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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

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