Apophthegmata Patrum


Apophthegmata Patrum

The "Apophthegmata Patrum" [From the Greek: "apo", from; "phtheggomai", to cry out; "pater, father".] are the sayings of the early Christian Desert Fathers.

Various collections exist of aphorisms and anecdotes illustrative of the spiritual life, of ascetic and monastic principle, and of Christian ethics, attributed to the more prominent hermits and monks who peopled the Egyptian deserts in the fourth century. Three or four such collections in Latin were edited by Rosweyde ["Vitae Patrum", Bks. III, V, VI, VII; "Patrologia Latina", XXIII.] , one in Greek by Cotelier ["Ecclesiae Graecae Monumenta", I; "Patrologia Graeca" XV.] , and a Syriac collection included in the editions of Anan Isho's "Paradise" by Bedjan (Paris, 1897), and Wallis Budge (London, 1904), the latter supplying an English translation. 'The Sayings of the Desert Fathers' has been translated by Benedicta Ward more recently, with a marvelous introduction.

In all these collections the great mass of material is the same, although differently disposed, and it is now agreed that our actual "apophthegma" literature is Greek, though no doubt much of it is ultimately of Coptic origin. The stages in the growth of the extant collections of "apophthegmata" may be traced with some certainty. In the course of the fourth century this or that saying of the more famous ascetics was repeated by their disciples, and thus circulated.

There is no reason to doubt that these sayings and anecdotes were in large measure authentic, but no doubt many were attributed to wrong persons, and many more were apocryphal inventions. These single sayings tended to coalesce into groups, sometimes as the "apophthegmata" of one Father, sometimes as those dealing with the same subject. Out of these groups were formed the collections which we have.

They are arranged on an alphabetical principle, or according to the subject-matter. Of such collections, that contained in the fifth and sixth books of Rosweyde's "Vitae Patrum" is known to have existed before the end of the fifth century.

As to the character of the "apophthegmata" we find that, while they contain a certain grotesque element, the general teaching maintains a high level. They cover the whole field of the spiritual and religious life, and are a storehouse of ascetic lore. Along with Cassian, the "apophthegmata" reveal the well-springs of Christian spirituality and religious life.

References

*Translated from the Syriac into English by Budge in their entirety (see above)
*A selection by James O. Hannay, " [http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/wd.htm Wisdom of the Desert] " (London, 1904)
*A critical investigation into this literature as a whole is by Butler, "Lausiac History of Palladius" (Cambridge, 1898), Part I, 208-214, 283-285.

Notes

External links

* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01623c.htm "Catholic Encyclopedia" article]
* [http://en.orthodoxwiki.org/Sayings_of_the_Desert_Fathers Desert Fathers apothegms examples] at OrthodoxWiki


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  • Apophthegmata Patrum — • Sayings of the Fathers of the Desert Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • Apophthegmata Patrum — Die Apophthegmata Patrum (Gerontikon, Alphabetikon) sind eine Sammlung von kurzen Redewendungen, die angeblich von den ersten christlichen Mönchen Ägyptens, den so genannten Wüstenvätern, stammen sollen. Die meisten Sprüche werden Mönchen des 4.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Apophthegmata Patrum — (Sayings of the Fathers). Title given to collections of sayings of the early eremites of Egypt (qq.v.). The sayings are a rich source for early asceticism (q.v.), and for the social and cultural history of the fourth century. Their more immediate …   Historical dictionary of Byzantium

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