Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: Evagrius of Pontus - The Greek Ascetic Corpus

Owing to the approach of the millennium, the 1990s facilitated a relatively widespread interest in monasticism and monastic spirituality. The wave of publication continued into the early 2000s. Now, however, at a popular level, the interest has gradually reclined. In this environment, Oxford University Press has re-printed, in paperback, Robert E. Sinkewicz's edition of Evagrius' ascetic works.

The edition has its strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, we would have an affordable hardcover edition. As it stands, the hardcover edition runs at about $175.00. Considering the market, however, the paperback publication makes sense in so far as it reduces the price-point. This having been said, Evagrius of Pontus - The Greek Ascetic Corpus will run you a handsome sum - $50.00 if you take the deal from a certain online book retailer. Unless you really need this book, the price, even for the paperback, will be prohibitive.

The book hosts a fine and much needed assemblage of Evagrius' ascetic writings. For those inclined to ancient languages, we also receive the Greek text of Eulogios. After reading through the general introduction as well as the introduction to various works, one major editorial gaff becomes apparent: the absence of Gnostikos. While Gnostikos is not an ascetic work per se`, one may easily argue the work has a substantial relationship to Evagrius' ascetic doctrine - indeed, the editorial matter makes the relationship apparent. For those looking to acquire a complete picture of Evagrius' doctrine, the French edition by Antoine and Claire Guillaumont is probably the most readily available version, all things considered.

There is, all told, a wealth of topics covered and theories proposed by Evagrius in this collection. It is an essential resource for those wishing to study and perhaps piece together theories of demonology, angelology, and, my favorites, prayer and liturgy. Evagrius' writings on psalmody could greatly inform both personal and corporate praxis.

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