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8 - Julius Cassianus and Alexandrian Ascetic Culture

from Part II - Early Christian Teachers and Movements in Alexandria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 December 2023

M. David Litwa
Affiliation:
Boston College, Massachusetts
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Summary

This chapter investigates ascetic movements in Alexandria with a focus on one of the few named ascetic Christian theologians, Julius Cassianus. Cassianus is the only named user of the Gospel According to the Egyptians and he used it to encourage celibacy and spiritual castration (the cutting off of sexual desire). Cassianus had a creation myth in which the human spirit was androgynous but “feminized” when it focused on material things. Similarly gendered theories of creation appear in the Gospel of Thomas (NHC II,2) and the Exegesis of the Soul (NHC II,6). Nevertheless, the closest parallel to Cassianus comes from the Testimony of Truth (NHC IX,3). The chapter argues that all three works circulated in Alexandria, in addition to the ascetic set of maxims called the Sentences of Sextus (NHC XII,1). All these texts shed light on the developing ascetical subculture of second-century Alexandria.

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Early Christianity in Alexandria
From its Beginnings to the Late Second Century
, pp. 121 - 137
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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