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The Desert Fathers Paperback – March 24, 1998


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The Desert Fathers + The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions) + The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Desert Fathers is a handy introduction to the sayings and stories of the earliest contemplatives--the men and women who, in the fourth century, escaped towns and cities to seek God and wrestle with demons in the deserts of Africa and Asia Minor. Some of these stories (such as the life of St. Anthony, the first monk) read almost like sci-fi, with their exuberant miracles exploding in exotic locations. All of them help readers understand the value and danger of liberating oneself from the constrictions of society. --Michael Joseph Gross

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700194
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I'm very pleased with my order and your service.
Orchidcactus
This interesting book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of this devoted men and women.
Leah Maines
This present volume comes through the Vintage Spiritual Classics series.
C. Scanlon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was my first foray into this world, a wonderful world of humble, faithful and consistent people of God. This is an appealing start for people such as me as each chapter has an illuminating bit of background about the original translators of the individual works. The wisdom and godliness of the individual men and women is an excellent example and challenge for us.
However, the general introduction, as well as some of the chapters' introductory remarks, assume a knowledge of antiquarian works that won't be common, and is often pedantic.
Overall, this book inspired me to learn more about the men and women shown, and I heartily commend this book to those interested in the true beginnings of Christian spirituality, and has much to give.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Carol Bonomo on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sayings of the early Christian monastics and stories of their lives of austerity and prayer in the Egyptian deserts have appeared as "flavoring" in books like Norris' Cloister Walk. This sturdy volume gathers up many of these tales and wisdom teachings in a clean, readable translation that also sports an encellent introduction which frames and contextualizes this ancient part of our Christian heritage. Waddell calls her book "a case book of spiritual direction, ironic and wise" (p 24), and indeed it can encourage and inspire the reader today. The abbess Matrona could be speaking to our modern urges and contradictions when she says, "It is better to have many about thee, and to live the solitary life in thy will, than to be alone, and the desire of thy mind be with the crowd" (page 72). If other stories strike the modern ear more harshly ("The abbot Arsenius said, "It sufficeth a monk if he sleep for one hour: that is, if he be a fighter" [p. 74]), they still provide the modern reader with the traditions and cultures that developed shortly after the Christian gospels were written. These stories also formed the backdrop for the moderation and carefulness of St. Benedict's Rule--still being followed by monastic orders like the Benedictines and Trappists today.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By John C. on December 4, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Intrigued by the listing title with its statement that it comprises "Translations from the Latin" I ordered this book only to find that save for the first selection from St. Jerome (originally written in Latin) all of the selections are indeed translations from the Latin but the Latin translations from which Waddell translates are translations of other authors from the original Greek. The Desert Fathers are much more appropriately presented by Faber & Faber in their series of volumes entitled Philokalia which comes in a three or four volume paperback edition and a one volume abridgement and is translated to English directly from the original Greek. I believe.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary Sprandel on May 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
These earliest of monks take Christ's admonition "to sell everything and follow Him" to heart. With deep austerity, and prayer they follow a path utterly dedicated to a spiritual life. Despite their austerity, there are at times a surprising expressions of personality, and even community among the solitaire cells and companionship of the monks. There are stories of hermits with lions as companions, of sustainment of a few herbs or palm leaves, of them helping thieves stealing from them, or selling Gospels to help the poor. However these monks are humble in their faith, and a lesson often repeated in these stories is humility and compassion for temptations that they themselves feel. The temptations of women, and even a monks' expression of Pelagia "the harlots" beauty was surprisingly sensuous. It may seem impossible for us to be isolated like this, but we can quest for solitude as abbot Antony said "Who sits in solitude escapes from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing"
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. Ryan on May 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Richard Foster (author of The Spirit of Disciplines and other contemporary Christian works) recommends that for every contemporary Christian book you read it is important to read another one more than at least 400 hundred years old. One way to access such older Christian worlds is through the Vintage Spiritual Classics series that makes classical Christian works accessible to believers who often haven't read anything written prior to currently-living Evangelical writers.
This is arguably a good introduction to the thoughts and beliefs of early Christian monastics, both male and female. This is a period all Christians should study since it reflects the origins of most early Christian theology and practice derived from men and women who were sometimes just a generation or two removed from the Apostles. It helps Christians get in touch with their spiritual roots and offset some of the spiritual nonsense that occupies much of the shelf space in most Christian bookstores.
However, I found this relatively thin (221 page) book a disappointment. First, although it's a first edition for this publisher in 1998, it's actually a reproduction of work translated by a woman who died in 1965 at the age of 76, so who knows when it was actually prepared. Then, it's a translation of source documents for the stories and sayings, but they're sometimes less than easy to follow or "pithy" in this format. One really needs to dig for the most compelling and enlightening material. There are a number of more contemporary, extensive and more usefully translated books on the Desert Fathers, a number of which are listed in this book's two-page "Suggestions for Further Reading", virtually all of which post-date by 10-20 years this book itself.
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