Pachomius
(c. 292-346)

EarlyChurch.org.uk


Synopsis

PACHOMIUS, b. in the Egyptian province of the Thebais about 292; d. in Tabennae, an island in the Nile, in 348; a younger contemporary of St. Anthony; was the real founder of monastic life. As long as the ascetic instinct inherent in Christianity remained in a healthy condition, it found its satisfaction within the life of the congregation. But by degrees, as the church became more and more familiarized with the surrounding world, the ascetic instinct, under the influence of the dualism of the Neo-Platonizing, Alexandrian theology, and seduced by the example of the monks of the Serapis worship, fell into extravagances; and the ascetics fled into the deserts, and became hermits. Pachomius was also swayed by this tendency; and in his twentieth year he settled in the desert to fight for the prize of asceticism under the training of Palemon, one of the most austere pupils of St. Anthony. But the movement had already reached such a speed and such a compass, that it could not go on any farther without some kind of organization; and to have effected this is the great merit of Pachomius. Something had already been done before his tune. As the desert became peopled by anchorets, the laura arose; that is, a number of novices in asceticism built their cells around the cell of some hero in asceticism, in order to follow his example, and to receive his training; and thus the first trace of organization originated. Pachomius made the next step, transforming the laura in to a monastery. In the Island of Tabennae he founded the first caenobium … ; that is, a house in which the anchorets, who had hitherto lived separately, each pursuing his own scheme of asceticism, came to live together, with common practices and exercises, according to certain fixed rules, and under the guidance or government of a director. The success of Pachomius’ undertaking was enormous. Palladius states that in his time the monastery of Tabennae contained no less than fourteen hundred monks. Of the original rules of Pachomius, nothing certain is known. The Regula S. Pachomii, containing a hundred and ninety-four articles, and printed by Holstenius, in his Codex Regularum, i. pp. 26-36, and a shorter regulative, containing fourteen articles, and printed by Gazaus as an appendix to his edition of Cassianus’ De Caenobiorum Instit., may contain fragments of the original rules; but their authenticity cannot be established. They present many curious features: thus, the monks are divided into twenty-four classes, named after the letters of the alphabet, the simple souls ranking in the first classes, the smart fellows in the last; but in this respect they agree very well with the writings generally ascribed by antiquity to Pachomius, Monita ad Manachos, Verba Mystica, Letters, etc., printed by Holstenius, l.c., most of [1716] which are entirely unintelligible. See, besides the above-mentioned writers, acta Sanct., May 14; GENNADIUS: De Viris illus., cap. 7.

Mangold, "PACHOMIUS," Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 3. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.1715-1716. [Greek title excluded]

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Primary Sources

Book or monograph A.N. Athanassalis, trans. The Life of Pachomius. Missoula: Scholars, 1975.
Book or monograph James A. Goehring, The Letter of Ammon and Pachomian Monasticism. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1986. Hbk. ISBN: 3110095130. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph A. Veilleux, Pachomian Koinonia, Vols. 1-3. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1980-1982.

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Secondary Sources

Book or monograph Derwas J. Chitty, The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism Under the Christian Empire. St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1977. Pbk. ISBN: 0913836451. pp.222. {Amazon.com}
Article The Roots of Egyptian ChristianityJames E. Goehring, "New Frontiers in Pachomian Studies," Birger A. Pearson & James E. Goehring, eds. The Roots of Egyptian Christianity. Studies in Antiquity and Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986. Pbk. ISBN: 0800627067. pp.236-257. {Amazon.com}
Article James E. Goehring, "Withdrawing from the Desert: Pachomius and the Development of Village Monasticism in Upper Egypt," Harvard Theological Review 89.3 (1996): 267-285.
Article Charles W. Hedrick, "Gnostic Proclivities in the Greek Life of Pachomius and the Sitz im Leben of the Nag Hammadi Library," Novum Testamentum 22.1 (1980): 78-94.
Book or monograph Rousseau: PachomiusP. Rousseau, Pachomius: The Making of a Community in Fourth-Century Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. Pbk. ISBN: 0520219597. pp.250. {Amazon.com}
Article G.T. Veloso, "Early Monastic Stability (A.D. 400-550). A Textual Study of the Regulatory Latin Pachomian Texts," Philippiniana Sacra 8 (1973):240-68.
Article Rodolph Yanney, "The Illness and Death of Saint Pachomius," Coptic Church Review 13.2 (1992): 54-58.

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