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Athanasius: The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus (Classics of Western Spirituality)

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Athanasius (c. 295-373) Bishop of Alexandria, spiritual master and theologian, was a major figure of 4th-century Christendom. Contents: Foreword -- Preface -- Introduction -- The life and affairs of our holy father Antony -- A letter of Athanasius, our holy father, Archbishop of Alexandria, to Marcellinus on the interpretation of the Psalms.


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Athanasius (c. 295-373) Bishop of Alexandria, spiritual master and theologian, was a major figure of 4th-century Christendom. Contents: Foreword -- Preface -- Introduction -- The life and affairs of our holy father Antony -- A letter of Athanasius, our holy father, Archbishop of Alexandria, to Marcellinus on the interpretation of the Psalms.

30 review for Athanasius: The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus (Classics of Western Spirituality)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    I read a number of the Classics of Western Spirituality series for a class years ago and can't at this point remember much about which was which, but I'm pretty sure this was one of the ones I liked best. I'm skimming it in order to review. Overall the series is excellent, written in a clear and interesting way, with excellent notes (including on translation choices), indices, and suggestions for further reading. Athanasius was the twentieth bishop of Alexandria (328 – 2 May 373). Before this he I read a number of the Classics of Western Spirituality series for a class years ago and can't at this point remember much about which was which, but I'm pretty sure this was one of the ones I liked best. I'm skimming it in order to review. Overall the series is excellent, written in a clear and interesting way, with excellent notes (including on translation choices), indices, and suggestions for further reading. Athanasius was the twentieth bishop of Alexandria (328 – 2 May 373). Before this he was an assistant to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria during the First Council of Nicaea. As a theologian he is best known for his opposition to Arianism, the heresy that held that Jesus Christ was begotten by God the Father at a point in time rather than being co-eternal, and is distinct from and is subordinate to the Father. He also wrote on monasticism and pastoral care. He is a Doctor of the Church. He refused to compromise out of political expediency and was exiled several times. On the Life of Antony quickly became a paradigm for the genre of hagiography. Key traits are "preternatural courage under trial and torment, visions foretelling the manner of death, hints of identity with Christ and of his dying in and with them [the martyrs], direct flight of the soul to heaven, and burial with veneration by fellows in the faith," according the Preface by William A. Clebsch. Antony fought the devil. He quickly exhausted his strength, but by steps learning to rely more and more fully on Christ, becoming abjectly dependent and giving up his own agency (but not his personal identity) to become an agent of the divine. Athanasius called this salvation through deification theopoiesis: being raised by the deity above passion, purged and immaculate. If it now happened that we were lords of all the earth, and renounced all the earth, that would amount to nothing as compared to the kingdom of heaven. Athanasius' Letter to Marcellinus concerns the interpretation of the Psalms, which he thought summarized the entire Old Testament in a manner similar to the way in which the Old Testament anticipates the New. The readying of Israel for the Messiah is an allegory for the readying of the human soul for salvation. Athanasius analyzes the various emotional states , crises, joys, and temptations of daily life and explains how the Psalms correspond and soothe different emotional states. the entire Holy Scripture is a teacher of virtues and of the truths of the faith, while the Book of Psalms possesses somehow the perfect image for the souls' course of life. Another influential writing of Athanasius' not included here is On the Incarnation of the Word of God. Even on the cross He did not hide Himself from sight; rather, He made all creation witness to the presence of its Maker.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    ATHANASIUS (c. 295-373) The Life of Anthony and the Letter to Marcellinus My primary interest in reading this book was to compare it to “The Temptation of St. Anthony” composed by Gustave Flaubert in 1874. Flaubert's version took the author twenty-five years to complete it to perfection. It is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature. Athanasius Bishop of Alexandria in the 4th-century was a spiritual master and theologian. He composed the “Life of Anthony” like an imaginative narrative based on ATHANASIUS (c. 295-373) The Life of Anthony and the Letter to Marcellinus My primary interest in reading this book was to compare it to “The Temptation of St. Anthony” composed by Gustave Flaubert in 1874. Flaubert's version took the author twenty-five years to complete it to perfection. It is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature. Athanasius Bishop of Alexandria in the 4th-century was a spiritual master and theologian. He composed the “Life of Anthony” like an imaginative narrative based on religious beliefs of the time. It was apparently quite soon after Anthony's death in 356 that Athanasius complied with a request for more information about the early life and the beginning of his ascetic discipline. How Anthony was capable of frustrating the stratagems of the foes and how to recognize the apparitions in his cell between angels and demons. How in later years he pronounced prophecies performed healings and other wonders and finally his death and burial. Apart from a few likely factual dates, the work is written like an ancient severe religious sermon. In the same style, he presents his “Letter to Marcellinus” treating mostly the reading and interpretation of the Psalter. I must admit I prefer Gustave Flaubert's Anthony.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    The Life of Antony – a biography of Saint Anthony the Great - was Athanasius’ most widely read work. The book was popular in its own era (the mid fourth century), where it was an important contributing factor to the rise of the monastic ideal in both Western and Eastern Christianity, and in the Middle Ages. Anthony, an uneducated and unassuming man, retreats to the Egyptian desert to embrace a life of prayer and solitude. In the process, he becomes a respected leader of the Christian community f The Life of Antony – a biography of Saint Anthony the Great - was Athanasius’ most widely read work. The book was popular in its own era (the mid fourth century), where it was an important contributing factor to the rise of the monastic ideal in both Western and Eastern Christianity, and in the Middle Ages. Anthony, an uneducated and unassuming man, retreats to the Egyptian desert to embrace a life of prayer and solitude. In the process, he becomes a respected leader of the Christian community for his discipline, his wisdom, and his ability to work miracles. This is a historically important (and much-imitated) text due to its wide ranging and long lasting influence, but also an engaging and entertaining little biography. My translation also included the Letter to Marcellinus, a short treatise on the use and importance of the psalter in the daily lives of individual Christians. The letter is notable as the only complete surviving Athanasian work dealing exclusively with the interpretation of Scripture. Overall, a good pair of texts that should appeal to readers with an interest in fourth century Christianity. 3.5 stars, recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Evan Kennedy

    This is a great, albeit brief, bio of Antony's life before he joined the Johnsons and launched his recording career. Much of the spectacle occurs at the beginning as the devil tempts Antony by dressing in drag and looking fabulous with the "spirit of fornication." Antony is unmoved but caves in a little, I'd say, by purchasing a boutique hairshirt, going on a diet, and working on his snow white complexion by residing in a cave and exfoliating against rocks. There's also a great scorpion and leop This is a great, albeit brief, bio of Antony's life before he joined the Johnsons and launched his recording career. Much of the spectacle occurs at the beginning as the devil tempts Antony by dressing in drag and looking fabulous with the "spirit of fornication." Antony is unmoved but caves in a little, I'd say, by purchasing a boutique hairshirt, going on a diet, and working on his snow white complexion by residing in a cave and exfoliating against rocks. There's also a great scorpion and leopard and bull and wolf stampede, each demon-animal "moving according to its form," an observation I found reminiscent of Augustine, though Athanasius preceded him. All in all, this is another excellent book to add to my canon of convincing arguments for humankind's rottenness and the necessity to sever such ties, as Antony did in the desert, which he "filled with discipline." I, too, seek a desert of discipline but cannot shake off my vanity. Some more ink droppings? "Make a beginning daily," urges Antony. "Live as people dying daily," urges Antony as well. Do that and God will "make you famous everywhere." To be played at maximum volume.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christy Bartel

    A strong start for my senior seminar History class "Desert Mothers and Fathers" reading list! Growing up Southern Baptist meant that we didn't chat a lot about saints...and I have apparently been missing OUT! I thought this account was going to be more abstract than it ended up being; I thought most of the book was going to be like the part where the Devil takes the form of a dish and Antony is like 'nah I know it's you, Satan.' But it was actually fascinating advice about spiritual warfare that A strong start for my senior seminar History class "Desert Mothers and Fathers" reading list! Growing up Southern Baptist meant that we didn't chat a lot about saints...and I have apparently been missing OUT! I thought this account was going to be more abstract than it ended up being; I thought most of the book was going to be like the part where the Devil takes the form of a dish and Antony is like 'nah I know it's you, Satan.' But it was actually fascinating advice about spiritual warfare that reminded me of my favorite book of all time: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Demons and angels are discussed in the Bible, but my running theory is that the spiritual world isn't discussed more in it because the people who were putting together the New Testament were trying to dissuade the movement of Gnosticism. I have no clue if that's accurate, but regardless, this account had a lot of advice about spiritually (and physically) fighting demons that was AWESOME. Antony really said, “And he has not the power over swine, for as it is written in the Gospel, they besought the Lord, saying, 'Let us enter the swine.' But if they had power not even against swine, much less have they any over men formed in the image of God.” Dude says, "Satan doesn't even have power over pigs" and I'm sitting here reading a book assigned for a college class like "AMEN!" “But no heed must be paid them even if they arouse to prayer, even if they counsel us not to eat at all even though they seem to accuse and cast shame upon us for those things which once they allowed.” <-- I've heard this one before, I think from C.S. Lewis, that demons get us to sin and then turn on us and make us guilty for doing what they were leading us to do in the first place. “But concerning the Cross, which would you say to be the better, to bear it, when a plot is brought about by wicked men, nor to be in fear of death brought about under any form whatever; or to prate about the wanderings of Osiris and Isis, the plots of Typhon, the flight of Cronos, his eating his children and the slaughter of his father.” <--- the man @the Greek gods “For that which appears in them is no true light, but they are rather the preludes and likenesses of the fire prepared for the demons who attempt to terrify men with those flames in which they themselves will be burned.” <--- Me: *chef hand emoji*

  6. 5 out of 5

    Josef Muench

    It's not hard to see why Athanasius' Life of Antony became something of an "instant classic" for centuries to come. Far from being mere biography or history, Athanasius' work seeks to build up and strengthen all who read, even to this day. In many places, the reader enters into a portion of the joy and relief that Antony bestowed on those who visited him in his earthly life. But of course, as Athanasius continually stresses, it is not Antony, but the Savior himself being victorious in Antony in It's not hard to see why Athanasius' Life of Antony became something of an "instant classic" for centuries to come. Far from being mere biography or history, Athanasius' work seeks to build up and strengthen all who read, even to this day. In many places, the reader enters into a portion of the joy and relief that Antony bestowed on those who visited him in his earthly life. But of course, as Athanasius continually stresses, it is not Antony, but the Savior himself being victorious in Antony in every case. The reader is especially benefitted by pondering the many different ways in which the devil seeks to attack, even if the devil's form in the modern world seems to be quite different than the forms Athanasius describes in Antony's life. But the reader is also taught to spite the devil, who—as Antony often emphasizes—makes himself appear frightening and powerful because he knows that his power has in fact been overthrown by the cross of Christ. Knowing this, the Christian—armed with the Scriptures and the sign of the cross—may easily repel his manifold temptations. In several places, the reader also gets a glimpse into what Athanasius believed were the central points of contention in the Arian controversy. The Letter to Marcellinus is likewise a helpful aid to the Christian engaged in the daily battle with the devil—or, as Athanasius points out, in each and every situation. The book of Psalms, while containing all that the rest of Scripture contains (such as history, legislation, and prophecy), is unique in that it covers the entire range of human emotions, and teaches the Christian how his soul might be rightly stabilized and ordered in every case. One might hesitate to take up the words of Moses or Jeremiah as if they were his own words, but the Psalms are meant to be taken up by the Christian in just this way. They are also meant to be sung, not simply to delight the ear, but to signify the harmonious ordering of the soul that is achieved by the one who recites them with a faithful heart. Throughout, Athanasius provides a vast overview of which Psalms are appropriate in a variety of circumstances, giving some insight into the piety of the man who remains so influential for every Christian to this day, whether we realize it or not.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    I read this initially for his Letter to Marcellinus, which provides a very interesting window into 4th c. interpretation of the Psalms. Athanasius uses the metaphor of a mirror in which we ourselves and our emotions reflected, something Calvin picks up and passes on over a millennium later. The Greek text of the letter is available in PG. The Life of Antony is…interesting. I have to wonder how much of Antony's opposition to Arianism is Antony's and how much of it belongs to his biographer. A good I read this initially for his Letter to Marcellinus, which provides a very interesting window into 4th c. interpretation of the Psalms. Athanasius uses the metaphor of a mirror in which we ourselves and our emotions reflected, something Calvin picks up and passes on over a millennium later. The Greek text of the letter is available in PG. The Life of Antony is…interesting. I have to wonder how much of Antony's opposition to Arianism is Antony's and how much of it belongs to his biographer. A good read, though.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patti Clement

    Wonderful Classic of Western Spirituality about one of our Fathers of the Church! Have not read from cover to cover, but purchased while taking a course of Historical Foundations of Spirituality.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jon Beadle

    A classic read. Hagiography and spiritual direction from a 4th century Archbishop.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kiel

    A collection of two historical classics from one author, The Life of Antony and The Letter to Marcellinus reach out from the 4th century and allow Bishop Athanasius to continue to minister to modern readers. In Life he captures the early father of asceticism and his many battles with demons, as well as his service to the persecuted church and his stand against those wretched Arians. In Letter he shares his deep knowledge of the Psalms and gives advice on how to interpret and engage them. Both wo A collection of two historical classics from one author, The Life of Antony and The Letter to Marcellinus reach out from the 4th century and allow Bishop Athanasius to continue to minister to modern readers. In Life he captures the early father of asceticism and his many battles with demons, as well as his service to the persecuted church and his stand against those wretched Arians. In Letter he shares his deep knowledge of the Psalms and gives advice on how to interpret and engage them. Both works are fascinating in their historical context, helpful in their pastoral goals, and educational in their positive saturation of biblical and theological literacy. 129 pages of helpful introductions, dense and historically distant but understandable content, I recommend to church history plunderers and theological pundits. Happy reading.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marc Schelske

    In choosing to set down The Life of Antony, Athanasius had agendas beyond commemorating a wise monk. The selection of stories and teaching drawn from Antony’s life seem intentionally curated to be an inspiration and guide to holy living—while also undermining heterodox forms of Christianity, like the Arians Athanasius perpetually fought. I wonder, as well, if The Life of Antony is Athanasius's critique of the quickly developing culture among the bishops. Having observed the Council of Nicea and In choosing to set down The Life of Antony, Athanasius had agendas beyond commemorating a wise monk. The selection of stories and teaching drawn from Antony’s life seem intentionally curated to be an inspiration and guide to holy living—while also undermining heterodox forms of Christianity, like the Arians Athanasius perpetually fought. I wonder, as well, if The Life of Antony is Athanasius's critique of the quickly developing culture among the bishops. Having observed the Council of Nicea and spent years wrangling with bishops whose concerns often seem far removed from spirituality, the principled, simple, and God-captivated life of Antony must have seemed like something from another world—a more holy world. In presenting Antony in this light, Athanasius set forward an idealized vision of the faithful Christian and even a model for Christian leaders. Athanasius shows that while Antony had a spiritual impulse and desire to pursue God, his maturity depended on two things. First, Antony listened to and took the guidance of the Apostles as recorded in scripture seriously. When he heard the gospel read and learned the Acts account of early Christians giving their wealth to the poor, he did so himself. (31) Second, he followed this act of commitment by humbly seeking out guidance and spiritual wisdom from other Godly teachers. When he found teaching or examples that made sense and aligned with his understanding of scripture, he would incorporate it into his own life and practice. “And having been filled in this manner, He returned to his own place of discipline, from that time gathering the attributes of each [teacher] in himself, and striving to manifest in himself what was best from all.” (33) Here, Athanasius shows quite clearly that the Christian faith does not occur in a vacuum, even for hermits! Christian faith begins with the Apostles' teachings, is formed in obedience to those teachings, and is strengthened and honed under the instruction of wise elders. A lengthy portion of the biography focuses on Antony’s ascetic practices in the wilderness, particularly his struggles with evil spirits. I found most compelling in these stories that Antony’s posture toward Satan and the power of evil was never a position of fear. Rather than fight back with spectacle or elaborate rituals, Antony simply believed that the completed work of Christ on the cross included the total defeat of Satan. “Since the Lord made his sojourn with us, the enemy is fallen and his powers have diminished.” (52). Rooted in this complete trust in God’s power and authority, Antony would simply dismiss the demons attacking him. In one episode, he spoke to Satan, saying, “You, then, are much to be despised…like a powerless child. From now on you cause me no anxiety, for the Lord is my helper…” (35). This doesn’t mean that Antony didn’t struggle, yet the struggles are not portrayed as fighting against a powerful outside enemy, but instead as fighting against his own pride and risk of falling to temptation. While this spiritual oppression was at times painful, he accepted the discomfort. “Here I am—Antony! I do not run from your blows, for even if you give me more, nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.” (38). In another case, Antony drew a line in the sand. He was willing to die as a martyr, but he also didn’t accept that the demonic forces assailing him had any power over him. He ended one episode by declaring: “If you have received authority over me, I am prepared to be devoured by you. But if you were sent by demons, waste no time retreating, for I am a servant of Christ.” (70) As time passed, Antony became famous for both his holiness and manifestations of spiritual power that increasingly accompanied him. People traveled far into the desert to find him and seek his guidance. They even brought their injured and sick to him for healing. Later in his life, there were great crowds. And yet, Athanasius presents Antony as avoiding all self-inflation that might result from these circumstances. “And Antony was neither boastful when he was heeded, nor disgruntled when he was not; rather, he gave thanks to the Lord always.” (73). This was part of the state of equilibrium that he seemed to have achieved. “The state of his soul was…not constricted by grief, nor relaxed by pleasure, nor affected by either laughter or dejection. Moreover, when he saw the crowd, he was not annoyed any more than he was elated…He maintained utter equilibrium.” (42) This graciousness was not only interior for Antony. It shaped his relationship with others. “He was gracious and civil, and his speech was seasoned with divine salt, so that no one resented him—on the contrary, all who came to him rejoiced.” (84) Even as a person of significant influence, he respected those who had been appointed to leadership. “Though the sort of man he was, he honored the rule of the church with extreme care, and he wanted every cleric to be held in higher regard than himself. He felt no shame bowing the head to the bishops and priests; even if a deacon came time for assistance, he discussed the things that were beneficial, and gave place to him in prayer, not being embarrassed to put himself in a position to learn.” (81) Not only did Athanasius portray Antony as an elevated, spiritual, and gracious soul, but he also pointed out that Antony used his influence not only to elevate others to holiness but also to oppose injustice. “He aided judges, advising them to value justice over everything else, and to fear God, and to realize that by the judgment with which they judged, they themselves would be judged.” (92). In another case, Athanasius uses words that I sincerely wish could be ascribed to Christians today. Antony “lent his support to victims of injustice so avidly, that it was possible to think that he, not the others, was the injured party.” (94) If Athanasius uses Antony to provide a sketch of the mature Christian life, then this is what we see: A mature and healthy Christian reads and obeys scripture, taking the Apostles' instructions seriously. They exhibit a humble spirit, seeking spiritual wisdom from their elders and applying that insight for personal growth and holiness. They live with a deep trust in God and the completed work of Jesus on the cross that enables them to stand without fear in the face of evil and enables them to sacrifice their life and comfort rather than submitting to evil. To a modern reader, the supernatural elements of the story and Antony’s dramatic struggles with evil spirits make The Life of Antony seem legendary. Yet, for me, the descriptions of his character and demeanor are the real issue. Even these seem deeply idealized and so far beyond the average person. But this only strengthens my suspicion that Athanasius intended this story to be a foil and critique of the bishops of his day. To the bishops, The Life of Antony could serve as a challenge to greater holiness and self-sacrifice personally, and also to see their role as shepherds extend beyond souls and salvation to include safety and fair treatment in the world. To the people under the bishops, the book could serve as a measuring rod, giving them a standard to expect from their leaders. I was most deeply moved learning that this giant of faith continued to see himself as someone who was learning and growing in holiness. Athanasius recorded that Antony taught his monks the following: “Let us take courage and let us always rejoice, like those who are being redeemed.” (63) If someone with such indisputable credentials of spiritual maturity can consider himself merely one who is “being redeemed,” perhaps the rest of us can be exorcised of our driving demons of spiritual accomplishment, trusting Christ’s work within us to be completed in his own good time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tim Newcomb

    Vita Antony: The Ascesis of the Sage and Saint In the Life of Antony, Athanasius pens a foundational account that would influence the following two millennia of Hagiography, influencing everything from Historia Ecclesiastica to the allegoric Pilgrim's Progress. This third-person narrative was piecemealed together from historical accounts and letters of St. Antony that Athanasius collected after a brief encounter with the monk himself. It details the beginnings of Christian monasticism, the diff Vita Antony: The Ascesis of the Sage and Saint In the Life of Antony, Athanasius pens a foundational account that would influence the following two millennia of Hagiography, influencing everything from Historia Ecclesiastica to the allegoric Pilgrim's Progress. This third-person narrative was piecemealed together from historical accounts and letters of St. Antony that Athanasius collected after a brief encounter with the monk himself. It details the beginnings of Christian monasticism, the differences between early Christian demonology and pagan Greek daemonology, the contrast between heterodoxy and orthodoxy, and the critical role monastics plan in the health of the church. One of the more interesting frameworks Athanasius uses is the delineation between a sage and a saint. While Ascetics may look similar on the surface, Athanasius spends quite a bit of the Life of Antony highlighting distinctions between them. The Greek Philosophers, the Persian Sage, the Egyptian Pagan, and the Arian Schismatic are all secular ascetics (here broadly referred to as "Sages") who brandish power they have wrestled from an external divine source. They become an Agent of the god they serve and operate with imbued power. But the Saint, Athanasius argues, is a vessel that reflects the power of God to work miracles; his power is not native to himself. This distinction is slight on the surface, Athanasius argues, but the difference leads the soul to a fundamentally different destination. The source of power is a critical distinction in Bishop Athanasius' mind. Through this subtle distinction, Athanasius describes how the Arian heresy leads a person down a fundamentally different path across a lifetime; Arianism to self-reliant and self-destructive paganism, and Apostolic Orthodoxy to humility before God and, ultimately, salvation. He never misses an opportunity to draw the line more clearly between the Arian Schismatics and the Orthodox. He outright creates opportunities to articulate his disgust for them to the point of humor. Even in a book written specifically about a single monk, Athanasius Contra Mundum is readily apparent. He included arguments against the agnostic philosophy of the Stoic & Cynic Greeks, the Pagan Greeks and Egyptians, the Arians, Donatists, and other Schismatics, including a direct refutation of the Stoic philosopher Amun (a Greek ascetic documented by Socrates who had quite the following). He talks specifically about the worship of Osiris, Isis, and theological stories such as the Flight of Kronos. Antony tells the Greek thinkers who come to debate him, "you rely on sophistic word battles" while he relies on the living person of Christ. Even in the mid 4th century, Saint Athanasius showed a deep reverence for the Necrology of the church up to his day. His subject Antony did as well; he notes that Antony stayed with other saints "until they were perfected" and gave them a proper Christian burial (vice mummification like Egyptian Christians frequently did in the 1-4th centuries). Despite Antony being the first of his kind in many ways, he was not unprecedented. He relied upon those who had already trodden the narrow path before him. The monk Antony exhibits a strong emphasis on Cristus Victor Soteriology and Theopascitism in his apologetics against the pagan Egyptian and Greeks: "Which is better- to confess a Cross or to attribute acts of adultery and pederasty to those whom you call gods? For what which is stated by us is a signal of courage, and evidence of disdain for death, while your doctrines have to do with incidents of lewdness." While the cross is a morbid symbol for a religion, Antony explains it is an inverse representation that stands for the defeat of death. Asceticism and isolation did not remove Antony's concern for human affairs but increased it. Athanasius recounts that when Constantine Augustus wrote Antony, he replied urging the Emperor and the other Roman rulers to "not count present realities as great, but rather to consider the coming judgment, and to recognize that Christ alone is the true and eternal ruler. He implored them to be men of human concern, and to give attention to justice and the poor." This lesson of detached passion leading to an increase in one's humanity and compassion is a lesson the West has all but forgotten. Letter to Marcellinus Athanasius a critical figure in the development of the New Testament. He was at the Council of Nicaea and utilized the apostolic authority of his position as Bishop of Alexandria to further define the books, which would become the scriptures of the New Testament. In the Letter to Marcellinus, he expounds on his understanding of what scripture is and how the authors intended it to be used, focusing almost exclusively on the Psalms. He writes that the canonizes of the New Testaments viewed the Jewish scriptures "for the same spirit is overall." While the whole of scripture is critical to read as one, he writes that the Psalms is unique because it contains the full spectrum of human emotions: "I believe that the whole of human existence, both the dispositions of the soul and the movements of the thoughts, have been measured out and encompassed in those very words of the Psalter." It is precisely this "plectrum" of scripture, which enables a pious life across all of its flavors. He writes: "For in the other books, one hears only what one must do and what one must not do. And one listens to the Prophets so as solely to know the coming of the savior. One turns his attention to the histories based on which he can know the deeds of the kings and saints. But in the Book of Psalms, the one who hears, in addition to learning these things, also comprehends and is taught in it the emotions of the soul, and consequently, on the basis of that which affects him and by which he is constrained, he also is enabled by this book to possess the image deriving from the words." The Bishop specifically calls out the Gnostic heresy of Fatalism, a close cousin of the 16th-century heresy Unconditional Predestination, that was specifically renounced by the 12 Apostles and thoroughly refuted by ancient church fathers. He writes that some twist the works of Paul out of context to prove the heresy of the Fatalistic Greeks. These Gnostics believed that an individual's nature and subsequent actions are pre-determined before birth, and this idea occasionally tried to enter the church. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostle John) wrote about this heresy in detail and defended the moral autonomy and agency of the individual man. He writes in Chapter 18, "Should you spy the zeal for evil among those who transgress the law, do not think that the evil is in their very nature, which is what the heretics assert." Athanasius incorporates Psalms into the everyday liturgy of the Christian. For instance, Chapters 22 and 23 provide instructions for the Sabbath (Saturday) and the Lord's Day (Sunday) and the differences between them. He writes that the Psalms provide "the perfect image for the souls' course through life" and that "through hearing, it teaches not only to disregard passion but also how one must heal passion through speaking and acting."

  13. 4 out of 5

    AJ Maese

    Nothing short of amazing. Everyone should read The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus in addition to Athanasius' Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione Verbi Dei. Nothing short of amazing. Everyone should read The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus in addition to Athanasius' Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione Verbi Dei.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Beneke

    Antony's visions of demons manifesting as women and wild beasts reminded me of the Carmen albums I used to listen to as a kid. My skeptical side wondered, could it possibly be because "his food was bread and salt, and for drinking he took only water" (7) that he saw these apparitions? Or perhaps it is simply that I have never wrestled with the devil to such an extent. Whatever one makes of his visions, the book's depiction of Antony's theology is orthodox. The Egyptian monk is humble and gives al Antony's visions of demons manifesting as women and wild beasts reminded me of the Carmen albums I used to listen to as a kid. My skeptical side wondered, could it possibly be because "his food was bread and salt, and for drinking he took only water" (7) that he saw these apparitions? Or perhaps it is simply that I have never wrestled with the devil to such an extent. Whatever one makes of his visions, the book's depiction of Antony's theology is orthodox. The Egyptian monk is humble and gives all credit to Christ for the healing and other miracles performed in his presence: "For the performance of signs does not belong to us--this is the Savior's work." (38) Athanasius also takes every opportunity to clarify that Antony was no Arian: "He taught the people that the Son of God is not a creature, and that he did not come into existence from nonbeing, but rather that he is eternal Word and Wisdom from the essence of the Father" (69). My favorite part of the book is the illiterate, unlearned Antony's dialogues with the Greek philosophers who came to visit him on his mountain in 72-80. This section has too many good passages to cite in full. While we may legitimately critique ascetics like Antony for some of their excesses, I think their example is important to remind us that the battle with indwelling sin is one that requires our whole-bodied commitment. After reading "On the Incarnation" again recently, I also found it fascinating that the same brilliant theologian who penned that lofty treatise also authored this more popular, mystical account of the monk's life. Perhaps, as the introduction suggests, it was because Athanasius saw in Antony an example of the deification he described in his former work. Overall, this book is well worth reading, both because of its historical significance to the church (think Augustine's "Confessions") and because of Antony's inspiring example. The attached Letter to Marcellinus also reveals a more devotional side of Athanasius as he extols the value of the psalms and explains how they can profitably be used in the believer's life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kody Masteller

    “And since I have become a fool in detailing these things, receive this also as an aid to your safety and fearlessness; and believe me for I do not lie. Once some one knocked at the door of my cell, and going forth I saw one who seemed of great size and tall. Then when I enquired, Who are you? he said, I am Satan. Then when I said, Why are you here? he answered, Why do the monks and all other Christians blame me undeservedly? Why do they curse me hourly? Then I answered, Wherefore do you trouble “And since I have become a fool in detailing these things, receive this also as an aid to your safety and fearlessness; and believe me for I do not lie. Once some one knocked at the door of my cell, and going forth I saw one who seemed of great size and tall. Then when I enquired, Who are you? he said, I am Satan. Then when I said, Why are you here? he answered, Why do the monks and all other Christians blame me undeservedly? Why do they curse me hourly? Then I answered, Wherefore do you trouble them? He said, I am not he who troubles them, but they trouble themselves, for I have become weak. Have they not read , The swords of the enemy have come to an end, and you have destroyed the cities? I have no longer a place, a weapon, a city. The Christians are spread everywhere, and at length even the desert is filled with monks. Let them take heed to themselves, and let them not curse me undeservedly. Then I marvelled at the grace of the Lord, and said to him: You who art ever a liar and never speakest the truth, this at length, even against your will, you have truly spoken. For the coming of Christ has made you weak, and He has cast you down and stripped you. But he having heard the Saviour's name, and not being able to bear the burning from it, vanished.'”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vasili

    An excellent work written by St Athanasius the Great detailing the life of St Antony and how he slowly accustomed himself to the Christian ascetic discipline. Working like a bee, St Antony took whatever virtue he could gather from a variety of different elders, and strove continuously to perfect himself in the way of Jesus Christ. Highly recommended for those interested in discovering more about the ancient methods Christian monastics utilised in order to reach a mystical union with God. A lot o An excellent work written by St Athanasius the Great detailing the life of St Antony and how he slowly accustomed himself to the Christian ascetic discipline. Working like a bee, St Antony took whatever virtue he could gather from a variety of different elders, and strove continuously to perfect himself in the way of Jesus Christ. Highly recommended for those interested in discovering more about the ancient methods Christian monastics utilised in order to reach a mystical union with God. A lot of the methods detailed are refreshingly practical and considerate of the uniqueness of each person. Christianity, although often misconceived as just a faith of rules and regulations, in the life of Antony, is far more personal, its principles always focused on the salvation of the individual person and not a one size fits all. The letter of St Athanasius to Marcellinus was also a profitable read. In it St Athanasius applies a method of interpretation where the psalms act as foods and remedies for the soul, containing a variety of nourishments which can work on aiding a Christian in becoming Christ-like, to become holy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Parker

    The famous monk Antony is worth imitating for a number of reasons, but probably not the reasons he has been imitated for so many centuries. Athanasius' narrative highlights several important themes. Possibly the most important is that retreat from the World is never retreat from temptation. Our sinful natures are liable to be enticed wherever we go. There's plenty more to say, but other people have said it. In the Letter to Marcellinus Athanasius outlines a way to read the Psalms as Christian Scr The famous monk Antony is worth imitating for a number of reasons, but probably not the reasons he has been imitated for so many centuries. Athanasius' narrative highlights several important themes. Possibly the most important is that retreat from the World is never retreat from temptation. Our sinful natures are liable to be enticed wherever we go. There's plenty more to say, but other people have said it. In the Letter to Marcellinus Athanasius outlines a way to read the Psalms as Christian Scripture. This largely consists in praying the words as your own. He demonstrates that the words of the Psalms are apt and profitable for every occasion. His section of denials at the end is more of a mixed bag. But he makes the point that the Psalms are powerful tools for calming the soul and subjecting the passions to rationality, which I think is helpful. I wish more churches would sing the Psalms on Sunday.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Handermann

    Great translation. Don’t read the older free versions online, they are terrible. Saint Anthony was a great man, champion of early orthodoxy, not without his faults like any saint. Early Saints like him are often silly (like the sign of the cross pushing back the demons), but also very devoted to following Jesus, even though a bit misguided in method, I think they still have an important place in the history of our people.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Boris

    Howdy Fellas, I would not explicitly call myself a spiritual man, but subtly. Subtly, brothers, subtly. And yet I profited greatly from reading this wond'rous hagiography and letter. The common man may think he mightn't profit greatly from seeing the virtue in abstaining from worldly pleasures, but that is exactly it; the common man must, in reading the hagiography, see that it is rendered that in making combat with your demons rather than giving them what they want, you may profit greatly by inh Howdy Fellas, I would not explicitly call myself a spiritual man, but subtly. Subtly, brothers, subtly. And yet I profited greatly from reading this wond'rous hagiography and letter. The common man may think he mightn't profit greatly from seeing the virtue in abstaining from worldly pleasures, but that is exactly it; the common man must, in reading the hagiography, see that it is rendered that in making combat with your demons rather than giving them what they want, you may profit greatly by inheriting the kingdom of Heaven. As relating explicitly to the letter, it describes how the Psalter is as a Bible condensed, and its indispensability in prayer, lending that there is a Psalm for most every kind of prayer, which Athanasius shows by giving the psalms several categories. All in all, very interesting and groovy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    So Antony is the guy who went into the desert and fought the demons. This is the story of how we went into the desert and fought the demons. It just doesn't have much going for it beyond that, and it doesn't do that in a particularly interesting way. (Oh, he hated the Arians? Wait, who wrote this again?) Read this if you feel you must. If you are a student of historical Christianity or a fan of Augustine, maybe you must. But you might feel relieved when you're done. So Antony is the guy who went into the desert and fought the demons. This is the story of how we went into the desert and fought the demons. It just doesn't have much going for it beyond that, and it doesn't do that in a particularly interesting way. (Oh, he hated the Arians? Wait, who wrote this again?) Read this if you feel you must. If you are a student of historical Christianity or a fan of Augustine, maybe you must. But you might feel relieved when you're done.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matt Pitts

    This was my first time reading The Life of Antony and at least my second time reading the Letter to Marcellinus on the psalms. I’m not sure what to make of parts of Antony’s life, but at a minimum it is a fascinating look at early monastic life in Egypt. The Letter to Marcellinus is a gold mine though, full of wisdom and practical pastoral counsel. *I’ve not yet read the preface and introduction to this volume

  22. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    The Life of Antony is beautiful and challenging. The Letter to Marcellinus is more procedural, but has some lovely wisdom about the Psalms contained in what is otherwise a long accounting of Psalm themes and uses.

  23. 5 out of 5

    shannon

    Technically I only read "The Life of Antony" but that should count for something. Technically I only read "The Life of Antony" but that should count for something.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Both of these works were phenomenal and I enjoyed the translations. Got a glimpse of Athanasius as storyteller and pastor in these writings. Make it a point to read the Life of Antony!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Wow, for a textbook this was REALLY good! Those early desert fathers really had it tough. It made me grateful for having a bed to sleep in.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elwood

    Antony was weird.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Harris

    Beautiful picture of dedication to discipline. Lots of learning to do from this book while we live in such a fast world.

  28. 4 out of 5

    sch

    May 2022. Follow up to ON THE INCARNATION. I understood and enjoyed the awfully strange LIFE OF ANTONY much better than the theological treatise (no surprise there), and the LETTER TO MARCELLINUS is a fascinating glimpse into ancient ways of reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eliot DeLorme

    The Life of Antony: How do you fight demons, brother Antony? Psalm singing and the sign of the cross. Pretty awesome stuff! The Letter to Marcellus: According to Antanasius, the Psalms look back as they summarize all the Old Testament glories in song. They also look forward to the coming of the Christ. Finally, they are a teacher of virtue. In paragraphs 14 thru 26, Athanasius masterfully shows how there is a psalm for every occasion. My paraphrase: “There’s a Psalm for that.” Takeaway from both wo The Life of Antony: How do you fight demons, brother Antony? Psalm singing and the sign of the cross. Pretty awesome stuff! The Letter to Marcellus: According to Antanasius, the Psalms look back as they summarize all the Old Testament glories in song. They also look forward to the coming of the Christ. Finally, they are a teacher of virtue. In paragraphs 14 thru 26, Athanasius masterfully shows how there is a psalm for every occasion. My paraphrase: “There’s a Psalm for that.” Takeaway from both works: Recite and sing the psalms to fight powers and principalities, behold and adore the savior, and to grow in virtue.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    An interesting read of early church history and thought. The translator's introduction is really useful and quite easy to read unlike most academic writing. It introduces the author Athanasius and his role in the church history and combating the Arian heresy. The Life of Antony itself is pretty interesting and there are some very interesting arguments against the Greeks and pagans that are worth noting. The overall Life of Antony is just a warning against temptation by the devil. Antony frequent An interesting read of early church history and thought. The translator's introduction is really useful and quite easy to read unlike most academic writing. It introduces the author Athanasius and his role in the church history and combating the Arian heresy. The Life of Antony itself is pretty interesting and there are some very interesting arguments against the Greeks and pagans that are worth noting. The overall Life of Antony is just a warning against temptation by the devil. Antony frequently tells his followers to fight the demons by signing themselves with the cross; This is particularly interesting when you think about how often Christians do the sign of the cross. The frequency with which Christians perform the sign of the cross could maybe be traced back to the popularity of the Life of Antony after its publication. The Letter to Marcellinus is equally as interesting and is worth a read for anyone who wants to study the Psalms.

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