves interesting:
                      The practitioners of this philosophy abandon sensual pleasures and lead an abstinent lifestyle, in the pursuit of redemption,[7] salvation or spirituality.[8] Many ascetics believe the action of purifying the body helps to purify the soul, and thus obtain a greater connection with the Divine or find inner peace. This may take the form of rituals, the renunciation of pleasure, or self-mortification. However, ascetics maintain that self-imposed constraints bring them greater freedom in various areas of their lives, such as increased clarity of thought and the ability to resist potentially destructive temptations. Asceticism is seen in the ancient theologies as a journey towards spiritual transformation, where the simple is sufficient, the bliss is within, the frugal is plenty.[4]


                      Much of it is consistent with what you have already posted, but the underscored section shows how well asceticism (in general as well as in the extremes) conforms with Paul's thought:

                      1/ Paul lamented not having a wife.
                      2/ 1 Tim 4:4-8
                      4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;
                      5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
                      6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
                      7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
                      8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.



                      Of course, whether 1 Timothy is genuinely Paul's work is challenged by many, but this particular section is fairly well in line with Colossians 2:20-23 for example:- v23 specifically. The authenticity of Colossians is also questioned, it seems. I'm not sure what the scholars object to in that letter just yet, but the usual pattern is that a book is challenged when something in it says something that scholars object to.
                      Counter argument might be raised by reference to Paul's comment about subjugating the flesh (the which I cannot remember with anything like precision).
                      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.
                      .
                      "when the church no longer teaches its people why they believe what they believe, the world will often step in and fill in the gaps." Ryan Danker

                      "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


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                        Does that describe the typical ascetic, or some of those who took the lifestyle to the extreme.
                        My emphasis.

                        To refresh that failing memory of yours.

                        Thread title: Early Christian extreme asceticism



                        And the opening post:


                        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?


                        "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


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                          I find it telling that practitioners of Dr. Freud's methods tend to need therapy themselves.
                          Was that a jocular comment or do you have specific examples of individual Freudian psycho-analysts/psycho-therapists that have required therapy?
                          "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


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                            My emphasis.

                            To refresh that failing memory of yours.

                            Thread title: Early Christian extreme asceticism



                            And the opening post:



                            I must admit that I did miss the "extreme" in the OP.
                            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.
                            .
                            "when the church no longer teaches its people why they believe what they believe, the world will often step in and fill in the gaps." Ryan Danker

                            "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


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                              Now, the actual flagellants, as a movement and not an act by some individuals, arose after the outbreak of the Black Death in the 14th cent. People were understandably desperate in their search for anything that might work.

                              That is incorrect. Groups of flagellants existed in the thirteenth century. As noted by One Bad Pig extreme self mortification [including periods of extreme fastng, sleep deprivation, and the infliction of physical violence or extreme discomfort upon the individual's own body] has much earlier antecedents within some Christian groups.

                              From here: Maurer-Dass is a musicologist who [at the time of writing the article] was engaged in her doctoral research.


                              https://www.medievalists.net/2022/02...s-middle-ages/
                              The Disciplinati: Italian Beginnings


                              The history of flagellant songs begins in thirteenth-century Italy, with a group of penitents known as the disciplinati. According to historian Daniel E. Bornstein, the disciplinati were formed circa 1260 by a hermit named Fra Raniero Fasani of Perugia. As noted in Bornstein’s book The Bianchi of 1399: Popular Devotion in Late Medieval Italy, legend holds that Fra Raniero practiced self-flagellation for eighteen years in solitude until he received a divine vision that warned him that because of humanity’s sinful acts, the destruction of the earth was imminent.

                              While his vision predicted the end of the world, Fra Raniero also received a message of hope: that is, the Virgin Mary agreed to plead for humanity’s survival if public communal acts of repentance were performed. To garner participants for these acts of repentance, Fra Raniero informed the Bishop of Perugia of his vision, providing tangible evidence with a letter that he claimed was from the Virgin Mary. After hearing the details of this vision, the Bishop publicly announced Fra Raniero’s need for participants in acts of penance, resulting in the formation of the disciplinati.

                              According to Bornstein, many citizens of Perugia followed Fra Raniero’s example and participated in public self-flagellation as a means of imploring God for forgiveness. Accompanying this self-mutilation was the communal singing of songs called Laude Spirituale.


                              The allegation that Raniero received a personal letter from the Virgin is totally ridiculous [albeit hilarious] and rather charming and reminds me of the English lady in the 1930s who, convinced of the Second Coming, went up Mt Scopus every morning with a cup of tea to give to Jesus when he arrived back on earth.
                              Last edited by Hypatia_Alexandria; 05-05-2022, 05:47 AM.
                              "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


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                                My emphasis.

                                To refresh that failing memory of yours.

                                Thread title: Early Christian extreme asceticism



                                And the opening post:



                                That title could be read as a claim that Christian asceticism was by definition extreme. And given that you immediately start off citing Nixey's screed, that reading is pretty much the logical one.

                                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

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