Asceticism and Early Christian Lifestyle

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-3045-7
Title: Asceticism and Early Christian Lifestyle
Author: Salminen, Joona
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Systemaattinen teologia
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (article-based)
Abstract: This dissertation explores early Christian asceticism. The study consists of introduction and five articles examining ascetic ideals and practices in early Christianity and analysing the question of early Christian lifestyle within the context of city life in Late Antiquity, with particular emphasis on Clement of Alexandria. The dissertation also clarifies the role of Clement and his work Paedagogus practical instructions in the development of Christian asceticism. The introductory article of this study is entitled Polis, Philosophy, and Perfection. The introduction sketches Clement s view on Christian lifestyle, after which the philosophy of city life in the Greco-Roman world is discussed. The article then turns to methodological questions and issues regarding identity. The article approaches asceticism as a contextual phenomenon, and the main aim of the article is to highlight the importance of city life in order to clarify what Christian asceticism was in its very early stages. The first article of the collection, From City to Desert, and back again: the Social Function of Early Christian Asceticism, discusses early Christian city life with respect to the later ascetic tradition. By comparing two works, the Paedagogus of Clement of Alexandria and the Vita Antonii of Athanasius of Alexandria, the article illustrates that early Christian asceticism before the desert movement of the fourth century originated in the ordinary city life of educated people who were part of the urban social elite. This article also discusses the history of ascetic practices and their place in ancient philosophy, especially in Platonism and Stoic thought. The major contribution of the article is to suggest demons and demonology as the link between city and desert asceticism and to discuss the social function of ascetic lifestyle and practices. The second article, From Symposium to Gymnasium: Physical and Spiritual Exercises in Early Christianity, discusses the relationship between sport and asceticism. In historical terms, the link between the two is essential, because the Greek verb askein was an athletic term before it was transformed into a monastic concept. The article focuses on specific virtues and pays attention to how physical ascetic performances take place in different contexts. The article also highlights the continuity between ancient popular philosophy and Christian thought in Late Antiquity. In addition to such sports as walking, ball games and wrestling, the article pays attention also to gender roles within the context of sport. Traditions of spiritual exercises in ancient philosophy are of fundamental significance for Christian asceticism. Third, the article The City of God and the Place of Demons: City Life and Demonology in Early Christianity discusses demonology, an important aspect of asceticism, and links it to the concept of spatiality. The article presents demonology as a point in which the city becomes an essentially important environment, even in monastic asceticism. Even though many fourth-century ascetics decided to withdraw from city life, the city, with all its temptations, followed them into the desert. Demonology plays a major role in this dynamic: because of demons the former life of the ascetic was constantly present in his new life, providing material for ascetic formation. This formation of identity took place in specific concrete surroundings. The fourth article of the study, Clement of Alexandria on Laughter: A Study on an Ascetic Performance in Context, discusses one specific aspect of Christian lifestyle. Although laughter became an emergent theme in Christian asceticism, one of the earliest systematic treatises on the topic was not written in a monastic context but for city life in an Egyptian metropolis. The immediate context for Clement s instruction were the symposia of the upper class, whose social and historical aspects have been carefully analysed in previous scholarship. Clement s view becomes understandable in the context of his theory of emotions and deification, themes on which he elaborates extensively in his writings. Excessive laughter should be avoided, whereas Clement considers moderate laughing to be a sign of self-control. The fifth article of this work, Clement and Alexandria: A Moral Map , brings together different aspects of city life through the cohesive framework of a moral map. Ancient Alexandria was a centre not only of early Christian thought but also was a cradle of asceticism. It provided Christians and other city dwellers not merely with an impressive metropolitan milieu, but enriched their lives with its intellectual traditions and social activities. In this regard, Clement, who taught in Alexandria in the late second century, gives an intriguing account of the morality of his surroundings. What does Clement say about baths, parties and pagan temples, or why should Christians be careful when walking the streets of the city? Through the concept of the moral map this article seeks to demonstrate that Clement held an ethical theory of city life and that for him, Alexandria served as a pedagogical platform: a moral map.Väitöskirjan, Asceticism and Early Christian Lifestyle, aiheena on tarkastella varhaiskristillistä elämäntapaa ja kristillisen asketismin varhaisia vaiheita. Sana asketismi tulee kreikan verbistä askein, joka merkitsee esimerkiksi harjoittaa tai toistaa . Erilaisia askeesin muotoja ovat paitsi paastoaminen ja selibaatti, myös monet arkisen elämän kurinalaisuutta ja harjoitusta vaativat asiat. Tutkimus on viidestä artikkelista koostuva artikkeliväitöskirja. Tässä tutkimuksessa varhaiskristillistä asketismia lähestytään kaupunkielämän näkökulmasta kontekstuaalisena ja historiallisena ilmiönä tekstianalyysin keinoin. Keskeisen lähdemateriaalin muodostavat Clemens Aleksandrialaisen teos Paedagogus 190-luvulta, Athanasios Suuren teos Vita Antonii 300-luvun puolivälin tienoilta sekä Evagrios Pontoslaisen teos Praktikos 300-luvun lopulta. Kristillisen asketismin varhaisvaiheita ja sen erilaisia muotoja valotetaan vertailemalla näissä teoksissa annettuja konkreettisia elämänohjeita. Näillä teoksilla on myös yhteyksiä Aleksandrian muinaiseen metropoliin. Tutkimuksessa on aikaisemmin painotettu askeesia vastakulttuurina maalliselle elämälle, erityisesti luostariympäristöön kuuluvana ilmiönä. Asceticism and Early Christian Lifestyle avartaa käsitystä asketismin varhaisista vaiheista tuomalla esiin aiempaa tutkimusta enemmän erilaisten henkisten harjoitusten jatkumoa ja asketismin sosiaalisia merkityksiä. Varhaiset kristityt omaksuivat antiikin filosofikouluilta erilaisia harjoituksia, jotka liittyivät esimerkiksi tunteiden hallintaan tai ruumiilliseen harjoitteluun vaikkapa urheilun muodossa. Tällaisia harjoituksia siirtyi luostarihurskauteen, mutta jo toista sataa vuotta ennen monastisen liikkeen syntyä esimerkiksi Clemens Aleksandrialainen opetti kaupunkikristityille erilaisia elämänhallinnan muotoja hyödyntäen antiikin filosofikoulujen opetuksia. Asketismi ei aina merkitse vastakulttuuria, vaan sillä saattaa olla myös yhdistävä merkitys. Sen avulla yksilö tai ryhmä tavoittelee ympäröivän yhteiskunnan arvonantoa ja tunnustusta. Clemensin ohjeet ovat kiinnostava esimerkki tällaisesta asketismin muodosta. Nykyaikaiseen läntiseen elämäntapaan kuuluu monia askeettisia piirteitä. Erilaiset ruokavaliot, meditointitekniikat, urheilullisuus ja monet muut arkipäiväiset asiat palvelevat yksilöllisen identiteetin muodostumista ja yhteisöllisiä päämääriä. Tällainen asketismi ei välttämättä perustu perinteisille uskonnollisille lähtökohdille. Asketismin historian ja erilaisten harjoitusten tunteminen ja tunnistaminen opettaa meille kuitenkin paljon omasta elämäntavastamme, arvoistamme ja kulttuuristamme.
URI: URN:ISBN:978-951-51-3045-7
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/177236
Date: 2017-03-25
Subject: teologia
Rights: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.


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