Info

on establishing a new alternative society in opposition to the surrounding pagan culture. While the ascetic goal (that is, purity of heart and seeing God) remained the same, the monks were also expected to help each other and work for the common good of the monastery.24 The Pachomian monasteries, as well as other similar institutions, rapidly became important economic enterprises and no doubt contributed to the growth of a Coptic literate society and thus to the rapid decline of the Greek tradition, which was identified as pagan. The most famous monastery coming out of this tradition was the White Monastery near Sohag. Under the leadership of Shenoute (c. 360-466), it became the most significant centre for monasticism in Upper Egypt.25 Shenoute was himself a prolific writer in Coptic and, judging from the preserved Coptic papyri, his monastery became a centre for Coptic literature and learning. Shenoute is primarily known for his rules and the strict organisation of monastic life in his establishments as well as his attacks on pagan tradition and heretics.26

In addition to these well-known early centres of Egyptian monasticism, evidence from the papyri and from several accounts given by visitors and historians indicates that there were numerous other monasteries with thousands of monks already in the fourth century. Many of these are likely to have belonged to the Melitian party, condemned by the Council of Nicaea, and others, no doubt, held theological opinions not acceptable to the church. Not only the Nag Hammadi codices, but also other apocryphal writings, were read and presumably copied in monastic circles, and there is ample evidence for debate and uneasiness about differences in belief.27 Although there is no clear evidence for non-Christian monasteries, it is likely that there were centres for both Manichaeism and non-Christian Gnosticism that were similar to the early monastic centres.28 Indeed, it is possible that some of the persons called monks in our texts were not only heterodox in belief but were perhaps even non-Christians.

24 On Pachomius, see Philip Rousseau, Pachomius. The primary material about Pachomius and his monasteries is available in English translation: Armand Veilleux, trans., The Pachomian Koinonia.

25 On the early career of Shenoute, see now Stephen Emmel, 'Shenoute the monk'.

26 For Shenoute and the White Monastery see Rebecca Krawiec, Shenoute and the women of the White Monastery; Stephen Emmel, Shenoute's literary corpus; Johannes Hahn, Gewalt und religiƶser Konflikt, 223-69.

27 The relationship between the Nag Hammadi Codices and Pachomian monasticism has created along-standing debate. For a summary and new reflections, seeJames Goehring, 'The provenance ofthe Nag Hammadi Codices once more'.

28 On Manichaeism in Egypt see G. Stroumsa, 'The Manichaean challenge to Egyptian Christianity'.

0 0

Post a comment