September 29, 2013

St Paul in Ancient Egypt

St Paul
The first of the great persecutions started in the reign of Trajan Decius (249-251). The number of Egyptians who escaped to the deserts increased. Among them was St Paul, the Theban, a native Egyptian who spoke Greek only with the greatest difficulty (as distinct from the Hellenized Egyptians in Alexandria). He chose a remote site on the Red Sea coast, where he founded a hermitage.

St Paul

By this time thousands of ‘anchorites’ (derived from the Greek root ‘retire’ or ‘withdraw’) were either living alone or in small groups, isolated from one another. Slowly individual ascetics started to draw near to one another to look for guidance from a master, and St Paul gave instruction in an atmosphere of security and spirituality. After St Paul came St Anthony, who also chose a site near the Red Sea rather than the Nile valley. His famous biography was written by his friend Athanasius, eloquent deacon of the Bishop of Alexandria (AD 325) and his life and teachings strongly influenced those of the desert fathers.

St Paul
During the brutal persecutions of Diocletian, who reigned from 284 to 305, many chose martydom rather than make offerings to the hated emperors. There is little doubt that Christianity flourished on the willingness to suffer even death for a principle. In a world of want and violence, a religion that was pure and humble and preaching a message of hope (the promise of a blessed life after death) was embraced with enthusiasm.


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