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Wipf and Stock Discernment in the Desert Fathers: Diakrisis in the Life and Thought of Early Egyptian Monasticism

A study of discernment (diakrisis) in the life and thought of the fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers.

In Discernment in the Desert Fathers, Antony D. Rich argues that their understanding of diakrisis was based upon a practical application of biblical diakrisis in general and not, as has been argued, primarily a development of the gift of "discernment of spirits." He begins with an examination of Scripture and goes on to consider the philosophical and theological background of the period as represented by Plotinus and Origen respectively. An examination of the works of the first "theologians of the desert," Evagrius and Cassian, who lived among these first Christian monks and nuns, provides an early interpretation of the sayings of the Desert Fathers and reveals a unique glimpse into understanding the philosophies and ideas surrounding the development of Christianity at that time. The Greek, Latin, and Coptic sayings that survive are then examined in detail, some of them translated into English for the first time.

This in depth analysis, which includes a comprehensive list of cross-references valuable for future research, provides many insights into the lives of these early Christians and demonstrates how diakrisis touched every aspect of their inward and outward lives. Rich concludes that diakrisis was a critical faculty central to the spiritual and practical life of these early monks and nuns in their mystical search for God, for purity of life, and knowledge of him.

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