The Canons of Our Fathers: Monastic Rules of Shenoute

ISBN : 9780198785194

Bentley Layton
384 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Nov 2016
Oxford Early Christian Studies
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This book is the first publication of a very early set of Christian monastic rules from Roman Egypt, accompanied by four preliminary chapters discussing their historical and social context and their character as rules. These rules were found quoted in the writings of the great Egyptian monastic leader Shenoute. Designed for a federation of monks and nuns who banded together about 360 CE-forming the so-called "White Monastery Federation"-the rules date back to the fourth and fifth centuries. New historical evidence is presented for the founding of the Federation. Providing almost the earliest evidence for Christian communal (cenobitic) monasticism, the rules depict many intimate aspects of ascetic practice. Details of monastic daily life are mentioned in passing in the rules, and the author uses these details to describe their picture of monastic life under five general topics: the monastery as a physical plant, the human makeup of the community, ascetic observances, the hierarchy of authority, and the daily liturgy. The book includes a clear English translation of the rules accompanied by the original Coptic text, amounting to five hundred and ninety-five entries.


I: The Nature of the Rules
1 The Historical Context of the Rules
2 The Corpus of Monastic Rules
3 Monastic Life as seen in the Rules
4 Monastic Experience and Monastic Rules
Subject Index to Part I
Index of Rule Numbers cited in Part II

II: Corpus of Monastic Rules
Abbreviations for Libraries and Museums Holding the Coptic Manuscripts
Editorial Signs
The Rules, Edited and Translated
Concordance of Manuscript References and Rule Numbers

About the author: 

Bentley Layton, Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University

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