Early Monasticism and Classical Paideia

Centre for Theology and Religious Studies | Lund University


XVII Oxford Patristics Conference

Posted 07/27/2015

At the XVII Oxford Patristics Conference, August 10-15 the "Early Moansticism and Classical Paideia" research program hosts two events:

  1. On Tuesday, August 11 at 16.00-18.30 members of the research team invite all interested to a workshop at which some of the results for the program will be presented and discussed. The workshop is followed by a reception in the garden of Merton College. For program, see Conferences under the Activities tab.
  2. On Friday, August 14 at 14.00-16.00 the research program invites to a special session of Instrumenta Studiorum on Digital Tool for the Study of Early Monasticism at which we will present and demonstrate the research tool developed within the program and disscuss the use, improvement and long-term maintenance of the tool, as well as the exchange of data between different digital tools and databases. For details see Conferences under the Activities tab.

Visiting Scholars

Posted 07/27/2015

From August 15 to August 22 Associate Professor Jason Zaborowski will visit Lund in connection with his work on the Arabic recensions of the Apophthegmata Patrum and their registartion in ART

In September 2015 Dr. Anahit Avagyan will stay in Lund as guest researcher continuing her work on the Armenian recensions of the Apophthegmata Patrum and the registration of these in ART.

Dr. Avagyan in Lund

Posted 05/02/2015

Anahit Avagyan from Yerevan University is visiting Lund in January and February.

Summary: Holy Land

Posted 05/02/2015

Members of the MOPAI team toured monastic sites throughout the Judean Desert during a one-week visit to the Holy Land to conduct research and participate in a conference on early Palestinian monasticism. The team was warmly received by Fr. Constantinos, abbot of St. George’s Monastery in Wadi Qelt, who discussed the modern practice of traditional asceticism and paideia. He oriented the group to the modern daily routines of St. George Choziba monastery, emphasizing the durative value of meletao (‘meditating on’ or ‘repeating’ Scriptures) as a way of studying texts: ‘some parts you study 1000 times, then next time you discover gold.’

Dr. Chrysi Kotsifu (L) of the Van Leer Institute of Jerusalem and Fr. Constantinos (R) at St. George’s Monastery. Photo courtesy Jason Zaborowski.

Mopai team members hiking from St. George’s Monastery to Jericho. Photo courtesy Jason Zaborowski.

The Mopai scholars connected their textual knowledge of the traditions with the topography and structures of monastic centers through several excursions:

  • -hiking the Wadi Qelt to Jericho, then touring the Douka Monastery on the Mt. of Temptation
  • -studying the church remains surrounding the Herodion southeast of Bethlehem
  • -exploring around the Monastery of St. Chariton in Wadi Faran
  • -investigating the remains of the monasteries of St. Euthymius and St. Martyrius
  • -walking the grounds of Mar Sabas Monastery
  • -touring the monastery and crypt of St. Theodosius
  • -visiting relevant museums in the environs.

Above the crypt of St. Theodosius. Photo courtesy Jason Zaborowski.

The Douka Monastery. Photo courtesy Jason Zaborowski.

Mar Sabas Monastery. Photo courtesy Jason Zaborowski.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bartholomew, graciously hosted the team members for a conversation about how religion is an essential aspect of society in Israel and Palestine, describing the Holy Land as an exceptional place: ‘all who come here leave as pilgrims.’ In this context Christian communities express a very public, even international, identity that is different to many Western societies.

The heart of the study tour was our participation in the conference on Education and Literary Activity in Early Palestinian Monasticism, sponsored by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The program was jointly organized by Mopai’s director Samuel Rubenson and by Dr. Chrysi Kotsifou, Polonsky Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Van Leer Institute. The Mopai team would like to express our deepest appreciation to Dr. Kotsifou for inviting participants and arranging the venue for these constructive conversations (for a full program agenda, click here).

A Welcome to New Members

Posted 09/09/2014

Dr. Per Rönnegård is back with our program since September 1 to study the reception of the Apophthegmata Patrum in the early monastic writers. We are also happy to welcome former guest scholar, archaeologist Jesper Blid Kullberg on board as a resident member of the research program.

Nag Hammadi Workshop, Sep 1-2 2014

Posted 09/08/2014

The MOPAI research program met with Oslo University's dr. Hugo Lundhaug, dr. Lance Jenott, dr. Christian Bull, Kristine Toft Rosland and Paula Jean Tutty - all of whom are participants in the NEWCONT project - for a workshop on the coptic texts of the Nag Hammadi corpus. Our shared interest in the school and monastic context of these manuscripts made for two interesting days of discussions. Moreover, we were much delighted to welcome dr. Alin Suciu from the University of Hamburg, who offered a lecture titled "An Interesting Sahidic Florilegium from the Monastery of Apa Shenoute: The Ascetic Texts of Codex MONB.BE." We were also given the opportunity to demonstrate and receive constructive comments our Apophthegmata Research Tool, which is steadily developing and coming into fruition.

Summary: Egypt Trip, May 3-16 2014

Posted 03/09/2014

A Wide-Ranging Tour of Egyptian Monastic Sites

Seven Scholars from the MOPAI program accompanied three colleagues from the NEWCONT (New Contexts for Old Texts: Unorthodox Texts and Monastic Manuscript Culture in Fourth- and Fifth-Century Egypt) project (University of Oslo) on a study expedition to several monasteries throughout Egypt from 3-16 May, 2014. Members of the study team included:Jesper Blid, Britt Dahlman, Bo Holmberg, Lance Jenott (Oslo), Lillian Larsen, Hugo Lundhaug (Oslo), Kristine Toft Rosland (Oslo), Samuel Rubenson, Jason Zaborowski, and Johan Åhlfeldt.

Supervised by Professor Samuel Rubenson, the research team visited various monasteries located throughout Egypt: Cairo, the Red Sea, the central Nile valley, the Fayyum, Wadi Natrun, and the Delta. The study tour followed a comprehensive approach to monasticism. Throughout the trip members of the team shared with each other their expert knowledge from different academic disciplines to evaluate historical monastic venues of many forms in the light of modern published reports on the sites. The itinerary was robust, taking the team to:
  • the nunnery of Abu Sayfayn in Cairo,
  • the monasteries of St. Antony and St. Paul at the Red Sea,
  • the Dayr al-Bahri and monastery of Epiphanius near Luxor,
  • the remains of the Pachomian basilica in Faw Qibli,
  • Jabal al-Tarif (where the Nag Hammadi Codices were discovered),
  • the Red and White monasteries of St. Shenoute,
  • Dayr al-Muharraq,
  • Dayr al-Barsha,
  • the caves of Dayr Abu Hinnis,
  • the tombs of Bani Hasan,
  • the monastery of Naqlun,
  • Dayr al-Baramous, Dayr al-Suryani, and the Monastery of St. Macarius in Wadi Natrun,
  • the monastery of St. Mena in the Nile Delta,
  • the Qom al-Dikka excavations of late antique Alexandria.

Accessing Historically Significant but Understudied Monastic Sites

Some of the sites we visited have received much attention from scholars in recent years (such as St. Antony’s, Dayr al-Suryani, and the Red and White monasteries). But even our visits to the most studied monasteries spurred new questions among the team members. And as our travels took us down the Nile valley from Luxor to the Fayyum our puzzlement grew in our conversations about Nag Hammadi, the remains of the Pachomian basilica, the Red and White monasteries of Shenoute, and especially the cave dwellings of Abu Hinnis and Naqlun.

Photo Courtesy Samuel Rubenson. Monastic cave dwellings in Dayr Abu Hinnis, 12 May, 2014.

Team members analyzed the Arabic, Coptic, Greek, and Syriac inscriptions in caves and other monastic buildings, and collections of pot sherds were assessed by an archaeologist team member (Jesper Blid), along with others on the team who wanted to learn more about the material culture of monasticism.

Photo Courtesy Jesper Blid. Pot sherds temporarily grouped together for analysis by team members, Dayr Abu Hinnis, 12 May, 2014.

Considering Monastic Education in its Context

Of course one research focus of the MOPAI program is the relationship between asceticism and education. The visits to monastic sites enabled team members to consider the contexts of education. The trip to Bani Hasan allowed one team member (Lillian Larsen) to see firsthand an old Coptic syllabary inscribed on a wall of one of the cave tombs. Prior to this visit, she had only been able to study this important evidence of educational practice through a very few incomplete reports made by other scholars. Seeing firsthand the wall niches in caves and various spatial aspects of monastic structures cast our questions of pedagogy in a new light, which the team members discussed at the sites, and during our debriefing of the trip that we held on 11 June.

Photo Courtesy Jesper Blid. An ancient lecture hall for paideia in the Roman Amphitheatre complex, Alexandria, 15 May, 2014.

Liaisons with Knowledgeable Egyptian Ascetics

The research tour also brought team members into meaningful conversations with nuns and monks. For instance, a monastic elder at St. Antony’s monastery, Father Maximous al-Antony, graciously hosted us for an entire day and discussed research and preservation efforts currently underway at the monastery. He even provided an unpublished historical Coptic text fragment (belonging to the monastery) to some of the Copticists on our team (Hugo Lundhaug and Lance Jenott) to analyze and decipher. We were met with generosity and intellectual curiosity by elders and laity at many monasteries. At Dayr al-Muharraq Egyptian day-visitors to the monastery spoke at length with the Arabic speakers on our team, and an elder, Father Maximous al-Moharraqi, took us into his study to discuss collections of photos of monastic sites that are of special scholarly interest to himself. Likewise, elders at the St. Macarius monastery sat with us for hours, showed a deep interest in our scholarly endeavors, and even graciously donated a newly published Arabic edition of the Apophthegmata Patrum to an Arabist on the team (Jason Zaborowski), when they learned of his work on those collections of literature. Simply put, the study tour afforded several opportunities for intellectual exchange, such as a Greek language specialist on the team (Britt Dahlman) donating a copy of her dissertation to the library of St. Antony’s monastery. Egyptians and foreign scholars alike all drank tea, shared stories, and asked each other many questions.

Photo Courtesy Jesper Blid. Father Maximous al-Antony demonstrates use of the key to the monastery of St. Antony, 5 May, 2014.


As a group, we would like to express a deep appreciation to the monks and nuns who extended to us the most gracious hospitality; to the tour facilitators: tour coordinator Mr. George, our tireless and patient driver Rafa‘at, and our expert and engaging tour guide Bishoy; and to the countless Egyptian security officers who (politely) gave special escorts on our journeys to ensure our safety. We offer our special thanks to the staff at Anaphora in the Wadi Natrun for their hospitality at the end of our research tours; and to the very kind hosts at the Coptic guest houses of Abu Sayfayn church in al-Qusayah and Bayad al-Nasara in Bani Suef; to Swedish Ambassador of Egypt, Charlotta Sparre, for kindly receiving us for a meal and a briefing at the embassy, and to Prof. Dr. Cornelia Römer of the German Archaeological Institute of Cairo for her helpful briefing on sites near Luxor. Egyptian people throughout the country received us warmly, making us feel most welcome to return. And, we have been urged by our guide Bishoy (in an honest way) to join him in a galabiyya party on our next visit.

Summary: COMST, March 18-19 2014

Posted 01/04/2014

Samuel Rubenson and Jason Zaborowski attended the final conference of the Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies (COMST) project, held in Hamburg, Germany. For the past several years numerous scholars throughout Europe and the Middle East have been collaborating in the COMST project to develop a comprehensive understanding of current procedures of Oriental manuscript research, including cataloguing, preservation, publication of editions, and especially the use of computer technology in manuscript research (Please visit their website: http://www1.uni-hamburg.de/COMST). At the conference Samuel Rubenson and Jason Zaborowski were involved in many dialogues with other experts in the editing of Oriental manuscripts, some of whom they had met for the first time. Samuel Rubenson was kindly granted the opportunity to demonstrate the MOPAI computerized Apophthegmata Research Tool to the audience. The audience responded with valuable comments, and even generous commitments to share transcriptions of manuscripts to be introduced into the Apophthegmata Research Tool.

Guest scholar, May 1, 2014-May 31, 2015

Posted 26/03/2014

Dr. Jesper Blid, Uppsala University

Dr. Blid will make a survey of archeological research related to libraries and education in monastic settings.

Monasteries and Schools in Late Antique Gaza, Lund, April 10 2014

Posted 26/03/2014

Further reading

Monastic Archaeology in Egypt, Lund, March 4-5 2014

Posted 25/02/2014

The purpose of the workshop is to discuss monastic archaeology at different early monastic sites in Egypt and the role of pilgrimage in early monasticism, together with two prominent scholars in the field.

Further reading

The Transmission of Monastic Apophthegmata in Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic, Lund, 22-24 January 2014

Posted 07/01/2014

The purpose of the workshop is to gather scholars who are working on the transmission of monastic apophthegmata and related material in Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic, in order to learn from one another and discuss common issues as well as future collaboration. We do not expect polished papers, but more informative and tentative material for discussion. We plan to have a number of rather short presentations on ongoing research and three sessions on material that will be sent to all participants in advance. We will also devote time for discussion on specific issues such as our APDB database, digital tools, manuscript collections, cataloguing, editing, and so on.

Further reading

The Nag Hammadi Codices in the context of fourth- and fifth-century Christianity in Egypt, University of Oslo, 16-17 December, 2013

Posted 29/11/2013

Speakers: Stephen Emmel, Christian Askeland, James E. Goehring, Louis Painchaud, Hugo Lundhaug, Lance Jenott, Richard Layton, Christian Bull, René Falkenberg, Ulla Tervahauta, Samuel Rubenson, Philip Sellew, Lillian Larsen, Blossom Stefaniw, Ingvild Saelid Gilhus, Dylan Burns, Alin Suciu, Julio Cesar Dias Chaves, Kristine Toft Rosland.

The following papers will be presented by MOPAI-members:
Samuel Rubenson: New Light on the Copto-Arabic Corpus Attributed to St. Antony
Lillian Larsen: “Know Thyself”: Nag Hammadi Gnomic Sentences in Conversation

ATTEMT - Approaches To The Editing of texts with a Multilingual Tradition: two-day workshop at King’s College, London, December 19-20, 2013

Posted 6/11/2013

Further reading

Guest Lecture: Professor Shiferaw Bekele, Professor of Ethiopian History at Addis Abeba University, Ethiopia, December 13, 2013

Posted 6/11/2013

Professor Shiferaw Bekele is coming to Lund and will give a pubic lecture on Friday, December 13 at 15.15. His talk will have the title: "Prayers and Rulers in the Ethiopian Kingdom - Characteristics of the Medieval and Post-Medieval Church of Ethiopia"

Further reading

Fyra öppna föreläsningar - Kristen mystik och meditation [Four open lectures – Christian mysticism and meditation], Högskolan Dalarna, Falun, November 21, 2013

Posted 6/11/2013

Dr. Henrik Rydell Johnsén will give a lecture on Jesusbönen: praxis och pedagogik i det tidiga klosterväsendet [The Jesus prayer: practice and pedagogy in early monasticism]

Further reading

Spaces ­ Past and Present: XXII Finnish Symposium on Late Antiquity, Tvärminne, Finland, November, 8-9, 2013

Posted 6/11/2013

Further reading

International Conference on "Early Monasticism and Classical Paideia", Lund University, October 9-12, 2013

"Early Monasticism and Classical Paideia" is an international conference organized by the research programme, on the impact of classical education and classical culture on the early monastic movement. The conference papers will focus on elementary education and literacy of the early monks, scriptoria, libraries and literary production in the early monasteries, and the impact of Greco-Roman philosophy on the early movement. Program and further reading...

Resident guest scholar, September 1, 2013-December 31, 2013

Posted 27/08/2013

Dr. Karin Kulneff-Eriksson, Lund University

Dr Kulneff-Eriksson will work with transcription of Greek manuscripts containing collections of Apophthegmata Patrum.

Resident guest scholar, August, 2013-January, 2014

Posted 26/08/2013

Dr. Jason Zaborowski, Bradley University, Illinois, USA

Dr. Zaborowski will work on early Arabic manuscripts containing collections of Apophthegmata patrum.