Primordial Landscapes, Incorruptible Bodies

Desert Asceticism and the Christian Appropriation of Greek Ideas on Geography, Bodies, and Immortality

by Dag Øistein Endsjø (Author)
©2008 Monographs 196 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 272


As the first monk in the desert, Antony became an early Christian superstar, eclipsing his many ascetic predecessors. The introduction of asceticism into the wilderness also represented an encounter between Christian and Hellenistic ideas. For centuries Greeks had considered the uncultivated geography intrinsically primordial, a chaotic place where man struggled to remain human. The wilderness represented an eternal ordeal, where man always faced fierce beasts, disorder, and death, but also where simultaneously he could attain boundless wealth, wisdom, and even physical immortality.
Through Athanasius of Alexandria’s fourth-century biography of Antony, we learn how the Christian appropriation of Greek ideas on geography, bodies and immortality raised asceticism to an entirely new level. Placed in his uncultivated landscape, Antony became a true martyr, an athlete of God, and a holy man able to retrieve the bodily incorruptibility lost in the Fall, which all Christians could look forward to at the end of times. In this way Athanasius employed a traditional Greek worldview to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity over Paganism, which never promised ordinary people anything but an eternal existence as dead and disembodied souls.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Ägypten (Altertum) Mönchtum Wüste Athanasius of Alexandria Saint Antony Asceticism Christianity Greek Askese Religion
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2008. XII, 196 pp.

Biographical notes

Dag Øistein Endsjø (Author)

The Author: Dag Øistein Endsjø is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway, specializing in Greek religion and early Christianity.


Title: Primordial Landscapes, Incorruptible Bodies