Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The classical genre of moral-philosophical wisdom sayings or gnomai was adopted in early Christianity by creating exegetical sentences that rephrased or alluded to biblical texts. These were inserted into existing collections which were edited to highlight Christian moral teaching. The chief example of this genre is The Sentences of Sextus. In early monasticism, especially in the writings of Evagrius Ponticus, pedagogically arranged chains of exegetical sentences initially augmented, then gradually replaced the pagan gnomai in collections. In texts intended for monastic contemplatives the sayings became increasingly enigmatic, presuming familiarity with Christian monastic vocabulary and models of spiritual development. Coinciding with the waning of original biblical exegesis in the late fifth century, the more obscure exegetical gnomai themselves became the object of commentary and exegesis. This approach is exemplified in the writings of Maximus Confessor, whose ‘centuries’ of chapters (kephalaia) reinterpret and explain texts that were originally intended to evoke speculative meditation.

Keywords: sentences, gnomai, Sextus, Evagrius Ponticus, monasticism, kephalaia, Maximus Confessor

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.