Did St. Athanasius use Gadarene Demonic as a basis of St. Antony’s life?

English: Ivrea, church of St. Antony abbott, t...

English: Ivrea, church of St. Antony abbott, the altar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, the pertinent part of St. Antony’s life:

Thus tightening his hold upon himself, Antony departed to the tombs, which happened to be at a distance from the village; and having bid one of his acquaintances to bring him bread at intervals of many days, he entered one of the tombs, and the other having shut the door on him, he remained within alone. And when the enemy could not endure it, but was even fearful that in a short time Antony would fill the desert with the discipline, coming one night with a multitude of demons, he so cut him with stripes that he lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain. For he affirmed that the torture had been so excessive that no blows inflicted by man could ever have caused him such torment. But by the Providence of God—for the Lord never overlooks them that hope in Him—the next day his acquaintance came bringing him the loaves. And having opened the door and seeing him lying on the ground as though dead, he lifted him up and carried him to the church in the village, and laid him upon the ground. And many of his kinsfolk and the villagers sat around Antony as round a corpse. But about midnight he came to himself and arose, and when he saw them all asleep and his comrade alone watching, he motioned with his head for him to approach, and asked him to carry him again to the tombs without waking anybody.

In another part, Athanasius has St. Antony quote Mark 5 (let them depart into the swine).

I think there is a connection between Jesus’s journey into the wilderness and the visions of St. Antony as well, but that is for another time.

Anyway, notice the tombs, the cutting, the dead body. Very similar in literary imagery, don’t you think?

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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2 thoughts on “Did St. Athanasius use Gadarene Demonic as a basis of St. Antony’s life?

  1. I’ve seen it suggested that Athanasius largely made up his “Life of St. Anthony” for his own purposes, to turn the somewhat non-standard theology of the early monks into something more palatable and orthodox – I think Elaine Pagels argued this in her book about Revelation.

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