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The Ascetic Imagination and the Reception of Early Christian Texts

GEBREANANAYE, MERON,TEKLEBERHAN (2023) The Ascetic Imagination and the Reception of Early Christian Texts. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 24 February 2026.


The interplay between reception and the creation of ascetic meaning in early Christian writings has been the subject of a diverse range of studies. Much of the focus in this regard, has however, been limited to studying commentary on or citation of biblical texts in ‘exemplary readings’ (the Patristic Fathers) preventing us from accessing the full gamut of the rich history of ascetic interpretation. This thesis demonstrates the utility of looking beyond these limitations by intentionally engaging with texts that are outside of normative Christian tradition and by looking beyond direct citation or explicit commentary to access the diverse modes of reception and meanings inspired by the Christian ascetic imagination.
Accordingly, in chapter one, I looked at the Acts of Paul and Thecla, noting the appropriation and development of Pauline traditions and the utility of the peculiarly vulnerable body of the female virgin Thecla as the locus for ascetic conversion and transformation. In chapter 2, I identified the creative reception of literary forms and motifs to develop an ascetic discourse intended to enable the elect to overcome embodiment, in the Book of Thomas the Contender. In chapter 3, I turn to the classical text of Christian monasticism, the Life of Antony, to establish developments in interpretive practices in a context where the Christian scriptures, ecclesiastical structures, and ascetic praxis were being formalised.
In the second part of my thesis, I went on to compare and contrast these traditions with a focus on the reception of figures, selected discourse, and the processes of ascetic formation to highlight the productivity of mapping the diachronic development of meanings without privileging some readings or seeking to establish genealogical relationships between successive readings.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Reception History, Biblical Reception, Asceticism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Feb 2023 09:23

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