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Charity and the letters of Barsanuphius and John of Gaza

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posted on 2022-03-28, 03:04 authored by Hyung Guen Choi
This dissertation examines the Letters of Barsanuphius and John in order to analyse their view of charity (giving gifts, welcoming strangers and caring for the sick), as well as the relationship between the Gazan advisors, wealth and benefactors. First of all, we investigate the Gazan holy men's attitude towards giving gifts to the poor. They primarily advise their lay interlocutors to get involved in giving gifts by mentioning the spiritual rewards available. However, they do impose some limitations on monastic giving; they suggest only mature monks participate in such giving in order to protect the younger monastic disciples from distractions that might interrupt their ascetic lives. Episcopal leaders are also expected to protect their congregations from outside officials, performing their role as guides and protectors. With regard to entertaining strangers, the respected Gazan elders place a great deal of emphasis on hospitality within the scope of one's own personal ability. Furthermore, they recommend different levels of hospitality in proportion to the status of recipients, as well as charity with discernment. They suggest that their interlocutors do what they can to help the destitute, taking into consideration their physical, material and psychological needs. However, just as with the giving of charity, the main focus of John and Barsanuphius is not the poor themselves, but rather the care of their own lay and monastic followers. The last charitable activity which we investigate in this thesis is caring for the sick. Both Barsanuphius and John generally encourage their lay patients to seek cures for their illnesses with contemporary medical care and practices. However, they do take a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards monastic patients. While they permit some sick monks to use vii medical facilities and nursing care to cure their illnesses, they also encourage others to endure bodily suffering in order to obtain spiritual profit.Overall, Barsanuphius and John require their lay and monastic disciples to perform charity in different ways. While they do consider the beneficiaries, their spiritual direction is basically concentrated on the benefactors, in particular, their spiritual and ascetic wellbeing. This spiritual direction is related to their self-understanding as spiritual fathers, meditators and intercessors as well as defenders.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. The City of Gaza in Late Antiquity -- Chapter 3. Gazan monasticism and the Letters -- Chapter 4. Giving gifts in the Letters -- Chapter 5. Entertaining the stranger in the Letters -- Chapter 6. Caring for the sick in the Letters -- Chapter 7-Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 206-228

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Arts

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Alanna Nobbs


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